Adetola Durojaiye, Director of Business & Strategy at Syracuse Africa, in this interview with BusinessDay’s Frank Eleanya, speaks on the growth of the digital marketing industry in Nigeria. Having led major campaigns in many multinationals, he shares lessons on what makes a good campaign and a winning strategy.
Talk to us about your journey in digital marketing
My journey into digital marketing is something that was unplanned. It was something that was available by the time I was a job seeker. I was very social media savvy. I had a huge following on Twitter in particular. As a result of my large following and how I was able to create conversations on Twitter which got a lot of engagements, I attracted people in the marketing industry who wanted to work with me as a consultant and those who wanted to employ me. When I was made an offer to come work with some of the leading agencies, I couldn’t refuse. It is difficult to get a job in Nigeria. I took and it became something that I enjoyed. Digital marketing is something that is the mother of all marketing. Social media marketing is a branch of digital marketing. Because I enjoy social media it made me enjoy digital marketing. It also helped me to grow at a very fast pace. It’s been 5 years and seven-eight months now I have gotten around 4-5 promotions within the industry. So it has been a good one.
Are you saying that social media savviness is a prerequisite to winning in the digital marketing world? What does it take to get to where you are now?
For you to want to be a marketing person or a digital marketer, you need to have a passion for social media. You also need to be passionate about the consumer. One thing about marketing is that what matters is the consumer. Whatever you are trying to sell, the end user is what matters. For any FMCG product such as Dettol, Close-Up, or anything you are selling, the end-user is what matters. If you place a good enough priority on this consumer you will be able to thrive.
What is the difference between what used to be known as the marketer and the digital marketer?
There is a big difference. I have had a couple of experiences where people ask me what I do and I respond that I am a marketing strategist and then they go “all these marketers.” They mean that when they employ you as a salesperson and give you targets. But digital marketing is much more than that. It is about building brands through the use of digital platforms. It is about building brands, connecting them with their consumers, and connecting consumers with brands as well. It is also the cheapest means to reach your target audience or consumers. Marketing today is way bigger than what most people know it to be. It is to get people to know more about your product in a way that would benefit your brand. If you do a video, for example, and post it on social media you would probably reach more people than TV because digital has more coverage. You can also take advantage of modern technology like data because now you can know where people are watching your videos, and how people from the North are perceiving your video in English or Hausa. Digital marketing makes marketing a lot easier and cheaper than conventional marketing.
What is your view of digital marketing and how it has evolved in Nigeria?
Nigeria is a very populated country meaning that you would expect a lot of competition. There are hundreds of agencies that are doing extremely well. You can tell from the different billboards and other materials you see everywhere. Over time, the quality of marketing has improved because nowadays you have a new generation, you have Gen Zs, and the kind of videos that you use to push brands in the 80s or 90s, you can’t use them now because of how people consume information today. You have to be more sensitive. You have to be more subjective. For example, if you were to create a video about Maggi and you place a woman in the kitchen, you could have people challenging it, “are you saying that only women are supposed to be in the kitchen?” These are some of the factors that now go into creating videos, the good thing about digital marketing is that a lot of agencies have been able to adapt to the different cultural, societal, and digital changes. I would say the industry has grown well but we are still behind international agencies. One of the reasons is that they have more things to work with; I will also say a richer audience to work with. The purchasing power in Nigeria is quite low. It makes it very hard to sell expensive products and hard to target the core audience for these expensive things.
For example, in Nigeria one of the things we lack compared to the Western world is data. Agencies in the Western world have enough data to help them target literary anybody, no matter their background. But Nigeria is a much more diverse country than some of these Western countries; we have so many tribes. If you were to be selling something that will appeal to a particular tribe like the Efik, or Ibibio, there is no tool to target them. You probably might target people from Akwa Ibom. if you are trying to target Igbo people, for example, maybe there is a product and you are trying to maximise your budget by targeting just Igbo people, it would be very hard to target them. You probably have to do a quick offline research to know what is the concentration of Igbo people in certain locations in Lagos, probably Alaba or Festac.
Low purchasing power makes it very hard to sell a product that is N300,000 or N400,000. So you would have to streamline your target to certain places like Lagos or Rivers State where the GDP per capita is higher than other states.
How have agencies like yours been able to target some of these challenges, especially those that involve making use of data?
