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Experiential marketers’ industry braces for survival, business growth amidst economic challenges

Fast and deep thinking organisations are the ones that will hedge present business disruptions occasioned by Covid 19 and economic challenges. Daniel Obi writes on recent discussions by Experiential Marketers in Nigeria to innovate and grow their business for more economic impact.

Globally, the trend within the business circle is how organisations can understand the opportunities and challenges thrown up by Covid -19 pandemic and how they can deploy innovative strategies to obviate negative outcomes.

The pandemic, apart from creating a health crisis worldwide, really laid prostrate a number of businesses which led to shut downs, retrenchments and cut in profit across sectors. In Nigeria, the retrenchments combined with other factors have assisted to push Nigeria’s unemployment rate to 33.3 percent.

In its assessment of business implications of Covid-19, KPMG had revealed that 94 percent of the Fortune 1000 across the globe, and businesses in Nigeria have been impacted and are already seeing Covid-19 disruptions.

For instance, Nigeria’s Integrated Marketing Communication industry, IMC, witnessed budget cuts, payment delays, contract cancelation by clients and low campaigns, a development that led to shrink in business and cut in workforce. Principally, the IMC and other sectors faced a tough business operating environment exacerbated by Covid- 19 pandemic, EndSARS protest, bad policies and recession which Nigeria slipped into in Q4 of 2020.

Lanre Adisa, the CEO of Noah’s Ark Communication, estimated that businesses in events and activation could have dropped revenue by about 60%. Audio-visual, commercials productions also lost about 50% but for advertising, it could be about 30% to 40%”.

EXMAN strategises for members

In light of the ongoing disruptions occasioned by Covid-19 and the challenging economy, the Experiential Marketers’ Association of Nigeria (EXMAN) recently sought a way to empower its members for survival and growth. Last week, it held a summit that provided a platform for robust discussions about business growth, innovation, and brand experience in Nigeria.

The summit is with the understanding that tough business environment and Covid-19 pandemic have upended nearly every aspect of business and customer life. The association promotes and regulates the activities of certified players within the experiential marketing industry in Nigeria and boasts of over N30b as total billing.

The two-day summit covered wide areas of business practice including consumer engagement, evidence-based marketing, creativity, and business growth.

The hybrid event had seasoned speakers across industries including Cosmos Maduka, Chairman Coscharis Group; Stella Fubara, Director International Operations – Dubai Dept of Tourism Commerce & Marketing; Tosin Runsewe, CEO at Afya Care/Non-Executive Chairman, Evercare Hospital Lekki; Biola Alabi, Founder, Biola Alabi Media as plenary speakers among other panellists.

The speakers pointed to directions of surviving in tough environments and growing businesses sustainably.

Speaking on how to grow businesses from small to big scale, Maduka leveraged his background and how he grew from a seed fund of N200 he received from his uncle in 1976 to a multi-billion-naira enterprise within the last fifty years. He further pointed the way to identifying opportunities, growing and building enduring businesses.

He challenged entrepreneurs to see problems in the society as opportunity instead of complaining.

“Many people complain of challenges in the society but he said those challenges are opportunities. Every problem is a business, it depends on your mental attitude and the way you confront issues”. He said it is not enough to desire to be successful, but actions are needed.

The entrepreneur who has invested across many sectors including agriculture, automobile and banking told his audience that he was inspired to succeed because of hunger and determination as his father died when he was four years old.

He said life is about mindset. “It is not about the school you have been to, because everywhere you have been in life is a school. It is a matter of whether you want to learn or not”.

According to him, the knowledge a business person applies in life is what sets him or her apart from peers, pointing that what makes a person is his belief system.

Stressing the importance of dreaming and following through, Maduka said a person cannot build a reputation on things yet to be done but by the things he or she has done. “People are not going to listen to you based on your potentials”, he said, citing Nigeria as a country of potential.

Interesting thing about dream is at first, it appears unattainable, but with dogged determination, unwavering commitment, and divine providence, every lofty dream can be achieved even in the face of daunting challenges. What is important, he said is to learn the patience to grow through the process and embrace the culture of hard work and commitment.

He said an enduring business is not a product of chance or unplanned leadership; they are characterized by a clear vision and a growth strategy through prepared and structured organization and effective leadership.

