Gillette the Fuck Outta Here! Or No?

Image result for gillette best man can be ad

Guess who is facing the shame shave now? Gillette’s controversial ad that seeks to address ‘toxic masculinity’ has racked up millions of views, lots of praise but zillions of backlash. Watch it here. I think Gilette’s actual error is that they designed communication tactics without a proper branding strategy. Yes, the preachy tone annoys me but I’m not swayed by the Youtube dislikes and all the brouhaha. That’s always bound to happen when any brand takes a stance on such issues.

But the difference between people burning Nike shoes and people flushing Gilette razors is that Gilette is not going to really win any new customers with this. This type of positioning is very much what Nike likes to do; that’s part of their brand strategy. So it will continue to work for them. But Gilette is not known for this; that’s not been their strategy, and one ad (a tactic) is not enough. That surely will piss core customers off but it won’t really appeal to liberal demographics either because they would think it’s not authentic. Ask Pepsi. Same fuckery. You people never learn!

So dear Gilette, here’s my advice to you. If you mean business double down on this. Don’t apologize, don’t retreat, and don’t surrender. It will be worse if you chicken out, maybe not chicken, chicken is delicious. Just don’t back down, you hear. Rather, if you build a brand strategy on this and you stay consistent with it and stay patient through the storm of angry customers, you will make this work. For motivation, see Dove’s Beauty Campaign. This Rome won’t be built with a single ad. I will just ignore that lousy website. Come again because I’m sure this is not the best you can be.

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The Masturbation of Time

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Pumping fireworks to mark new years, popping champagnes to celebrate birthdays, and turning the clock to mark changes in seasons. These are acts of self-pleasure to mark days that are otherwise ordinary for others, elsewhere. The elevation of certain days above others like the Thank God it’s Friday fetish that turns responsible people into canneries of drunken sailors is arguably nothing but pure self-pleasure. If the world stopped celebrating Christmas, New Year, birthdays, Valentine’s day and their many tributaries, life will still go on perfectly.

There is therefore merit in the argument that everyday is a new day, and an opportunity for change, for resolutions, and fresh starts; you do not need to change calendars to feel so. You do not need an elevated day with a contentious history to celebrate your mother, love, or your Messiah. While you wait for the glamour of a new year, a new government, a new house, a new car, a new house, and a new job to be thankful and hopeful, every other moment that you consider ordinary is an empty space for you to feel all these things. Simply put, make hay while the sun shine; do not wait for an eclipse!

The above argument is a philosopher’s stone and which in my rugged opinion should shatter most glasses of disagreement. But we must not be too quick to dismiss the utility of the deliberate ritualization of some days as more superior to others. Because the marking of some days as eventful and sacred, even if its seems logically pointless, is an important reminder of our own mortality, like the measure of time itself. Let me explain.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of humans is our ability to measure time. Our chronometric ability to connect seconds to millenniums is the only way we have mastered time, even if it masters us all with death. But this is exactly why me mark time, that we may know how to measure the length of our days, when to expect death, and when to celebrate our ability to evade death.

When we celebrate certain days as eventful, we do so to inherently remind ourselves that we are on a temporal lease. While every second counts, only certain moments, like new jobs, new years, birthdays are worthy reminders of our mortality. We do not celebrate every second, hour and day because we do not want to remind ourselves every so often that we are on death’s waiting list. Call it terror management, if you please.

Thus when we do remind ourselves, on occasion, we do so with pump and revelry, not just to give the middle finger to death, but also to cover the underlying terror with a show of pleasure. We celebrate birthdays as a pleasurable increase in lifetime, not as a terrifying incremental proximity to our death; we celebrate Mothers’ Day as salutations to our mothers, not as a reminder that we might be reading the same words in their funeral tribute one day; we celebrate new years as moments of hope and a fresh start, not as a collective migration of humanity through time towards a probable apocalypse.

So although we ought to celebrate every day as opportune, and not just elevate some days as more special than others, we still need such self-pleasure of occasional pump and ceremony to tolerate our otherwise inevitable slow march to our end. On this day of the commemoration of my birth, I raise a glass to all the special relationships that have filled the void of my inevitable march to the grave. While I am here, may my tenancy of time be a source of joy to other co-tenants of time: you. Happy birthday to me, and to you as well; it’s a new day for you too, dammit!

A Letter to the CEO Of Ennkasa Apparel

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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.

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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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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…

…Akora Apantan.

Why are men afraid of death?

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Death is a certain destination all men share, we know it is nature’s culture, and yet the simple reminder that any man could die at any time, any place, any how drives men to shudder, forget their joy, remember their God, or even pretentiously simulate the non-existence of death. Admittedly, generally life is a misery, if not today, certainly tomorrow, if not for you, for others. Doubtless, life is one piece of work that we moan about everyday, and yet we prefer it to death, and bend stones to avoid it. Curious, isn’t it? Perhaps, miserable as it is, life offers some certainties that death does not. After all, however miserable life is, the sky will still hold its place above, if the sun refuses to share its rays, the clouds may donate their rains, and sometimes, you may end the day with a smile on your face.

Then, methinks, what is unsettling about death is the uncertainty that it brings. For if we knew what death held forth, maybe, we might rather look forward to the exoticism that it holds, with the same, oft, mixed hope that we hold for the morning. It appears to me that, it is not death, but uncertainty itself that men fear. Uncertainty about tomorrow, marriage, parenthood, yes, death, and even God and the uncertain algorithm of His purported impending judgment, do unsettle us. Why is uncertainty so unsettling? Is it the ignorance? No, methinks not, for people often do not know what they do not know. But we know death, and yet we do not know it. Ah, it must be the knowledge of ignorance! To know that you do not know does set the mind in perpetual discomfort.

Yet that is even more curious. I might think that knowing what I do not know gives me the opportunity to find out, by some means, I should. For true ignorance is not knowing and not caring that you do not know, the uncertainty of uncertainty, the ignorance of ignorance. But search as I may, the uncertainty of death’s certainty is neither traceable by Google nor fathomable by statistics and probability. That I know I do not know, and cannot know is frightening, especially if I can only know when it comes for me. Even then, will I truly know?