Regular ads shield firms from rivals, new market trends

Advertisements installed on street lights in Nyeri town. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG
Advertisements installed on street lights in Nyeri town. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG 

The advertising approach known as ‘‘recency’’ can be compared to dating. Young men believe that first dates should be like a product launch, full of glitz and glamour because they know that you only get one chance to make a first impression.

On the other hand, mature gentlemen realise that having a long term impact is more about frequently sharing bits of intimate information with the object of their passion over time.

The first example requires tremendous effort and resources to maintain, while the latter can be achieved within means, and to a lasting effect.

So what’s Nakumatt Supermarket’s approach to advertising? I think it’s based on the premise that the best things in life come in squirts. Big blitz advertising in one season and then silence; deafening silence.

The executives at Nakumatt have built an impressive company over the years, irrespective of it’s recent troubles. They transformed the retail industry through big thinking, consistency and great consumer insight. Their timing couldn’t be better because when they began to rise, 80 per cent of the retail industry in Africa was informal.

They’ve witnessed phenomenal growth since 1987, continuously beating the region’s GDP and stock index performance while establishing 65 stores in six countries.

Their success was certainly a catalyst for the growth of the retail industry in Kenya and the development of major shopping malls that set the platform which chain stores and retail networks built upon.

Knowing that the global retail sector ranks high in advertising, we reviewed the local scene a number of years ago expecting to see similar trends, but apart from the brief sparks of brilliance, there was nothing else.

We were not the only ones with this insight as we found a multitude of marketing consultants, advertising agencies and PR firms clamouring for their attention — all met a cold shoulder.

We therefore predicted that as long as Nakumatt was growing in double digits by capturing untapped markets and without any formidable competition in sight, it would keep making money without advertising.

This continued until conditions changed — the market was approaching saturation point and competitors come out of the woodwork, diminishing any differentiation that Nakumatt might have had.

When Macaulay said “nothing except the mint can make money without advertising,” he obviously hadn’t spent time in present-day Africa because we have seen many companies doing that here.

However, if we take Macaulay’s thoughts and apply them in the long term, then it comes to bear in our region, with the example of Nakumatt in mind.

In the digital age and the mass adoption of e-commerce and evolving shopper experiences, it is inconceivable that a major retail network like Nakumatt would not have even a basic website — but just like the government bailout package, their website is currently under construction.

Maintaining positive visibility through advertising and public relations, with a recency strategy as a minimum, insures companies against the unexpected when a crisis hits or when blindsided by competitors and new market trends. It also helps to keep stakeholders confident and supportive through the hard times.