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Can you build a digital first brand in Africa?

By Alexander Edem

In the past, Marketing managers, CMO’s and CEO’s could pay lip service to the notion of a fully optimized and technology driven marketing department. Even though we are still several years away from a fully matured and integrated marketing ecosystem, however there is enough momentum being generated today that low tech CEO’s and CMO’s would soon have no place to hide.

This is evident by the fact that there is an exodus-taking place and consumers are moving online today to

    Search and research a product or a company
    Make purchase decisions based on the information gleaned from their research

Added to that is the fact that the number of people accessing the Internet is growing at an exponential rate with the lower cost of data services and a proliferation of mobile devices that can access the web across Africa.

All this put together makes for a strong case for CMO’s and CEO’s to build a fully integrated digital marketing ecosystem that will be the driver for sales in today’s digital age.

With the exception of information technology itself, no other discipline has evolved so quickly like the marketing profession.  In its August 2014 edition the Harvard Business Review actually did an article on the rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist, underpinning the fact that marketing has become the most technology dependent function in business today.

As digital marketing increasingly replaces traditional touch points, we see brand managers; CMO’s and marketing manager’s still battling with the question of how they can leverage technology to drive their marketing activities.

Today, marketing teams have to deal with Big Data and marketing software’s as well as the key question of how to use technology as a means of engaging prospects and customers?

Nigeria makes for an interesting case study for brands trying to build a digital first brand in Africa. A country with the highest Internet penetration in Africa and a growing number of smartphone users riding on the back of increasing cheaper data costs, the key to success for brands is in creating digital experiences.

Nigeria’s digital generation wants to be entertained, enthralled and awed, this is evident by the fact that a music video for a Nigerian artiste can amass 150,000 views in just two hours whilst a brands video would not attain a quarter of that in a year or two.

As a matter of course, digital first brands in Nigeria must be willing to think beyond the confines of the traditional marketing space by creating digital experiences that Nigerian consumers can relate with, the error is in applying a traditional marketing mindset in their digital execution.

A radically new way of thinking must be developed for would be digital first brands, a way of thinking that finally acknowledges the supremacy of the customer in the digital space and makes a conscious effort to create digital experiences that rival those that the Nollywood and Nigerian music artiste create for their fans and followers, someone noted just the other day that in Nigeria (Don Jazzy) does a better job of engaging with his followers on Instagram than any Nigerian brand.

At the heart of creating digital experiences are creativity, engagement and technology; a combination of all three is key in winning over the increasingly digital-first generation in Africa today and in creating a digital ready brand that will take advantage of opportunities in the coming years.

Alexander Edem is a digital marketing strategist with Amplify Digital Agency. He helps forward thinking brands make the most of new media platforms while creating memorable digital experiences for their customers. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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