Post #EndSARS: How Brands Deployed Brand Humanization To Make A Difference

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By Azeez DIsu

The #EndSARS Protest will forever be remembered as the biggest protests and campaigns to be organized by the Nigerian youths, a country that boasts of over 33,652,424 youths, arguably, the largest populations of youths in the world.

The protest could be compared to the #Black Lives Matter in the United States that also caught global attention, calling for the end of police brutality. In Nigeria, it was not different, the youth called for an end of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigeria Police that was known for its extreme brutality.

Sadly, the protest that started peacefully took an ugly dimension after hoodlums and other ‘political’ miscreants hijacked it and unleashed mayhem, destroying properties, both private and public. They also embarked on looting spree, harassing, maiming and also killing police officers with wanton brutality. This massive destruction and its attendant violence became inevitable after the video of Nigerian soldiers shooting unarmed protesters on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 went viral on social media, with people alleging that about seven protesters died on the spot.

The ensuing mayhem that greeted #EndSARS protests further worsen the economy, as consumers purchasing power declined drastically. Also, quite a number of private businesses suffered attack at a time most businesses and individuals were experiencing some respite from the effects of COVID-19 pandemic and its lockdown.

Amazingly, brands were swift enough to rally round Nigerians the same way they did during the protest. The reason for this is not farfetched. Consumers expect their brands to take a decisive stand on national socio-economic issues that affect them.

Interestingly, this has made most brands to incorporate this norm into their core operations by having a human face to everything they do, understanding that humans connect to, relate to, and trust other humans. So, deployment of brand humanization to engage consumers has become a recent practice to brands and brand custodians. Though, this may take different forms. While some simply open up their company and culture for customers, others take the route of seamless blend of personal brand, company values, work pace culture and social community.

Hence, the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest got some brands to empathize with Nigerian consumers and the business community by sending heartfelt messages across media platforms with some laudable initiatives that will help them recover during this challenging time.

Brands Show They Care

A lot of brands ran various campaigns on #ENDSARS across their social media handles during the protest in support of protesters while some went the extra mile to provide product and monetary support.

Access Bank said, “We are here for you through these challenging times. We are fully aware of the effect that these tumultuous times have on you and we are here to help you when you need us. We pray that this phase of our lives will pass for peace and unity to be restored once again in our Nation.”

First Bank said, “Together we will emerge stronger. Our prayers and thoughts are with all Nigerians especially those who have experienced one form of loss or the other at these unusual times. Whilst we are collectively looking for a resolution to the current situation, we ask that we stay safe and be there for one another. Together, we will emerge stronger.”

Seven-up bottling company stated, “In recent weeks our communities have experienced heightened tension and losses of all kinds. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that has been affected.”

Brand Support Initiatives  

Remarkably, 2020 has been filled with one corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives or the other. According to research done by BrandImpact Consulting, “Corporate engagement in April was majorly around corporate social responsibility which led to an increase in CSR-oriented content in the media. In the Banking sector, for instance, CSR-led content accounted for 55.8% of banks’ content in print media as against 12.9% CSR content in March,” Austin Ayaosi, its Lead Analyst revealed.

Seven-up bottling company (SBC) stated that the company stands with every Nigerian especially those needing life-saving medical support or whose businesses were destroyed during the violence as it has set aside 30 million Naira.

 “Consequently, we have partnered with LifeBank on a ‘Spirit of Naija’ blood donation programme. A number of our employees across the country will also join as donors to contribute to shoring up the National Blood Bank and Distribution system.

“We have set aside 30 Million Naira to fund this initiative as well as support the efforts of those organized bodies coordinating the rehabilitation of affected businesses. In their trying times, we encourage everyone to stay safe and strengthen one another to remain stronger together.” The company in a statement disclosed.

Similarly, Access Bank announced a N50 billion support in form of interest-free loans and grants to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to support the rebuilding of businesses also affected by #EndSARS protests.

 “As one of Nigeria’s largest businesses serving every part of our society, it is our responsibility and duty to make a difference. Corporates cannot simply stand by and send messages of solidarity, and go back to ‘business as usual’ without helping get their customers and communities back on-track.”

Correspondingly, Coca-Cola Nigeria donated N20 million to cover the medical costs of victims of the #EndSARS protests in hospitals.

Coca-Cola Nigeria said the donation would be done in partnership with Whitefield Foundation, its NGO partner “providing support for the injured and those in critical condition. The events of the past few days have scarred us all. We are deeply saddened by the needless loss of lives during the #EndSARS protests. Our heart goes out to the families of the fallen and injured, as a result of the recent violence that ensued during the peaceful #ENDSARS protests while we strive towards a greater tomorrow for this Nation.”

IMC Stakeholders’ Voice and Solutions

Like the popular slogan of the #EndSARS protest “Soro Soke”, brands and agencies also raised their voice during the crisis.

Heads of Advertising Sectoral Groups (HASG), joint body of professionals across advertising, media independent, out of home, and experiential marketing as represented by the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Experiential Marketers Association of Nigeria (EXMAN), Media Independent Association of Nigeria (MIPAN), Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) and the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN),  in a statement condemned any form of police brutality, citizen harassment, and the use of force by the army on innocent, unarmed citizens.

It however condemned the aftermath of the protest and pointed that it has affected the reputation of the country. It therefore stated that it is ready to support in any way it can help, “It is not too late to arrest this situation and turn it positively to get the country back on track. We as a group will be happy to work voluntarily with all parties in developing the right people-centred strategy for the short and long term interest of our dear Nation.”

From Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) to Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and Public Relations Consultant Association of Nigeria (PRCAN) messages of solidarity and condemnation of the aftermath of the protest which included thuggery and destruction of public properties became paramount.

Meanwhile, proffering solutions to policing in Nigeria, Segun Mcmedal, Chairman, Lagos Chapter, NIPR said, “The restructuring we are advocating is not superficial, but one that goes deeper into changing the negative perception of the Nigerian Police. We also call for upward review of their salaries and welfare packages including increased funding of the Force. This should be treated as a matter of national emergency.”

Similarly, NIPR, Rivers State chapter, in a statement signed by Public Relations Officer (PRO), Chinedum Emeana, pledged to assist the Federal Government’s efforts to build competent citizens-friendly police by providing professional training that boost self-esteem and commitment among police personnel.

“The core of our involvement in the retraining to improve Nigeria Police is geared towards creating a police system that ordinary Nigerians will be proud to associate with and for those who wear the Police uniform to do so with pride as an index of national reputation,” Rivers NIPR affirmed.

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