Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Big Three; Vodafone, Chelsea and Topshop

After the three day US African Summit * that happened in early August the potential for the African economy seems to be increasing. By the end of the summit the U.S had set up deals with Africa of a record breaking $37 billion. This shows true commitment from the U.S in helping African economies grow and also making sure the peaceful countries like Ghana remain stable. Ghana is one of the six fastest growing economies in Africa and with the population set to double by 2050, it has the chance to become a global contender. In addition, employment received an investment boost of $33 billion in public and private companies, such as Coca-Cola and IBM. 

When I arrived in Ghana I was surprised about how much white and red paint there was covering all of the stalls and walls. The famous colours of Vodafone and Coca-Cola were everywhere, just in case you forgot about them back home. I began wondering if the Ghanaian population knew these companies were the super giants of branding and consumerism. I also wanted to find out what a local's thoughts were on these brands being so apparent. I asked Justice (an in country volunteer) whether or not they have the same 'brand loyalty' that we have back in the UK. 'No', Justice said, 'in Ghana we don't have that; here its about the service you get.' Whereas part of the advertising back home is that we will only buy the products sometimes for the name or because we feel we have a connection to the brand. 

Although, how does marketing of big name brands such as Coca-Cola and Vodafone market help, in a country where the economy is growing yet the country is classified as lower-middle income and thus seen as 'third world'? Considering the difference in audience from the West to Africa, the difference in the deliverance of the message must also be considered. Where Coca-Cola uses Katy B and Mark Ronson in the West, in Ghana they use Okyeama Kwame (a famous musician). In the former, adverts are centred around idealism, in the latter they use light entertainment with slap stick comedy **. Furthermore, where in the West, people might purchase Coca-Cola regardless of the cost, purely based on brand loyalty, in the latter, the domination of Coca-Cola and its 3,500 sister beverages globally provide Ghanaians with little choice. 

The stories that Coca-Cola tell are universal; all about connectivity, youth and happiness. Their new advertising campaign launch in Ghana 'Life tastes good' reinforces the 'special moments' that, Coca-Cola, enjoy showing us. The branding of people's name on the front of the Coke can is an impressive way of being universally friendly and personal with each customer, almost insinuating that you can now buy Coke as a present or gift. Not only that, but by taking a picture of your friend's name to share with them, provides Coca-Cola with the perfect way of advertising through product placement and popularity.

Ghanaian names on Coca-Cola

So, are super brands good for the economy? Possibly not. But, in terms of whether or not they are useful, most probably yes. You cannot move for phone advertising here and it is much of the same story. Mobile networks are the dominating brands that take over the majority of street advertising in Ghana.

There are some other familiar brands that you can also seek out around town, including brands such as: Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge. The route by which they ended up in Tamale, Northern Ghana isn't a clear one. However, it is still fun seeing brands and last season's fashion in the middle of a market through the herd of goats. Another phenomenon here is the love of the football shirts. We went to Nayorku at the beginning of this week to see the outcome of some of the work that we were doing, when we donated some of the home clothes that were given to us by the schools in Tamale. Amongst the pile of clothes were football shirts. One girl had been given a pile with a Chelsea football team t-shirt and all of a sudden there was this excitement about it. Football here is probably as big as it is in the UK, but here people are walking adverts and the demand of football t-shirts is high.

Freedom; Topshop necklaces

Although the big brands can't all be bad, Vodafone Ghana has teamed up with United Way Ghana and the Salvation Army to create the first ever Cerebral Palsy Centre in Ghana's central region. This facility is the first of its kind in West Africa; providing support and care for parents and various forms of physiotherapy for patients. Issues surrounding Cerebral Palsy were raised when a volunteer from the World of Difference Initiative reported a high level of sufferers in the area. This shows that super brands, with their corporate social responsibility policies, can have a positive effect in a country that is less developed than the West. 

Vodafone Foundation Logo

I will end this with a quote from Vodafone about this new achievement: 'Vodafone Foundation has demonstrated its commitment to helping society become better. We are delighted and feel indebted to the Foundation for this timely and significant intervention; many children will now have normal lives after being treated at the Centre, all thanks to Vodafone Foundation.' Jonathan Akuamoah, Executive Director of United Way. Also, let's hope that the new alliance between the U.S and African countries will bring a positive and lucrative relationship that will help the economies globally.

By: Lejla Damon