‘TuruUgoLota’ campaign of Life Beer brand has become a philosophical relevance amongst Igbo people – Uche Unigwe
In 2011, NB Plc acquired Life Breweries with the objective to broaden NB’s geographic spread and strengthen its brand portfolio. It immediately reformulated the beer and positioned it as a brand that appeals to the majority of the Igbos anywhere in the world. Igbos are recognised as industrious anywhere they find themselves. In this interview, Uche Unigwe, Sales Director of NB Plc explains the journey of the beer and the ‘Turu Ugo Lota’ campaign. ‘TuruUgoLota’ is an Igbo adage that strongly resonates with the aspirations and achievement of the Easterners. Daniel Obi provides the interview excerpts
Could you narrate the journey of Life Beer so far?
I knew Life Beer when I was a child. Life Beer gained significant relevance in Onitsha; it was a standout brand in the beer market because it was a local beer. However, along the line, the brand began to pull its weight and as ownership changed hands; it was bought over by Nigerian Breweries (Heineken). Leveraging the super-efficient technical know-how of Heineken, Life Beer was refined, reformulated, and ‘premiumized’ from the local brand that it was, to a really mainstream brand that appeals to the majority of the Igbos. That journey has proven quite successful that within a few years of being considered a local brand, it became the biggest lager brand in this country. It is remarkable journey and it is not surprising that a number of campaigns have been designed to announce Life Beer’s leadership position.
Since we are in the period of democratizing beverages, why is Life Beer positioned for the Eastern region of Nigeria?
One trend you will observe across the world is increasing revolution of self-awareness and rediscovery. So, the different ethnic nationalities are beginning to rediscover themselves. They have found out that it is within that setup that they truly find a real sense of community. It is not a bad thing in itself that you claim what God made you first and then collaborate among other ethnic nationalities. That is how life should be. Hence, Life Beer, which began in the eastern part of Nigeria, wanted to establish and stamp its own identity that it is unapologetically “Eastern”. This is also born out of the realization that the people of the Eastern part of Nigeria have contributed immensely to its successful journey today. However, the brand is also extending its hand of friendship across the regions to meet fellow Nigerians where ever they are. It is also a known fact that the Igbos are in every nooks and crannies of the country, Life Beer will always be the brand of choice. Life Beer is being entrenched in the Igbo land as an identity but at the same time most appealing to friends and families of the Igbos.
How successful and fruitful has this bond between Life Beer and the Igbos been over the years?
The bond has really been fantastic. This brand has identified what is of utmost importance to the people of the East. This brand also believes that for the Easterners, one thing is being wealthy; it is entirely another thing to be progressive. Being progressive is all about what you do with your wealth and successful engagement. One can be a successful business person today; but what is better is what you do with it in the long is actually a function of progress. So, Life Beer recognizes progress and has tapped into that progressive nature of the Igbos. They are industrious people who are never in doubt of their heritage and progressive instinct. So, Life Beer has been supporting the Igbo people through various channels; one of which is the Progress Booster that allows Life Beer to support people from the East with funds to drive their business enterprises yearly. A lot of people have benefited from this initiative. The second way that Life Beer identifies with the people of the East is through the local community festivals. Life Beer has always thrown its weight behind all cultural festival emanating from the East.
Is that why Life Beer was conferred with the title of “Mmanya Oganiru of Igboland”?
The title of “Mmanya Oganiru of Igboland” is recognition of the effort and support that Life Beer has shown to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Igbo. The Title “Mmanya Oganiru” simply means the “Beer for Progress”. For us, the title is a validation of our brand purpose which is “Progress” and an indication that all our efforts and commitment towards the progress of the Igbo community and Nigeria in general has not gone unnoticed by the people. That is why first class traditional rulers in Igboland came together to crown Life Beer “Mmanya Oganiru of Igboland”.
Life Beer has introduced ‘Turo Ugo Lota’ campaign. What is all about and its impact on the audience?
The impact of TuruUgolota on its target audience has been massive. Within the East and wherever the Igbo man resides today, TuruUgolota has been a slogan; It has become the trending language among Igbo people. When they congregate in the bars or occasions, they no longer say ‘Give me Life Beer’ anymore, they say give me ‘Progress’. This is because Life Beer is now synonymous to progress. The impact of a campaign can best be measured by the communal connection among people. This campaign has now become a way of life and philosophical relevance amongst the Igbo people. In the hearts and minds of every Igbo person, they are aware that there is value in going out there to hustle, conquer and come back home to celebrate. They now take it a step further to deploy their resources to improve the lives of their immediate community and kinsmen.
How is Life Beer tackling the challenge of distribution among the eastern region of Nigeria in the face of insecurity?
Life Beer has an impressive footprint across Nigeria today. We have thousands of distributors and tens of thousands of sub-distributors across the country; and we are able to meet the demands of one million consumers in the country. At every touch point, we have enough sales representatives on our frontlines who work with staff of Nigerian Breweries to reach all these points of consumption. In that way, we ensure that our products are well circulated.
Could you throw more light on the iconic lightening up of the Niger Bridge?
This is one achievement that we are really excited and proud to be associated with. I was present at the commissioning of the bridge and what was most significant is that this is a bridge that connects the East and West. On a closer outlook, this is not just a bridge that connects Anambra and Delta State; it is a bridge that connects the Onitsha indigenes and the Asaba people. We are delighted because eminent personalities were present when we executed the project of lightening up the bridge. Everyone was excited about our own contribution to the bridge. This bridge is symbolic because the two state governments agreed that usually at night, this bridge was dark and an easy point where hoodlums carried out their nefarious acts. However, with the lightening of the Onitsha Bridge, the issue of criminality disappeared. We can see that beyond execution of the project of lightening up the bridge, we were able to support the government in the fight against insecurity in the land. The governors of Anambra and Delta State acknowledged that it was a welcome development from Life Beer. It is instructive that we carried out this project in the heat of Covid-19, when there was depression in the land. This also sent a clear signal to the people that all hope is not lost and that whenever there is light, there is life.
What role did Life Beer play in the trending ‘Egedege’ video?
When Theresa Onuora sang that song, I was a young man and it was a fantastic music. At the moment, the Egedege musical is a commercial success. Over the time, as generations changed, the tastes and preferences of the younger ones also changed. It felt that we had started losing the assets that defined our music. Again, only the beer of progress began to turn things around by taking the younger ones back to when it all started. This music was a way of pointing our new generation of musicians to blend the old and newer forms of music. This was also replicated when we streamlined Pete Edochie and Yul Edochie. It is a consistent demonstration of what Life Beer stands for. When you blend the old with the new, it produces exponential outcomes.