The beer segment in the Nigerian alcoholic beverages market has been projected to sustain significant growths in the year 2018 thanks to an expected improvement in the national economy that is very likely going to be driven by increased sending power ahead of election year 2019.
But as analysts make projections on what is likely going to be a boom year for brands in this segment, most people are very likely not going to be talking about positioning statements and other marketing activities that have been responsible for the growth of this segment especially against the background of the economic recession that the country is emerging from.
That some of these brands, a few years ago were off the shelves of many stores is also something of significance. Some years ago, many of the brands, most especially in the beer category of this segment, were in the throes of virtual extinction.
In south west Nigeria, one such beer brand is Trophy, a beer that most local people held on to for years until demand patterns shifted and adversely affected regional brands across the country. Back in those days, Trophy as a brand, though occupying an identifiable niche in the regional value beer segment, was struggling. Efforts by International Breweries Plc to raise the brand didn’t quite achieve much until SABmiller took over the brand aand asked a new agency to charge of the management of the brand.
Before this time, all the successes around the brand’s credentials were always shy of Lagos, the country’s capital of just about everything. Lagos has remained the trend setter for the country in music, fashion and lifestyle and the brand that cuts a hole in the sprawling bustling city is sure to reach the rest of the country and with much more ease.
No one really knows what AbInBev, the global brewing behemoth that bought SABMiller (the former owners of the brand) wants to do to spin the brand Skywards and although the former marketing Manager, Kunle Ogidi, insists amongst other things product reformulation and superior brewing excellence were reasons the brand became a beer of choice for many, it is a known fact that most times, especially for consumers in this segment, certain other emotions tend to decide and determine brand preferences.
Back in 2012, the brand had begun the journey that has significantly raised its credentials in the market with the adoption of the vastly aspirational nickname, “Honourable.” The idea was to raise the emotional value of the brand among its core C-to-D market segment, creating a feel-good aspirational emotion around the brand.
Ogidi said this emotional benefit was designed to reinforce the rational values the brand already possessed, although most will think the emotional side became a stronger proposition than the rational.
Driving this overwhelmingly success became the lot of Yomi Benson and his brand “Babalawos” at Culture Communications and it was here that the idea of infusing cultural elements as a means of upping the Trophy drinking culture was cooked and served.
Yomi Benson and his team apparently had read through the Yoruba culture and folklore and reasoned that connecting to the core of the people’s value systems of honouring their icons and emulating those who stand out could become a pillar the brand could stand on and be strong.
That, according to him was reason the moniker, “Honourable” was adopted for the brand. It became so strong that consumers started calling the brand honorable, that was why we had to infuse into the label. For Culture communications, consumers determine the path our brands take.
“The idea was to ensure that when consumers sit in their bars and at parties that the South West enjoy organizing frequently, there is for each person, a trophy conferring status, weaving strong emotional attachment to their persons as individuals. ‘We knew that the title “Honourable” is used to describe respected members of the society and community; first among equals and the leader of any social group. So we felt this is one aspiration everyone should connect with and have something they could take home with each bottle of the brand they take,” he stated.
And it worked.
Because Trophy was already existing somewhere in the Yoruba recent social legend, Culture Communications also knew that for the brand to stand, its roots will have to be deepened in Lagos where the diversity of the population will afford it the potential for growth from a regional pretender to a regional force and possibly national mainstream.
Culture Communications has ample experience of other brands at its disposal to reinforce its confidence: Eagle Larger, Grand malt, Castle Milk Stout are just a few in the beer and beverage category. Trophy’s sister brand, Hero lager beer was, at birth, a beer designed for the South East market. But fate combined with faith to move the brand into Lagos where it took root and was challenging other brands it is category, growing to become a national mainstream brand.)
To be sure, Trophy was not the first brand to adopt a social moniker to drive sales in its segment. At competition, Heineken beer had picked “Chairman” as its nickname, although this was largely taken from the descriptive identification splashed on the brand by consumers to reflect its position as the premium beer brand in the market. Coincidentally Yomi Benson a Group Account Director then on the Heineken brand led the team that came up with the Chairman concept in the mid 2000s. Looks like he brought his magic wand to Trophy.
It however was, in fairness, to Trophy’s credit that other beer brands in the country went same route by finding monikers that spoke to their respective propositions and emotional rungs in the market.
Culture Communications prides itself as a marketing communications that employs consumer insight to up-scale the values of the brand it works on. If this had been taken as a mere business mantra, the uplift of Trophy appears to have lent credence to this.
Available metrics indicate that the brand has grown in volume, from about 366 hectoliters in 2011 to over 970 hectolitres in 2015, representing a growth rate of over 200 percent over a five year period. Unconfirmed numbers suggest it has grown to over 1000 hectoliters as at end 2018. For a beer segment that has been recording marginal growths over the period, these numbers are significant.
Interestingly, the strong communication built around the beer had also pushed it to break the category glass ceiling, moving it from a brand created for the C,D socio economic segment to the A,B-C class. It is also no longer a beer sought after by people of its home brewery in Ilesa, Osun State, out of nostalgia; it has become a brand preferred by many in the entire South West and beyond. According to the creative Director at Culture Akin Akingbola “when you see your brand being consumed lavishly at ikoyi Club in Lagos (one of the most affluent clubs in Nigeria) then you know the brand has broken the ceiling”
The future looks pretty good for the brand if plans by its owners materialize as projected. Information from industry sources suggests plans are afoot to open a new brewing plant touted to be the second biggest in Africa in Sagamu, Ogun State later in year 2018. With such a giant brewery rolling out more hectoliters, the brand is guaranteed bigger market share and the agency that has been behind the success story so far will certainly have a lot to chew in ensuring the growth is sustained.