He said in business, there is no safety zone likened to the case of lion and gazelle in the jungle. “If you are not educating yourself and getting information, the brain will be dull”. He described the mind as a field, saying “if you don’t sow anything there, weed will grow. You must always think on things to do to stay ahead, and command relevancy in my life”.

Read also: 12 Nigerian start-ups emerge among 2021 Africa’s Business Heroes

To learn the discipline of building successful businesses, Maduka also advised entrepreneurs to have mentors. Cautioning that people should not look down on apprentice, he said apprenticeship is the best school for any young man as it teaches unprecedented discipline for the challenges of the future.

Maduka who said he is an advocate of apprenticeship said the major problem today is that the universities teach you theoretical knowledge but never impact something in you that is practical that can help you.

Apprenticeship teaches you many things but not in a formal way they do them in the university such as administration, inventory management, supply chain system, accountability, accountancy, research.

While underscoring innovation which he described as a new way to do things, he said to succeed in life, a person’s belief to succeed must be greater than the fear to fail.

Speaking on building brand experience for destination brands, Stella Fubara-Obinwa urged participants at the conference to build a brand that provides solution.

Also speaking on the importance of positioning and branding for businesses, Stella urged participants to draw on the example that Dubai as a destination provides. She emphasized that despite its location, meagre resources and population, Dubai has through good leadership, effective branding and positioning, become one of the most vibrant tourist destinations in the world.

After the plenary sessions, there were breakout sessions that had different professionals across spheres sharing knowledge on various contemporaneous and contentious issues within and outside the industry. Adenike Adebola, Marketing & Innovation Director for Guinness Nigeria spoke on “Top 5 Brand Experience Ideas that changed the world in 2020;” Innocent Oboh from Dijo Group on “Driving Brand Engagement through Music;” popular comedian, Ali Baba who runs XQZ Moi TV spoke on “Spontaneity-Generating ideas that can travel” and Victor Afolabi, GMD for GDM Group spoke on “The role of Data in Brand Experience.”

Lolu Durojaiye from Avedge kept participants engaged with “Connecting Virtual and Live Experiences; Dunni Ogunsanya, from Playhouse educated participants on “Where is the Bottom of the Pyramid in all these digital experiences” while Unwana Ekanem from Terragon spoke on “Experiencing Big Data: Where data meets brand experience.”

AAAN President and CCO/CEO X3m Ideas, Steve Babaeko kept the audience enthralled throughout his presentation centred around “Building and developing a profitable creative enterprise;” MIPAN President and CEO of BrandEye Media, Femi Adelusi also spoke on “Building resilience in the Agency in a Post Covid World” while the APCON Registrar/CEO, Olalekan Fadolapo spoke on “Agencies and the new regulatory regime” among other speakers.

New Drivers

The body elected new members of the industry. They are Managing Director of Connect Marketing Services, Tunji Adeyinka who emerged asthe new President of EXMAN. He replaced Tade Adekunle

Other members of executive elected are: Tolulope Medebem, Vice President (MD, Aster Integrated Marketing); Owolabi Mustapha, General Secretary (MD, Maxx Connection); Shola Antwi, Financial Secretary (Chief Operating Officer, DivergentMS) and Orunkoyi Adeniyi, Publicity Secretary (Project General, ipanache Communications).

Award Winners

In another vein, the association honoured deserving and distinguishing agencies and individuals for their outstanding performance and contribution to the experiential marketing landscape in Nigeria. The most prestigious award of the night, Grand Prix, was clinched by Brand Regimen for its activation for Nivea during the lockdown.

Other agencies that won big at the night are Keskese, GDM Group, Brand Life, Abelinis, Ideas House, Town Crier, Maxx Connection and EXP Marketing including Brand Regimen winning gold in various categories of the award. The award categories they won range from Best Event (B2C) to Best Shopper Activation (Open Market), Best Trade Activation, Best Merchandising Solution (Modern Trade), Best Activation of Sporting Property Award, Best Activation of Entertainment Property Award, Best Use of Digital in an Event Award and Best Shopper Activation (Modern Trade) respectively.

For the individual category award, Funmi Onabolu, GMD, Cosse Ltd was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Awards for his contribution to the growth of experimental marketing in the country.

The event graced by prominent industry leaders opened was instructive to many participants who took notes on for ways to navigate various challenges in the present day economy.

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