Branding in this era—tale of ‘Al Shabab shavers’

Branding & Marketing, writes Daniel Otim

Agago—26, August 2020: I bring glad tidings from the land of gwanna, odii, moo-yaa, and kwon-kal. As it is commonly known — pardon me if it is unknown to you. We who hail from Northern Uganda come along with all traits; good and bad, dark, tall, solid, agile, intelligent, brave, cruel, and other kind.

We are ‘solid hard’ in many aspects: physically tough-skinned, especially the ones raised locally. One may want to associate it with eating gwanna (cassava) which is our staple diet.

This, to a large extent, is how we ‘northerners’ have branded ourselves. That’s not to say there aren’t a few indigenous Lango, Acholi, Alur, Karamojong, Kumam, and Lugbara who are light-skinned or have a mild temperament.

‘Today’ I was searching for a shaving blade and as I went shopping, I was amazed how aggressive firms have come to make their products stand out. At one supermarket, I recall asking for Gillette shavers and I was handed a Geeleete shaver (see photo attached). I was astonished at this. Out of my distress, I asked for an alternative product. Little did I know, I was bound for a bigger astonishment.

The lady at the counter said to me, “there is Al Shabab”. For a moment, my heart almost leaped out of my chest. My immediate thoughts were that there was a terrorist in the vicinity.

Before I could flee for my dear life, the sales lady handed me the ‘Al Shabab shavers’. A big silence and calm breeze engulfed me and I quietly matched out. I had had enough of this. This is a familiar encounter for many who go shopping or window shopping on the streets and malls across the country.

That aside, Gillette is an American brand of safety razors and other personal care products owned by a company known as Procter & Gamble. If you have watched TV ads for sometimes now, you should be familiar with the phrase, “The best a man can get”, or “The best a man can be”.

P&G was established way back in 1901 and they’ve come a long way to establish the brand names of the products that are currently selling world over. Over time, as I grew up, I kept trying several shavers and there I found my love for Gillette products. It became my favourite brand for personal care products.

A famous advertising copywriter and ad agency founder David Ogilvy defined a brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes” Its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.

Reading this again makes me reminisce about the Marketing Management course unit I studied in MBA classes at Makerere University, Kampala. Back then, I learned about different marketing strategies that companies can use to get a hold of their niche and in the shadows of each, branding stood tall.

The Author

Among the many strategies, businesses can brand themselves as highlighted below:

Brand Extension – An existing brand name is used to promoting a new or improved product in a firm’s product line.

Brand Licensing – According to this strategy, some firms allow other manufacturers to use their brand name, trade name, or trade character, and;

Co-Branding – Under this strategy, one or more brands are combined in the manufacture of a product or in the delivery of a service to capitalize on other companies’ products and services too.

However, the rate at which copycat brands are growing is worrying. I choose to call it copycat and not counterfeit because originality is somewhat subjective.

Many illiterate buyers who fall prey to these copycat brands continue using substandard goods that in the long run are either costly or because of their poor quality, could be harmful to one’s health.

Knowing brands is key to consumers’ health and I urge the Uganda National Bureau of Standards to do much in educating citizens and to limit the importation of substandard products that mostly come in copycat brand names.

Till next time. Greetings from Lukwa village here in Patongo, Agago district.

The writer is an occasional writer, Statistician, M&E expert & a businessman.

Facebook: Won Lutino,Twitter: @Won_Ogen

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