Introducing The Bold Variants: A Culture Of Consumer Insight, Innovation And Creativity

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By Azeez Disu & Jeremiah Agada

Boldness Lives In Nigeria”

The word ‘bold’ connotes a lot and is synonymous to such words as adventurous, daring, brave, heroic, venturous, dauntless, fearless and even audacious. An online source describes boldness as the fearless and daring courage to carry out an activity. Yet another defines it as: willingness to take risks and act innovatively. To be bold implies a willingness to get things done despite risks.

Chinedum Okereke, MD, The LaCasera Company Plc.

From the above synonyms and definitions, it is easy to realize that boldness is Mutiu from Iyana-Ipaja who beats the cock to sunrise everyday on his way to Idumota where he pursues his dream for a brighter life; boldness is Ngozi who is a fourth year medical student in the University of Nigeria Nsukka, UNN, who owns a thriving Instagram store that sells and delivers clothes and accessories to customers across the country; boldness is Aminu, a trader in groceries at a market somewhere in Gidan Kwanu who is dauntless in his resolve to see his four brothers through tertiary institution while catering to his family at the same time, irrespective of the harsh economic conditions in a country like Nigeria; and boldness is Kanu Nwankwo ‘Papilo’ beating the odds and forging ahead with his football career despite a heart condition threatening to put an end to it. If boldness were a person, it would have permanent residency in Nigeria, probably with an address in Lagos.

Emmanuel Agu, Group Marketing Director, Jotna Nigeria Ltd; Ex Super Eagle, Kanu Nmankwo; Chinedum Okereke, MD, The LaCasera Company and Vishal Kaveti, Commercial Director, TLCC, at the launch of Bold Variants in Lagos, recently.

Nigerians across the globe are always easy to spot because of their boldness or how they act “as if they own everywhere,” as an English man once noted. Is it a surprise that Nigerians in different countries across the globe are doing wonderfully well across different disciplines and endeavours? The answer is hardly a yes as even the renowned Robert Kiyosaki once noted, “Often in the real world, it is not the smart that get ahead but the BOLD.” Agreeably, words of Spartan admiral from 405 BC, Lysander, from “Tides of War”: “…boldness honors two things only: novelty and success. It feeds on them and without them die.”

Nigerians’ boldness and doggedness are evident in their ability to survive and thrive in the harsh economic environment. For brands and organisations that have survived for more than a decade in Nigeria, same can be said of them.

Emmanuel Agu, Group Marketing Director

This is more so for brands competing for the share of consumers’ pocket in the very competitive Carbonated Soft Drink (CSD) market. The qualifier ‘Bold’ is an important ingredient to have in this market. The CSD marketing landscape globally, plays host to intensive competition with series of marketing campaigns, as brands lock horns in an already saturated ‘red ocean’ while some find a new path in a ‘blue ocean’ where consumers yearn  for new flavour to satisfy their taste bud which eventually the market rewards them for their innovation and uniqueness.

It is not different in the Nigerian marketing landscape as the CSD market is one of the highly competitive industries. From Cola wars, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) Bottle innovation, PET pack size competition to pricing wars; the CSD market has experienced many surprises and intrigues and all these are centred on satisfying consumers.

Interestingly, according to Market Watch, the global CSD market is expected to reach USD 330 billion by 2024 at a CAGR of 3.2% during the forecast period. The market is segmented on the basis of flavour, pack type, and distribution channel. Based on flavour, the global CSD market has been divided into cola, lemon and lime, orange, and others.

Onyeka Okoli, Group Portfolio Marketing Manager

Industry analysts believe that the increasing young population in developing countries like Nigeria coupled with increasing disposable income among consumers is expected to drive the overall CSD market growth and drivers like new flavours (innovation) will be crucial to that. Only players in this sector bold enough to venture into uncharted territories of new flavours could get the lion share of consumers’ pockets.

One company that has demonstrated a truly Nigerian character in this area of boldness is The La Casera Company (TLCC), a member of JOTNA Group of Companies.  Incorporated in Nigeria in the year 1999, TLCC is a leading CSD company whose flagship product, La Casera Apple was launched in November 2001. La Casera Apple is the first-ever soft drink in Nigeria, to be offered in a PET bottle in Nigeria. This completely disrupted the Nigerian beverage industry as this innovation democratized packaging of beverages and pioneered drinks on-the-go.  It is also the only Apple CSD drink in Nigeria that contains 5% real apple juice. Over the years, The La Casera Company has grown its presence and awareness continuously, driven by high investments in marketing and distribution. TLCC has also introduced other products including Nirvana Tonic Water and Nirvana Soda Water which launched in August 2012, and Nirvana Table Water. TLCC also democratized Ready-to-Drink Chapman with the introduction of Smoov Chapman which launched in September 2014. Smoov is one of the first Chapman brands in the country, but clearly the first Chapman brand to be in PET in the Nigerian market.

