Brandzone Consulting in collaboration with The Centre for Values in Leadership held the inaugural National Branding Conference 2017 recently at the Oriental Hotel, Lagos. This edition of the Brand Innovation Conference, with the theme ‘Branding: A Catalyst for Development and Growth’, was flagged off as the first ever National Branding Conference in Nigeria designed with the objective of creating a strong and positive Brand Narrative for the nation.
The conference which was broadly inclusive recorded attendance by prominent Nigerians from diverse backgrounds that cut across the public sector, private sector, corporations, enterprise owners, visionary Board Directors and policymakers from diverse sectors. The conference had a rich line up of speakers and resource persons that included some of the nations most accomplished thought leaders, subject matter experts, business trailblazers, policy makers, catalysts, entrepreneurs and investors.
In her welcome address, the Managing Partner, Brandzone Consulting LLC and the Convener, National Branding Conference, Chizor Malize, stated that the conference was birthed out of a burning desire to stir the nation towards adopting a deliberate approach in promoting a positive national narrative. She noted that the National Branding Conference 2017, the first of its kind in Nigeria, brings to the fore the need to be deliberate and strategic about building a strong, positive, unified public narrative for our nation that citizens can own and be proud of.
In her speech, Malize said “This years National Branding Conference comes in recognition of the need to take ownership of and promote more positive narratives around our Nation’s brand. It is a strategic response to the need to consistently convey an appropriate and progressive public narrative that ensures our diversity, strengths and attributes as a nation are projected positively and consistently around the world”
Speaking further Malize noted, “We must be systematic about building a strong national brand by seeking to promote the commonalities that unify us. We must evolve and embrace a uniformity of message as a nation, that projects our strengths, diversity and capabilities positively. We must play our roles as great citizens in our various capacities. As a people we must imbibe a positive mindset, develop and be driven by positive value systems, we must consistently demonstrate love for nation through our words and actions, we must be intentional about selling to the world our brand story rather than allow the world tell our stories as they find suitable. We need to collectively rise to the challenge and take ownership of our story” She enthused.
In his welcome address, Pat Utomi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Values in Leadership and Co-Convener, National Branding Conference 2017 urged participants to take interest in the matters that affect the brand of our nation: “Every citizen of Nigeria must take keen interest in and participate actively in the national branding process by projecting a positive image of the nation in ways that attract tourism, foreign capital, and other investments that lead to growth and development of the economy. We must consistently promote the external image of the nation to the world and also the internal image to ourselves. Just the same way that businesses attempt to influence their customers’ perceptions of their brands through strategic brand positioning, we as a nation must attempt to influence the perception of both the internal and external stakeholders of this great nation” He remarked.
In her address, the Conference Chairperson and Keynote Speaker, Ibukun Awosika, Chairman, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, enjoined participants and Nigerians as a whole to embrace love for nation and demonstrate passion and commitment to building a Nigerian brand of high value and equity. According to Awosika, “Our citizens must play an active role in promoting the nations brand through our positive actions. Like products, countries should be deliberate and strategic about cultivating a strong and positive image because how they are perceived by both the citizens, visitors and the world at large can have impact on both the economy of the nation and the people of that nation. Visionary countries are transforming the way that people perceive them. They are deliberate about becoming points of destination for tourism, business hubs and foreign investment points. Nigeria is not an exception; as a nation we must purposefully work towards attracting economic value to our nation through nation branding”
The highlight of the conference was the extensive knowledge exchange by the various speakers through the different plenary sessions and the highly interactive engagement by the delegates.
Speakers at the first conference plenary session titled ‘Beyond the age of Oil: Finding Growth Opportunities in Diversification’ were the Former Minister of Solid Mineral/ Education and Co-Founder, Transparency International, Oby Ezekwesili, Former Governor, Cross River State, Liyel Imoke, Andrew S. Nevin, FS Advisory Leader and Chief Economist, PwC West Africa, Akin Rotimi, Senior Special Assistant to the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, representing Kayode Fayemi. Moderating the plenary was Abubakar Suleiman, Executive Director, Sterling Bank PLC. The panel evaluated the potentials in the diversification of the nation’s economy across other key sectors beyond oil such as mining, agriculture, travel and tourism etc. It evaluated the impediments to growth and evaluated the key success factors inherent in the sectors as well as the opportunities in building positive national brand narrative leveraging the milestones achieved across the sectors.
The Second plenary session titled ‘From Local to Global: Harnessing growth opportunities through brand export’ had thought leaders and subject matter experts cutting across the public sector, corporations and brand strategists who shared insights on the opportunities in creating positive national engagements abroad through brands exported out of Nigeria. This plenary was led by Chizor Malize, Managing Partner, Brandzone Consulting and Converner, National Brand Conference.
Ndidi Nwuneli, Co-Founder of AACE Foods led the discussion on the the third plenary titled: Breaking New Grounds: SMEs as Economic Growth Engine. She provided insight on the challenges faced by SMEs in the Nigerian environment, the growth opportunities and key steps for maximizing SME growth. The plenary explored the contribution of the SMEs to national growth and development through job creation, brand export and economic progression. Other speakers on the plenary included Tara Fela-Durotoye, Founder & CEO House of Tara, Seyi Abolaji, Co-Founder, Wilson’s Juice Company, Toyosi Kolawole, CEO, AUDEO Clothing Line, Mike Oye, Head, SME Funds, Bank of Industry. The moderator for the SME focused plenary was Laoye Jaiyeola, Managing Director, Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG).
The fourth plenary session focused on the Entertainment, Media and Arts sector. The plenary topic was ‘The Business of Entertainment: Maximizing Opportunities in Entertainment, Media, Fashion and Lifestyle’. The plenary examined these sub-sectors as key opportunity areas for economic growth, brand export and positive public and national narrative. The speakers on this plenary included Obi Asika, Atunyota Akpobome (Alibaba) and Henry Bassey, Chief Marketing Officer, Sterling Bank Plc, The plenary session was led by Femi Osinubi, Partner & Head, ICT and Entertainment Group, PwC West Africa and the plenary was moderated by Biola Alabi, Founder/Managing Director, Biola Alabi Media.
Speaking on the conference, Lampe Omoleye, Chief Executive Officer, 141 Worldwide Agency and Member, Brand Innovation Conference Advisory Board, said “The National Branding Conference 2017 exceeded expectations. The Speakers line up was broad and made up of individuals of good pedigree, strong track records and repute. The profile of attendees was rich and the audience engagement and participation level was very high with a broad-based participation of professionals that cut across the public sector, the private sector, visionary business owners, bankers, communications experts, small and medium entrepreneurs, young professionals and media experts. It was a very enriching event” he remarked.
Regarding his experience as a participant at the conference, Yomi Benson, the MD/CEO of Culture Communications Limited noted, “The National Branding Conference organizers did a phenomenal job of lining up such a thought-provoking and relevant agenda for this year’s conference. The National Brand is a very relevant subject matter for our nation right now. The speakers did a great job in evaluating the issues at stake and highlighting opportunities for our nation’s branding. The delegates were robust in terms of the diversity of their backgrounds making for a very interesting engagement. In all it was a very stimulating and inspiring experience”.
In her closing remark Chizor Malize, Managing Partner, Brandzone and Convener, National Branding Conference thanked all who were instrumental to the recorded success of the conference. She recapped the learning from the full day conference and expressed gratitude to all stakeholders who made valuable support to the successful execution of the conference, including the media.
Participants at the conference were full of commendation for the knowledge-filled sessions and the interactive networking platform the conference provided.