When I see Mwala, the octogenarian comic of the famed inspector Mwala, am left in awe of what marketing can do. Once upon a time in Kenya, comedians were a derided lot. They survived on handouts from their die hard fans. Music, sports and acting were careers you could only wish your worst enemy. The victims of these industries lived in squalor somewhere in estates notorious for crime and cheap sex. To confirm the depth of the misery, their weekly comedy themes revolved around poverty and its siblings. The sophisticated romance, high-end business treachery and comic were well above their purview. That was the stuff of the Mwala’s, Ojwang’s and Mama Kayai’s of the moment. Around the same time, KICC, today’s premier meeting venue was just a boarding and lodging for KANU’s apparatchiks. Expectedly, with all utilities grounded the place was a stinking mess. Football and boxing was synonymous with ghetto life as eschewed in lowly estates of Mathare, Kaloleni, Jericho, Lumumba and Makongeni.
That was then. A lot of water has since passed under the bridge. In came the Ghanaian Patrick Quarcoo and radio as we knew it got a new meaning. Then Wachira Waruru landed at Citizen and the deeply tribal baggage that Citizen had been tagging along melted into thin air. Today, Citizen is leading the park with a series of breathtaking local comedy. When Kisia took over at KICC not much was expected as KANU hawks tried their last luck to hang on to the public asset. In flash, we saw what visionary management and marketing excellence can do. The place was transformed from an idlers den to an international meetings hub. Further afield, the Rudisha’s, Mariga’s, Oliech’s and Wanyama’s were giving new hope to our sportsmen.
These guys should be celebrated. They have unlocked the potential in their industries prompting resources both human and financial to start flowing in. On the same breath we have to salute the likes of Nyambane, Mdomo baggy, Tony Njunguna, John Kiarie aka KJ ,Daniel Ndambuki aka Churchill, GidiGidi, Majimaji, Amani, Wahu among other daring young guys and girls churning hit after hit in the local music industry. Suffice to say, these are the marketing lessons.
Dive into uncharted waters.
These marketing luminaries had the faith to invest time and other resources to develop new products in undeveloped industries. They challenged the status quo and discovered new gems in the most unlikely of places. We saw the gaping space in Radio only after Quarcoo and KISS100 came along. Marketers must be ready to rock the boat and dive into uncharted waters. Identify a craneu. That’s where the fish is.
Talent is everything.
Wachira Waruru’s turn around at Citizen began with a calculated onslaught on competition by picking the best through Irresistible offers (IO). If anyone ever doubted the power of talent, today’s Citizen TV is your answer; to paraphrase our son in foreign land, Obama.
Have a Marketing budget
Like all good things, Marketing doesn’t come cheap. It is not for the fainthearted penny pincher. As the saying goes, if you pay peanuts, you can only attract monkeys. Wachira literally poured money in attracting and retaining talent. Likewise, Quarcoo has made small millionaires out of employees. Kisia turned KICC into a blue chip parastatal and the marketing systems that they have put together with colossal sums of money would drive any worthy accountant to suicide. A peek at the marketing budget of the most profitable companies in Kenya will give a hint.
Market out of the box.
Just about a decade ago, listening to a vernacular radio station was unthinkable. The popular opinion was that Kenyans were too sophisticated to listen to tribal stations. Now, if vernacular was not the in thing, watching local soaps was out of question. We were thought to be too urbane to tolerate such backwardness. Mexicans had our attention and served just fine. Not anymore. Equity bank thought of the unbankable hawkers and look where they are.
Think like an idiot.
Only a certified fool will pour that kind on money on salaries, benefits and promotions on staff. Kiss FM, Quarcoo’s flagship literally bribed listeners through generous promotions to get them hooked up to the station. Once under his grip, they were satisfactorily entertained and loyalty followed. Other idiots forgot their colorful degrees with the heavenly guarantee of good pay to plunge into comedy and music. Think of graduates who engineered a new industry in music and comedy like Nameless, KJ, Mdomo baggy, GidiGidi, Wahu and Nyambane to mention just but a few. Forget conventional knowledge and thinking. Listen to that idiot next to you. He may just give you a gem.