Philip Chilaka, Innovation Manager

In TLCC’s early days, it commenced operations with a modest 100 BPM (bottles per minute) line. This production capacity has increased tremendously in the last 20 years to 2000 BPM (bottles per minute) which translates into an installed capacity of more than 1 billion bottles of 50cl per year in line with the growth in sales. Production standards have consistently been maintained at the highest levels, as attested by the successful certification from the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) and by annual technical and quality systems audits from Zenith International, a U.K. based consultancy checking strict adherence to international beverage production standards.

Enter Action With BOLDness

The above is an allusion to 28th law of Robert Greene’s controversial, ‘48 Laws of Power.’ Though the allusion has very little to do with the sub-headline, it has everything to do with La Casera’s recent audacious launch of the Bold brand in four variants or flavours into the Nigerian market. Perhaps this is due to the fact that TLCC understands that taking bold steps is very important to surviving and remaining relevant in a fast-evolving market like Nigeria. Being bold comes with a lot of sacrifice and dedication and its reward can be judged by performance.  It is also borne from the realization that organisations that take the bull by the horn to be distinctively unique in their product formulation, and portfolio offerings to their target market’s yearnings, are often rewarded by the market.

Managing Director of The La Casera Company Plc., Mr. Chinedum Okereke, a veteran in the CSD industry in a chat with Brand Communicator’s team, explained that the innovation to bring out the four Bold variants was driven by customer-centric research and consumer needs. These needs, he explained, stems out of consumers’ need for variety, new flavours having ‘had enough’ of traditional flavours. “In the CSD landscape, in the last three to four years, growth has been driven by flavours outside the traditional lines. Clearly, flavours based on the need of Nigerians are driving what Nigerian consumers’ want.

“With that thought in place, there was a clear factually based research to show that flavours are growing. The La Casera Company is a company known to delight the Nigerian consumer with innovative product offerings. “We did multi levels of research to validate these propositions as at the time. Opportunity assessments and identification were done to ensure that we were headed in the right direction. We did this to be able to give ourselves some level of assurance, that our investments were targeted at the right consumer need. Also while continuously engaging consumers, we were able to effect some tweaks based on their feedbacks. We believe we have hit the bull’s eyes with what is acceptable to the consumers and of course that in turn guarantees growth.”

Corroborating the Managing Director, Mr. Emmanuel Agu, Group Marketing Director, Jotna Nigeria Limited (The LaCasera Company) added that the La Casera business is able to launch all these innovative products because it is built to be sustainable, resilient, re-inventive which are its pillars, adding that as a result TLCC has remained relevant and profitable in a highly competitive CSD market.

Indeed, winning and becoming a market leader starts with taking a bold step. While fixated on meeting consumers’ expectation, TLCC took a bold move to unveil BOLD 4, an allusion to the popular Blackberry mobile phone brand, to mean the introduction of four unique variants of the BOLD franchise: Orange, Bitter Lemon, Ginger and Tropical flavours. Bold Bitter Lemon Extra was formerly in the market as Nirvana Bitter Lemon which re- launched in 2015.

Bold Bitter Lemon Extra

The first in the series of Bold Variants to enter the market is the Bold Bitter lemon Extra flavour which was launched as Nirvana Bitter Lemon but was re-launched in 2015 as Bold bitter lemon Extra. Typically, all the launched flavours are unique and uniquely different from other brand flavours playing in their space. The Bitter lemon Extra is no exception as it contains quinine and other unique ingredients that give it that refreshingly lemony and pleasantly sharp taste. Philip Chilaka, Innovation Manager, Jotna Group explains more: “So, our Bold bitter lemon Extra has actually been in the market, so, basically the re-introduction with the Bold 4 range gives the brand a bit more. What informed Lemon, Orange, Tropical and Ginger all starts with research and where opportunities stand for the business.