Syracuse is not just a digital agency even though we started as one. Right now the marketing industry demands more than just a digital agency, meaning we are also into PR and advertising. For the measures, there is still data to work with but it is not sufficient. What agencies do for brands is take the initiative to create or do offline research, go into rural areas, into places where social media is not being used to ask questions. A combination of offline and online research gives you a better view of how to market your product. That is where you see billboard placement in certain locations like the highways that a particular audience group always travels through. We combine online and offline research and use it to guide our strategies. When it comes to loan companies, there are a lot of them, good and bad ones. The good one you do not hear often about going offline to places where people need loans. Many of them are targeting people who do business, like many people in Alaba who are not on social media. So if you are going to depend on just social media marketing to reach them, you are most likely going to fail. What you do is go offline and talk to these people, get first-hand insight, and find out those that use social media because you can’t neglect that as well even if the majority of your target audience is offline. What you do is to make sure that a percentage of your budget would favour your offline marketing more than your online marketing. What I mean is that if your product appeals to more people offline, it means more billboards, more radio and TV stations, and less social media because these particular people you are trying to engage are not on social media. That is what we have done over time.
Another thing we do is we also create our own data. If you are a microfinance bank or a fintech app and you have accumulated 1 million users, from these 1 million users you can easily create an audience segment from them. You can tell their interest, you can do surveys on your application from some of the users to rate you. Those are feedback that companies use to improve their app or their marketing strategies.
Having worked with several companies at the managerial level, what are the lessons you learnt about how companies approach digital marketing?
I have worked with both local and international brands across different industries, mostly smartphone companies, I would say many brands have their guidelines that you have to follow in creating whatever strategy that you are creating. As a marketing strategist, I will take this and try to create what works for them. One of the stumbling blocks that you will face as a digital marketer is the brand guideline which often will box you into a place when trying to come up with ideas. Sometimes many of these people are also flexible.
The biggest lesson is that what makes a beautiful campaign is your team. When you have the right team and your people are able to synchronise it is always easy. You never can tell who is going to bring out the best idea. It could be the intern. Most of the time it may not even be the manager that brings out the best idea. It is mostly the junior ones that are not thinking inside of the box because they are not as restricted since they have less communication with the client, for example. However, as the manager, you are able to take their idea and transform it or flesh it out in a way that does not violate any brand guidelines. I think your team is just as strong as your marketing campaign. The team goes into your deployment because many times when we want to execute a campaign, we need more hands than we already have and that is what makes a great campaign. One of my best campaigns was one where I had over 100 people on the team.
What is your view of the policy environment? Do you think we are making progress? Are there policies you expect should be in place?
The current policies are not exactly bad. However, there are rumours of the federal government trying to censor how people place their ads on social media. The government is not in control of social media. Hence, it is hard for them to monitor adverts on the different platforms because they are not Nigerian-owned or affiliated with Nigeria apart from the fact that they are available in Nigeria. The government is trying to police it and I don’t think it is necessary because we already have quality control where they check every ad to make sure you are not violating certain rules.
The other challenge is when you are trying to get approval for a billboard, you have to go through several approval processes. For example, if you are a food company, NAFDAC has to approve the video and you still have to get approval from APCON. It is just a long process. If it can be made easier we can have a more viable environment for people to succeed and it will eliminate a lot of frustration coming from government officials and clients. One of the things that NAFDAC has done on their part is that you can send them a script before you shoot the video so you do not waste money on your video. I think the government is doing very well but it can be better.
What is the relationship between influencers and digital marketers?
I have to say that influencer marketing in Nigeria right now is fantastic. You have to appreciate what influencers and content creators are doing. In terms of the content, they are producing it is almost on the global level, looking at the camera quality, voice quality, and recording capacity. What you see today in the influencer community is just the tip of the iceberg. The next five years in Nigeria in the influencer industry are going to be explosive.
In marketing, we always value videos because they go a long way. Videos stay longer in your mind than pictures. YouTube is an archive. An influencer can create a video today and a secondary school student can watch it years later to learn something new. Many of the influencers in the UK and the US are also of Nigerian descent. Nigerians are doing amazing when it comes to influencing. I am a big fan of what they do and I have had the opportunity to collaborate with a lot of them.
As a marketing strategist, you are required to come up with different strategies that sell your brand. You need to put out communications in different forms. The consumer is always what matters and some of them are not going to be convinced until they see someone they trust talking about it. Influencers are who people trust because they follow them every day. For instance, if Rihanna is tweeting about a lip gloss you will see fans who will say “If Rihanna is using this I definitely have to use it.” Influencers have a large influence on the audience compared to what even your ad will get you. If you were to see a video about some random person you would probably pay more attention to a video with a celebrity especially the one you follow and love what they do. If you are following them for a reason, you will most likely buy into the brands that they endorse. Influencers are a mouthpiece for many brands. Some influencers would not also take up gigs or jobs from brands that they themselves don’t trust.