FrieslandCampina brands will continue to remain top of the pack, says Tarang Gupta, Marketing Director

In times of trouble and great challenges, especially with the Nigerian economy in recession, it is more important for entrepreneurs and enterprises to stay true to their vision and purpose, keeping this as a priority, while managing short term obstacles.

This, according to the Marketing Director of FrieslandCampina WAMCO, Tarang Gupta, is one of the key principles of managing brands and business during a crisis situation.

According to Gupta, like any marketer would say, the last 28 months have been the perfect storm in Nigeria, due to a shrinking economy, diminishing consumer spending, operational challenges (due to forex), rising inflation, high input cost, etc. Personally, the most important learning I have had during this period is the balancing act of short term and long term. But he is also optimistic with the early signs of recovery in the economy.

He shared his experience: I have learnt three (3) key principles to manage brands and business during a crisis; Staying True: always stay true and honest to your consumer. Never think that a consumer does not know what you are doing. In WAMCO we ensure that we sustain our product quality to ensure our consumers get the impeccable quality they deserve.

Peak Milk

Secondly; being balanced: During moments of crises, organisations and business managers shift to short term goals and KPIs; thus losing sight of long term purpose and vision. It is important that in time of crisis, to stay true to your vision and purpose and keep that as a priority, while managing short term obstacles.

And thirdly; think positively: The most important asset any business has is its people and it is this asset that can be the competitive advantage for any organisation, especially during a crisis – where the team can either get blocked by the gloom or find opportunities from the challenges and among the issues.

The marketing team of WAMCO in last two years has followed the latter and believe in the ‘Power of Positive Thinking’.

To Gupta, every market in the world is unique because its history, culture and people define it, and Nigeria is no exception. However, there are a few things that are quite distinctive about Nigeria: the three-in-one country: The cultural diversity between North, East and South (+West) makes Nigeria quite unique. It also poses a challenge for national brands to stay regionally relevant, nationally connected both via type of content and media channels.

Still gushing on the unique business climate in the country, Gupta cited what he described as Nigerians ‘No Wahala’ attitude saying:  “I have personally been surprised looking at the positive attitude.” He maintained that they know how to stay happy even in tough times. “This is extremely important for brand communication, where brands should connect with consumers mirroring their belief and outlook to life, rather than putting pressure and juxtaposing gloom (even if that may be the reality).”

According to the marketing director, the generation of Nigerians between 18 years (60% and 25 years) is massively digitally connected and globally aware. Thus brands need to keep in mind that the future evolution of this country would be much faster and steeper than any comparable benchmark.

He further stated that religious beliefs are strongly entrenched in the country and it defines how the country operates – ‘on Hope’. Thus marketers need to ensure they connect to this deep-rooted belief system and not stay superficial.

In his assessment of the Nigerian market in terms of marketing communications and brand building experiences, Gupta volunteered that the Nigerian marketing communication is still more traditional but evolving at a rapid pace.

“What makes it unique and interesting is that to reach a Nigerian consumer the media strategy needs to be wide and cut across channels – traditional and new age. Also the media consuming habits are highly diverse and segmented between regions and demographics. Following the principle of ‘How Brands Grow’ by Byron Sharp, my strong recommendation is to leverage traditional media to create awareness and reach and digital (especially among youth and in the South and West of the country) to create engagement. In terms of creativity, I think Nigeria stands to be highly upbeat, music oriented and emotional. The route to the head of a Nigerian consumer is through his heart. Thus in terms of creative content marketers, focus on ‘Touching the Heart first and then Connecting with the Head.’

Nigerian consumers are one of the most responsive consumers and the impact of the communication can be felt immediately, if well supported with distribution. Nigerian consumers are also believers rather than being skeptics. They trust the brands and take the message at face value. While this is a big advantage for the advertisers, it also comes with a huge responsibility of being truthful and honest.

“In my last three years in Nigeria, I have noticed that those brands that ‘Touch the Heart’, are the ones which have an instant traction and faster response from the consumers, compared to ‘functional – Talk only to the Head’ messages.”

For him, brands need to ensure they emotionally engage consumers, satisfy their esteem besides being pocket friendly because from the economic slowdown we have witnessed in last 28 months, it was evident that the Nigerian consumer is down trading and is highly price conscious.

