Dear Mr. Awuku,
The last time our paths crossed, they called you Gunshot, and I was a seismic (how self-indulgent!) prefect seizing your non-school shorts somewhere in Fraser House on a drub Saturday evening in 2007. But times have changed. I have since been banished to the self-righteous world of academia, and you are doing something more exciting in the anti-nakedness business. I hear you are building a brand, and it is for this reason that I have come to eat your house matter. Although I hear your Ennkasa brand clearly specifies that I keep my fat lips shut, I am shamelessly helpless in that department. So please be my host.
First, let me sing your praises. I love what you are doing. Brand building is a Herculean task, and very few possess the imagination and desire, and accrue the learning and luck needed to succeed. So nice one. Let me tell you what I like about your brand, and think you should keep doing.
You are different.
The essence of a brand is differentiation. People should be able to tell who you are, what you stand for, and why you are unlike anyone else trying to do the same thing you are doing. Your difference does not lie in your suits necessarily, although sincerely I have not worn your suits before to judge objectively. But telling from the design of your suits, which are aesthetically pleasing by the way, I am confident, they are not necessarily novel. I have seen such designs elsewhere before. But that’s exactly why you are different. You are building excitement around a simple product offering by enamouring it with drama.
Branding is about influencing consumer perceptions that you are different. Key to influencing perceptions is grabbing consumers’ attention from the sea of brands they are exposed to daily. Here is where you win, handsomely. All the drama you build in your ads, the nicely gagged models, the Alexander Graham Bell telephone attached to the suit, the little snippets of “son of man” wisdom, the testimonial images of people wearing your brand and the unusual settings of your photoshoots are shattally and sarkcessly on point.
These dramatic communication strategies command attention, and go a long way to suggest to consumers that you are different, even if the product itself is not necessarily unique. You get away with creating the notion that wearing a suit doesn’t have to be formal, vanilla and boring. The suit is after all, to borrow a line from the movie Kingsman, “the modern gentleman’s armour”. Wearing a suit communicates an exciting and interesting personality. Apple didn’t design the first smartphone nor the first tablet, but they produced the perfect mix of design, drama and product performance to convince the world that they are the gods of these products. So keep doing what you are doing, and only ECG will be your limitation.
But you can pay any fool to sing your praises. So let me tell you what I think you can do to grow your brand. This is obviously unsolicited, so throw it to the dogs if you may.
Do you know your target market?
Whenever I teach segmentation, targeting and positioning to my class, I begin with the parable of the sower. My interpretation of this parable in a marketing context is that if the sower had purposely looked for the good soil and placed his seed there, he would have had an almost 100% return on his investment. Instead by indiscriminately throwing the seeds, he only landed a 25% return (the rest fell by the roadside, in thorns and in rocks). Similarly, in any given market there are roadside consumers (those who barely pay attention to your brand), rocky consumers (those who easily get excited about your brand but never actually follow through to patronise it), thorny consumers (those who commit to your brand, but leave you when competition makes a tempting offer) and good soil consumers (your brand loyalists).
If you engage in undifferentiated marketing, by targeting everyone, you too like the proverbial sower will reduce your chances of success by 75%. So why not deliberately seek out that 25% of the market who are really suited to your suits. Do you know those people? Find out, or determine who you want them to be, and focus your energies on them. One way to do this, is to determine who is the ideal person you want wearing your clothes (and automatically who you don’t want wearing your clothes). These days, almost everyone is on social media, and so advertising on social media really means advertising to everyone, and that means advertising to nobody. Branding is about strategic discrimination, because you can’t serve everyone. We academic marketing people call it segmentation and targeting. I know, we are silly like that with pointless terminologies.
So find out who you want to wear or is wearing your clothes: what they do or where they work; where, how, why and on whom they spend their time and money; how, why and what they wear; what is their lifestyle; are they religious; what is their level of education; what is their attitude towards money and locally made clothing; where, how often and with whom do they shop; what are their life goals, fears, hopes and desires, and so on. It is important that you know your target customers so well that you can think, feel and even become them. I know it’s a lot of work, but whoever said building a brand was easy. Don’t worry, you have time to work these out gradually. You can always hire a good research agency to this for you too, if you want. I can recommend a few. But, I digress.
