Branding, Culture, Reputation, Social Cause

Will I eat NASCO cornflakes?

So, I’ve been thinking. In light of the explosive revelation that the NASCO Group may have financed terrorism in Nigeria, if I was starving and NASCO cornflakes were the only edible thing around, would I eat it or not?

You bet your butt I would!

Unlike you lot, I’m capable of separating the sin from the sinner, the man from his product. If some bloke kidnapped school children but makes the best nkwobi, man, I’m buying from him. He may even be my best friend if he also made a mean isi-ewu. It makes no sense to be hating on grub. Grub is just grub. It didn’t ask to be made. So, it can’t and shouldn’t be held responsible for the transgressions of its maker. It’s like refusing to spend blood money. It’s money, people. A legal tender. If you used it to buy a car, the car will not wake up in the middle of the night and strangle in your sleep. Duh.

You guys know I’m joking, right? It’s satire. You can sheath your broomsticks and erasers. I don’t like terrorist-funding organizations any more than I like terrorist sympathisers. We should all take turns in kicking NASCO in the groin if their alleged transgression proved to be true. All 200 million of us. I’d like more than one turn.

By the way, do you know that if you eat the two goat eyes in isi-ewu at the same time, you see the last thing the goat saw before it died? Which of course will be Chijoke coming at it with a cleaver.

I don’t eat NASCO cornflakes. Not since I grew up and started making money. But NASCO biscuits and NASCO cornflakes are familiar brands. The cornflakes stood by me in my trying days at boarding school. It didn’t mind if I had it with milk or water and sugar, or if I crunched it in my mouth with despair. It understood. It was loving like that. But I am that kind of dude that forsakes the wife of his youth for some chic damsel. I don’t care if Kellogg fluttered her eyelashes at me only when I started having money. Nobody wants to date a broke smart guy. Love me and take my money.

I have nothing against NASCO cornflakes though. I haven’t had it in over 27 years. But I can eat it if I have to. It may not be “the brand for me,” but I’m not averse to trying it again. My memory of it was not of a terrible product. Only as I grew up, my palate changed.

The point of all this drivel is of course not NASCO cornflakes or the veracity of the company’s alleged perfidious past. The point of this piece is about the impact of scandals on brands in Nigeria. If scandals can and do, in fact, affect brand sales in Nigeria.

In general, I’d say no. Misbehaving brands get an easy pass in Nigeria.

Nigeria is not the US or Europe where folks wear righteous indignation like a jacket in winter. In Nigeriana, morality and principles are heavy baggage. Nobody has time to log them behind him. It slows you down from thriving.

If the NASCO Group were a company in the UK or US, it’s not inconceivable that some employees would resign. What they stand for, they’ll argue, is at variance with the company’s actions. Suppliers could even stop doing business with the company. Regulators and government agencies will be all over NASCO like chicks over WhiteMoney. A consumer boycott is expected.

Fat chance of that happening in Nigeria. No thanks to poverty and limited choice.

But these oyinbo people are crazy.

I was amused at the videos of dudes in America burning their Nike sneakers when Nike ran the Colin Kaepernick ad.

I mean, these dudes buy a pair of Nike kicks – not some Chinese wookies – and then set it on fire. It’s the most ridiculous thing. It’s like setting a $100-bill on fire. Rage at Nike, boycott Nike; I don’t care. Just don’t burn stuff you bought with your own money! If I came home and saw my wife emptying NASCO cornflakes in the bin, I’m getting a side chick!

But I digress.

There are two frameworks under which a scandal can affect a brand. The analytic and social frameworks. I’ll explain.

The Analytic Framework

Here, situations like (a) brand strength and consumer affinity, (b) the medium where the story breaks, and (c) how the scandal personally affects the consumer impacts reactions to the scandal.

Brands with strong affinity will weather scandals much easier than smaller brands. Brands like Indomie, Coke, MTN, Dangote, GT Bank, Guinness Stout and many others have bulwarks against scandals. These bulwarks are made of perception of quality or responsibility and consumer trust. They are built over several years. I’m more likely to trust Coke much more than Bigi Cola, for instance.

Second, if the news of the scandal breaks on social media, it’ll likely reach more people than if it broke in a newspaper. That’s because it’s easier for people to ‘share,’ the story thereby giving it more fuel. Most brand fires are ignited by social media.

Finally, if I perceive that the company’s wrongdoing has a direct effect on me or people I know, I’ll likely take it more seriously. In NASCO’s case, it’s about funding terrorism, which has claimed the lives of many Nigerians. I’m justly pissed. Unchecked, it’s a matter of time before it gets to me.

Again, let me stress. This is not about if NASCO is guilty or not. This is about brands and scandals.

The Social Framework

The nature and attitude of a people matter in how they view company wrongdoing. I haven’t done a sociological or psychological study to prove this theory, only relying on anecdotal evidence. So hold your horses!

The values and the types of society a consumer lives in influence how that consumer processes company misdeeds. In an accountable society, individual or company wrongdoing attracts revilement. But in a society like Nigeria burdened with corruption, injustice and lack of accountability, folks get inured to company or government transgression. They stop caring about what is right or wrong. They may even accept some form of wrongdoing as ‘normal’ to doing business in the country.

Plus we are a forgiving people. Which is great because the missus should have thrown me out long ago. I get exasperated when she asks me to help her zip her dress.

A question: why can’t women buy dresses they can zip themselves? What if the dress catches fire while they are in?

Anyways, Nigeria is a great place for brands to do business. We’ve got no consumerism and we are satisfied with a minimum viable product. And there is a gazillion of us.

About time I launched that snake soup business.