When I see Mwala, the octogenarian comic of the famed Inspector Mwala, am left in awe at what marketing can do to make one a hero or shujaa in local dialect of Swahili.
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 careers lived in squalor somewhere in estates notorious for crime and cheap sex.
To buttress the depth of this misery, their weekly comedy themes revolved around poverty and its siblings. The sophisticated romance, high-end business treachery and comic were not within their purview. That was the stuff of the Mwala’s, Ojwang’s and Mama Kayai’s of that moment. Around the same time, KICC- Kenya’s today premier meeting venue- was just a boarding and lodging for KANU’s apparatchiks. Unexpectedly, 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 TV and the deeply tribal baggage that Citizen TV had been tagging along melted into thin air. Today, Citizen TV is leading the pack with a series of breath-taking local comedy. When Philip Kisia took over at KICC, not much was expected as KANU hawks tried their last luck to hang on to this public asset. In a 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 like the true SHUJAAS they are. 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 Njuguna, John Kiarie a.k.a KJ , Daniel Ndambuki a.k.a Churchill, GidiGidi, Majimaji, Amani, Wahu among other daring young Kenyans churning out hit after hit in the local music industry. Suffice it to say, these are the five marketing lessons we can glean from these Mashujaa.
1.Dive into Uncharted Waters.
These marketing luminaries had the strength of 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 crane au or a gap. That’s where the fish is.
2.Talent Is Everything.
Wachira Waruru’s turn around at Citizen TV began with a calculated onslaught on competition by picking the best in the industry from other players. He lured them through irresistible offers and gave them an open platform to explore their creativity. Result; amazing programming that catapulted Citizen TV from obscurity to the top. “If anyone ever doubted the power of talent, today’s Citizen TV is your answer “to paraphrase the famous quote by our son Obama after winning the US presidential elections.
3.Have a Marketing Budget
Like all good things, Marketing doesn’t come cheap. It is not for the faint hearted penny pincher. As the saying goes, if you pay peanuts, you can only attract monkeys. Wachira literally poured money in attracting and retaining talent at Citizen TV. 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 that would drive any worthy accountant to commit suicide. Just take a look at the marketing budget of the most profitable companies in Kenya and you will understand what it takes to succeed.
4.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.
5.Think Like an Idiot.
Only a certified fool will pour that kind of money on salaries, benefits and promotions on staff and clients. 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.
Article from African Market Media.
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