Insecurity: You can’t market a bad product

Although it has been a very long time that I left the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where I (read/ studied) Mass Communication, the years in between have not blurred my memory to the extent that I have forgotten one of the cardinal take a ways of one of my early Public Relations/Advertising classes – and that is: “You can’t market a bad product!” I still remember vividly the lecturer explaining in details why it is very essential not to try to because although you might get away with it the first time, but not the second time.

In short, a classic case of “once bitten twice shy”. Thus, if you go out espousing that your product (whatever it might be) is the best in the world and back it up with a glitzy marketing and publicity campaign, people are bound to believe it and key into it in droves. However, should the product be a dud (which you knew and deliberately hid the fact), those that swallowed your ritzy promo, after using the thing, will never ever purchase it again after finding out that it was not as it was portrayed in the advertisement.

Thus, after the initial mass hysteria of people rushing to buy the latest wonder product in town, the same people will turn away in their droves, and, using the biggest weapon available to any marketer or advertiser – word of mouth – to demarket the product. We all know how powerful the word of mouth tool is for any product, thing or even individual in getting people to if it’s a product, purchase it; if it is a thing or campaign, embrace it, and if it is an individual to employ him or her if that is what is at stake. On the negative side, it is the same word of mouth that can make a product can also kill it once people say it is not good that is practically the end of the product.

That is why, in still keeping with the theme of mass communications, it is taught that the best public relations practitioner is the person who is able to mitigate a negative perception with some strong persuasive arguments and appeal. Of course, this does not automatically mean that such an approach will work all the time, but according to studies, more often than not, it will go a long way in ensuring a company or organisation or a person keep their favourable public image.

So, where am I going with all these mass com lessons? It is that unfortunately many of those in government are failing badly when it comes to this very important PR principle. Luckily for them though, the peculiar exigencies of Nigeria mean that they can virtually say anything and get away with it because at the end of the day, no one is held accountable. Neither does it have any effect, on the chances of the government at the next election. Incidentally, had we been in the country from which we lifted our constitution, many of them would have been out of job.

But, this is Nigeria! Thus, even though they try to stress that the picture being painted of the state of things in Nigeria is being blown out of proportion, the honest truth is that the country is in dire straits in virtually all ramifications, and no amount of propaganda can gloss it over.

Is it the state of the economy, insecurity, infrastructure and what have you, most people know that their situation has progressively become worse under the different governments that have ruled them. Ironically, the new government promises heaven and earth and insist they will make the citizens’ lives better than the previous administration, yet by the time they leave, we are all worse off than the previous government. The woes are just too numerous to enumerate here, but let me touch on a few of them. Ten years ago, South Africa became the first country on the African continent to host the World Cup.

At that time, a dollar was N150. I remember this because the company that sponsored me to the Mundial gave me N750, 000, which was $5000. Just 10 years later, the same N750, 000 will only get me $1595, because the exchange rate, which was N150 to a dollar, is now roughly N470 to the dollar! Predictably, this has resulted to the cost of living going up across board. Many Nigerians will remember the ‘good old days’ then with nostalgia compared to the present. Or is it the rising rate of insecurity across the country, including banditry, kidnapping, Boko Haram and robbery? Nowhere is immune from this scourge. Unfortunately, those saddled with pleading the case of government, rather than first acknowledging that things are not what they should be and then in clear, concise and believable narration explain what is being done to get on top of it, they often instead take combative positions and blame the opposition. But like I pointed out earlier, word of mouth is the ultimate tool in any public relations war.

Last Monday a journalist, who is definitely not a member of the opposition (at least to the best of my knowledge) wrote his personal experience in witnessing mayhem unleashed on hapless citizens along the Funsho Williams Avenue corridor in Lagos. For lack of space, I can’t reproduce everything. A portion of the piece he wrote which has gone viral titled “Ojuelegba –Stadium road…And Armed Robbers took over!” reads: “Yesterday was hell and I would live to remember it for bad experience.

Like myself, it was also the same for many Lagosians who were either robbed or thrown into anxiety for hours along Ojuelegba-Stadium-Barack road en-route Apapa and Lagos Island. It was a flipside of the THIRD MAINLAND BRIDGE closure and we all saw it coming. Perhaps an oversight on the part of Lagos state, security of lives and properties of residents who would get trap in traffic as a result of the pressure on Ikorodu road and other alternative routes wasn’t given much priority. “Perhaps as this was going on, scores of bad boys were on the prowl, waiting for appropriate time to launch attack. It was barely 15 minutes after the convoy left and we were approaching Alaka. From the other side of the road, about 12 men marched towards the traffic. By then our snail speed movement had again come to standstill.

In a jiffy, they struck. They took on the vehicles randomly. They didn’t plead with motorists to wind down or surrender keys. They helped themselves by smashing the glasses with hammers and their glittering cutlasses. “The exercise lasted for few minutes but they left many families in tears. A young couple was not so lucky.

No, they were not killed but the operation left their one and half year old baby in distress. At a tender age, the small girl saw gun pointed at her parents as she woke up with the noise of the smashed glasses. While other victims were counting their losses, a few of us moved towards the distressed family to help pick one after the other, particles of glasses on the body of the innocent girl.” Although this took place in Lagos, it is a microcosm of what is happening across the length and breadth of this country.

Only God knows what our spin doctors will say of this eyewitness account or what happened to the Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum, whose convoy was attacked by Boko Haram insurgents on Wednesday – incidentally the same group that the government has repeatedly told us have been “technically defeated”! The truth is that things are very bad, and the sooner our officials acknowledge this and take drastic measures to stem it, the better it will be for all of us – including them.


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