To brand or not to brand

I can still remember that chilly Saturday morning. The wind was dry and the cold mean, cutting through every piece of clothing I had on me. My teeth were chattering as if in response to music. It was my first time outside Nigeria. I stood at the Gatwick Airport waiting for my hosts and hostesses to pick me up from the airport. I stood there wondering how the people in the Queen’s land cope with such cold weather. As for me, I love Nigeria-at least the weather! I am an ardent believer in The New Nigeria and with little, though positive developments here and there, I believe in the future of the Nigerian nation.

Perhaps, one of the things that gladden my heart and gives me hope about the future of Nigeria is the entrepreneurial spirit of its people. Everywhere you go, you see men and women who, against all odds, have decided to do their own things. In the past, you didn’t need anyone but your friends and family to organize your wedding or handle your make-over. Thanks to this entrepreneur spirit, we now have event organizers and managers, bridal makeover people and even someone to tie your ‘gele’. Our eyes are being opened to needs we never knew existed and smart entrepreneurs are stepping in to fill those needs. Truly, a new Nigeria is emerging.

In the midst of all these however, I cannot help wondering how many of these businesses will still be around in the next couple of years. How many will be visible household names? How many would have metamorphosed from being small businesses to big brand names to reckon with?

Now to the crux of my discussion.  I know a lot has been said and is still being said about branding and image building, yet a whole lot of entrepreneurs still don’t get it. We either don’t understand it as we ought to, or can’t even see why we need it.  Some of us believe it is the exclusive right of multinational companies. After all, they have the money, right? Wrong. I know most entrepreneurs, like myself, are running on a shoestring budget. But if we want to build businesses that will stand out from the crowd and be around for years to come, then The Brand warfare is one we must engage in. You are however exempted if you want to play small.

Most of us are oblivious of the great potentials our businesses posses. If the makeover lady next door knows her business can become bigger and better than Mary Kay, then she would get engaged in the brand warfare. She would seek professional help as needed and do everything she can to differentiate her business from others in the sea of sameness. She would work hard to create a brand that women will love to identify with and buy. She would build a brand reputation that will add to the glory of the new Nigeria. If only she knew.

I have no doubt in my heart that a new and vibrant Nigeria is already on the horizon. A Nigeria where you need a strong and positive brand reputation, and not your uncle’s connection to secure contracts.  A Nigeria where consumers have a plethora of choices when making any purchase. Will they choose you? Or maybe the question to ask is if your business will still be around then?  In as much as some of us look forward to a new Nigeria, what will be your take in it?

My little advice? Start a business. Brand your business. Because Nigeria needs your business.


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