Branding for Marketing & Business Success

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The quarterly African Entrepreneurship Forum offered key insights for African entrepreneurs aiming to build global brands. Experts stressed the importance of customer focus, ethical practices, and quality consistency. They also advised against ‘greenwashing’ and emphasized understanding local cultural nuances.

In an age of unprecedented market opportunity and competition, African entrepreneurs are actively seeking avenues to establish not just profitable but globally relevant brands. The African Entrepreneurship Forum, hosted online by the Shared Value Africa Initiative and facilitated by Andrews Akoto-Addo of Reach for Change, featured a diverse panel of experts, each highlighting fundamental aspects of creating value through branding and marketing in Africa.

The tone for the session was set by Lizette Swanevelder, Director of Global GreenTag Africa, when she stated that branding is not optional; it’s a critical strategy to set businesses apart in a fiercely competitive market. She stressed the need for customer focus, consistency across all platforms, and ethical, sustainable branding as key components for success.

According to Swanevelder, understanding your target audience’s needs and preferences is the first step towards crafting a unique selling proposition. Brand consistency, she insisted, should be maintained not just in visual elements but also in messaging and customer engagement across all platforms. Additionally, she urged entrepreneurs to think beyond profit and to focus on ethical and sustainable branding, especially if targeting eco-conscious markets. She issued a strong warning against greenwashing and highlighted the importance of third-party certifications for bolstering a brand’s credibility.

Against this backdrop, the ensuing panel discussion led by Andrews Akoto-Addo, and featuring experts Amanda Sibiya, Patty Sangmor, Liviness Mmela, Lungiswa Mzimba and Gilles Ametepe became a deep dive into the intricacies of how to build a strong brand, with key insights shared on branding, marketing, product development, and the unique challenges faced in African markets.

The following article condenses the myriad points discussed into actionable strategies and recommendations aimed at African SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Beyond Aesthetics

Amanda Sibiya, Founder & Lead Strategist at Branding Africa, and Patty Sangmor from The Strategist  echoed the importance of brand authenticity and consistency. “Your brand is not your logo, or your product, but a perception.” Your brand is essentially what people say it is, shaped strongly by emotional storytelling.

For entrepreneurs, grasping the depth of a brand’s intangible aspects is crucial. Those aspiring to enter markets in other countries should first establish their brand in their local market to build global relevance.

She along with Lungiswa Mzimba, Founder of Border Frontier, further emphasised that a brand’s worth is as much about authenticity and trustworthiness as it is about visuals and aesthetics.

The Need for Consistency

Patty Sangmor also underscored the importance of product quality as the baseline for brand consistency. In her words, “You cannot be consistent with your brand colours if your product is off.” She urged entrepreneurs to outline brand guidelines, covering everything from brand promise to messaging and core values. These guidelines can help maintain brand consistency across different marketing channels and geographic locations.

Not an Afterthought

One frequent mistake, as observed by corporate marketer, Liviness Mmela, is that many entrepreneurs treat marketing as an afterthought, only investing in it when things go awry. However, marketing should be one of the central pillars of any business right from its inception.

Gilles Ametepe, Co-founder of Ghana for Startups, cautioned against applying foreign playbooks to the complex and varied African markets. Cultural nuances can vary even between neighbouring countries like Togo and Ghana, impacting how a brand is received. Understanding these local dynamics through research and insights is crucial for effective brand building.

Invest in Your Brand

Entrepreneurs must be willing to invest in marketing and branding for long-term success, advised Gilles Ametepe. With the world increasingly globalised, the competitive scope has broadened; your brand is now competing with products from across the world, easily accessible online. Companies like Nike invest millions in their brand not just for the look but for the entire brand experience.

Amanda Sibiya added that good branding and marketing can’t salvage a fundamentally flawed product or business model. Your offering must be strong enough to merit the investment in branding and marketing.

Key Takeaways

  1. Local First, Global Next: Establish local relevance before aspiring for global reach.
  2. Brand Fundamentals: Prioritise product quality and develop comprehensive brand guidelines.
  3. Marketing as a Pillar: Integrate marketing from the inception stage.
  4. Cultural Nuances: Adapt to local cultures while scaling.
  5. Purpose Drives Profit: Your business purpose should inform every action.
  6. Consumer-Centric: Focus on meeting emotional, functional, and social consumer needs.
  7. The Basics Matter: Before branding, ensure you have a sound product and business model.
  8. Be the Brand: Personal branding is integral to business success.
  9. Multi-Channel Approach: Combine digital and traditional marketing techniques.
  10. Investment and Evolution: As you grow, so should your investment in branding and marketing.