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David Blyth
Brand-Building in Nigeria: a South African Marketers’ Guide
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Nigeria is a priority market for many businesses looking to expand their footprint on the continent. With a population of 175 million, it is Africa’s largest market and has an economy that is growing much faster than South Africa’s.

There is a rising consumer class that is ambitious and aspirational, with smaller families, higher incomes, better education than previous generations, and increasing connectivity to digital and mobile channels. Nigerians are also highly receptive to Western influences and are very brand conscious. It sounds like a marketer's dream.

But building a brand in Nigeria is not easy and very few brands are getting it right. Part of the problem is that Nigeria's market attractiveness is no longer a secret. Global brands are rushing in and the low-hanging fruit is largely gone. Marketers now need to work hard to stand out in the noise.

Nigeria is also a difficult market. There are corruption and security risks, and the consumer market is complex, with diverse languages, religions and cultures. It has sharp regional differences - many conservative and traditional consumers in the poorer and largely Muslim North, for example. Marketers need to understand regional needs and drivers, segment their customers and develop relevant value propositions for each segment.

Nigeria's large urban market alleviates some of the transport and distribution challenges common in many African countries, but infrastructure between cities remains poor. Marketers would do well to focus on one or two urban areas or partner with locals to find innovative ways to distribute.

What Not to Do

  • Don't import your strategy from other African markets
  • Don't rely on being South African to win over Nigerian consumers
  • Don't assume all Nigerians consumers are uniform

What to Do

  • Tap into the optimistic national and cultural mood with your communications
  • Partner with the informal sector and other brands to develop affinity
  • Do your homework and build a good network of trusted local suppliers
  • Segment the consumer population by region and by needs

Cracking the Nigerian market requires guts and perseverance, but the rewards for those who get it right are large. Marketing needs to be relevant, smart and adaptable. And as ever, there is no substitute for insight into your customers - don't take short-cuts.

*This article first appeared in Business Brief


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