L-R: Nwando Ajene, Nestle Nigeria, Head of Marketing Services; Michael Lawal – Pundi X, Head of Business Development (EMEA); Funmi Abiola, Mitsubishi Motors Nigeria, Brand Manager; Bella Ikeme, Editor-in-Chief, Aspire Luxury Magazine; Omotola Oyebanjo, Union Bank Unit Head Strategic Communications, Corporate Communication & Marketing and Alero Balogun, Oando Plc Head, Corporate Communications & CSROando Plc, Nigeria’s leading indigenous oil and gas energy solutions provider, led conversations on building a heritage brand at the recently concluded Mitsubishi Motors Anniversary and Heritage Week. The week-long event was a celebration of Mitsubishi Motors Nigeria’s101 years in business. It included a series of engaging events that showcased the evolution of Mitsubishi Motors and the various ways in which Mitsubishi identifies as a heritage brand. The events included a brunch networking session, a master class hosted by Canon and renowned Nigerian photographer, Emmanuel Oyeleke, a panel discussion with leading heritage brands, the launch of M.I Abaga’s new album and many more.
On Wednesday, August 29th, Mitsubishi Motors in partnership with Aspire Luxury Magazine held a panel session on‘Building a Heritage Brand’. The panel consisted of the brand managers of heritage brands including Mitsubishi, Oando PLC, who are just over 60 years old, Nestlé who have been in business for over 90 years and Union Bank, who like Mitsubishi are 101 years in business. These brands came together to discuss their approach to building a heritage brand, intentional steps they are taking to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded market and their storytelling process to create long-term, sustainable competitive advantage.
Alero Balogun, Head of Corporate Communications at Oando Plc spoke extensively on her experience working with the Oando brand. When asked about Oando’s deliberate steps towards building the brand, she responded, “For us at Oando, it has always been about creating a world class brand. We benchmark ourselves against international standards and strive to be world class in everything we do. A bold spirit, leadership and being proudly African form our brand essence and these traits are evident in all our marketing communication endeavors. We see ourselves as more than players in the energy sector; bearing in mind the challenging terrain we operate in, we see ourselves as solution providers. We are focused on proffering innovative solutions that address the nation and ultimately Africa’s energy needs, and our brand essence and values have been instrumental in our success. This same spirit forms an integral part of brand storytelling and other marketing communication efforts.’’
With beginnings in 1956 as ESSO Africa (a subsidiary of the Exxon Corporation of the United States), evolving into Unipetrol Nigeria and then an alliance with Agip Nigeria formed Oando PLC, the company that we all know and love today. 62 years later, the company has been able to maintain world class standards as a result of its international heritage; more significant is the fact that its proudly Nigerian roots have been seamlessly included in the brand story to create a proudly indigenous and African brand that has now become a National treasure. Alero Balogun spoke of how they have taken it upon themselves to change the international narrative about Nigeria and Africa, to this end they pride themselves on a history of consistently innovating and paving the way across the energy value chain showing that indigenous companies can create positive change on a large scale.
Also speaking at the event was Nwando Ajene, Head of Marketing Services at Nestlé Nigeria. She spoke extensively on how the company works to build a heritage brand. In her words,“We are clear on our target market and how we communicate with them. When we worked on our new Maggi product, ‘Naija Pot’, we went to local markets and restaurants and conducted focus groups and surveys to create a product that was authentically Nigerian. We also believe in collaborative efforts and leaving an open dialogue between the market and ourselves. What do people need? How are they using our products? By asking ourselves these questions internally, we are constantly aligning ourselves with the customer and remaining relevant.”
Speaking on the importance of rebranding to stay relevant in a dynamic market, Omotola Oyebanjo, Head, Strategic Communication, Union Bank said, “Our decision to rebrand a few years ago was based on the fact that our brand is over 100 years old. We decided that in order to appeal to the new age of banking customers; we had to bring ourselves into a new and improved modern aesthetic.” She spoke on how brands must evolve with marketing and communication trends so as to remain relevant and have a competitive advantage. “Never get too comfortable and understand that there is and will always be a generational gap.”
Alero Balogun went on to speak about how the brand has managed to remain strong and consistent in its marketing communications “We do this through the development of policies and processes ensuring that there is always a reference point for people to go to when developing marketing collateral. It ensures that our brand essence and values are not diluted with the inflow of new people; instead they are tasked with improving what has been done whilst remaining true to our brand spirit. Although we are largely a Business to Business brand, we believe in communicating with all our stakeholders from international corporations who want to invest in Nigeria and need a better understanding of our business and the landscape to the man on the street who in some way sees the Oando brand as an extension of him or herself.”
Creating a heritage brand in Nigeria is no small feat and being recognised, as one is a great honour. It is a deliberate attempt to connect with people in a manner that allows them form an emotional connection to your brand and transcends generations. It is less about how long a company has been in existence but more about how they have an established track record of meeting needs, exceeding expectations, and consistently delivering on their core promise and premise generation to generation.