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Just Like Saka! It’s All About Brand Perception



Saka has ‘ported’!

Few weeks ago, we woke up to find out Saka had sold out. An excited Saka filled the front pages of our major newspapers and our TV screens, proudly confessing the now famous slogan- “I Don Port O”.  If you’re wondering who Saka is, and what this is about, let me bring you up to speed.

‘Saka’ is a Nollywood actor known for funny, silly roles especially in sitcoms. For a long while, he has been the face of ads promoting the Etisalat network in Nigeria. Recently, the NCC announced the new Numbers Portability Service, which allows users to change their mobile network providers while retaining the same phone number. Shockingly, and in a most hilarious manner, Saka was the ace up the sleeves and was used in the marketing game by a competitor in the telecoms market- MTN. He is now the face of the adverts being used to woo subscribers from other networks, to port their numbers to MTN’s network.

The marketing strategy is great. The front-page Newspaper ads and the TV commercials are intriguing and highly creative. By the next morning, we were all scrubbing our bodies in the bathroom, humming ‘I don port ooo.’ It generated a lot of buzz on social media, elicited chains of discussions on Twitter, had everyone tweeting and re-tweeting the porting gist, and talking about how it was the marketing strategy of the century.

With such excellent advertising, you would have thought the entire populace would ditch their networks for this Saka’s new network, right?  Technology writer and gadget freak- Jesse Oguns wrote an article ‘Saka don port o: The Ad Wars Start!’, and thereafter tweeted asking users if they would port to MTN with the new portability service. A higher percentage of the replies were similar to this “Good advertising, but no, I’m not porting.”

No surprises, it doesn’t work that way.

Here’s why –

Brand perception is everything.

Irrespective of the noise you make for your brand, it’s the noise the customers make that matters the most. How does the public perceive your brand? What is being said about it? Are your customers satisfied with your services? Do they love your brand? Are they happy to refer your business to their friends? Is there are more complains than praise for your product? These are the pointers to how your brand is perceived by the public.

If online and offline, all the noise being generated about your brand are complains about poor services, then no matter how great your marketing campaign is, people will not buy.  It may lure new users, but once they come on board and discover your poor services, they will flee and not return. Once bitten twice shy, they say. I wrote on twitter that “your advert can be so ‘wow’ it gets everyone talking about it, but does it get them to buy from you?”

TV commercials bring people to you doors, what keeps them inside is good service.

As at the time I wrote the first draft for this article, only the MTN adverts were running. Now, the other networks have also rolled out their TV commercials and radio jingles. But it’s the same story for most of them. Consumers are really not interested in porting. Complains about the poor services abound for most (if not all) of the other networks.

What to do: Work on your services first. Ensure your customers are pleased with your services, then deploy your marketing campaign announcing how your services have improved. Else, your campaign will generate a lot of buzz, but it will mostly be negative.

How does this relate to the small business owner?

First – Perfect Your Product & Service Delivery

Before promoting your products or services, make sure you have done all the ground work. Ensure your product is great, and your service delivery is excellent. You don’t want to promote your business today, and have customers calling on you tomorrow only to be faced with rude customer service staff, or front desk officers who don’t have adequate information about the business.

All employees should be well informed about the importance of excellent customer service. They should be trained to give the customer the best service. If you can’t afford the services of a customer service expert, conduct an in-house training yourself. Also, there should be a reward system for the employee that gives the best customer service, while those who continually give terrible customer service should not be tolerated.

Monitor Conversations about Your Brand

The advancements in technology have made it easier to get feedback from customers. No matter how small your business is, it is important that you devote time to checking out what is being said about your business. Is it mainly positive, or negative?

Social media platforms have made this very easy. Carrying out routine online searches using your business name as keyword will reveal what is being tweeted or shared about your brand.  On a regular basis, google your business name and read what the blogs, journals, social media users are saying about it.

Establish an online presence on Twitter and Facebook especially. This makes it easier for customers to reach you with complains about your business. If they don’t find you online, they will share the bad service they got with all their followers and friends, imagine the damage this can cause to your business. But if you’re available online, you can easily step in to save the situation by apologizing and promising to fix the issues. When you have resolved the issues, inform them so they know you took action on their comments.

Don’t just open a Twitter/Facebook account and go to sleep. Keep active online.  It could be just two tweets daily, to let your customers know they can easily reach you online. Keep monitoring to find out what is being said about your business. This gives you an opportunity to correct any negative perceptions about your business, and to work on customer feedback.

For small-businesses that cannot afford to pay for the services of brand ambassadors. Your ambassadors are your customers. Leverage this free service to your company’s benefit. Convert them from customers to fans for life.  Make them happy with your business, enough to share it with their friends and create the buzz that’s needed.

Advertising, especially TV commercials, can only get people in your door only once, after that, it’s up to you to keep them coming back. A great commercial cannot save a badly perceived brand. It’s not the ad, it’s the brand perception. Save your brand first, and then roll out the ads.

