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January 21, 2019

Does your brand have the 'star quality'?

If you are an accomplished marketer in Africa you will already have exposed your brand in a number of channels and editorial environments.

Depending on your target audience, you may well still be using newspapers, because they are a medium your boss understands. You might have invested in TV advertising, but only if you have been able to justify and possibly amortise the production cost over an extended period. You will definitely have used radio, and will be probing the possibilities of social media. You may have been on outdoor. Indeed, I see that many of you still have your Christmas campaigns posted; ... it’s March!

One opportunity you may not have realised yet is to place your brand in feature films or television programming. Either as a star, or as a supporting actor. In the former, your brand needs to contribute meaningful content to build the appeal of the show. In the latter, often known as product placement, it just has to find its milieu and sit there.

Apple is the world’s largest enterprise (it just replaced AT&T on the Dow Exchange, ending the former’s coveted membership of that exclusive index since 1916). Apple is also the world’s most valuable brand – judged to be worth $119 billion (Sh10.88 trillion) at the close of 2014. It now has another accolade; Apple is the king of brand placement on-screen.

Whether you are watching TV at home or relaxing at the movies, Apple products have a tendency to pop up. Though Apple doesn’t have to pay for product placement, it certainly has no problem sending large boxes marked with the apple logo to production companies in the hope that iPhones and Macs make it onto some of the biggest TV and movie hits of the year. Smash hit TV series ‘Modern Family’ even had an entire episode filmed on iPhones and iPads.

No surprise then that Apple was recently the recipient of a Brandcameo Product Placement Award for getting more screen time in more top movies than any other brand. Apple products appeared in nine of the 35 films top box office films in the US. The brand beat both Coca-Cola and Sony. Better still, a whole scene from 'Captain America: Winter Soldier' takes place in an Apple store.

In Africa, we don’t have many brands recognisable enough to be wanted as props in global feature films. That time will come.

In the interim, great moves are being made in independent television production. The word independent is important here because those old-fashioned analogue TV stations haven’t yet worked out what a great revenue and content opportunity brand-inspired programming offers.

In the first boom of mobile telephony, I worked with a client to make a terrific 14-episode TV series that brought to life a brand promise. The Kencell brand was all about making things possible. So, we created a show where people could write in and have their dreams answered. It was called ‘The answer is Yes!’

We sent boys into the cockpit of KQ jets and girls into surgical theatres. Couples had dream weddings or bungee jumped to demonstrate the elasticity of their relationships. However, when we delivered this series to the expectant TV channel, they still wanted to be paid for the airtime it would occupy. No wonder they fear digitisation.

Three or more years ago, independent producer Mediae developed a programme for East African farmers. Called Shamba Shape Up, it takes the ‘Pimp my …’ format and applies it to Africa’s most important economic sector – farming. The series is broadcast weekly in seasons, cast in English and Swahili in Kenya and Tanzania, and English in Uganda.

Shamba Shape Up visits real farms with practical advice plus trial opportunities for new products from brands seeking to engage this vital audience – whether in animal feed, agrochemicals, food processing, microfinance, veterinary medicine, and of course the NGO world.

Most importantly, the series encourages farmers to SMS in with questions, and produces leaflets to answer. By now there is a substantial, segmented database for direct marketing drawn from the nine million people each week who tune in to the show. Shamba Shape Up has won awards from the Millennium Development Fund, World Bank, Kalasha TV Awards, among others.

To capitalise on this, the makers have now developed an App called iShamba. Farmers get it for a nominal subscription to access daily information on weather and crop prices, and a call centre staffed by agronomists ready to answer questions.

For marketers, iShamba represents a content-rich, highly-focused channel to the rural audience. What a great place for brands with something to say to make a real contribution to economic growth, and to sell.


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the series is broadcast weekly in seasons
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