Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited Managing Director Mr. Alfred Olajide in this conversation with OPEYEMI BABALOLA spoke about his company’s journey in doing business in Nigeria over the past 70 years, among others.
With many years to go, how does Coca-Cola plan to deliver new value to Nigerians?
Consumers can expect continuous refresh from our brands as they remain at the center of our strategies, and everything we do ensures their complete satisfaction. With a market as large and diverse as Nigeria, I think there are more opportunities for growth and more market share. Rest assured that we will continue to listen to their needs and offer them drink solutions, while enriching their lives with more connected experiences. We have been a beacon of hope for many; our goal is to continue to be a brand analogous to quality, connections and happiness.
Can you give us a brief overview of Coca-Cola Nigeria and how far the company has come so far?
It’s as much a story of hard work, innovation and consistency as it is a story of inevitability. Coca-Cola is famous for its ubiquity and pedigree of being available even in the most remote areas, so our success in Nigeria could well have been telegraphed. From our first bottle made 70 years ago in our first factory in the country, to becoming a household name and a beloved brand – I would say it has been an incredible journey – a fulfilling journey!
During our 70 years in this great country, we have created memories for millions of people through our marketing campaigns and emotional promotions. We have also made a difference in the lives of Nigerians through our strong sustainability initiatives that cover key areas of stress. The impact of the Coca-Cola brand on Nigeria is evident to everyone – from employing thousands of Nigerians to projecting Nigeria as an investment destination, I would say it has been a rewarding and mutually beneficial relationship between us. and our Nigerian community. .
Of course, there have been some demanding moments dotted throughout our history here, but these are developments that have only strengthened our bonds with our community and made them more likely to last. It’s a sentiment I’ve always echoed, but it’s been the perfect marriage.
The media were enthusiastic about the news of Coca-Cola Nigeria’s commercial and brand success, despite the economic uncertainties of the past 18 months. How about allowed this?
Well, as you all know it has been an incredibly difficult two years for everyone. With COVID-19, its effects, as well as the economic and socio-political changes disrupting our lifestyles, companies have had to adapt their strategies to rapidly changing realities.
Looking back over the past 24 months, the country’s poor economic performance due to a number of factors has left us with a record inflation rate, which has forced us to think hard and make tough business decisions. With inflation comes an increase in the cost of production and living, and this is beyond our control. However, with our foresight, we have anticipated these developments and created more value-based SKUs. Over the years, we have developed smaller packaging for our product variants to meet the needs of consumers with low purchasing power.
We also created campaigns that resonated with our consumers. The past two years have taught us a lot about the mindset of today’s consumers. They no longer want to be subjected to overly aggressive advertising; they want brands that really make an impact with everything they say or do. They want brands that support them and their fights; brands that understand them; brands that really want to make a difference in their lives. And that’s what we’ve always been and will continue to be.
Over the past five to six years, we have also seen the introduction of brands with aggressive introductory strategies disrupting the market and presenting many options for Nigerians. I believe this development has made us even better at Coca-Cola, as we constantly reinvent ourselves while remaining true to our core value of customer satisfaction, to remain competitive and in a leadership position.
The Coca-Cola Company recently unveiled a global brand philosophy – Real Magic. How do you think the theme of philosophy will be received by Nigerian customers?
I think it resonates beautifully with Nigerians, especially the younger generation. Although this is our first global campaign since 2016, Real Magic is not necessarily a major change from our message of the past. In fact, he still captures the essence of the Coca-Cola brand, whose brand philosophy and long-term belief encourages people to engage in a sense of community and to view life with a renewed sense of purpose. .
In a year marked by increased uncertainty and hardship for Nigerians, the Real Magic message could not have come at a better time. He encourages us to embrace the complexities of life as we know it; it gives a new perspective on the everyday moments we typically reject and it highlights how these common mundane experiences should be cherished. In a time of fractured relationships, he preaches unity in diversity, he preaches inclusion and opposition to marginalization. It presents a better worldview for older and newer generations, encouraging them to always find magic in humanity.
The important message behind Real Magic is to celebrate the magic of humanity. How would you say Coca-Cola impacted the Nigerian community and environment?
I would say we have had a huge impact on this country. We believe that businesses are as sustainable as the communities in which they operate, which is why we aim to make a difference in the lives of people, communities and our planet by doing business the right way. Our company’s focus has been the guiding framework for shaping our response across communities, now and into the future. Our goal is to refresh the world and make a difference by delivering brands that are loved, in a sustainable way, for a better shared future, and I think that’s exactly what we’ve done.
This is demonstrated by the myriad of initiatives we have implemented and funded over the years through our main pillars of sustainability such as women’s empowerment and youth development; Water stewardship; Climate action and a waste-free world, and well-being.
For example, our 5 by 20 program, focused on empowering women and youth, has reached 6 million women around the world; our A World Without Waste initiative, which has seen us invest millions of dollars in waste eradication, focuses on protecting the environment; our water management programs such as RAIN have enabled us to improve access to water and sanitation for underserved communities in Africa including Nigeria and finally our wellbeing initiatives such The Safe Birth Initiative (SBI) has enabled us to invest more than $ 1 million to reduce maternal and child mortality while increasing access to quality health facilities.
Can you shed more light on sustainable development initiatives for women and youth in Nigeria?
Over the years, it has become evident that women are an integral part of Coca-Cola’s shared success. The company has shown its commitment to empower women both in the workplace and across the world and this is based on the belief that women are not only essential to building thriving communities, but are also the one of the greatest accelerators of economic growth in the world.
Most of our women’s empowerment and youth development initiatives aim to ensure the financial inclusion of these marginalized groups. Without the contribution of these groups in the conversations that matter, the wider population suffers more or less. As pillars of their communities, women and young people invest a significant portion of the income they earn in the health and education of their children and their local economies, creating enormous economic impact.
One of the flagship initiatives for women and young people is the recent Project EQUIP initiative. Through this initiative, we want to ensure the empowerment of women and the development of young people with the aim of teaching them to be autonomous, resourceful and active members of society. With Project EQUIP, we hope to empower over 60,000 people in the underserved communities of Kano, Lagos, Abuja, Benin and Owerri.
Another notable initiative is the Special Intervention Program through which more than 20,000 women and youth have acquired business skills in the 36 states of Nigeria. Across all 36 states, people have been educated around the essentials of a successful career, alongside vocational training in skills that are easily monetized, such as catering, producing essential household items, and many more.
It should be mentioned that there are many other initiatives like these that our company has also led such as SHAPE 2020 which we launched last year, Catalyst for Change (which is currently underway), Project Protect 10 000 and many more!
Coca-Cola Nigeria recently celebrated its 70th anniversary in Nigeria. Please share some of the memorable activities that have been carried out …
I have to say that all of the activities we launched as part of the celebrations were exciting and impactful and I enjoyed them very much. The ‘Nigerians at Coca-Cola’ campaign was particularly impactful as it told the visual story of a diverse set of people in key regions of the country with different experiences and positive stories with Coca-Cola. These are people who have directly benefited from the operations and sustainability initiatives of the Coca-Cola System, and it was surreal to see the impact we have had in their lives.
I also found the “My Coke Moments” campaign to be remarkable because it sought to show how integrated Coca-Cola is into our lives, our childhoods and our formative years. He further demonstrated the cultural relativism of Coca-Cola in Nigeria and showcased the brand’s longevity and ubiquity in the country.
The “Share a trip with Coke” activity was also an excellent part of the campaign. My favorite, however, was the commemorative event we were to close the campaign on. It was a wonderful celebration and to see so many of our esteemed speakers sharing our enthusiasm was great.