In the bleach category of home care product, one brand stands out from others due to the unique position and how fast it has been able to penetrate homes within a short period. In this interview the Brand and Marketing Manager, Hypo Home Care, Onome Asagbra gave insights to the making of the Hypo bleach.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Onome Asagbra. I work for Hypo Home Care as the Brand and Marketing Manager.
How long have you been in the brand business?
I have been in the brand business for about ten years, and I have managed a couple of brands in my career, starting from Nestle Nigeria where I managed brands like Choco-Milo, Milo, Golden Morn and now in the Tolaram/Dufil group where I also managed Indomie noodles and now the Hypo Brand.
What does it take to manage an FMCG brand?
The first thing you need to understand is that managing a brand is like you are managing the reputation of a corporate client. You must be analytical in understanding what the brand is all about.
So I start with how understanding the consumers of your brand. You have to understand what the consumers want from the brand, taking into cognisance the metrics of the brand.
You need to understand the consumer dynamics and the environment in which the consumer lives, the needs of the consumer and the behaviour. Everything about the consumer is what you need to understand and then relate it to the brand.
Again still on the consumer, you need to also be in touch with various researches about what is happing across the world concerning the behaviour of the consumer within the world of brand management and product management, especially as it relates to your brand’s category.
The next thing is how you meet the needs of the consumers. Not every product is developed to be a brand because a brand is a product that has created a niche for its self and is known for serving that niche.
That means that you must have invested in the brand for you to be able to get top of mind equitable status for the brand. So that brand must be able to meet the expectations of the consumers, in terms of what it is promising.
For instance, if you are talking of Indomie, it must be able to meet the expectations of the noodle consumers in the country. They want something that is tasty and quick that delivers on satisfaction.
Now understanding the need state of the consumers is very important in delivering the right product and the right communication for the brand.
For instance, a brand is not targeted at everybody but to a specific group or class of people or range of people.
And so what Indomie does is, it looks at the most viable class of consumers and it begins to communicate to them. That is the third part of brand management.
As I earlier said the first part is that you need to know the consumer, the second is to know the product or solution to that customer need and the third to communicate the right message.
That is how you link the consumer to the product and communicate the brand.
Is that all that is to the job of a brand manager?
You also need to manage agencies, research and sales is a part of it, especially channels and trade management. But the core metrics of brand management is to understand the consumer and the brand as well as the knowing best platforms to communicate the brand and create what we call the brand love.
And that is why brands differ.
That is why today, people don’t call Indomie noodle but they call it Indomie because the brand has created and built equity for itself so that once people call it, they know what you are talking about.
So brand management is taking a product and creating imagery or vibes that resonant or respond with the consumer in such a way that people will always respond to that brand.
Is it possible for consumers of other brand to get misunderstood when asking for their choice brand and how does that affect the reputation of Indomie?
That rarely happens. That is why a brand manager must be somebody analytic, which is very key in brand management. You need to know your market share, usually in management you need to understand the market share in category.
So the objective is to grow your share of mind in that category where you are operating.
If people start rejecting your product it means that your marketing mix is not properly done and of course that refers to pricing, product, promotion and placement. Those are the four Ps of the marketing mix but then people have gone further to make it even eight. Price is very important but because of the way that companies build their brand equity, you will find that most market leaders actually charged a price premium.
So that is why Indomie can charge a premium price higher than others and still have a higher market share because it has delivered on its promise of quality and taste over the years and people have seen that it has kept this promise.
What has been your experience in managing brands across the organisations where you have worked?
It has been very interesting, and the reason I say so is because consumers are dynamic. They keep changing; yesterday’s car is not what people want to drive today. As economic and social indices change, people also change.
So in the course of my career in the brand business, I realised that you must observe the consumers deeply and I have come to learn that economy is also a major impact.
So a consumers changed base on the changes in the environment in which they live, thus the brand manager must be able to relate to this change.
For instance, Hypo bleach was launched eight years ago. When we entered the category, there were those who were already established in the bleach business but they were selling only in bottles. They didn’t understand the Nigeria social economic climate.
People who were supposed to buy the product were cut-off. They felt they can’t spend so much on the bleach bottle. We then did an analysis of the market and saw the sachet as an opportunity to breaking the barrier of penetration into more homes.
We also needed to break the barrier to purchase and that is where the issues of the pricing, availability and placement come in. We came out with an innovative product that is in sachet container that people can buy at an affordable price and that changed the entire category.
So we were able to move the category penetration from about 2.5 2011 to over 30 per cent where it is today in less than eight years, and that is because we understand the consumer behaviour and the environment as well as innovation.
Last year we launched also the toilet cleaner into the cleaning category and we also understand that not many people would go out and spend so much on toilet cleaner, and we also saw from research that most would rather use detergent for their toilet cleaning. We saw an opportunity there.
We discovered too that price is an issue affecting the penetration of the category into homes and we decided to launch in an affordable sachet.
So what are the ideas behind the Hypo brand?
Two things characterize Hypo, hygiene and care. We are a hygiene company even though we started by talking about bleach for whitening. Today we are pushing the communication that beyond using bleach for whiting clothing, you can also use it disinfect your home.
And to deliver on this narrative, yearly we partner with the Ministry of Health to tell women about the importance of hygiene in the home and how bleach can be used to make the home gem free.
The platform we use to do this is known as Team Up to Clean Up where we visit communities; team up with the community leaders and stakeholders to clean up the community.
Who are the brands you consider as your competitors?
When we launched in the bleach market, there was a brand that had over 90 per cent of the market but today we have taken over 90 per cent of the market. We recently launched our toilet cleaner, and I can tell you the numbers are really going in our favour in terms of penetration and market share.
What’s the Hypo quality?
The hallmark of Hypo is quality ensuring that when you used it you are very sure that it will deliver on its promise. Another thing about the Hypo is known for is its affordability and range.
We don’t just want to let the Nigeria consumer alone in their choices; we want to give everybody something that meets their pocket range. If you look at the Hypo brand, you will see that no consumer has been cut-off and that is why we have it in all sizes.
We have actually gone to homes to also teach consumers on how to use the product.
Were there any challenges when you first enter the market?
One of the challenges we had to deal with initially was packaging. Packaging a hypo-chloride in a sachet came with lots of leakages initially.
So what we did was that we kept on innovating on our pack delivery to ensure that we achieved on our promise. Product improvement kept happening over time and today we have the best product in the market.
So what’s keeping the brand going in market?
What’s keeping the brand going is our brand equity, which talks about how people consider our brand compared to other brands.
People consider our brand as their main brand and would recommend our brand anytime. This high premium is what keeps our brand going. Also we communicate with the consumer regularly and ensure that our brand is always available.
What kind of support do you think you need from government?
I think most serious manufacturing companies would like more enforcement of standards in the sector and how to beat the menace of adulteration and infiltration in the Nigerian market.
What we have discovered that people tried to imitate our product especially in certain regions of the country. And we hope that the Standard Organisation of Nigeria will do more to curb this menace.
On FOREX, one of the good things about our brand is that we have improved on our technology so we don’t import much our raw materials. Unlike others, we try to produce what we are using locally.