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Integrity: The missing link in business

I was chatting on WhatsApp with a Zimbabwean friend who is based in Nigeria on possible business opportunities in both countries. We agreed that the two countries had the potential to become business powerhouses in the world if everyone concerned put their will to it.

brand savvy with Stha Magida

Proton has mantained the 700g loaf of bread, even during trying times
Proton has mantained the 700g loaf of bread, even during trying times

We were also in agreement that the two countries have a long way to go in ensuring that they develop their systems in order to get rid of corruption. This, however, will not be easy for the two countries because of a number of reasons. What is within my power is to address what a business can do to ensure that it contributes to the positive sum total of perceptions that potential investors can have about a country, for example that which would then cause them to invest in Zimbabwe.

Whatever the business one does in Zimbabwe, it is important to carry it out well despite the challenges the country is facing. I am intrigued by the Proton Bread model of doing business. Even back in the day when I used to be an administrator at the National Bakers Association — a wing of the Confederation Of Zimbabwe Industries — they were one of the few bakeries who produced a 700g loaf of bread, which was a legal requirement. They did not move from this despite the challenges the country faced. I was therefore not surprised when I heard that the business is now setting up in Bulawayo all the way from Marondera. Maybe bakeries can learn a thing or two from the Tselentis brothers.

While keeping the head above the water is difficult in these trying times, it is the only way of ensuring long-term survival. Marketers may be tempted by the need to improve sales in the short-term at whatever cost and therefore rely on fluff and hype to create the illusion of value, but the results can be difficult to undo. In times of a recession, the disposable incomes of consumers will inevitably take a nosedive and when this happens, they are forced to reassess how and what they purchase.

You will remember how the economic challenges in Zimbabwe left consumers’ trust shattered and while the shattered trust was limited to the financial sector, it has now spilled to other areas. Consumers have started to ask questions about the accountability of corporates, the government and brands. Appalled at the blatant greed obvious in some organisations, consumers are demanding transparency, honesty, authenticity and sustainability. Such changes in consumer demands mean marketing has to go back to the basics.

As marketers, we now need to walk the talk and stand for the ideals that we stand for. The two for the price of one concept no longer sells. We need to carefully consider what our market is interested in and bring out a product specifically to suit those ever-changing needs. We cannot impose our product on the customer anymore. How then do we remain relevant, one may ask? Understand the space you operate in on a macro and micro level. The playing field has changed from a political, social, economic and commercial point of view. Understand what these changes are and how they affect your business or your brand.

Stakeholders need to have a clear picture of how the business is operating. Compliance issues will be key and metrics have to be presented to show what has been achieved. Measurement has to be meaningful and it is no longer enough to talk about page statistics. Marketers need to go to a level that is deeper and conduct research into brand awareness, interaction, purchase drivers, purchase intention, brand loyalty and willingness to refer. Hard statistics will always be necessary but they need to be combined with good qualitative data.

I am, however, of the opinion that integrity is useful all the time as the knowledge the consumers obtain about a business will continue to influence how they respond to brands in the future. It is best therefore to ensure that your brand retains good space in the minds of the consumers in the future. Till next week, keep reading and remain brand savvy.

Stha Magida is a qualified Marketer by profession with experience spanning over 15 years. She writes in her personal capacity and is contactable on stha4235@gmail.com

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