Bold Ginger

The newly introduced Bold Ginger is Nigeria’s first ginger carbonated soft drink. It contains real ginger extract for an extra spicy taste and pleasant peppery bite. Since the introduction to this market, the result has been phenomenal. Philip says of it, “If I am to give you feedback on Ginger, I’ll say it has been fantastic; it is almost as if consumers were waiting for a variant like this but didn’t just know how to ask CSD manufacturers about it.  So it appears there has been keen anticipation that the market was not aware of. It has definitely been a win for us to have put such innovation in the market.”

Bold Orange

Orange drinks have been in the market as far back as creation itself, as the earliest time man discovered orange. Commercially, the variant has been around as the first cola drinks have. It is almost safe to say that there is very little or no innovation that can come into the flavour that has never been tasted.

The La Casera Company in line with its culture of innovation however thought differently. The company’s Bold Orange flavour is unlike any others in the market as it has the uniquely refreshing taste of real orange, blended with tangerine to give it a wholesome new ‘citrus’ taste and aroma.

Bold Tropical

This flavour can be said to be novel in its category as there are now two known brands (companies) within the Nigerian CSD market producing it. Just as TLCC continues to innovate with flavours, the launch of Bold Tropical flavour to the market means that the consumer can afford to get a rich, refreshing and appealing taste of tropical fruits without having to spend much. Bold Tropical is a blend of fruits, a unique refreshing taste quencher with an indulging experience, deeply satisfying after consumption.

A Culture of Innovation

The launch of the Bold variants aligns with the La Casera culture and DNA of continuous innovation. As explained by Mr. Chinedum “’our vision has always been to grow the La Casera business and develop brands that stand on their own. So, the Bold brand is the fourth brand that we are positioning as a strong independent brand in the LaCasera family.

“Bold was borne out of the spirit of innovation, and was premised on three drivers: Strong consumer insights; consumers and dealers have often said to us that since we are good in innovation, they always expect new exciting products like LaCasera and Smoov Chapman. The launch of the Bold brand is in response to that.

“Secondly, for the launch, we did not just hit the market with one flavour. In order to excite our consumers, we came out with three variants in addition to Bitter Lemon Extra to give people options. Each individual flavour reflects a life experience, be it Bitter Lemon Extra, Orange, Ginger or Tropical.

“Thirdly, we leveraged on our core competence. We are one company that has an end-to-end integrated system. We have one of the best in class supply chains and operations which is world-class and highly effective factory operations. We have got a world class logistics system. We are present in 36 states of Nigeria and across all the local government areas in this country. We also have a strong forecasting system and can forecast as far as 24 months ahead and use that to plan our raw materials. We have got a very strong distribution channel. What we have done is leverage on this core competence.”

Still on innovation, for anyone to drive innovation, it must come with scale and the speed to go national added Emmanuel Agu, Group Marketing Director. Expanding on innovation around PET and its impact across markets, he explains, “Innovating around PET which is the La Casera intervention in this market took away every comparative advantage from the multinational Corporates and what they were used to.

“Through the innovation around PET, La Casera is amongst the league of businesses in Nigeria that have helped small and medium scale entrepreneurs, because of this single innovation. It is a major contribution that most Nigerians may not have realised, but this totally liberalized the landscape.

In addition to this fact about The La Casera Company, Agu added, “We figured it out, we know where the significant chunk of the size of prize within the flavours, which gives us the insight of knowing where to fish and where the fishes are. Also because this company is built on innovation it has a very strong innovation philosophy of ‘dare to be different.’

“It was this innovation philosophy that brought in La Casera when there were other regular flavours that people were used to and then the Apple flavour came into the market, unique and distinctive and the market rewarded us for it.

“Remember, we democratize Chapman, took Chapman from the smooth and cozy comfort of hotels, bars and restaurants and put it in a PET bottle and made it affordable for all and the market rewarded us for that ingenuity. So, if you know that when you do something very different and you give it a hard thought and you bring it to the market place, there is always a reward for the innovators. That is why we say, in line with our philosophy, as much as we are diving into the red ocean where everybody plays, we go in with a deliberate strategy to gain share.

We also attempted the blue ocean where nobody has been before; we went to the Ginger space, clearly an uncharted territory. “Nigeria is the third biggest exporter of Ginger in the world and yet there is no facility in the country to process the raw Ginger into finished product, but we took the bull by the horn. We know through research that there is no home that has never made use of Ginger. With consumer acceptance of Bold Ginger, we will also be rewarded again. The innovations behind these four brands are clearly research driven, lifestyle driven,” he said.

