Building a Brand in Nigeria: A South African Marketers’ Guide

Building a Brand in Nigeria: A South African Marketers’ Guide


For many ambitious South African businesses looking to expand their footprint across Africa, Nigeria is an obvious choice. With a population of 175 million, it is Africa’s largest market and has more consumers than anywhere else.

The Nigerian economy is growing at an average of 6,8% per annum, dwarfing South Africa’s modest GDP growth rate. And the country has a rising consumer class that is ambitious and aspirational, with smaller families, higher incomes, better education than previous generations and increasing connectivity to digital and mobile channels.

Nigerians are highly receptive to Western brands and very brand conscious. It sounds like a marketer’s dream.

But building a brand in Nigeria is also hugely challenging. Corruption and bureaucracy are still big problems, and there are security risks.

Cracking the Nigerian market requires guts and perseverance on the part of the marketer, deep insight into the market, smart marketing and an adaptable approach. Very few brands are getting it right.

Overcoming the challenges in Nigeria

1. Clutter

Nigeria’s market attractiveness has not gone unnoticed. Despite the slow diversification of the economy, global consumer brands are rushing in and competition is heating up across all sectors. The low-hanging fruit is largely gone, and marketers now need to work hard to stand out in the noise. As ever, there is no substitute for insight into your customers.

2. Infrastructure

Unlike many other African markets, Nigeria is relatively urbanised. 50% of the population live in cities and more than ten million people live in Lagos alone. Transport and distribution are therefore not as difficult as they are in other African countries, but they remain a huge challenge between cities and marketers either need to focus on one or two urban areas or partner with local suppliers and the informal sector to find innovative ways to distribute.

3. Complexity

Nigeria is an incredibly complex market. It has diverse languages, religions and cultures. It has sharp regional differences, with a poorer, largely Muslim and relatively unstable North. Consumers here are more conservative and traditional, while those in the south are optimistic and more Western in their outlook. Marketers need to understand drivers of consumer behaviour in the different regions, segment their customers and develop relevant value propositions for each segment.

Brand-Building Tips: What Not to Do

  • Don’t copy-paste your strategy from other African markets
  • Don’t rely on being South African to win over Nigerian consumers
  • Don’t import trends or assume you know what’s cool with the youth

Brand-Building Tips: What to Do

  • Tap into the optimistic national mood with your communications
  • Understand local drivers of status across regions
  • Partner with the informal sector and other brands to develop affinity.
  • Do your homework and build a good network of trusted local suppliers
David Blyth
David Blythe is an experienced marketing and brand strategy practitioner. He joined Yellowwood in 2011 and has subsequently led marketing strategy projects for Liberty Group, Rand Refinery, Sun International and Tsb Sugar. He is currently Yellowwood’s group managing director. Yellowwood is Africa’s leading marketing strategy consultancy, offering insight, strategy, planning and design to clients who are serious about business and brand growth. For more information, contact Yellowwood on +27 (0)11 268 5210 or +27 (0)21 425 0344 or visit