When I mention ‘authentically Kenyan brands,’ which names spring up in your mind? Let me rephrase the question, which between these two brands strikes you as being unquestionably more Kenyan than the other? Is it Safaricom or Airtel? Keroche Breweries or Diageo? Uchumi or Nakumatt? KCB or Barclays Bank? KETEPA or Finlays? Nation or Standard?
All these aforementioned companies operate in the Kenyan market, are led by Kenyans, and are generally populated by Kenyans. Many of them have actually been domiciled in the country since independence (Standard newspapers) with only a few being relatively newly set up (Safaricom). Yet , the perception of each company’s Kenyanese(sic) credentials seem to be based on factors other than longevity or, in some cases, even ownership.
Of course, there are numerous advantages that a company stands to gain if it were viewed in more positive patriotic light by the target domestic customers. Consumer psychology shows that many a purchasing mindset is swayed by emotional rather than logical reasons. This is especially the case where the product or service being offered is almost similar in nature.
The vending companies may be forced to create differentiating points besides the product/service serving. Angling your company as being more Kenyan is likely to tip the scales in your favour especially it is a product in which Kenyans would feel proud to associate its origins with their own country.
So what should company do to create a more patriotic brand?
It helps if your product or service is a mass market product. Patriotism is an emotion whose synergies are released through the masses. A national newspaper, for instance, is likely to create a more patriotic following than, say, a regional newspaper. A retail product is also likely to create a patriotic fever than a B2B corporate product.
Now that we have established that your product is a mass market offering, the big question now is how to angle your product so as to help it be seen more in positively patriotic light.
Firstly, it’s a no brainer that it’s easier to depict as patriotic a product whose primary company is actually owned by the public either directly as shareholders or indirectly as tax payers. State-owned companies barely have to break a sweat to prove their patriotic credentials. Many of them will already have the country’s name in its corporate title.
Think of Kenya Airways or KCB – you can tell from the name that the company has a Kenyan connection. The patriotism capital is so substantial; most of these companies retain the Kenyan names even in instances where, like the case of Kenya Airways, a substantial part of them is bought by foreign companies (KLM in this instance).
Secondly, even if you are not state-owned per se, having a local sounding name can go a long way at making your company sound patriotic. Safaricom, Mabati Rolling Mills and Bamburi are just a few of the companies that have names that sound authentically Kenyan and many use that connection to reach their customers.
Thirdly, it helps if your corporate image takes cognisance of patriotic colours and hence utilises it in their branding. Our Kenyan flag is draped with Green, Black and Red dominant colours with white stripes. Companies like Safaricom have successfully used the green and red, while KCB has used Green to create a ‘Kenyan’ feel.
Fourthly, patriotic companies join patriotic causes and design their marketing, advertising and branding strategies to align with the country’s patriotic activities. They will sponsor national sporting activities, they will produce ads filled with patriotic innuendos and will go out of their way to prove to the patriotic customer that they share their love of country.
Soon, such companies’ pride of country is quickly turned into their pride of profits.