OPINION : Is Rwanda ready for branding?

Businesses all over Kigali know the importance of logo, billboards and print advertising in the media. But, we have yet to see how they use these marketing channels to define what their products and services mean to their customers.

Businesses all over Kigali know the importance of logo, billboards and print advertising in the media. But, we have yet to see how they use these marketing channels to define what their products and services mean to their customers.

Or is it that most companies do not know what branding is, and that in order to better reach out to their customers they have to do more than just advertise? Do they know that branding is more than just advertising?

Today many people from East Africa and abroad are flocking to Rwanda because of forward-thinking government strategies and initiatives tied to private sector. It’s the new ‘in’ place to be.

But if Rwandan businesses and entrepreneurs don’t market themselves well enough they could be overshadowed by the competition.

There are many well-known Rwanda-made products like AKABANGA hot sauce, MANUMETAL metallic furnishings, BOURBON Coffee as the first local coffee retailer, UTEXRWA for its fiber innovations in silk and banana fibre, and our very own Rwanda Television.

The question remains, how will these businesses sustain in the new Rwanda?

The new Rwanda is marked with an influx of advertising giants, business strategists and marketing professionals with a handle on what it means to carry, sell and promote branded products and services.

They indiscriminately invest heavily in brand strategies that provide consistent messaging about who they are and what they provide to their customers – with no hesitation.

Are our established local businesses readily positioned for the competition? And, how important is it for them to know how to market themselves?

Before we even ask ourselves those questions, I believe its better for us to focus our attention on whether or not we know what branding is. It has become this hot new buzzword for improving the competitiveness and innovation of business development in Africa.

Yet, most African-based business owners are not even aware of what it means and how best to utilize professionals and the tools they provide to add-value to their products and services.

Branding is not a logo, a billboard, or a print advert. Brand is an emotional connection between the customer and product generated over time.

Brand education will be a requirement for doing business in Rwanda. I will share the nature of what this means through a weekly series of articles on branding in The New Times.

Hopefully you will begin to visualize what branding means for business. The title of the column will be called Branding 101 beginning October 8th, 2009. I look forward to sharing these stories with you.

Deborah Kezaabu Kakoma is the founder and executive director of ZAABU brand studio.
She can be reached at kezaabu@gmail.com

 

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