The Brand-Wagon Effect

Forget its population, Lagos is really a small place. Scratch that, Lagos is the smallest place on earth.
It never fails to amaze, the manner in which the latest fads fast gather discipleship in a city as culturally and socially diverse as Eko. These fads or current fascinations then spread to the twin cities of Abuja and Port-Harcourt. Everyone ends up wearing the same kind of clothes, having similar interests, using the same slangs and figures of speech, and making the same lifestyle choices as a result.

This snow-ball effect of infectious tastes creates a propensity for some people to jump on the lifestyle bandwagon, sorry, brand wagons.

The world is a global village, yes, but then Lagos must be a hamlet. But I digress…

Early this week, I wanted to buy a smart button-up to wear with a suit for a wedding I have this weekend. I ducked into Ikota Shopping Complex, in Ajah but got so miffed that I had to give up. Every shirt shop I went to stocked the same brand of shirts for men, baring a few Italian knock-off brands like Ogini. No I don’t want a TM Lewin or Hawes & Curtis shirt, free me jor….

Let’s conduct a mini experiment – gather all the 23 -37 year olds living in the following parts of Lagos: Lekki, Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Ajah, Surulere, Magodo, Ikeja, Maryland, Yaba, Ebute-Metta, Apapa, Akoka, Ogudu and Gbagada. Sorry if I didn’t mention your area; every experiment needs a control.

Now, take 2 invisible hoops – a blue one and a pink one. The blue one is for guys and the pink one for the ladies.
If you toss the blue hoop randomly into the crowd, so that it only catches a fella, I can bet my bottom dollar that the following will be his demographic: He lives in Lekki-Ajah by way of somewhere on the Mainland. He drives a Toyota Corolla (the model that all the banks and financial institutions have bought so much that Toyota has made enough profits not to give a rat’s ass about a possible ban or lawsuits in the USA from the brake issues). If he didn’t buy the Corolla brand new and pay installmentally, he would have bought a Honda ‘Baby Boy’ Accord from a used car lot.
Demographic dude also supports Arsenal, and started doing so once it became fashionable to be a Premier League footie fan. He also has an Arsenal sticker on his car rear bumper. My guess would be that the sticker says Gunners for Life!

Demographic dude has a Blackberry Bold on MTN’s network and a beat-up Nokia as a second phone. He works for one of the banks on the Island, and tells anyone who cares to listen that he is thinking of leaving to start his own business. There is also a huge chance that Demo dude also went to LASU or UNILAG, and if he schooled abroad, London Metropolitan University or University of Hertfordshire.
He also wears T.M Lewin or Hawes & Curtis shirts to work. He orders or buys the TM Lewin shirts from the TM Lewin flagship store on the ground floor of Brent Cross Shopping Centre in North West London. By the way, he flies with Virgin Atlantic almost always, and when he travels, almost always to London, he never misses Next’s clearance sales. He also traverses London’s Oxford Street for bargains.
His vocabulary includes sentences like “That’s the P” or “Omo, I de hustle” (even though he has a 9-5 bank job that gives him time for precious little else).

Demographic man also has a couple of big horse Polo by Ralph Lauren polo shirts with the numbers on the sleeves, which he wears on weekends or when hanging with his boys at the sports bar to watch Arsenal games where Bendtener always fails to score. He used to wear Hackett shirts at one point, but that would be social suicide now.
He has started sprouting a small pot-belly these days. He doesn’t care, he is a big boy. In addition, he sports a low crew cut fade, and Rick Ross type sideburns (Oliver De Coque patented that look eons ago though).
The red hoop will rein in a full-figured brown-skinned girl who absolutely loves to eat out and shop for clothes.

‘Demographina’ would be obsessed with Brazilian (or Peruvian) hair, which she no doubt will blackmail some sex-starved mugu to purchase for her if she cannot afford it herself. She is no taller than 5”9. She usually wields a Blackberry Curve on Glo’s network (N1500 per week is easier) which she harasses furiously when she is at an event where nobody ‘sends’ her enough.
Her uniform of choice would include True Religion skinny jeans, tank tops or a tee, flats or gladiators, not to forget a huge handbag (of Ghana-Must-Go proportions) which she has perfected how to carry in the cavity of her elbow.
She drives one of the following – a Kia Picanto or Rio, Honda City or a Hyundai Accent, and wears sunglasses when she drives (she bought them especially for the car). She works as a marketer in either a bank, insurance firm or a firm that sells some kind of equipment which cannot sell itself or its utility to its target market. On Sundays, she attends House on the Rock or This Present House where she fervently prays that she will meet her future husband – a tall, dark and handsome fella who has a Lekki apartment and a smart SUV, and would fork out for her trips to Dubai.
She snarls at her local vendor if he doesn’t have her Sunday ThisDay Style newspaper, and snarls at herself if she doesn’t appear in the magazine itself. But alas I digresseth too much…

Of course there are always exceptions, certain people dress differently and have dissimilar interests which invariably leads to accusations of being weird. Chaps like Derenle the presenter are examples of extreme cases; Prince 2000 of Sunday Rendezvous fame (the Nigerian 1980s dance show a la Soul Train) dressed like no other. These are the examples at the other end of the spectrum.

In the US, there are special, special cases like Lady Gaga but alas I digress again…

In Nigeria however, it seems if you decide to break the norm even slightly, people mistaken it as a sign that you lack generally or are not in the know. A female friend of mine for example would rather wear her natural hair but she has had fashionistas ogle her consistently about why she hasn’t gotten the latest Brazilian weave worn by “Bo Bo Biz Girls.” Socially, Naija’s ethos seems to be either put up or shut up.

