How is Marketing Doing in Nigeria these Days?

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A Report of Research Findings

Author

George E Thorpe is the Director of Studies at Market Space, a provider of executive education recently accredited by ABE UK to deliver tuition for its Marketing Management Diploma programs in Nigeria. George with over 30 years of marketing and management experience at local and international levels has interest in a number of marketing support service firms in Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon. His area of research interest is on how to improve the knowledge and practice of marketing and entrepreneurship at a time when these careers will come to the fore of business and industrial development in Africa’s largest economy

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Summary

  • The online survey of marketing and management professionals was conducted between 07 December 2015 and 02 January 2016
  • 34% of respondents, almost all of whom are aged between 35-64 years, are not satisfied with ‘the overall state of marketing in Nigeria these days’
  • 45% of respondents are ‘fairly satisfied’ although for few and weak reasons; the executives outside of the marketing function and those at lower levels of the organization appear to be more impressed with the state of marketing in Nigeria
  • The reasons adduced for being satisfied with the state of marketing in Nigeria are for example ‘…the nation’s ad agencies are winning awards such as Cristal and Loeries’; ‘….most international companies trading in Nigeria operate best marketing practice etc’. CEO/Board Executives gave the most shine to marketing in Nigeria with comments like ‘….there is a lot of innovative ideas coming out of the industry; ’…..Nigerian marketers are better educated than ever before and are able to deploy more sophisticated marketing solutions…’.
  • There is a higher incidence and much wider variety of negative comments and reasons for being unsatisfied with the state of marketing in Nigeria. They fall into 3 categories – those that are competency related, those that border on professional ethics and values and lastly regulatory issues
  • The competency issues raised as reasons for dissatisfaction with the state of marketing in Nigeria range from poor choice and use of channels/new media to extensive and very serious concerns about the lack of or inadequate training and continuous professional development. Then that there is simply not enough marketing research being done, a lack of creativity and innovation, bad and limited marketing strategies, capabilities and business leadership skills and an obvious asymmetrical even adversarial relationship between marketer companies and their agencies. Many also referred to inappropriate marketing communications and promotions and poor marketing orientation and processes
  • When it comes to professional values and ethics the reasons for dissatisfaction with the state of marketing practice in Nigeria these days relate mostly to a lack of transparency and accountability at the client and agency interface, accusations of serious unethical practices (even corruption) or simply a lack of professionalism
  • In conclusion, business and their people need to invest on improving marketing competencies for career development and business success in an increasingly competitive environment. The growth of professionalism in marketing would also need more values-in-action and some regulation

Introduction

The ‘How is Marketing Doing in Nigeria these Days’ research was devised to uncover the overall level of satisfaction with the state of marketing practice in Nigeria, why the level of satisfaction is the way it is and what broad areas need looking into for substantial improvements in the coming years.

A total of 245 emailed invitees viewed the online questionnaire (ref questionnaire in Appendix 1). 76 or 32.4% started and completed filling out the questionnaire between 07 December 2015 and 02 January 2016. Of the 8 questions in the questionnaire that took an average of 12 minutes to fill, only two were open-ended; the more valuable one being Q.2 on the reasons for respondent’s level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with ‘the overall state of marketing practice in Nigeria these days’.

The respondents are mostly from marketer organizations and the marketing communications agency industry and cut across various functions or departments – Board/CEO, General Management, Marketing, Business Development, Finance/Accounting, Sales/Client Service, Personnel/HR and IT/ICT – as well as being from various levels of their organizations.

 

Research Findings

 

  • 45% are ‘fairly satisfied ’with the overall state of marketing practice in Nigeria these days….but 34% are either ‘not at all satisfied’ or ‘fairly unsatisfied’.
  • Virtually all of the unsatisfied (96%) are in the 35-64years age range and all those aged 65 years and above are neither satisfied nor unsatisfied.
  • There is no easily discernible relationship between the number of years of management experience and the level of satisfaction with the overall state of marketing practice in Nigeria…
  • There is a significantly higher number of the unsatisfied among those with functional management experience in marketing (48%) and marketing related functions….like Operations (50%), Sales/Client Service (44%), Customer Support/Development (50%) as opposed to those in more remote functions to marketing like Finance (18%) and IT/ICT (9%). 38% of Board/CEO and General Managers are unsatisfied with the overall state of marketing practice in Nigeria.
  • The level of satisfaction by functional experience may be taken in conjunction with the revelation that 37% of executives at Levels 1&2 are unsatisfied; that they represent 72% of all unsatisfied although they are only 66% of respondents. A drill down into the reasons for satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the overall state of marketing practice in Nigeria is quite revealing (these are unedited quotes)

Why Satisfaction?

