72.5% see Globacom as a genuine Nigerian brand, but how many view the brand positively?

The Issue

Almost 17 years since the telecom giant opened for business in Nigeria, Globacom’s brand mission to be Africa’s biggest network remains on track – arguably. From its inception, the brand clearly stated an intention to utilise its innovative services to the benefit of the Nigerian state and its people, captured in a statement by the Chairman, Dr. Mike Adenuga (Jnr.).

“We are proud to be Nigerian, and we firmly believe that the world’s largest black nation should benefit from the advances made in telecommunications and information technology. We will use this advancement to spur Nigeria’s economic and socio-political success. Our vision to build the biggest and best network in Africa is on course.”

In June 2008, Glo Mobile was launched in the Republic of Benin, showing unprecedented growth through the sale of 600,000 SIM cards in the first ten days of operation. A month before that, Globacom acquired an operating license through its Glo Mobile division in Ghana. On April 30, 2012, Globacom officially launched in Ghana.

And innovate it did.

Glo Mobile introduced lower tariffs, pay-per-second billing alongside other value-added services, forcing the other networks to adopt a per-second billing system. Although Glo Mobile was the fourth GSM operator to launch in Nigeria, its subscriber base grew to over 25 million within seven years of its operation. The first year of operation also created one million subscribers in over 87 towns in Nigeria and over N120 billion in revenue.
Notably, Globacom also focused on providing high-speed data services by building high-capacity fibre-optic cable, known as Glo-1, a submarine cable from the United Kingdom to Nigeria. It served to provide excess bandwidth to all the cities connected to the cable in Nigeria. In 2019, the brand announced a plan to launch its second submarine optic fibre cable, Glo II Submarine Cable.

Since 2003, Glo has positioned itself as ‘proudly Nigerian’ through its messaging, name, identity, and visual language. From sponsoring the Super Eagles (the national football team) to celebrating Wole Soyinka (the Nobel laureate for Literature) to featuring and supporting many Nigerian musicians, actors, and comedians, the brand consistently showcases Nigeria’s rich cultural diversity. As the self-described grandmasters of data, Globacom also owns a robust infrastructure and is the only operator in Nigeria with an integrated domestic and international network.

The Question

The brand focus on national and continental commitment through storytelling has been evident in several respects. For example, Globacom advertisements derive their images from the semiotics and visual images in a highly cultural indigenous environment. This style also applies to the language in its advertisements that are mostly indigenous material resources, which enhances the interpretation and meaning-sharing among the customers.

Gary Harwood, the co-founder of HKLM (the agency that conceptualised Globacom’s branding and name), explained that it takes a special skill to build indigenous brands rather than coat-tailing big international brands.

“To do this, you need to get out of your comfort zone and out of the major cities to understand the market dynamics specific to different countries, different regions and the different cultures within specific countries. Brands are not built overnight; it takes persistence, tenacity and dedication to build a compelling brand capable of standing the test of time,” Harwood stated.

Speaking about the brand, Bunmi Oke, former President of the Association of Advertising Agency of Nigeria, and former APCON council member, said, “For close to two decades, Globacom has been a prominent part of the Nigeria space. (It) has been relentless in (its) support for Nigerian arts and sport – about the two most engaging human activities. They have prominent faces and celebrities as brand ambassadors, strategic partnerships, and sponsorship of the country’s most popular cultural festivals. These are strategic brand positionings that are sure to affect mindshare positively”.

Consumers decide which brands they should choose and which brands they forget. Nigeria’s telecommunication sector is a competitive marketplace. An important issue for marketers is understanding how consumers’ black box changes due to the buyer’s characteristics and how these affect the consumer decision process. But in addition to their personal characteristics, cultural and social factors can also affect consumers’ behaviour.

First, we asked our consumer panel if they accept Globacom’s unique position as a truly Nigerian brand then we doubled-down to know if that perception affects their buying decision. 

“But the younger generation has higher expectations of digital channels, collaborative and social communications and will not take a network that cannot provide the minimum of excellent network coverage and consistent internet service seriously. Therefore, an appeal to national identity would only make for brand recognition and good stories,” she concluded.

What The Streets Are Saying

Among our national focus group, 78.4% explained that they use a personal Globacom line or have used it before. Asked about their perception, 72.5% described the telecom giant as a genuinely Nigerian brand, 9.8% say they ‘are not’, while 17.6% say ‘maybe’. On if they would love the brand more deeply, and even use a Globacom line because they see it as a Nigerian-owned brand, 69.1% say they would, 18.4% said ‘no’ while others were uncertain.

Some studies have shown that consumers in economically developed markets prefer national products over foreign products. In contrast, customers in emerging economies are more likely to pick foreign products than national ones because they believe that foreign products are of higher quality. But a reflection of the network’s investment in providing excellent local services in the panel’s assessment.

63.5% has a positive perception of the network, with many focused on the network quality and pricing: “It’s a smart network”; “It’s really the best network”; “The data is cheap”; “It’s fast but can be inconsistent”; “It’s very good”; “It’s fast in browsing”. 18.2% have a negative perception about the brand, with complaints about unstable network and slow internet connection.

National identity can have a strong relationship with local brand loyalty. When local brands pay more attention to promoting their national identity it may lead to more linkage with consumers’ self and national identity. It can impact the loyalty for the local brands and improve sales. Variables such as traditional and personal culture orientation, brand social value, and national identity are essential in brand storytelling and the more consumers feel about those variables, the more loyal they become toward local brands.

“But in this case, we have to focus less on brand marketing. As a major brand in the sector, it is important to invest in advertising, experiential events or sponsorship,” says an expert in the financial sector. “But what would sell for a tech or communication brand is customer experience. Brands can only build that through excellent customer service. I love the Don Jazzy television commercial with Anthony Joshua – with the beats, shadow boxing, music, the whole works. But unless I have a new experience with the network that shows me something different from the terrible ordeal from a few years ago, the advertising or the messaging with the appeal to national identity does not count”.

The self-described grandmasters of data, Globacom, recorded the most growth among the operators, moving from 28,934,439 data users at the end of 2019 to 40,106,659 at the end of 2020. This is an addition of 11,172,220 new data subscribers or 39% growth in the telecoms sub-sector. The figure is also by far higher than the 22% growth recorded in the sector within the year.

“At the surface level, there are two major consumer segments for the Globacom brand and its competitors: an older generation, with much-limited tech literacy and a personal bias towards (the features on) their phones rather than the network provider,” said an expert. “They need phones with fewer complex features, prefer to stick with a phone number they are already used to and do not demand so much from their network. This segment can also be attracted through an appeal to national identity”.

“But the younger generation has higher expectations of digital channels, collaborative and social communications and will not take a network that cannot provide the minimum of excellent network coverage and consistent internet service seriously. Therefore, an appeal to national identity would only make for brand recognition and good stories,” she concluded.

“Every business needs to build a good relationship with its customers to maintain its sales,” said another expert. For such a competitive market, the Globacom brand has carved a niche for itself as a Nigerian brand. It cannot be copied or replicated by any competing brand. And when good brand stories are supported with excellent customer service, it becomes a winning strategy and storytelling for any brand. Such stories spread really fast, and customers will always want to join in – that’s how brands increase sales and improve brand loyalty.

Insights on What The Streets Are Saying are drawn from data collected through in-depth interviews and surveys with our 500-member consumer panel spread across the country, including 100 culture insiders, who are all leading thinkers and doers across media and marketing.

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