 Again this is in line with our philosophy to be different, we keep asking ourselves, are there other uncharted territories that we can spoil our consumers for choice?

To also buttress the Group Marketing Director’s point, Philip Chilaka added, “If you look at how Bold is crafted, we observed the total market landscape and as we looked at where there are opportunities with less barriers to entry, and we discovered this segment. There are new opportunities for new flavours, just like we did with Smoov.  That is why we broke our categorisation into three, we started by saying, do we have an established category that we can come in or has a lot of players, or where one player is dominant.

“Again, we asked ourselves, what are the other innovations within the last one or two years and we looked at it. We realized that among the innovations launched in the last three years, Tropical flavour is one that has seen good growth. We dived deep and realized that there are opportunities to further expand the category and give consumers something unique with a little extra.

“Then we looked at the current state of Bitter Lemon and they are few strong players playing and that gave rise to the Bitter Lemon Extra flavour. We revamp it in order to compete effectively.

Onyekachim Okoli, Group Portfolio Manager, Jotna Group lends his voice: “If you think of the theory of design thinking, you will realise that we don’t innovate just to innovate, we innovate with a goal in mind. With design thinking you talk about consumer empathy, here we are concerned about consumer satisfaction.

“We never innovate without our consumers in mind; we always keep them at the core of our considerations. If you take the Bold Variants, Bitter Lemon Extra for example, the recipe and taste profile are uniquely refreshing and different from similar products in the market. Bold Bitter Lemon Extra is clearly in a class of its own. We can confidently say the same for tropical, Orange and of course Ginger being the first of its kind. We are not competing with anybody there; it is clearly an innovation that stands on its own. Just to summarise, innovation for us starts with the consumer in mind, it is a major driver as we know that consumer needs and wants are constantly changing.”

A History of Resilience

Robert H. Schuller’s aphorism says that tough times never last, but tough people in the case of a company like The La Casera Company can rephrased to be, “tough times never last, but tough brands do.” It is no secret that after La Casera, the company’s flagship apple drink rose to dazzling heights in the Nigerian market, beating established global brands in the CSD market to become the unofficial ‘King of the highway. The brand then faced serious challenges that would have seen less resilient brands die or remain in perpetual struggle to get back to relevance. The case of La Casera bouncing back to limelight after overcoming its challenges, the crippling economic recession at that period, fierce competition and others, remains a point of reference.

Among several factors that helped the company navigate those turbulent times, Chinedum explains that the company’s Human capital, values and operational philosophy have kept the company afloat, especially in the midst of challenges. “One of the values of the company is Integrity; we do anything to maintain integrity and credibility even when it is not convenient. Another is respect and resilience; they are strong philosophy for us as a company.

“Our staff will always go to any length to make sure that we get good quality product out there, and our sales staffs work in the rain and the sun just for consumers to get quality products and of course for us to get our own share of the wallet. I must equally commend the board of directors of the company, and the investors of the company, because throughout the tough times, these individuals kept faith with the company,” he explained.

Similarly, Agu said the business stood strong in its times of challenges because it is built on sustainability, resilience, reinventiveness, integrity, respect and trust, adding that it is equally built on backward integration, “La Casera is just one out of The Jotna Group; it is the Business to Consumer (B2C) part of the group. We have the Prima Corporation Ltd., which is the Business to Business (B2B), and then we have Engee PET Manufacturing Company which is another B2B which produces the PET resins while Prima Corporation uses the PET resins to produce preforms and caps used to package your La Casera carbonated soft drink.

“So it is very hard for such a business that is built on such backward integration not to be resilient in the face of difficult times and challenges. That is the same conventional approach that you see the big multinationals have,” he stated.

From The Factory To Bold Consumers

The La Casera Company, asides its many pioneering firsts in its space, has been creative in the ATL, BTL and other marketing drives that has seen it effectively market the brands from its portfolio. ‘I Love this Drink,’ among other catchphrases still resonates with Nigerians when they think of the La Casera apple drink.

For the Bold brand, communication centres around the theme, ‘Unleash your Bold.’ Mr Chinedum explains that the strategy behind that theme is based on the boldness Nigerians are known for. “Nigerians are amazing people, and that is the communication we are building around this brand. As a person, sometimes you never know what drives the “inner you” until you are pushed to the wall. We are communicating that everyone has got boldness and greatness in them, that there is a need to unleash it and be very free by standing up for who we are.  We’ve got role models, like Kanu Nwankwo, who as a very young adult in his early 20s was faced with a heart situation which he overcame and today he’s one of the great personalities in the world, showing the kind of strong characteristics that we want attributed to this brand.”

