Sperm, literally is the fertilizing fluid of a male animal. It, no doubt, evokes sensual and sexual feelings, but here as a column, it is a telescope to your environment, profession, politics, industry, and many more. The Sperm is out to fertilize you into consciousness, weekly, to become pregnant with ideas, knowledge and reveal secrets with the prayer that you have a positive safe delivery. It is heart-warming to say that The Sperm will make its debut with: NIMASA: Re-branding Or De-Branding?
A fortnight ago, (April 19 to 21,2017) seasoned maritime administrators from 34 African countries assembled in the capital city of Nigeria, Abuja under the platform of Association of African Maritime Administration (AAMA) conference which was the third edition of the annual event since the association was established in 2012. To many Africans, AAMA is a rallying point to underscore the importance of maritime business to the economic and political sovereignty of the African countries, especially the littoral and coastal ones. It is coming against the background of decades of maritime-blindness and visionlessness, a development that has consigned African nations to only cargo- spinning territories without bargaining powers. Our maritime fates are un-divinely manipulated by our benefactors, who control everything, in a neo-colonial dimension and fashion. Hence, AAMA means, not a new dawn but simply, the season for Africans to harness their maritime potentials for economic emancipation. It is a body expected to not only foster unity among members, but create intra-continental partnerships; not competition.
Members are expected to raise Blue ocean strategies to fully optimize the much-touted Blue economy. While in unity of purpose, it is important that individual countries and regions latch on their areas of comparative advantages, as a means of guaranteeing the sustainability of this group otherwise competition could render the association impotent, leading to brand-erosion.
In a co-branding style, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as the institutional maritime administration outfit for Nigeria was the host agency for AAMA in collaboration with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the apex global maritime police. The event provided a re-branding opportunity for NIMASA, which it attempted by unveiling a new logo, an element of branding, gave the delegates a nice treat, attracted the best of government functionaries, with President Mohammadu Buhari in attendance by representation through the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; bought a fleet of new cars; got Flavour and Omawumi to perform at the ever- most expensive Dinner/Cultural Night, among other display of financial might, all in the name of re-branding.
However, by the realities of the AAMA show of relevance, which, of course, earned Nigeria the Chairmanship position of the association, how many management staff of NIMASA, Board members and maritime stakeholders have bothered to ask whether the hosting was worth the expenditure and stress? Was the re-branding mission at the event achieved? What kind of brand is NIMASA?
The general perception, which was indeed a take-away for many participants and delegates at the just concluded AAMA conference, was poor management of resources (human, funds, physical assets and goodwill). This became an element in brand erosion. NIMASA spent so much money but re-smeared its brand, which has been under attack as a result numerous activities associated with misappropriation of funds, lack of commitment to its statutory responsibilities, employees’ disenchantment with management, illegal diversion of funds and short-changing of stakeholders, among others. NIMASA is negatively consistent and so not a positive brand when juxtaposed with its core mandates of increasing Nigeria’s tonnage, building indigenous capacity, among others. Perhaps, the only ray of goodness, in fairness to the brand, is safety and security, which comes with huge financial outlay, but when priced against the value added over time, raises questions and arguments because it can comfortably finance the annual budgets of many states in the country. And the simple reason for this is wastage! However, security and safety are priceless, so we all see it!
What is a brand?
A famous advertising copywriter and an advertising agency founder, David Ogilvy sees a brand as “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: Its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised”.
Branding is more than a name and logo, that is the import of Ogilvy’s definition. So, a brand is created and influenced by people, visuals, culture, style, perception, words, messages, PR, opinion, news media. Some brands are timeless and never die, are ‘born again’ or reinvented, while some live a short but powerful life and have an iconic legacy, courtesy of Lisa Buyer. Therefore, brand management essentially is managing the intangible and tangible characteristics of a brand; differentiating your brand from competition. Unfortunately, for Nigerians, NIMASA has no competitor, it is a monopoly government concern.
On this premise, one can appreciate why the brand is crisis and confusion-ridden always.
A major crisis it created at the AAMA conference was the in-human treatment meted to the maritime media, which is at the heart of NIMASA’s re-branding promise. Many journalists turned corporate beggars in Abuja. Some slept on bed-bugs-ridden beds in zero star hotels, for lack of money after struggling to and from Abuja by road on the firm promise from NIMASA that they would be handed out 170,000 Naira. Some went by air as arranged, but could hardly feed on their own after the usual conference buffee. The impression and reality here is that the event coverage was not planned for from the angle of the maritime media, who have been largely impoverished, psychologically drained and mentally sapped by many agencies and operators in the maritime industry. The maritime media do have their problems, I know, but an agency like NIMASA in search of a re-invention should take advantage of the weakness, to strengthen its brand through human capital building. Rather, it only created brand crisis for itself by creating “AAMA poverty-stricken journalists”. What a brand association! By the way, one of the key deliverables or promises of AAMA brand is human and infrastructural capacity development. NIMASA also shares this promise in its Act.
So, how come the media, seen as the immediate constituents to achieving this goals were neglected to rot away and only good to be used and dumped, at will? They should be stakeholders and partners in this struggle for the renaissance of African maritime hope and hub and it is on record that the Nigerian maritime media is the most vibrant in Africa yet the poorest in terms of ‘take-home’ benefits on a collective percentage. Can you see why some media practitioners choose to survive on blackmail? Of course, we know those who have walked their ways to comfort by such. Many new entrants, seeing how the older ones are badly treated, have devised a cash-and-carry model as means of journalism practice. Is this the best for an industry that wants to optimize its Blue economy? When last did any agency sponsor journalists on real professional journalistic training devoid of pecuniary gains? Why will a journalist embark on investigative reporting that will advance the cause of the industry when some agencies and operators support mediocrity?
From the narrative above, how did NIMASA manage its brand, associating with the media? Are they re-branding or de-branding? There are many factors responsible for this! Was there a budget for this event? How much was spent? Who are the players in this game? What is the story behind the figures? Does the new logo reflect the promise of ‘the Brand’ NIMASA?
Next week, we shall examine all the above questions begging for answers and NIMASA’s mistakes at AAMA conference, my secret infuriating dialogue with some members of staff, media complaints, the kick-backs. Keep a date!