MRS Ugo Geri-Robert, is the Managing Director of Millward Brown Nigeria. One of top 10 largest market research agencies in the world, Millward Brown specializes in branding and communication research with deep expertise in advertising, marketing communications, media and brand equity. With 82 offices in 52 countries working across a wide range of industries and categories, the agency has remained a valued adviser to leading marketers throughout the world through its full qualitative and quantitative research service. EBERE AMEH spoke with her on a wide range of issues after the launch of the company’s Nigerian office recently
Can you tell us briefly what Millard Brown Nigeria all about?
Millward Brown is an international research agency on a mission to provide research-based consultancy to help marketers successfully manage their brands, optimize the return on their media and communications investments, and create value for their businesses, employees and shareholders.
It is actually a specialist agency and what that means is that we are not running around offering everything to everybody. The core of our research offering, which we push to sell, to grow and to build in every market we enter into, is the branding and communication research, the brand equity and the tracking service.
Branding and communication research is talking about advertising research, while equity studies is helping companies build their equity. So, any form of advertising, whether it is the print, radio or TV, Millward Brown is the biggest agency when it comes to brand communication and equity studies worldwide.
Many of the local agencies stop at providing data, and not so much about the insight, but because we work with you as a partner, it is more about providing you with that strategic information that you need to make your decision.
We have various tools which we use to achieve that. Link is a tool we use in brand and communication research. Link is all about optimization of advertising. Nigeria, for example, being the most populous nation in Africa with a very thriving economy, advertising is churned out per minute every day from the numerous companies, both big and small that exist here. You have no control over the number of adverts that you are exposed to and it is not all these adverts that get your attention.
With link, Millward Brown helps clients to design those adverts that get the consumers’ attention. This is because you don’t advertise just for the sake of it. You are trying to reach somebody and cause the person to take an action in your favour. Advertising is very expensive you know. Our agency comes in to help you to optimize and also to save money. The money saving comes from the fact that if you make a good advert, it means that the objective of the research is achieved. If your advert is not effective, you spend millions and you are talking to nobody. Millward Brown comes in to help you to panel beat your advert so that when it comes out, it will get the right attention using the link.
There is the Brand Equity forum and within it is our tracking business. There, we offer you brand dynamics. Brand equity simply means that we’ll help you at every point in time to know the health of your brand. Health of your brand in terms of, are people aware of your brand, are they really buying? These people that are buying, are they feeling satisfied and if they are, are they saying you are better than competition and if you are, are they saying that you are the best? That is virtually all there is to the of the health of your brand so at every point, Millward Brown with that tool helps clients to know where their brand stands so they can always correct everything that needs to be corrected and beef up any area of advantage.
We also have the Firefly, which we call our qualitative business. Firefly looks after the qualitative and in looking after the qualitative of Millward Brown, they also have tools that support the Links and Brand equity. You know qualitative is like the reason why of an action. The quantitative is giving you numbers, giving you volumes, but many a time, you need to understand why some numbers are looking the way they do and why the volume is as it is. The qualitative is what helps you understand the why. It won’t answer the question how many but why, giving you the meat of the action. So that is basically what we do in Millward Brown.
It was learnt that the Nigerian branch is your 79th office in your 51st country. Why did it take the company so long to come to Nigeria and what attracted you?
Millward Brown has actually been in Nigeria but has been operating through Ghana, Kenya and at times, South Africa. Their coming is to upgrade as Millward Brown Nigeria, having a presence by way of office and by way of local and resident staff. We had actually tried to come but the paper work took too long and being an international agency that abides by the rules, we had to exercise patience till now.
We did not come just because there is a country called Nigeria, no. Nigeria is a big country and one to be reckoned with in both Africa and beyond. Besides, there are many of our global clients who also have legs in Nigeria. So, instead of trying to manage such a huge country from elsewhere, we decided that it is better to manage from within. It is only then that we can be able to give our clients better value for their money.
A lot of foreign investors cite insecurity as one of the major reasons why they are reluctant to invest in Nigeria. How did you overcome that phobia?
Insecurity problem is not just a matter in Nigeria alone, neither is it for the government alone to tackle. Now that we have a situation in our hands, I don’t think that it is by shying away that we shall solve it.
Everywhere you see a challenge, there is an opportunity lurking in there. The fact that Nigeria is big is an advantage that nobody can take away from her. Business is all about people. A fearful person cannot do a mega business. If you take the story of the MTNs of this world for instance, it was not a Nigerian company when they bided. There were several other companies, which were supposed to have bided but they were afraid. With the World Bank data showing all the darkness in Nigeria, they ran away. MTN came in and today, it will be difficult to wrestle them away.
What I think we can do is that in our own little way, especially those of us that work with people from outside, we don’t have to fuel the panic but tell other nationals about the other good things in Nigeria. We are very friendly and even when you talk about crime, between the two of us, I don’t think you have a gun in your house. I don’t have either. I don’t know what a real gun looks like, except what we see in movies. Nigerians are nice people and we should try and project that our good nature. Let us not join the group that castigates the country.
What do consumers stand to gain from the entrance of Millward Brown into Nigeria?
They have a lot to gain. Coming back to the adverts, you know that many times when you watch or hear some adverts, you hiss or get angry. By optimizing those adverts as I told you, the anger is removed.
What are the challenges you envisage?
The main challenge we always have in research is having a dedicated and honest field (data collectors or the field hands) who would think about the client and themselves to do a better job. If the field hands will begin to think about the client, they will give honest data. When they commit fraud, like generating the data without going out, or talking to the wrong people, its like garbage in garbage out. You garbage fraud in and garbage out falsehood. Good enough, we have very dedicated and honest staff and so we don’t have that as a problem.
The second thing that militates against research is the client themselves. They have to help us. At every point in time, clients are going about as if buying crayfish, looking for the cheapest service provider. Research is not a promotional item, it is brain work. What they should be looking for is the offering that will enable them take that strategic decisions.
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