Onyekachim speaks more on marketing the new Bold Variants. “It’s in our DNA to be innovators, from how we started with PET, to the constant drive to launch new firsts. Clearly introducing new variants into the market has to be followed by a clear and consistent Brand Positioning strategy. For us brand custodians, or brand parents, we always have expectations of our brands, much like how parents have of their children. However, it is always in our best interest to ensure that the Brand DNA and positioning aligns with what the brand should stand for in the hearts and minds of our consumers. It is also imperative that the Brand has the “right” meaningful network of associations.

“So, it is very critical that our tone of voice and activation pillars match the persona of the brand. For this year, the focus is really going to be building brands for growth. For the Bold variants, because it’s at the innovation stage, what are very critical are visibility, awareness and sampling. So, we need to dial-up these up to build very strong and exciting brands.

“Innovation runs through the DNA of the La Casera Company, it doesn’t end with launching new variants; we’re also innovative with our approach to marketing. We do not adopt a straight jacketed/template approach, but a bit of unconventional and disruptive marketing. We have a lot planned for the portfolio this year and we hope our consumers are ready for excitement”

Philip adds, “Because we are still at the introductory stage of these brands, awareness is key. That means we have to come up with strategies that allows us penetrate those markets that are very key for us. We’ve segmented to say these are where the demographics we’re looking for are and the question we ask ourselves is what kind of media and communication best suits these demographics that it will not be a straight jacket thing. The strategy is tailored to the region that we’re targeting to create awareness for these brands. In addition, we’ve started a massive sampling activation, and we’re targeting over a million people with this activation that runs throughout the year so that we can actually get people to taste and engage with the brand.”

“Also, we have planned some consumer engagement activities during the sampling activation that ensures that we leave some residual knowledge of the brand in the minds of the consumers post sampling. We will create some sort of engagement where we gamify the experience. This will enable some interaction between the consumers and the brand. So, what you see is a hand shake where everything is in synergy to ensure that the memory we leave with the consumers will continue to drive their purchase at the end of the day,” Onyekachim pointed.

Rewarding Bold Dealers

Impressed by the sterling performance of its trade partners in 2019, The La Casera Company showered cash gifts on its loyal distributors, spread across the company’s trade regions of Lagos, West, East and North.

The company rewarded over 500 of its dealers in categories ranging from N100, 000 each to N5million. This was at the Launch of the Bold variants and Dealers’ Conference and Awards, a yearly event, which witnessed a huge turnout of dealers from across the country,

Mr Chinedum explained that the need to appreciate the partners, who had stayed with the company through thick and thin, necessitated the conference which was tagged “Partnership For More Growth.”

He eulogised the dealers who had stayed with the company through its 19 years of existence, adding that since they never gave up on the company throughout the period of its challenges, the company was interested in their business.

In an exclusive chat, he said, “the dealers are very strong partners of the La Casera business and part of the strength of the La Casera business is also its dealers. I will say clearly, that with the number of dealers that we have, we are a grassroots company and so our strength is in being able to creatively touch people as much as possible. Remember when you are in partnership with a dealer it is a trust process, you are empowering the person. You are also helping the person touch other lives and so for us it’s important to appreciate and celebrate these dealers. They are the ones that have been with us through good and bad times.

“When the company’s fortunes were not great, our dealers continued to stand by us.  After a total turn-around of the business in 2019, we felt that it is a good time to compensate and celebrate these dealers and that was why we came all out to celebrate them bringing together close to 900 dealers, flying them from different parts of the country, and rewarding them in different ways. The theme of the award night was “Partnership for Growth” because we believe that we are partnering together for growth acceleration and it is our way of saying and demonstrating that they are part of the bigger picture.”

The company rewarded over 500 of its dealers in categories with various amounts ranging from N100,000 each to N5m. For instance about 300 trade partners got N100,000 each; about 200 dealers were rewarded with N250,000 each while over 50 trade partners got N400,000 each and another set of about 50 dealers got N500,000 each.

For the bigger awards, the company announced Fasaq Fortune as winner of N4.8 m; Son Emmanuel got N4.5 m. Other awardees include Sufaye who got N3.6 m; CIF Nigeria Limited N3.0 m; Ayi Global N2.4 m. Other winners emerged from all the regions.

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