By Nkiruka Nnorom
In 2012 when SABMiller entered into the Nigeria market and sought an opportunity for instant impact, the brand observed that while there was intense competition at the national level of the beer segment, the regional markets got very little attention. Consumers at the regions were orphaned and left at the mercy of whatever was in vogue in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and other big cities. The marketing campaigns were also designed with such stereotype.
This discovery gave birth to Hero Larger Beer, Nigeria’s first beer brand that will be developed, produced and marketed specifically for the Igbo people of South Eastern Nigeria. The experiment didn’t just work; it practically revolutionized the topography of the beer market. Within four months of the launch, 10 million bottles were sold, an unprecedented history in beer mileage of one million hectoliters. Hero beer’s performance also got international recognition as it was awarded the prestigious Monde award for Taste & Quality.
But the story of Hero Larger Beer cannot be fully told without a mention of Dijo Communications, the agency that provided the insight, creativity and marketing strategies that drove and still drives Hero Larger Beer’s unprecedented performance in the market; which now extends beyond the South East into other regions. And it is now being considered for the international beer market.
Dijo Communications is credited for being the first agency in Nigeria to extensively leverage culture and history of a part of the country to drive a campaign. In doing so, the agency crafted a brand message with strong emotional correlation and resonance with the Igbo people, with a narrative around their pride in heritage and culture.
“It is credit to the agency’s deep thinking and ingenuity that they were able to execute such campaign without offending the ethnic prejudice of Nigerians because even though the brand was formulated for the Igbos and branded for that market, it is widely accepted and proudly enjoyed in other regions. People don’t even view it from ethnic prism because of the quality and brilliant marketing concept,” Ganiyu Olowu, a Lagos based brand analyst said.
Coming shortly after Dim Emeka Ojukwu’s passing, a legend of the Igbos, whose war heroics still inspired his people, Dijo Communications, saw a gap, and immediately developed a communication using the identity of the rising sun, which for the Igbos symbolizes new hope, new leader and a real Hero that can be looked unto after the death of Ojukwu.
In order to deepen the cultural and historic affinity between the Hero Beer and the Igbos as well as inspire consumers to take ownership of the brand, Dijo Communications brilliantly created various emotional touch points and communications that resonated deeply with the Igbos. Communications like: A New Hero Has Arrived (signifying the Birth of another Ojukwu), Mmanyam (My Beer), O’Mpa (Oh My Father), Land of Heroes (referring to prominent Igbo cities as The Land of Heroes).
This explains why even in recession, Hero Beers growth trajectory was sustained because according to analysts, the beer’s brand positioning is so strong that consumers rely on it for solace during trying moment. The brand has also developed new campaign to sustain its brand loyalty in South East and beyond.
Recently, it was knighted with a new crown cork -a Red Cork and the title of “Mmanya ejiri mara Igbo.” In an activation that was graced by His Royal Majesty Obi of Onitsha, one of the eminent most revered symbol of royalties and culture in the Igboland. Also during the Russia 2018 World Cup, the brand rallied consumers behind the Super Eagles with a brand activation campaign tagged “fearless” which was inspired by the gallantry of the team of USA 94 World Cup.
Hero beer’s exceptional success essentially opened the eyes of competitors to the growth opportunities, they have ignored for years, triggering an unprecedented competition in that segment.
The regional market became a battle ground for value brands like Harp, Life, Progress to compete for consumers’ mind and market share growth. But despite the flurry of activities in that segment, Hero has held tight to it first arrival advantage in the South East and has taken ownership of a strategic communication that gives it a pride of place in the heart of any Igbo man.