So, have you ‘ported’?

Like you, sales and marketing coach and consultant Bukola Olayemi has seen many businesses fail in their ultimate aim of selling their products/services. She works with small-businesses and entrepreneurs that are stuck in this low-sales maze, helping them get more customers and make bigger sales, faster than they thought possible.

Bukie Iwajomo is the chief strategist at SalesForward Consulting. She works with start-ups, personal and consumers brands helping them leverage tech to grow their businesses and build badass brands. Follow her daily marketing tips on Instagram. You can also connect with her on Facebook


  1. phantom

    May 21, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I know right! just last night, i was asking myself just how many ‘converts’ this Saka ad has won for MTN. I’ve had my MTN line for 9 years and i know just how sh*tty the network can be. The real work for these service providers should be investing in and upgrading their services, not making a fuss over the catchiest jingle but hey, no one asked me! Saka is one lucky dude- all that money for, well, nothing!

  2. Olaniyi

    May 21, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Just about the best article I have read, I think Nigeria is one country where customer service still stands at -10. I once read about an airline that upgraded a customers ticket to first class just to say sorry, sent him a limo for pickup still to say sorry, the Manager of the airline came to apologize to him and at his hotel they sent him a gift, why, because they forgot he was vegetarian and didn’t take his meal on board the flight…customer service is not anything, its the only thing for growing a great company. until Nigerian businesses understand that, even Dangote would remain just another Billionaire.

    • hehehehe

      May 21, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      I absolutely agree with you. To make it worse, people seem to think you don’t have the right to expect good service. They complain when you make comments about service deficiencies ad have the ‘Oga na only you dey this place?’ mentality. Sadly, it has made a lot of Nigerians put up with terrible service, and you find them even making excuses for the service providers. No network? I’m sure its the rain. The service girl was rude to you? I’m sure she’s underpaid etc.

  3. Spotter

    May 21, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Only in Naija , from etisalat to mtn . . .

  4. Gusty

    May 21, 2013 at 10:42 am



    May 21, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Impressive article. I couldn’t agree less with the writer. The “I don port” advert is truly remarkable, but hey! What has been the resultant effect of such creative and well thought out marketing strategy. I know a lot of people who has said they weren’t porting. After all the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know. I don’t think i’ll be porting either. I wouldn’t want to port and re-port. Beyond that incredible advert, what extra input is MTN putting to make the network spectacularly top notch? Until then, so many will remain “unportable”

  6. Mercy4real

    May 21, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Nice article!

  7. Berry Dakara

    May 21, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Good article.

    I’ve worked in Marketing (social media to be more precise), and no matter how many flashy ads there are; no matter how many tweets or posts I put up; if the product/service is bad, the customers will talk and customers are the key (word-of-mouth)!

    The only “saving grace” in Nigeria, is that people don’t like change. They may complain and scream and holler about a service, but at the end of the day, they’ll stick to what they know.

  8. Autoprincess

    May 21, 2013 at 10:58 am

    I totally agree with your thoughts on brand perception and service delivery, especially in a country where customer service is just another buzz word in marketing lingo. However, I must disagree with on one point, and that is the fact that MTN launched the Saka advert to woo customer. If you know these telcos from the point of view of a marketing communication practitioner, you will see that they deployed “attack as the best form of defence”. MTN already know that customers were complaining about their services and that most were just waiting for the portability program to kick-off so they can move to other networks, mostly to Etisalat. They used the advert to remind their subscribers why they are the No 1 (and they are, because despite complaints of their poor service delivery, they still have the highest number of active subscribers both individuals and corporate). The advert is simply to stop you from porting from them, not really to port to them.

    Like you said, it all about brand perception, and the truth is that even in that MTN still wins because people have a way of perceiving them as a “premium” brand. That is why you will see that people will complain about them, but most will not throw away their 0803 numbers.

    Another point is that the portability program came a tad too late, most Nigerians have more than one telephone line – each from a different network. So, why port when you already have a line from the other network or have used them before and you know that they all have poor service issues.

    Finally, let us not be too hard on Saka, Etisalat did not sign him to a big deal like Glo does with their brand ambassador, so it was easy for him to take money from MTN and “port”.

    • Toke's Accent

      May 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      Thumbs up for this analysis. MTN isn’t stupid. They know their brand perception is pretty poor. The Saka saga was not to win new customers, but to distract the whole market and prevent current subscribers from porting, and I’m pretty sure that they were successful at doing that. Customer retention is even more important than new customer acquisition when you are MTN.

    • gabby

      May 21, 2013 at 9:07 pm

      Great analysis. You understand the system. MTN isn’t exactly looking to gain new customers because they understand that subscribers are not very fond of them. That advert is just to retain their subscriber base.

    • kemio

      May 22, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      Well said

  9. Dearie

    May 21, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Well written article.

