As Businesses Cue into Customers, Trade Partners


Raheem Akingbolu writes on growing efforts by business owners to build and sustain relationships with customers and trade partners through various rewarding schemes


More companies are confirming the submission of Marc Fetscherin, Susan Foournier and Michael Breazeale in their edited book “Consumer-Brand Relationship: Theory and Practice” where they wrote that: “over the course of the past decade, firms have come to the realisation that one of the most effective tools they have to hedge against risk is the portfolio of relationships that consumers form with the company’s brands.”


In this relationship, consumers ‘love’ their brand and positive outcomes can occur such as high brand loyalty, an extreme positive word of mouth, like brand evangelism or turning a blind eye after service failures. Consumers with such relationship investments to brands are more loyal, switch less likely to other brands, are willing to pay a price premium or are less price sensitive and have higher brand forgiveness. In this case, consumers see the brands as family and/or part of themselves.


These customers are over time inspired by the reward and concern shown by the brand custodians to the growth and expansion of their business. Such example of the brand interpersonal relationship is the Nigerian Breweries Plc's distributors' and transporters' award mechanisms that has over the years grown the connection between the company and its customers.


Nigerian Breweries Example


Few weeks ago, Nigerian Breweries followed the global trend through its 2015 edition of customer award, tagged: “Partnering for Greatness”. It was conceived to reward productivity and business partnership. This was demonstrated at the distributors’ award night where the company rewarded outstanding distributors and transporters who excelled in the year 2014.


The event turned out to be a record breaking one as Ifeoma Chukwuka Nigeria limited - having sold the highest number of Nigerian Breweries products - emerged the best distributor back to back. He won the same award last year in the National Champions Award category. The company also put Nigeria boldly on the global map by breaking the African record as No 1 volume distributor for Heineken by selling 4 million cases of total company products. Last year, Ken Maduakor Nigeria Limited appeared the first runner up while Magulf Global Enterprises Nigeria Limited clinched the second runner up position.


Reward for Loyalty


For their commendable performances and efforts, Ifeoma Chukwuka went home with a trophy and a brand new Mercedes Diesel Truck to further enhance her business. Ken Maduakor and Magulf Enterprises went home with a Mitsubishi Canter Truck and trophies each. The companies won the award at the ceremony held at Eko Hotel and Suites Hotel in Lagos.


The brewing giant gave out over 150 awards in various categories which include: National Volume Champion and Regional Volume Champions, Regional Volume Champions who attained minimum of 2 million cases, Regional Volume Champion who attained less than 2 million cases, District Champions who achieved minimum of 2 million cases, District Champions who achieved 1 Million – 2 Million cases, District Champions who achieved 1 Million cases, Millionaire Club (SKDs who achieved above 1 million cases), CFAO Award for Non-alcoholic, Brand Champions in all the brands, Isuzu Award and Key transporters Awards among others.


Other prizes won included Mitsubishi L300 double cabin; Toyota Hilux 4x4 including 14 Pirelli tyres, Sound proof generating Sets; cash rewards and several free crates of Nigerian Breweries Products.


Place of partnership in marketing


Speaking at the event, Sales Director of Nigerian Breweries, Mr. Hubert Eze, affirmed that partnership with key distributors and transporters is a major factor in the company’s success story which has also contributed to growth in sales volume. He stated that the merger with Consolidated Breweries Limited has further strengthened the company’s business.


“The theme of this year’s distributors’ award is ‘Partnering for Progress.’ We are in it together – for a long time and not just to make profit. Despite the challenges in 2014, we recorded a growth in volume rolling out new brands and re-launching existing brands. We thank our key distributors for their support and all that have worked together for the success of the company.”


Eze motivated the distributors to continue to stock and the sell NB products as the company continue to expand its portfolio with products that consumers crave.


Managing Director, Mr. NicolaasVervelde, who gave the overall scorecard of the company in 2014, appreciated the key distributors and transporters for their undaunted partnership during thick and thin. “In second half of 2014, the market was tougher but our partnership with key distributors made it possible that NB maintained its leadership position.”


He reminded the strategic partners that Nigerian Breweries Plc merged with Consolidated Breweries Plc in December 2014. Following this merger, the new Nigerian Breweries has become an enlarged company with extensive supply chain footprint and distribution infrastructure across the country. “We now have 11 breweries spread across the country, 19 brands and 56 SKUs covering more consumer segments in our market. The combination of brands, customers, staff and products as well as the exchange of best practice would create opportunities for higher revenue growth for our company and your businesses.”


By this action, he stressed that the company believes in investment, not only in new products but also in our existing ones. “Our business success continues to be driven by marketing innovations. In 2014, we introduced Star Lite, Nigeria’s first crisp, truly refreshing and less filling lager beer; Star was also introduced in 45cl bottle and 50cl can; Gulder, your Ultimate Beer was relaunched in a brand new bottle. Ace Passion and Star Radler were also added to our portfolio. Fayrouz and Maltina were also introduced in PET Bottles while Goldberg added 50cl Can to its winning SKUs.”


Responses


At the event, Managing Director of Ifeoma Ckukwuka Nigeria Limited, Dame Joy Igwe -who also won six other awards that same night - revealed the secret behind the success of her sales: “I feel so happy to have won seven awards especially the National award. Focus and determination is the secret. For us, winning is a lifestyle and we will continue to work hard. I will also like to Commend Nigerian Breweries Plc for their support and encouragement always.


“I make bold to say they are the best company to work with in Nigeria because they provide everything you need to succeed. So with such a company behind you, why won’t you succeed? They encourage us to do more every year and we hope to win again next year. We are growing as Nigerian Breweries is growing. We thank God for that.”


On their partnership with Nigerian Breweries Plc, Ken Maduakor said it has been a successful partnership that has seen his business grow over the years, he described NB as “a company that knows what the consumer wants and seek out the right set of partners to ensure the products get to their hands at all times.”


Mr. Paul Okene of Magulf Enterprises - who relocated from the United States of America to take over the business after his Mother’s death - said the company has been distributing NB products for close to two years and NB is always there “encouraging and giving a helping hand always, they ensure you have all you need - including POS and other materials - to succeed.”


Celebrated singing sensation, TufaceIdibia and legendary Juju musician, King Sunny Ade gave exciting performances to entertain the distinguished guests at the event.


CSR Activities


Beyond rewarding distributors’ the company also has a robust Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) platform which is driven by a strategic vision to ‘Win with Nigeria.’ Over the years, the company has been active in supporting Nigeria’s national development aspirations in line with this all-encompassing concept which includes identifying and responding to major challenges confronting Nigeria through strategic engagements that are aligned with the company’s corporate philosophy and values. This invariably touches consumers.’


Initiatives such as youth empowerment, talent development, creative writing workshop, organised in conjunction with Farafina Trust, the National Reading Competition, the NB Golden Pen Award for Journalists and others are some of the many avenues the company touches the lives of Nigerians.


In October last year, it was reported to have created a total of 250,000 new jobs as a result of backward integration which led to the successful introduction of two innovative hybrid sorghum seeds to Nigerian farmers. As a result of this development, the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) Abuja to collaborate on the development and commercialization of sorghum as part of its sustainability programme. This hybrid sorghum is made available to farmers through the ministry which commended the company for making its privately funded research available for the common good.

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