When Citizen TV first appeared on our screens in 1999, I must confess that I was not impressed. Sorry! May be due to its small beginnings, the station seemed like a hurried job, simply aimed at pampering someone’s bruised ego. It looked like a last ditch effort by its founder Samuel Kamau Macharia, whose previous businesses had been sabotaged by retired President Daniel arap Moi’s government.
But alas, I was wrong! Almost 17 years down the line, the TV station has proved its critics wrong by being the leading broadcasting house in the country, in terms of both reach and revenue. So much such that it was recently named Kenya’s ‘Brand of the Year’ during the fourth edition of the prestigious World Branding Awards held mid this month in London.
Seen as the ultimate global brand recognition accolade, winners of these awards are judged through brand valuation, consumer market research, and public online voting. Seventy percent of the scoring process comes from consumer votes. Citizen TV was ranked among other national winners like Qatar Airways (Qatar), Samsung (South Korea), Adidas (Germany) and Amarula (South Africa).
The widespread impact of Citizen TV on audiences struck me in the mid-2000s when I had a job that entailed travelling to far off places in the country. I remember people watching Citizen TV in the unlikeliest of places in both North Eastern and Nyanza provinces, where the station was already popular barely 10 years after its initial launch.
Later on it struck me that Citizen TV had managed to shed off its association with ethnicity. Basically, what has grown the station over the years is its localised entertainment shows and innovative news and programming. Citizen has always been a trend setter in Kenya’s broadcasting industry. Its managers have not feared to experiment with new formats and content.
A major lesson in Citizen TV’s win is the need for authenticity in our brands. Rather than copy foreign ideas, our brand managers should strive to create household names that resonate with the local market. Who would have thought that “Papa Shirandula” and “Inspekta Mwala” would have such a massive national following? Good job!