Home > Uncategorized > Approachability, necessary way to build brands

Approachability, necessary way to build brands

Last Sunday, I was at the Safaricom jazz festival here in Nairobi.

Safaricom is the big, dominant telecom company of Kenya and by sheer success and impact probably dominates the corporate landscape of Africa. Their product m-Pesa is the mobile platform of choice in Kenya and is the biggest mobile commerce product in the world.

Bob Collymore is the CEO of Safaricom.

Not a day passes by without his photograph in the media with a President or a minister or some other corporate bigwig. He’s a bit like THE CEO of Kenya and is the face of Safaricom.

So back to the jazz festival..

There were 2 types of tickets available. VIP and ordinary.

VIP tickets were more than twice the price of the ordinary ones. I confess, I tried to buy them but they were not available. So we, about 10 of us, ‘settled’ for the ordinary tickets.

By good fortune we were right upfront near the stage.

And guess who was right beside us? The above mentioned Bob Collymore. Just sitting casually with the everyday people. On noticing him, I went up to him to chat and he was friendly, warm and he had a pleasant conversation about music, the evening and stuff like that. At no point did I think I was talking to a celebrated CEO of a famous company. Through the evening he was right beside us. Whenever a VIP came to the tent, someone from his office would come up to him and take him in, where he’d do his bit, I guess, and come right back. Here’s a pic of him enjoying the show. Image

After the show as we were leaving, I went up to him to thank him and he made it a point to thank all of us individually for coming. I am his fan for life. If he was hiring, I’d join him in a jiffy :-).

Later in the week I was in a meeting with a major financial institution on their brand campaign. There were about 15 of us in the room. Among them the CEO of the company. If someone did not introduce him to me as such, I’d have mistaken him for a senior marketing exec. He was completely understated. Soft spoken. Engaged with us all as equals. And really keen to hear our POV.

1 more person I want to refer to before I conclude.

Sir Martin Sorrell. I was at a meeting, years ago with one of our big clients. And the client asked “Do you think Martin Sorrell will come to launch our event’. In a moment of bravado i said let me check. I searched for his emaill address on the WPP site. Sent him an email. In the meeting. 2 minutes later there was his response asking for dates and expectations. Over the next 30 minutes he and I exchanged emails about his presence at an event. I still drop him emails occasionally to update him about either myself or goings on in Africa. He always responds.

I mention these examples to make the point that ‘approachability’ is at the core of a strong brand. Be it a personal brand or a marketing brand. Consumers need to feel that they have a relationship with the brand. It is from that relationship that trust emerges. It is not about likes on a facebook page or a viral campaign. It is the relationship. Everything else is a byproduct.

Some years ago I was engaged in developing an SME campaign for a large global brand. And the research said that SMEs did not quite relate to the brand because they seemed unapproachable.They advertised in English. In glossy brochures and magazines, Events were held in 5 star hotels etc. So while they had relevant products the TA felt that the brand was out of reach. Lots of conversations later the company figured that the way they needed to reach out to the SMEs was through their distributors. Kept their ego aside and let the appropriate channel do the talking.

Someone from my PR organisation was saying that CEOs of they type I referred to above are the ones journalists seek because they know that they will always get a response, always get a quote and help them look good. That is not just good for the company they lead but good for the corporate brand as well. And every brand in their portfolio.

It’s not enough to be good. Need to be good and within reach as well. That is good branding.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , ,
  1. July 8, 2014 at 5:47 am

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