Goodbye influencers, hello ordinary guy memes

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s Kenyans waited with bated breath for the presidential election results, the inter-webs were awash with rib-cracking memes of the #Githeriman offering comic relief.

On 8th August, Martin Kamotho queued to cast his vote that would change the destiny of the country. He carried a small bag of Githeri (boiled maize and beans) as a snack to quell the potential hunger that may bite while queuing.

How oblivious he was; that his photo was taken and was doing rounds on social media as hilarious memes, among them with US President Donald Trump, the Kapenguria six, making him an internet sensation.

Brands and local comedians alike jumped on his fame like piranhas to prey; KCB Bank for instance, had a lion trying to find him to give him his meal. His interview with Citizen TV sprung brands into action with leading telco, Safaricom, offering him two Samsung S8 gadgets for him and his wife and a Tecno Camon CX for his daughter.

Instant fame, overnight celebrity if I could call it. The humble 40-year-old has recently been photographed alongside additional brands such as Bonfire Adventures, UserName, Big Square Kenya, designer NaneuLeshan and Maisha Flour Meal. His basket of goodies keeps filling, he’s now a ‘celebrity’ who needs a talent manager and lawyer.

Being a civil servant, all he wished for is an audience with the President (I guess he finally got it during the inauguration of Mike Mbuvi ‘Sonko’ as Nairobi Governor on 21st August. Naneu Leshan should have dressed him up though, I feel it was in bad taste to dress him in his ‘old garb’).

In the recent past, local and international brands have increasingly used ordinary people trending on social media for heart-warming reasons to endorse them. Safaricom has capitalised on this, by using Jose the Witnesser (Joseph Mburu) who trended with the 2013 phrase ‘ni kama ndrama ni kama vindio’ and Jane Anyango Adika, of the infamous 2011 phrase ‘serikali tafadhali saidia’, to promote the Stori ibambe na Storo bonus campaign.

Bonfire Adventures has previously sponsored the infamous Ksh 100 wedding couple Ann and Wilson Mutura with an all-expense paid honeymoon trip, they got support from other brands, starting off their marriage blissfully.

Next door, The Uganda Triplets Ghetto Kids warmed the heart of Moroccan-American recording Hip-hop artist French Montana to the BET stage as backup dancers. The list is endless. Whether this reflects on sales is another thing.

Have brands seen the goldmine in fronting themselves alongside a nondescript trendsetter than to an influencer who has roped in near- 500 million followers? (and cost them a pretty penny). Is this the ‘more affordable’ approach to brand endorsement cropping up?

Brands need the human touch with their customers. The nondescript trendsetter can relate with everyone.

Target audience

Henry Ndirangu, Account Director at Ogilvy, opines that the human connection is enhanced through this approach. “I think it’s a good move. It humanizes the brand to the level where ordinary Kenyans can relate with,” he said.

Does this mean that brand influencers are losing ground in brand endorsements? Not quite. They complement each other, depending on the target audience and key objective. “I think we are moving from/ complementing elitist influencers with ones that now people can relate with,” adds Henry.

Related: The ‘Githeri man’ brand endorsement shows dearth of authenticity in local advertising

Act fast, Act hard. For as long as a brand is on the trends list, that’s all the chance they have make their mark /among their target audience. Corporate organisations have seen the influence that the brand presence on social media can affect their customer relations. This therefore means that more investment should be placed in social and digital media for brand growth.

Influencers have their place in the eco-system, for their following. There are people who take what trendsetters say as Gospel truth, to help influence opinion. They have a social media voice which also humanizes the brand. Expectations on them are however higher, as they are expected to be more savvy.

It is important that brand managers be cautious when riding the tide of brand perception because without proper training the influencer can wither sink your ship or sail the storm. I would recommend that beyond netting myriads of brands to endorse, that Mr. Kamotho be trained on brand endorsements; he can make it because he’s easier to relate with.

Emotional bond

Marketers have an uphill task matching an influencer to their product. While numbers on social media are critical, how about whether they are able to drive queries and possible sales your way?

Nailab Head of Marketing and Communications, Josephine Mwangi opines: “People make brands. Brands have intertwined their very existence with every day actions and activities of the every-day human existence.

Brands have learnt that to win over the affinity of its users, they have to create that emotional bond with their customers and an excellent way of doing so by using every-day people doing everyday things in a way that stands out.”

At the end of the day, brand relations have rapidly changed with time and that heartbeat for your product/service can flatline if your influencer can’t get you trending, for the right reasons, of course.

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EMILY MANJERU
EMILY MANJERU
Emily Manjeru is the Head of Communications at Arimus Media Limited: She can be reached on email: [email protected]

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