This word of mouth advertisement, which prompts us to conform or risk feeling left out was the marketing machine that made the movie Jenifa a Nollywood blockbuster. In Nigeria, the band and brand wagon effects drive up sales of brands like Blackberry, Toyota, Ed Hardy, True Religion, Ralph Lauren, Hackett, TM Lewin and the popularity of premiership clubs of Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool. Nigeria must be a franchisor’s dream; and a goldmine for any aggressive brands.

It is no wonder that KFC is making a killing here. Fair play to them, but word of mouth and social interest alone must have driven sales and patronage through the roof in the first couple of days of its business launch.
A friend of mine opines that if Apple were to set up shop in Nigeria, and offer the full range of its services including a Naija friendly I-Tunes online store, they would best what Research in Motion has achieved so far with the ‘BB’. I once went to Sanusi Fafunwa Street VI, to look for a cord for my MP3 player. The traders there got confused anytime I mentioned “MP3 player”; what they knew was Apple Ipod, even though the cord I needed was for a Sony MP3 Walkman!

In Nigeria, Lagos to be exact, some people are obsessed with wearing vogue clothes as everyone else, going to the most fashionable church (usually for the suave pastor, sea of eligible singles, or for signs and wonders)and owning the most socially acceptable brand (even if it is not the best brand).
My friend joked once that the only product that we in Naija would use without insisting on a particular brand or name is pure-water.


“Sometimes I find myself wearing the same stuff for days/ Not caring about what they gonna think or say”
Prodigy “Family’ (2000)


18 responses

    • @ Chuckd

      I think u r a bit mistaken ursef. He said Uni of Hert just bcos of its popularity among naija pple, not cos its not a good school. Like in Naija, most guys attend UNILAG while girls go to OSU. these 2 skools r miles apart in rankings, but are 2 of d most attended unis.
      most arsenal fans started supportin them cos of Kanu’s stint there, and they have never stopped. Still a band wagon..

  1. Not bad at all mate. Though a few of your points were thrown at us, I’m sure, without any form of empirical investigation. A mere point lacking validity.

    Ill pick on two. University of Hertfordshire is no way in the league of UEL. Secondly, the uni has got one of the best business schools in South of England. Placing both universities which are 60 places apart in the rankings is quite an insult…lol, funny but true.
    Then you talk on Arsenal. Now with that assertion of yours, I kno u are an apologist of Chelsea or Man U. Look in and ask yourself a question. What group of fans change clubs like kids change nappies? What group of fans painfully stick with their club in a barren run for half a decade? Answer and get back to me.

    • Just because the writer used your school and beloved club as examples, you didn’t even calm down to grasp the point he was making.
      Well written piece. I can bet you the followers of Bella Naija will put you on their “hate list” as you have accurately described majority of them.

      • @ Preshy
        You took the words right of my mouth.
        Lol@ Bella Naija comments – I am sure i would have plenty of articles to occupy everyone.

  2. Lemme start by saying I’m a Bella Naija fan. That sorted, I think I should point out that the band/brand wagon mentality is not peculiar to Lagos. It happens in EVERY major (and minor) city in the world. New York, Paris, London, Rome, Tokyo, Sidney you name it. People want that sense of “I belong” everywhere.
    The funny thing is you have dissected Lagos SO well, it’s OBVIOUS you are part of that crowd. You live on the island (I gathered that from one of your posts), you went to Unilag, you probably had a baby boy (I’m almost certain you did) and you support either Chelsea, Man-U or Liverpool or if you are too big for England, you support Barca or Real Madrid. I’m also certain that you hang out with the “hip hop hooray” crowd in the “hip hop hooray” places and you probably just started your own business, something small that you hope will catch on plus you are probably a name dropper as well. I may be wrong on SOME of my inferences but please admit it, you are not much different.

  3. u know what? i totally agree with the essence of the write up, though i beg to differ on some of the finer points. This brand-wagon effect makes some of us, especially gals lose our own identity. from brazilian hair to crackberries to rich boyfriend to designer bag to whatever is coming out next……….it gets tiring.
    Case in point…..I realised a long time ago that I dont need/want a blackberry. i have stood firm on this but most folk think im deficient in some way for not having one. Sheeeesh! not everyone likes the feeling of being addicted to a handheld device! and i daresay at least 80% of peeps cant honestly say they are not overly enamoured by the thing. To thyself be true…thats all i can say…

  4. Chuck d please leave Esco alone! Is he lying? Where did he say the “brand wagon effect” didn’t apply to him. The guy didn’t set out to offend you now! Esco you probably got this lad to the dot.
    From: Public school boy, United fan, Future Honda Accord owner, Ralph Lauren and T.M Lewin Lover.

  5. Almost sound true but then this is a very stupid write up and doesn’t hold up water. One, we have 18 million odd souls in Lagos but how many people work in Banks and other financial institutions in Lagos? Tops 250,000. How that silly hoop always end up snagging one is a mystery.

    Truth is, the writer is part of the “society” but unfortunately there is so much beyond this small middle class people. Most Lagosians, and that is empirically speaking, never went to University, don’t have good jobs and live in places like Ajegunle, Isolo, Agege, Idi Iroko, etc..

    And by the way, no single network even has up to 100,000 blackberry subscribers. So even those are in the minority. Talk is cheap!

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