GTCO Food & Drink 2022.

Let me tell you all; the GTCO Food & Drink event is the best brand event in the land. It is the best brand event for two reasons. One, he who brings food brings life. Two, he who brings food brings life. 

Now, I don’t care much about GTCO or any other bank one way or the other. Of course, I wish the bank well and hope it prospers. But my relationship with any brand is transactional. However, since GTCO has gone out of its usurious ways to help me gorge on Amala Skye, nkwobi and pan-fried dumplings in one location and over three days, I am open to giving love a chance. GTCO has laid a table before me in the presence of my enemies. And the enemy of my enemy is my friend. 

In marketing sponsorships, we talk a lot about ‘affinity pillars’. The consumer interests or ‘passion points’ a brand hitches to so the consumer can remember it, consider it and ultimately buy it. Music, sports, movies, and fashion are a few of such popular affinity pillars. Coke and Music. Heineken and the UEFA Champions League. By the way, what a harrowing result last night. Liverpool 3, Villareal 2. Seventh Champions League final! What will it take to stop this infernal Liverpool? 

I digress. I was talking about affinity pillars. 

Judging by the huge turnout at every GTCO Food & Drink event, it is obvious that food is a strong affinity pillar. I was at the event with my kids on Day 1 and Day 2 of the event. You struggled to find a place to sit. Yet you were not mad at the organizers. You still managed to get what you came for: an epicurean delight. 

As a brand person, I can appreciate the hard work that went into putting the event together. The justification to executive management. The fight over the budget. Quarrels over vendor shortlist. Master Class tutors. Branding and set up of the venue. How to gather and what data to gather for post-event evaluation. And the event has to be better and cheaper each year. Right from when the excos greenlight the event and budget, it’s sleepless nights for the bank’s communication unit. Murphy’s Law haunts your sleep. It’s the sort of project that gets people promoted. Or fired. The team acquitted itself well. 

But I have a big bone to pick with the team on an aspect of the event; the high price of food. 

Price Gouging

Remember when GSM mobile telephony came to Nigeria and a Sim card sold for N30,000? That was how I felt buying a bottle of Coke and water for N500 apiece. This is not Disney. It’s an open-air celebration of Naija street food and snacks. There is no justification for a bottle of Coke and water selling for N500. Neither should a small ogufe – goat meat – at Amala Skye go for N1,500. I got a small plate of pork chops and fries for N5,000. I mean, it’s a pig, not a white-horn rhino. 

Of course, I’ve heard of ‘Island price,’ the extortionate price folks who live on Lagos Island pay for things. Well, eat your heart out: I’m a Mainland boy and we buy Coke in traffic for N150. 

Look, I’m not a cheapskate. You can gouge me for bluefin tuna and wagyu beef. But not for street food and everyday staple. 

Especially when the vendors don’t pay a farthing for space at the event. GTCO selects these vendors and gives them a platform to reach a wider customer base. While the vendors should turn in a decent sale, I wasn’t expecting robbery at spoon point. Right in front of my kids. Cotton candy for N1,000? How much is a box of cotton wool and a pack of sugar? 

When I was waiting to buy amala at Amala Skye, two young girls came to the stand. They were cleaners. They looked at the amala with desire but baulked at the price. They left. I was pained. Wished I’d called them back and bought them the food. These were the good folks keeping the venue spic and span. But if they were to buy three spoons of amala and one ogufe, it would set them back some N2,100. Add a bottle of Coke to that and it’s N2,600. Amala should not be that intimidating. 

Many vendors were too greedy. They want to make quarterly profits in three days. To the detriment of the consumer.  

But GTCO can help. If a great customer experience is important, then it needs to ensure prices are reasonable. And it can do this with ease. It can ask the prospective vendors to share a price list of their food and insist on reasonable pricing. What is ‘reasonable pricing’? It will be the average price of the item on the streets, both ‘Island’ and ‘Mainland.’ Then they and the vendor agree on a middle ground. It won’t be an exact science, but it’ll be a good guide. And it won’t require extra hands than they already have. They can enforce price compliance through spot checks and mystery shoppers. If a vendor charges above the agreed prices, he is thrown out or misses out on the next events.

Or maybe there’s no problem with food prices. Maybe it’s only cheapskates like me whining. Well, I’ll encourage GTCO to have feedback boxes at subsequent events. I’ll wager high food prices will rank first, followed by limited sitting areas. 

But I like GTCO Food & Drink. Good food, good vibes, good atmosphere. It reminds me of the power of finding the right affinity pillar and executing it well. 


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