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January 16, 2019

Brands should deliver what they promise

Yes, in Africa we have one too.


The sun’s come out in Europe and the polar vortex has dusted the USA but the first quarter out west is being heralded as the beginning to the end of the great global crash. Banker’s bonuses are being mooted. Someone explain that to me. Infrastructure projects are up (known as the Deloitte Crane Survey from how many cranes you can see on the skyline – in London it will soon be over 100). Even poor little Scotland, a country I love deeply, is deluding itself that its days as a Celtic Tiger are imminent. Tiger skin rug more like.

Here in Africa I thought you would find it amusing to hear some of the advice being given to CEO’s now that the storm seems to be abating. “The recovery is here” shout the headlines. The markets are moving again. Money is starting to flow again. “Leaders should be doing two things right now,” advise UK-based Shirlaws Business Coaching.

First and foremost invest in assets

This is a critical time to invest in assets that will produce income. Massive amounts of market share tend to change hands at this point in the cycle. Brilliant. By the way, anyone reading this in Africa put your hands up if you have been doing any of this for years.

Then, get the right people doing the right jobs

Apparently leaders need to build a platform now to capitalise on the uplift as early as possible. This means having the right number of people doing the right jobs with the right level of skills.

Now this, as you know, is right up my street, as I spend a great deal of time trying to help CEO’s to get their staff to understand what their brand is promising to customers. And to change their behaviours accordingly.

Now here is the bad news. Despite the emergence of HR as a vast industry in its own right, most of the people I meet are the wrong people for the job, and sometimes there are too many of them, rather than too few. I deal with large companies where the management style is reminiscent of the old Japanese way of running business. Where large groups sit and hear a presentation on an initiative. Some fall asleep. Others nod wisely. And no decisions are taken. The key word in this, as I recall, is ‘Hai’ which does not mean “Yes’. It simply means ‘ I have heard and understood you.’

But sometime you come across the exception that proves the rule. I recently contacted a removals company that trades under the strapline ‘Move Without Tears’. My goodness, anyone who can claim to do that is fairly sure of themselves. The nearest two claims would be ‘divorce without tears’ and ‘death without tears’.

But this was a very self-confident organisation, and I experienced that in every staff member I met. It started off with the fellow on the phone who took the booking for the visit where they come and estimate the cost. Now, I had to repeat several details for him not because he was not paying attention.

Five minutes later I received an SMS from him confirming that someone would be in my neighbourhood the next day, and so he was organising an appointment.

Half an hour after that I received an email which had all my details, the exact directions to the house, and the name and phone number of the man who was coming to value. The stated time was 10.30am, so experience taught me to add an hour either side and off I went to bed.

The next morning at 8.30am I had a call from their office confirming the car was on its way, and at 10.15 am the guy himself called me from the car and told me where he was. He arrived at 10.35 am. In Africa that is the equivalent accuracy of an atomic clock.

I could go on, but the survey was quick and polite. I was given a brochure entitled ‘ Your guide to a delightful move.’ And the man’s business card even had a nice smiling picture of him on it.  The estimate was with me that evening and I had two follow up calls. In fact the only thing I would say to these guys is ‘enough already’, when you have sold, stop selling.

So there we have it, an African business that markets itself wonderfully through the right mixture of staff attitude and procedures. They are called Cube Movers.

Now, I wonder what all those miserable people in Europe are up to?



Chris Harrison has 30 years experience of marketing and advertising. Most of them spent in Africa. He leads the African operations of The Brand Inside, an international consultancy that helps organisations deliver their brands and strategies through their people.

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