Salami: Marketing is an Investment Not Cost

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The Chief Executive Officer of Idea House, Mr. Kehinde Salami, spoke to Raheem Akingbolu on the importance of experiential marketing to business development and the efforts being made by practitioners to strengthen the industry
A new body called ‘Experiential Marketers Association of Nigeria (EXMAN)’ was inaugurated last year to coordinate the affairs of experiential practitioners, how far has it gone in redefining the industry?
From any angle one chooses to look at it, the establishment of the body was a step in the right direction. In fact, it came a bit late. A body like EXMAN supposes to have been in place 10 or 12 years before we finally have it.
How I wished your question is directed at my president or the association’s secretary who I know would have given you the details of our activities in the last one year better than I will do.
Having said this, let me state that EXMAN was established to reposition the industry, thereby strengthening the practice to enhance professionalism. With the association in place, we are easily identified and coordinated.
If you recalled, EXMAN executive recently visited the leadership of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) with a view to creating a good working relationship with the regulatory body on how to raise the bar in the marketing communications industry.
Among other things, at individual and collective levels, we have earned more respect through the association and it has made it easy for stakeholders to know who is who in the industry.
Experiential wasn’t as popular as this in the years past, what do you think responsible for its patronage in the recent time?
Many people do think experiential is new in our market and is not so. It is just that it has started being reshaped in the last seven years. Over the years, people call it different names and that still continues.
I have always said the way we define whatever we do is important and the way people understand what we offer is also germane. Experiential marketing is a field in marketing communication that business owners use to communicate with a market in a more active and direct manner.
Each time I discuss this, I like to use to draw analogy between it and medicine, where we have ophthalmologists, gynecologist or psychiatrist. All of them practice medicine but in different field.
That is exactly what happens in our industry too, where each of the sectoral bodies play different roles in marketing mix. In my view, it is in stages; identity creation, relationship marketing, digital and then reputation building.
At the level of identity creation, advertising readily comes to mind, experiential handles relationship marketing before the digital people come in to create interactive forum around the brand. The last is Public Relations practitioners that are hugely involved in reputation building.
With about two decades put into practice, you are in a good position to say whether the industry is appreciated in Nigeria or not.
Let me first emphasise that part of my practice years experience was in the UK but like you said, I have spent enough time in this market to be able to state my view about the level of patronage and appreciation.
If we consider the activities in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), I think the sector has consistently engaged experiential agencies to help create good bond between brands and consumers over the years.
When you come to the financial sector, the reverse is the case, experiential marketing is not appreciated the way it should be. In the financial sector and to some extent in public service, marketing is still not regarded as investment but cost. 
To improve on bottom lines and get policies across to relevant targets, marketing should be seen as investment not as cost.
Things are fast changing anyway as the market is daily being redefined. In experiential industry, professionals have become more understanding and more professionals.
They are ready to handle things differently to add value to what their clients bring into the table. Consumers have become more sophisticated and segmented, which tend to make business owners appreciate the need to approach the market through various approaches, depending on which class of the market one is targeting.
Experiential marketing thrives on brand experience. A lot of brands that use experiential marketing to sell their brands give the consumers the opportunity to understand the brand more.  Brand owners can interact with consumers on experiential platform and get feedback.  Experiential marketing is basically marketing a brand by driving understanding of the product through human senses.
What are the challenges confronting the industry?
Like other creative endeavours, there is always a challenge of convincing clients on the best thing to do. Experience has shown that not every marketing team would like to be told that something is deficient in their strategy or that their agency has a better way of getting better marketing results for them.
This is a challenge we are contending with but let me quickly add that there are some discerning clients who are always willing and open to other creative ideas.
Beyond this, I’m happy that at Idea House, we are contributing our beat to the development of the industry.
Our creative ideas are impacting the bottom line of our clients. But much more, we are delighted that we are providing employment for the youths of this country. Apart from the staff at our office here, we usually have between 200 and 250 contract staff on the field almost all time. To us, that's the way to measure impact and we are happy that we are doing that.
There is general challenge, which all the players in the marketing communication industry are daily contending with. There is infrastructure problem and shrinking in marketing budgets of many companies, which has reduced billings on the general outlook.
In our own industry, the major one at the moment is the insecurity in the north, which has made experiential marketing difficult to explore in that region. There is constant fear of the possibility of attack of both the field workers and ad-hoc staff on parade. As a result of this, we are suffering in silence and daily losing millions of naira.
How measurable is experiential solution?
From every brief or work that comes your way, the client has some objectives; therefore, experiential marketing is measured by the level of achievement against what was set as objective at the beginning of your activation.
Coming to your agency, what is the strength of Idea House?
Idea House is a revenue growing firm; it is not just a supplier of services in the mould of other marketing agencies. We partner with clients to deliver on marketing targets in a creative manner.
We truly partner with them and that's why our thinking, processes and orientation are very different. We don't wait or expect change, we initiate it. We are not a brief-dependent agency. By this, I mean we don't sit down and wait for clients to call us and brief us on what they expect us to do. As an agency, we pride ourselves as an ideas factory. We incubate ideas and execute for the benefit of our clients.
Can you further explain what you mean by saying your firm is not brief-dependent?
What we do is simple. We take a look at the business of a prospective client and do a comprehensive review of its marketing operations. This could take us so many months to do but we are not bothered. After gaining detailed insights about the brand, with our deep understanding of the marketing communications, we will then come up with the relevant solutions
Can you single out any major activation by your company, which you consider a landmark achievement?
There are many but let me make reference to how the agency brought drama into Mouka Foam's activation a few years ago and how we handled the satchet launch of Lipton in the north. The Mouka’s sale activation I mentioned was unique because we displayed a lot of creativity around the activation.
We got a boxing ring at a designated Mouka Foam distributor and got two persons doing shadow boxing. While the boxers were busy with their boxing, the referee was sleeping nearby on a Mouka mattress with the inscription beside him, 'Body No be Wood'. The comic scene grabbed people's attention and actually got them buying the mattress.
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