Owolabi Mustapha is the CEO of MaxxConnection, an experiential agency that prides itself as a business solution agency. The firm which has worked for several multi-national and local brands had in a recent campaign underscored the peak status of Trophy Lager beer which is enjoying large volume sales across Nigeria, but especially in the South West. The firm, after deep thinking came up with a giant 14 meter high fibre bottle of Trophy mounted at Ikeja Shopping Mall to showcase the beer as a foremost brand in Nigeria. In this interview, Mustapha gave further insights on the innovation. He said the agecy’s greatest asset is the ability to measure its campaigns. Mustapha also spoke on business landscape and challenges. Excerpts.
Kindly tell us more about Max Connection agency
We started as experiential agency 8 years ago. We also see opportunity in other areas. We see that innovation and technology are taking the centre stage in business, therefore we had to change the model which we run. Now we are more of a business solution agency where we proffer solutions across all the degrees of marketing and communication business. Since we started operation, we have been privileged to work on major brands in Nigeria, from Coca Cola to ABinBev, Campari, BAT, Reckitt Benkiser , Dangote among others. We pride ourselves as an agency that innovates and believes so much in technology and this has impact on what we do.
In terms of consumer experience, we pride ourselves as one of the leading business relations agencies due to the major landmark campaigns that we have conceptualised, designed and executed. Why many clients like working with us is that we make lives very easy for them over and above the conventional way of just passing a brief for execution.. We conceptualise, design and execute. Internally we look at the challenge a brand has and proffer the solution.
The recent campaign of Trophy bottle at Ikeja City Mall was in celebration of Trophy Lager being the number one beer brand in Lagos. There are other campaigns we have conceptualised, designed and executed. Another social campaign we debut in this agency is ‘Raise a Trophy to honour’ where mobile bar was deployed across South Western states. That bar had no attendant, no security which allowed customers to ordinarily pay when they take a beer from the chiller to test how honourable people are. About 70% of the customers paid for the beer they took. This shows that most Nigerians are really honourable.
How do you get your inspiration in a challenging socio-economic environment like Nigeria?
There are socio-economic challenges in every environment where business operates. But the ability to be solution oriented is key. Nobody expected Covid-19 but interestingly Max Connection changed its operational model about three years ago from waiting for clients to send brief. We have been creating our briefs ourselves knowing fully well some of the challenges our client partners had. For instance, when Covid -19 came, it was very easy for us to adapt and we were able to work despite there was Covid as we were able to share great ideas that do not require so much physical interaction. This was enabled as we have taken some of our activities into the digital space. For inspiration, we also pre-empt competition and the market. Government can assist the marketing communication industry through engaging multinational to reduce payment duration. For instance, South African government sat with the multinationals to reduce payment duration terms for their partners to allow them to still be in business. We are looking towards to this kind of support.
What was the thought process in the conceptualization of the Trophy Biggest fibre bottle campaign at Ikeja City Mall?
In the last three years, we have changed our model of operation. We don’t wait for brief. We have a dedicated unit that is proactive. When we think about our brands and look at the milestones they have achieved and their projections, we then come up with strategic and tactical activity that will add value to them. In the course of building the Trophy bottle, we evaluated the brand which we have been working on for some time. We know where the equity of the brand is and we feel that there is a need for the brand which has stepped up from being a local to national brand to have some level of international recognition. On the other, our vision was to position the brand and say ‘thank you’ to consumers. Then the idea came to create the largest bottle so that the consumers can take picture with the bottle and drink for free. It took us about six months for the conceptualisation and execution.
How did you determine that the Trophy bottle was the biggest?
Guinness Book of Records is the benchmark today for history. We have done our research, and there was no bottle created in terms of size of that magnitude of 14 meter high and 3.8 meters in diameter. This speaks about the innovation about the brand. Trophy brand is about innovation, it is about seeking new opportunities and ensuring that it listens to the consumers and attend to their needs. In coming up with this ingenious innovation, we looked at different records and we wanted something that is different. We want to stand out.
Is the idea of the largest bottle totally local?
The idea was fully conceptualised by Max Connection and I am quite happy that Nigeria is getting into that space of realising ourselves. Before now, we say that Nigeria will not be able to host Big Brother because of infrastructural challenges, but Nigeria has hosted about two editions of it. We have partnered with foreign agencies and companies to execute events in Nigeria because of the belief of the client. But gradually when clients start seeing capacity locally, they started having a change of mind-set. With support of government in terms of policies and facilities, all these campaigns can be done here. Most of the partners we started working with since 2013 are still with us till date because of their belief in Max Connection. This is because we are partners. We are more or less an extension of our partner office. While they are thinking of growing their market and brand, we are also thinking in our office. If brands believe in the local content they have, they can get more. Nigerian agencies have the potential and capacity to do better campaigns.
Do you see the creative works in Nigeria in different industries such as entertainment, Ad works impacting brand Nigeria?
The brand Nigeria is a project and it is not what you conceptualise and execute and get result in one day. I see Nigeria as work in progress. Though we are not in a position where we should be but we are moving in that direction. Some years back, Nigeria relied on foreigners for most things but things are changing. Without local practitioners in different sectors achieving some level of height, it will be difficult for project Nigeria to achieve some milestones. For instance, Okonjo Iweala has said that people are making inquiries on her clothe and she is therefore challenging fashion sector to come forward. We have great people in fashion, music, media etc but what they need is some form of backing to make necessary impact.
To what extent did Covid -19 pandemic affect innovations, creativity especially in the IMC industry?
The pandemic was a global issue that was unplanned for and nobody thought it was going to stay for a long time. Thirdly, the pandemic affected all sectors and Nigeria’s Integrated Marketing Communication industry was not an exception. Although we are battling with it but we are moving forward from where we were. Many businesses are changing their model while others have incorporated digital in their operation. We as Max Connection were not really affected. Though Our business is around interactivity and we did not have those kind of events but in the last three years we have been using data and innovation and technology to drive the market. Since we have been in that space, it was easy to adapt to the new changes.
How do you measure the impact of your campaigns on brands bottom-line?
That is one of the unique things about Max Connection and that is why we say we are a business solution agency. Solution has moved from messaging or road show to a place where you have deep understanding of the brand you are working on, the insights, and competition. If you understand the consumer, understand the market and understand competition then, it becomes easier to know the kind of solution to proffer. For us, we look at the bottom-line across all the activities we do because we measure. After our campaigns on brands, the number has grown by double digit because we measure our campaigns using different metrics and pushing the brand into the next level. One of our greatest assets is the ability to measure our campaign on brands before and after activations. This is the best way to track the growth numbers.
In every activation, what do you think first?
One of the things we think through is experience. We think of what kind of experience we want to create for consumer because the brand now sits at the heart of the consumer. Gone are the days when an agency can push anything to the consumer. Now, agency’s communication, messaging and activity now sits at the heart of the consumer.