Its a competitive world out there, deal with it
A call was made the other day, to Kenyans, to embrace local beer brands and shun the foreign beer brands that continue to penetrate the market. When I saw the words that were surprisingly spoken by an executive of a leading local brewer, the marketer in me raised an eyebrow and a sneaky smile curved at the corner of my mouth. It seemed like a carefully executed marketing strategy aimed at hurting the foreign brands. He knew foreign brands were eating into his brands' market share and he knew pulling the patriotism card would work wonders. On closer examination though, I think it was a misguided statement, more so, when local beer brands by the same company are trying to enter international markets, . because out there, they are the foreign brands.
Home advantage is not something they can exactly call upon. It’s a dog eat dog out there.
Think of it as a football match .
If you have to remind the home crowd to cheer you on, then you obviously have a problem on your hands. What will happen when you go for an away match? No one gives a hoot who you are there. And if you cannot marshal support merely by how you play, then you can expect a hostile reception whernever you go.
It is a common occurrence for local brands to pull the patriotism card whenever they feel that foreign brands are eating into their market share. That is why Buy Kenyan Build Kenya, 100% Kenyan and such phrases are very common in this increasingly competitive local market. My thoughts on this are, however, different. If a brighter kid comes to a class where you have always been top, focusing on their performance in no way improves yours. Working harder on your own performance is what improves your ranking. Whenever you point to their performance, everyone else looks at you as a scared kid who is afraid of being knocked off their perch.
More on local…
It’s the same case replicated all over. Everyone pulls out the Kenyan card at the slightest sign of competition. Take local music for example. Kenyan musicians always ask Kenyans to support local talent. They ask them to buy local music and attend local concerts to help boost the Kenyan artists. If you however question the quality of the music they compose and produce and the utter lack of creativity in some of them, you are quickly branded a "hater" at the bat of an eyelid. You are either supporting them or you are a hater. According to them, their music is good enough and should compete side by side with international music. The situation on the ground is different. Very few Kenyan musicians break into the regional, let alone the international market. However, thanks to musicians and groups like Camp Mulla, we can finally have something to point at when we talk about quality.
Camp Mulla are a group of young people doing quality music that was enough to win them international acclaim in the form of a nomination for an award in the recently conducted BET music awards. Their quality is out there for everyone to see. They are not quick to pull the Kenyan card to earn a sale.
Local or Home-grown?
Further on this, if we were to play the local card, how far do we run with it? If a musician excels internationally but in a style that is not Kenyan born is that local? If a beer company produces in Kenya but is not all ‘locally owned’ is it still local? If a mobile telephony firm is partly owned by foreign interests, is it still local? If a company just imports but uses local suppliers and sets up a local office, are the goods still local? What is local? The employees? The shareholders? The raw materials? The distribution network? The feel? The taste? Truth is, local is just another marketing ploy. If anything, home-grown is what would fit most of these brands. We need to learn that the foreign investment that our economy direly needs, entails allowing international players in our market. They create employment and ensure quality standards are up to international standards. For the longest time, the U.S was ‘self-sufficient until they came to appreciate the value of international trade.
The underlaying point
My point? When you focus on quality and keep up to international standards and trends, you don’t even need to ask the local people to associate themselves with your brand. They will do so proudly and voluntarily. Quality, with a well-executed marketing strategy works wonders every time. That is why I raised my eyebrow that an executive of a major corporate can make such a statement because it shows his lack of confidence in the capability of his company's brands to compete in the local market. If they find it hard to compete here, at home, against foreign brands who they hold the clear advantage against, then how will they compete with them in more aggressive international markets?
Make your products the best, let the marketing team work their socks off and in the end; no one will have to be asked to buy your product because it is local. Foreign brands do a great job in pushing local brands to up their game and that I believe is to the benefit of the Kenyan consumers and the local brands as well.