A Quick Intro to Popular Brands in Cameroon

by Gregg on April 17, 2014

My note: Social media works when it’s engagement –> connection –> community. That’s the process that led to this post from my new LinkedIn connection Patrick Mayoh, who works for Euromonitor International in his native Cameroon, in west-central Africa. He wrote this post about why a brand needs a strong personality; I read it, liked it, we exchanged posts and connected, and then I asked him to write me a post about the brands important to Cameroon. Here’s what he taught me.

There is a lot you can tell about Cameroon and Cameroonians from the brands that are popular here. We are very brand-conscious; some of the brands we love show we are aspirational and optimistic about the future; and we remain very loyal to local brands.

We Are Brand-Conscious
location_vehicules_voiture-sofitoul-berline1Trainers and sneakers are typically called Adidas or Nike even when the brand name is Puma or Reebok. Mercedes is an umbrella term for all luxury cars that people usually call “Merco” (pronounced as “Merko”), a diminutive for Mercedes. We mostly shop in open-air markets that sell virtually everything under the sun. In a typical consumer electronics shop, you can find phones with the Apple logo or Samsung logo; however, they are mostly all fake of course.

We Are Aspirational and Optimistic About the Future
nigeriaA poll conducted among Africans by Pew Research reveals they are optimistic and hopeful for the next generation. We also have greater access to the Internet and this is set to improve in the future. Some of the brands we love in Cameroon show how aspirational we are. People used to like 33 Export, a popular beer brand but now we love Heineken as we tend to see it in a lot of TV adverts, especially before big football or soccer games.

We all fell in love with Nokia 3310 mobile phone in the early 2000s, then with Blackberry and now we all want to have an iPhone, a Samsung Galaxy or an HTC device that we see in many TV adverts and movies as well. But because they are too expensive, we make do with Chineese brands like Itel or Tecno phones that are much more affordable.

We Love Our Local Brands
img_1084Don’t mess up with Mambo, the No. 1 chocolate bar in Cameroon. Despite stronger competition from KitKat, Mars or Twix, most people prefer their Mambo, which tastes more “Cameroonian” and is cheaper too.

But then some products don’t just have brand names but are nonetheless popular; take “kaolin” for example a snack made of clay and loved by all ladies and men (though none would admit it). Or Lofombo, our local donuts here in Cameroon enjoyed by everyone.

Lastly we love our Indomitable Lions national soccer team. They are a far cry from what they used to be but they are still our national heroes. All kind of goodies under the Indomitable Lions brand can be found in Cameroon. When they play a game virtually everything stops and the day after they win a major competition is usually a public holiday in Cameroon. All brands fight tooth and nail to advertise their products during a game played by the Indomitable Lions on national television.

And that is it for a very short introduction to brands from Cameroon.

Patrick Mayoh is based in Yaoundé in Cameroon and works as an in-country analyst for Euromonitor International, researching fast moving consumer goods products, providing insights and writing research reports about brands from and in Cameroon. He holds a Master in Business Administration from Sunderland Business School in the United Kingdom and a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications from the University of Buea.

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ID-10053829Bloomberg Businessweek is one of my favorite titles, but I’m pretty dismayed at this article posted this week titled, Building Your Business With an Irreverent Twitter Feed. It focuses on small businesses in the UK – two taverns, and an online florist – that have employed such a strategy and have magically gained thousands of followers.

Fantastic, eh? Perhaps for those businesses and their specific objectives. But I take another view.

What about the C-suite executive of a small- to mid-size B2B or B2C brand here in the U.S. that still doesn’t get social media? (Because let me clue you in: LOTS of them out there, based on my experience.) The number of followers gained through such a strategy are potential customers, not a community to be nurtured through smart, targeted engagement. In other words, big numbers are once again a shiny object.

I can hear it now in board rooms … “I want us to be that maverick industry voice that’s a little off-center, and maybe even a little off-color. That’ll make us stand out among our competitors and get us lots of followers and Likes. Let’s make that happen.”

Ugh. But we’re not done.

Then you’ve got the actual people executing such a strategy – typically a junior-level person who knows the platforms and tools well enough, but simply doesn’t get engagement and is more qualified to fill out content calendars and pump it out into the ether. (Again, LOTS of them out there, too.) Suddenly, you’re asking them to assume an irreverent voice in dealing with followers, including customers and prospects. How far will they push the envelope?

Taken together, that’s a recipe for a crisis communication situation, and could be a potential disaster for a brand. Remember the Applebee’s fiasco from last year?

To me, there are two fixes:
1. Whomever handles social media for a brand – be it a dedicated social media team, marketing, PR or an agency – absolutely must counsel the C-suite on the implications of the choices of voice, tone and engagement.
2. Whomever handles social media for a brand must be trained in leveraging each of those.

In my experience, many brands spend zero time on Nos. 1 and 2, which is why we have so many, frankly, silly social media presences today … just a bunch of content about the brand being blasted out (or worse, sales offers) and little, if any, engagement.

(Here’s a test you can try at home. Pick 10 B2B and B2C brands and actually try to engage with them. This is a running thing I do, and results are either non-existent, or superficial.)

Whatever happened to actually building a manageable community of like-minded followers – like a tribe – that’s nurtured over time, driving them to be brand advocates online and in real life, thus influencing their sphere and driving them into the sales funnel?

Part of that is empowering the junior-level folks managing the platforms to be able to speak the same language as the community. So for example, if your company sells widgets, your community is going to use specific language to talk about not only widgets the projects they’re working on involving your widgets, so your social media personnel has to use that literal language. I see little, if any, of this.

Of course, all that thinking and training takes time – and the time it takes pales in comparison something shiny an executive might read in an influential pub like Businessweek.

This all sounds cynical; am I wrong? Let’s discuss below.

Image credit to FreeDigitalPhotos.net and contributor Basketman.

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