For a start, only one respondent is very satisfied. 45% of respondents claim to be satisfied with the overall state of marketing practice in Nigeria but their comments and reasons adduced for satisfaction bear weak correlation with their being ‘fairly satisfied’. In fact negative comments outnumber positive ones creating the impression that ‘fairly satisfied’ is a default position for many respondents. A sample of positive comments and reasons for a rating of ‘fairly satisfied’ will suffice (comments are unedited)

Executives from outside of the marketing function and at lower levels of the organization appear to be more impressed with the overall state of marketing in Nigeria…..

“Young marketing outfits are winning accounts, ahead of the older generations. The nation’s ad agencies are winning awards such as Cristal and Loeries”.

– Level 4 Exec in ‘Others’ Function/Department

“Most international companies trading in Nigeria operate best marketing practice. Through the Institute of Marketing, knowledge gap is being closed gradually”

– Finance/Accounting Exec in Level 2

“Compared to some 10years back, we now have some regulations and checks. It has improved from what it used to be”

– Personnel/HR Exec at Level 4

…….but it is the Board/CEO’s and General Managers who give the most shine to marketing practice in Nigeria

“Good combination of traditional media with digital media. There are a lot of innovative ideas coming out of the industry. A better level of transparency in pitch processes compared to other markets. It has responded well with new technology. Nigerian marketers are better educated than ever before, and are able to deploy more sophisticated marketing solutions. They use global best practices”

– Board/CEO and GMs at Levels 1&2

 

Why Dissatisfaction?

There is a higher incidence and much wider variety of negative comments and reasons for being ‘fairly unsatisfied’ or ‘not at all satisfied’. Even those satisfied with the overall state of marketing practice in Nigeria shared some of these negative comments.

The negative comments and reasons for dissatisfaction with the overall state of marketing practice in Nigeria may be rendered in three categories as follows (comments are unedited)

Dissatisfaction – Competency Related Comments and Reasons

There were competency issues that relate to……

……..the choice and use of channels and new media……

“Mediums of marketing not utilized appropriately. Appreciation of the value of digital is rising but very slow. Band wagon approach in digital marketing. Lack of quality talent pool – having to train people in digital. Slow to adopt new media.
“My answer is based on the fact that I work in digital advertising:

Don’t think clients are using digital to its full potential. Clients are not putting budgets into digital. The talent pool is still limited and few understand or have digital skill sets. Clients are paying digital agencies less than traditional agencies. Clients don’t understand digital”

– MD of leading Digital Agency

 

…extensive concerns about the lack of training and continuous professional development …….

No coordinated training (funds and resources). Professional certification of marketers necessary. Limited knowledge and understanding of the consumer. Lack of knowledge on the part of clients. Not enough on-the-spot vocational training of Practitioners. Lack of training and training institutes. Poor motivation of seasoned marketing professionals to train (entrepreneurial challenges). The lack of a credible Marketing Institute to drive Quality. Teachers are not usually practitioners. Half baked professionals. Brain drain. The profession could do with more depth in terms of knowledge and skills”

 

………poor marketing research practices…….

Low or slow in-depth knowledge of Research & Development in most organizations. Less research of future market needs and expectations. Poor access to marketing information and lack of sincerity in the marketing profession. Unreliability of marketing data. Doubtful test marketing. Most times ignore vital cultural, religion & social values – tactic assume genericity.