Once you know who they are/should be, now you need to design your clothes, set your prices, and tailor your communication and distribution to suit them (I love these tailor puns!). We marketers call it positioning, go figure. But it is the magic key to successful branding. You can position your brand around their fears or hopes for example, using the same dramatic approach you are using now. But you can see how less effective your current approach will be if it has no specific audience. For all you know the people who are most likely to buy your suits find the gags on your models a bit disconcerting, or maybe not. For all you know they want more than suits, or always wear something in addition to suits that could open up another product line for you. Perhaps they are willing to pay more for your suits than what you are currently charging for them? But how can you know unless you find out who they are and what they want in life?
Remember this. When people buy things, they buy them to achieve some goal or solve some problem in their lives, and not necessarily for the sake of the products. It was the legendary Peter Drucker who said, “the customer rarely buys what the business thinks it is selling him”. People do not buy products, or suits for that matter, they buy hopes, desires, goals, security, happiness and relationships. So find out who your customers are, what they want in life and position your brand as an indispensable partner in achieving those life goals, and you will be swell.
Don’t forget the little things.
It is easy to get caught up in the aesthetics of marketing, and forget the little things that matter most. So as you move into astronomic branding strategies, here a few little things you should never forget to do.
- Quality. If the quality of your clothing is subpar, no amount of advertising and Banksying will save your brand. The most powerful ad is the quality of your products. So invest in making good suits, and you will be surprised how many brand apostles you will create. Remember, you make clothes, and as Shakespeare noted, “the apparel proclaims the man”, and I think that is what your Ennkasa brand mantra projects: to let the apparel do the talking. If your suits are great, and someone wears it, it will naturally generate a conversation about your brand. So make sure they are.
- Customer Service. Nothing beats superior customer experience in today’s world of marketing. The easiest way to differentiate your brand in Ghana is through proper customer service, because in Ghana, for many businesses, the customer is the pawn. You can make a difference by literally worshipping your customers. Know your customers by name, know when it is they or their child or partner’s birthday and give them a gift/message, deliver clothes for free, treat them like queens/kings, and never win an argument with your customer. These are simple rules of customer service and they only require a little extra effort. I heard someone say that the only difference between ordinary (brands) and extraordinary (brands) is that little extra. Put in that extra effort to delight your customers, because as Roger Staubach noted “there are no traffic jams along the extra mile”. You will be peerless in that department.
- Be reliable. Reliability is easily a part of the two things I have just talked about, but because it is an Achilles heel among Ghanaian tailors, I choose to address it separately. It is a well-known stereotype: Ghanaian tailors are as unreliable as the nation’s power supply. A tailor will promise you your shirt/dress will be ready by the 10th, and you will be lucky to get it by the 30th. When they see you come to complain norr, then they will pick up your material and say, “oh I have been working on it o”. Oh chale, some tailor took my money and didn’t produce the shirt until after two years when I traced him to some lungulungu place, and went to seize a shirt of my liking from his shop. I tell you! But not everyone has my Motown prefectorial clothes-seizing skills, which you have experienced firsthand.
My personal advice is to deliver when you say you would. From contractors to pastors, from politicians to physicians, people are more often unreliable in Ghana, I have found. You can be strategically different in this regard. In fact, manage expectations, tell customers you will deliver on the 15th when you know you can finish on the 10th. That way you can delight them by delivering before time, and you give yourself room to manage any unforeseen disruptions to your timelines. Enough said!
I would like to think I have not said anything new here that you didn’t know before. After all, business is common sense, but you see, common sense is not common practice. So I hope you will find my unnecessarily long note here useful. Otherwise, I apologise for wasting your time. I am a fan of your brand, and will be keeping an eye on your moves. From time to time, my itchy mouth may find its way to your doorsteps. Until then…