Reflecting on what has been the toughest aspect of managing two top dairy brands in the Nigerian market, he said, “when I was a sportsman in my youth days, my coach always told me that reaching the top is easier than staying at the top. Friesland Campina WAMCO’s brands, Peak and Three Crowns, are not just iconic but are part of the culture and life of the Nigerian consumer. Peak is synonymous to milk but also seen as the gold standard in the minds of the consumers. For us what is most important is to not lose the thought leadership in the category and trust with our consumers. This has always been our endeavour and we as a team strive everyday to ensure we give the best to our consumers – best in quality, best in taste, best in experience and always being honest. I think this is the responsibility of the market and thought leader in any category,” he said.

To him, brands should not be described by their DNA but rather by their ‘purpose’, i.e. the reason for existence. What role the brand plays in the life of a consumer should be over and above the functional gratification.

For Peak, the purpose lies in its name itself, ‘to help Nigerian consumers unlock their potentials and reach for their peak.’ Peak believes ‘what goes in comes out’ and which is why Peak provides high quality milk to give the Nigerian consumers the nutrition they need to succeed and reach their peak. Peak has been there for several generations and will continue to be for all the future generations providing both encouragement and nutrition for Nigerians and Nigeria to keep growing and keep reaching their peak.

The impact of the PECADOMO campaign, which stands for “Peak Can Do More”, he said, is not just a campaign but also an initiative to expand the usage of milk in Nigeria. Nigeria, not being a dairy producing country, the usage of milk is not as diverse and entrenched as compared to some of the other countries like India, Holland, etc. During this economic slowdown, the consumption and usage occasions of milk were reducing. Thus, PECADOMO was introduced by the category leader, Peak to help and show consumers that milk can be much more versatile than just being used in tea or cereal. Peak milk not just adds to taste but also significantly improves the nutritious value of the dish and thus having double advantage.

The response to this campaign has been extremely positive both from the consumers and from the industry. Since this is about creating new habits, we will continue to educate Nigerian consumers on usage of milk and expand the category’s sphere of relevance, because with Peak ‘You Can Do More’.

According to him, “What has excited me the most is the creativity among the Nigerian consumers. We have received some very innovative ideas on how our consumers have found different ways to use Peak Milk in their dishes. During the 2017 World Milk Day celebration, I was impressed with the exciting variations done by the school kids. Some of these recipes have been put on our website: www.peakmilk.com.ng

On whether more people have been inspired by the campaign to consume more milk, Gupta offered, “based on our syndicated research we have seen impact on usage and consumption.”

On the role of Three Crowns among Nigerian diary brands, Gupta said Three Crowns wants to inspire mothers to stay healthy so they can stay fit and take better care of themselves and their families. The woman of the house is the pillar of the family and the stronger the pillar, the more stable the family would be. Three Crowns supports and nourishes this pillar so it can keep the family healthy and happy. Three Crowns milk with low cholesterol and great taste is the ideal partner to the woman of the family in keeping herself and her family healthy and happy.

In assessment of his tenure as Marketing Director, he said credit for some of the fabulous and award-winning creatives goes to the entire marketing team and agency partners. “It is the result of their zeal, passion and relentless rigor. These awards are a sign of external recognition and motivate us to keep raising the bar. We sincerely thank different institutions and bodies for honouring us with these awards and appreciation.”

In an overview of Nigeria’s dairy industry, Gupta said, futuristically, the per capita consumption of milk in Nigeria is a fraction compared to some of the other more developed countries, and I personally believe that this segment would continue to rapidly grow. Moreover, with health consciousness on a rapid rise, dairy solutions will continue to have increased relevance in the lives of consumers – for different occasions (in and out of home). Also, I anticipate increase in local sourcing of dairy. FrieslandCampina has already pioneered this with its Dairy Development Programme.

In the narrative of his foray into marketing, Gupta said having lived in three (3) continents and 13 cities around the world, diversity is part of his DNA. “Likewise, the last 15 years of my career, started with my marketing career in Unilever India, then Global Marketing with Sara Lee responsible for Personal care for Asia Pacific and finally joining Friesland Campina global marketing in 2010 before moving to Nigeria.” Further reflecting, he said, “My most self-enduring times have been in Nigeria, in the last three years with the economic crisis. But I am happy to see how we as a team have not just sailed through the storm but have grown stronger and sharper to take our brands to the next level. I am really fortunate to have a great team that believes ‘I m possible.’”