……….lack of creativity and innovation……

Poor practice in ideation, professional persistence by the Advertising agencies. Few original thinking problem solvers. Lack of passion for adaptive innovation to build local brands. e.g. BRAZIL. lack of creative strategy. Creativity is missing. Qualitative reasoning pushed back. Little innovation. Lack of innovation in marketing practice. Not dynamic & therefore monotonous

 

………inadequate marketing strategy, capabilities and business leadership skills………

Advertisers and Client Managers have lost the balls to venture into new territory for their brands. Low commercial awareness amongst marketing managers and too much focus on the esoteric marketing metrics with less connection to the core business KPIs. Budget constraints affecting choices. Leadership failures. Ineffective marketing strategies. Brand management not emphasized. There are too many foreign players, limiting the capacity of local players from full optimization. Many of the marketing organizations that we used to hear about in the past have disappeared. Where are they. Non urban areas not considered. Style and technology upgrade lacking. Urban / rural dichotomy placed much emphasis on urban areas. There seems to be no direct correlation between strategy and end result (sales). There are a lot of gimmicks on going in the marketing practice hence no reward for loyalty. The competition in the industry is very stiff, even to the point where USPs are no longer distinguishable.

…………asymmetrical, even adversarial client and agency relationships……..

High proliferation in the marketing services sector – too many agencies run by lower skilled managers. There could be more collaboration (agency/client collaboration) to the benefit of brands managed but that isn’t the norm. Many agencies still appear to be very weak compared with clients hence have weak bargaining powers yet the industry seem unable to help its weak members. Too many mediocre marketing agencies.

………….ineffective marketing communications and promotions…….

Most marketing campaigns seems to be weak, we yearn for very strong marketing campaigns. A lot of the marketing are not in tune with our cultural values and social orientation. I sometimes do not understand the essence and the messages in the advertisements other than a lot of foreign mimics. Poor understanding of Integrated marketing principles. Too much sales promotion as against brand building particularly in telcos

………….poor marketing orientation and processes……

sme business need focus. Marketing have been restricted to multi-national. Marketing has muffed into Selling. Uncoordinated. Marketers are to some extent not interested in genuinely identify needs of the clients. Lack of standardization and processes. After sales service almost absent. In practice, there is still a general poor perception of what really is marketing with the passing off of field sales activities as marketing. Marketing is still very much misunderstood at top Management level as a cost centre with little or no direct relationship with business profitability, therefore still the first functional area where Management seeks cost savings. Marketing practice is not regulated. lip service is paid to the marketing concept (I don’t want to finger the financial services sector)

Dissatisfaction – Comments and Reasons related to Professional Ethics and Values

The negative comments and reasons for dissatisfaction with the overall state of marketing practice in Nigeria as it related to professional ethics and values are fewer but some are quite pungent. Those that relate to…….

…….. a lack of transparency and accountability at the client and agency interface……

Interest of the brands no longer paramount to most of marketers especially at the junior level.. Mixed and visible sharp practices across the Industry. The end justifies the means. No regulation..anything goes. Absence of transparency. Commitment to core values had dropped

There appears to be unhealthy competition in the industry…de-marketing among competitors. Some marketing campaigns appear fictitious and may be misleading to the general public.

………are mixed with accusations of serious unethical practices (even corruption)…….

Pecuniary issues take preeminence over professionalism. The industry is corrupt beyond even politics.

…….or simply a lack of professionalism……

Lack of professional collaboration, coming together. Professionalism is fading away. Selfishness across all levels. Lack of professionalism on the part of registered practitioners. Ethics

Dissatisfaction – On Regulatory Issues

Some of those dissatisfied with the overall state of marketing practice these days mentioned regulatory issues eg regulatory arm not being alive to its responsibilities and lack of protection by regulatory bodies

Conclusion

A major cause of dissatisfaction with the overall state of marketing practice in Nigeria these days is the lack of competency ie the ability to accomplish marketing tasks successfully or efficiently. Businesses and their people need to invest more on improving marketing competencies for career development and business success in an increasingly dynamic and competitive marketplace. Beyond the acquisition of critical marketing competencies, professionalism in marketing also calls for values-in-action supported by some regulation

Discussion Points

The discussion points that readily come to mind from the findings of this survey are

  1. What specific areas of knowledge, skills and techniques are required to improve on the overall state of marketing practice in Nigeria these days?
  2. What attitudinal and values-in-action changes is expected of marketing practitioners in Nigeria; what kind of regulation is required and how might this support change

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