    My opinion – I think the ‘middle class’ in Nigeria should pause for a minute and try to picture a class aside them. That class exists. There’s a class beneath them and that’s the lower class. In fact, there’s the lower, lower class (in Nigeria). What makes you think MTN targeted the upper/middle class? Jesse Oguns and other ‘researchers’ need to do proper research by going to the roadside tailors, the artisans etc and ask if they truly ported or not. Whatever response they get should give them a better understanding of who ported or not. You can’t restrict you research to Twitter and speak for everyone. Saka doesn’t represent the middle class, he doesn’t represent your twitter activist, he doesn’t represent your average banker. Saka is street! That’s what he represents.
    I remember sometime ago when the midnight call thing came on board and some folks critiqued the idea saying why not give us/them free calls in the daytime. I laughed. The middle class can be preposterous sometimes. Do you know how many undergraduates in schools make use of midnight calls? You have no idea. Cos something doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for others.
    I’m sure MTN targeted the people who’d see beyond the ridiculousness of their service and still stay with them. I’ve been using MTN since 2001 and I can tell you it’s a silly network – but the most stable.
    I know you’ll be wondering why I’m going after the Saka issue cos afterall, that’s not the main point in the article. My answer to that is this; you cannot take away the porting issue away from the article. I decided to read it cos of the ‘Saka’ headline.

    • new bride

      May 21, 2013 at 2:46 pm

      There’s no middle class in Nigeria.

  10. Lolly

    May 21, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Hmmmm very true. Wonder when we will learn that it is all about customer satisfaction

  11. amarachi

    May 21, 2013 at 11:08 am

    I agree with u Berry 9ice one bella Naija

  12. Bimpe

    May 21, 2013 at 11:17 am


  13. nene

    May 21, 2013 at 11:19 am

    telecoms is in the service industry like banks, etc. so marketing might bring new customers but it won’t retain old ones or build brand loyalty.

  14. mona

    May 21, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Well said. Apparently not much subscribers are porting,the service rendered isn’t impressive.for instance,you used to give unlimited downloads which you stoped and the other network still has its unlimited downloads nd you want subscribers to is impossible

  15. Robinson3d

    May 21, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Thats true, MTN service has not been the best for me over the past four years now. #much regrets. Beginning to see lights in Globacom in both the call charges and their method of delivery. Although MTN is trying in their game, sponsoring many events, shows, private and even government organization, they still need to look into their network to try balancing it with the others. Some networks that just came into the country are already doing better in the aspect of delivery. Just wish MTN would just look into making the best in their network. #Respect for MTN

  16. Keek Dat

    May 21, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    I doubt that Bella will approve my comment but I will raise it. All the network suck and MTN sucks worse so there is no market for porting in Nigeria. The only way I would port with a celebrity is if I hear concrete evidence that the celebrity was treated like trash by the network he is porting from

  17. Jen

    May 21, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Very insightful comments

  18. Aisha

    May 21, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    This is 0ne very IMPORTANT article featured here. Image and perception is everything…it can make or break your business.

    Thank you Bella.

  19. sola

    May 21, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Great article. All dey need to do is work on their services to satisfy customers. For all ocassions contact Event Plus services for Small chops and Chapman. On [email protected].

  20. ms sexy

    May 21, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    i don port o
    I no port o
    port ko, apapa road ni
    @ the end of the day all na blehhh, fry pan to fire

  21. Eke

    May 22, 2013 at 12:56 am

    Mr. Solos has said it all.

  22. Rockstar

    May 22, 2013 at 10:35 am

    I think a lot of people needs to read your article. Some people think because they have opened a business and got people that only know them on fb to click like and deceive them makes their brand good. I once came across a blog that went to a fashion show and saw the ugly designs this designer put on show, and this same designer as you said I don’t think has taken the tome o google the business name to see what is out there online but had the guts to put her brand up in another website as one of the best designers in NAIja, ignorance and lack of exposure is all I can attribute that to, as one needs to know what is being said about one’s brand. Good write up keep it up

  23. Bisi BusyBee

    May 22, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    A very interesting article PERCEPTION! We all need to understand that Brand isnt about the Logo, color etc but firstly what do people ‘Perceive’ about your produc/service. Good Customer and excellent delivery is key, as that brings about customer loyalty and retention. I agree with rockstar, having 1000 likes on facebook or followers on twitter doesnt end there but ensuring a delivering services at its best.
    About Porting, am still thinking on a suitable network.

  24. kikelomo

    May 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Hmmmmmm, d’accord, nice one here,you can say that again!

  25. Vanessa

    May 24, 2013 at 11:19 am

    from a different point of view, I really don’t see the comedian in Saka. He should port to another dentist and take care of those genetic error of teeth he likes showing all the time.

  26. Falke by Aisha

    May 25, 2013 at 12:50 am

    I love this article it makes too much sense

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