Now, before pitchforks are brandished and the furnace stoked, pray, give a brother his ‘any last words?’
Let’s be clear. I’m Nigerian. My father met my mother in Ilaro, Ogun State. They fell in love. I happened. Of course, if I’d had a say in where I was to be born, I’d have picked a Hawaiian beach sipping a cold Shirley Temple staring into a beautiful sunset while they cut the umbilical cord. But they didn’t consult me. As parents are wont to do. So I happened in Lagos.
I’ve been living here all my life. I like it here a lot sometimes. But I also hate it here a lot sometimes. But this is home. I have a spiritual and emotional connection to this land. Besides, I hate it that everyone on the London Underground reads. No one has the right to make me feel inadequate. It’s a train, not a library! Some people need to get a life.
So, I’ll be staying right here. I pray for the prosperity of my Jerusalem. For a return to the days when our lives were not denominated in dollars and when Shooting and Rangers (Enugu) were simply the best football clubs on the planet. When a Volkswagen Beetle awaited every graduate and our groundnut pyramids the envy of Pharaohs. Oh yes, I want Nigeria to prosper.
But not at the expense of excellence. I want growth and prosperity built on quality and distinction. Not on mediocrity.
When I buy a Made In Nigeria product, I want to buy it because it matches or beats comparative offerings from abroad. So, okay, maybe that’s a tall ask. But it is not the riposte of an alainikanse. At the very least, the Made-In-Nigeria offering should be very close to its foreign competitor in terms of both physical and emotional benefits. That way it is easier for my patriotism to weigh in and push my purchase decision in favour of the local offering. It is less burden on an already strained patriotism.
The argument could conceivably be made that #Buy Naija to Grow the Naira is about sacrifice, and that sacrifice will never be easy. Well, let’s just say it’s really tough convincing your brain to accept salt as sugar.
In some product categories, if foreign brands have had an easy passage into our hearts, it is because local brands let them.
I grew up eating NASCO cornflakes and NASCO biscuit. The crunchiness of NASCO cornflakes could make a vampire brave sunlight. It was all I knew for a breakfast cereal. Most of us took it to boarding school.
But where was NASCO cornflakes when I started working? Started making money and acquiring foreign tastes? It was there when Kellogg’s fluttered its eyelashes at me. It didn’t fight for me. It let me go.
Kellogg’s didn’t win me. NASCO lost me.
It lost me when it didn’t innovate early enough. Failed to position itself appropriately to a demography and psychographics that had changed. To me, NASCO had become the cornflakes of my childhood. I’ve made new friends.
I have used NASCO as a synecdoche for many struggling local brands. If the quality and perception of quality of your offering improves, with the right marketing effort, the consumer may beat a path to your door. And never take the consumer for granted. Hell hath no fury than a lover spurned.
Take the Nigeria music industry. Literally, it rocks. Gone are the days when hip-hop music from the US has right of passage into our hearts.
That is because the quality of Nigerian hip-hop has improved phenomenally. Better videos, better sound and better ideas. The music labels made the required investments to produce a better product. They understood the consumer. They monitored the trend. They won. They are no longer competing against hip-hop from the US. They are the clear market leader. Now Drake has to pay me to listen to him.
What Nigerian brands must do with #Buy Naija to Grow the Naira is use it as a buffer to develop better brands with compelling propositions. Ride the wave of patriotism to innovate and challenge the foreign brands we’ve been besotted with. If the battle is fought and won on the battlefield of a better offering, local brands need no recourse to patriotism for growth. Patriotism will only be needed as a safety catch.
I leave you with this intriguing signage from a Suya seller. He seems to understand superbly that emotional benefits drive purchase far better than the taste of the Suya.