Riquesa Africa is a leading experiential and activation company that has helped organisations like Oracle, Hitachi, Danone, Johnson & Johnson, Arla, Unity Bank & Google connect with consumers and significantly improve their bottom-line. In this interview with SEGUN ADAMS; Ayodeji Razaq, co-founder of Riquesa, among other things, talks about the evolving trends in the economy and how his company helps brands stay ahead of the market. Excerpts:
Where did the inspiration for your name “Riquesa” come from and what is your philosophy as a brand?
Riquesa is from the Spanish word Riqueza and it directly translates to wealth. For us, the passion is to create a wealth of experiences for our clients and the consumers they want to reach. As a Brand, our philosophy is ‘People First, Brands Always’. We constantly look to create experiences that help people connect with self (who they are or want to be), their purpose and the Brands we represent. This is who we are.
Why is it not just enough to have a great product or offer an exciting service? What role do firms like yours play in financial outcomes of businesses?
The work we do at Riquesa is designed to not just drive experiences and create magic; we always strive to achieve tangible results.
A great product or an exciting service is fantastic. However, from my experience, consumers are better informed and whatever product you have, however great it is, someone else is building a better or replica version. To stay ahead of the curve, you must appeal to the consumers’ demand core and fit within their decision-making matrix. You must C.A.R.E. You must be Consumer-focused, Authentic in the approach, be Results-focused and create Experiences.
The work we do at Riquesa is to constantly exceed this standard. We believe that as an Experiential and Activations Agency, our work directly impacts the bottom-line of the Brands we represent as we are the Arrowhead of how these brands engage with consumers. The consumers make purchase/consumption decisions based on how the brands make them feel. Our job is to create lasting impressions that influence these decisions positively for our clients.
Riquesa has worked with popular local and international brands. What have been some of your most memorable campaigns?
To be very honest, the entirety of the work we do at Riquesa is exciting and memorable. I mean, we have brought to life a Milk farm to give consumers a complete experience of how milk is processed whilst having fun, created a Man of the Moment campaign for PZ Cussons.
However, if I am to pick I would name-check the work we did with Arla (Makers of Dano milk) to create a new Guinness World Record for Longest Pouring Relay. Achieving that world record and the award was beautiful.
How are themes like big data, AI, and social media impacting your industry and business?
Big data, AI and social media are themes that help us at Riquesa better understand the consumers and how to reach, engage, communicate and convert them. The ability to fuse data gathered from these themes is key to surviving in the current marketing climate.
How do you prepare clients for the future?
We are constantly questioning the status quo. This approach is how we stay ready. The world as we see it is evolving, the audience profile from 5 years ago has changed significantly especially with the advent of Social Media and AI. We now create experiences that infuse these new themes and we can better serve the consumers experiences that are meaningful. For example: in the past, using promoters/hostesses were commonplace during events/activations. Now, we have more AI-driven platforms and Interactive interfaces/screens; so consumers choose what they want to see and hear. That way, it is more personal and less-intrusive. We now have campaigns where the consumer is front and centre in the process and they oversee how they are served the experiences and what it means to them.
There’s a lot of narrative about how consumer wallet in Nigeria has shrunk in the last few years. How is this affecting your business of helping customers create emotional connections with brands?
This is correct. Now consumers are more detailed with how they buy and what they buy. To add to that, there is now more information available, so consumers are making smarter purchase decisions. Brands now must be more intentional about how they communicate and engage these consumers. This is where we come in. We understand the consumers and what they need. By engaging us, Brands are now able to create laser-focused campaigns that ensure that they are reaching the consumers in their comfort zone. So, for us at this time, it’s about digging deep and getting it right always because the margin for errors and generalisations are smaller now.
What is the biggest misconception today about the Nigerian market?
That would be the assumption that what works in Lagos can be replicated across other regions. As a matter of fact, what works in Ikoyi is unlikely to work in Agege. The Nigerian market is so fragmented that national campaigns must be tailor-made for each region to get the needle moving. It is not a one-size-fits-all project.
When you talk about creating customised experiential solutions for brands, is there a one-size-fits-all for their market?
There is no one-size-fits-all model available to brands. It is very possible to have an over-arching theme but, in the execution, there must be intentionality about how you approach the markets. The goal is to understand the consumer and serve them in a way that leaves them excited and complete. In the east, there is a lot of communal engagement; any kind of campaign in this region must cater to that position. Easterners are big on family and communal activities, so if you are planning an activation, it is likely you would find mothers bring their kids to these activities. That’s not a sight that’s common in the west; so, as Riquesa, we take this into consideration and that little bit of care can make all the difference.
In projecting a brand, how much do you allow clients to contribute to the process? How do you ensure output is a fine balance between wants and needs?
We don’t claim to know it all; learning about the brand is how we create a winning plan.
Collaboration is our watchword, understanding our clients’ pressing needs reinforces our juice to create. We are people-centric as we believe that people buy what they believe in and that the brands cannot survive without people. We collaborate and create.
There is the school of thought that event management is not about the D-day but the process leading up to the event and after. What is your take?
The build-up to the event is everything. We plan and plan and re-plan. Perfection is just repetition overload. We are always learning up until the event is done. The evidence of learning is performance. The D-day is just the day to show what we have learnt over the years, to perform.
Is a brand static or evolving? What determines when changes should be effected?
A brand is like a tree. The roots are buried in and solid. The trunk is solid and unmovable, but the leaves are fluid and transient, they change with the times and seasons. The roots are the core values of the brand- you lose that, and the brand may die. The trunk is the cultural processes of the brand, they define it and hold it up in the face of adversity and provide brand believers with a structure and frame to leave it. The leaves are the many facets of the brand personality. It would and must evolve with the seasons. Like every tree, proper cultivation is key to growth. Water the roots from ground-up and it would grow sturdy trunks and live long.
Operating in Nigeria and Ghana gives you a broader perspective and unique insights on both markets. What are the fundamental features of both markets?
The Nigerian market is fragmented and dynamic. The consumers have strong spending power and buying choices are more. Nigeria’s market is driven to satisfy a fast-paced aspirational audience/consumer. In Ghana, it’s a lot different. Ghanaians are not heavy spenders and live in casual contentment. They love luxury but do not actively pursue a luxurious lifestyle. There is a tangible drop in pace when interacting with a Ghanaian as opposed to a Nigerian living in Lagos nonetheless. The buying power of both consumers may be similar, the intent is different. Nigerians are very aspirational in buying decisions, Ghanaians are less so. These for me are some of the key features that distinguish the two markets.
How do you help brands take proactive steps to reduce the impact of fake news?
As a brand, it is imperative that constant communication exists with consumers on brand image and perception. To drive this process, there must be a PR plan that guides the conversation. More so, it’s not only to reduce the impact of fake news but to increase the influence of positive brand equity. Just like in Digital marketing and social media management, brands must have an always-on approach to PR strategy.
The proposed social media bill had its pros and cons. Would it have had a greater net benefit for your industry?
In marketing, communication is the key to drive conversations and shaping perception. The proposed social media bill has a couple of pros but a closer look at the bill would reveal a lot of ambiguity and room for exploitation. This is the major basis for concern. Would it have a greater net benefit on the industry? Short answer, No! In a world where communication is key, gagging free speech would limit how brands would and can communicate and that is not beneficial in any way.
What questions should organisations that value their brands be asking in 2020?
In this era of storytelling and story sharing, everyone is talking and messages – both positive and negative- are transmitted every second of the day. But how do companies shape these narratives advantageously? Speaking the right language to the right audience is critical for any brand looking to grow. It has become imperative that brands now listen to what consumers share now. Communication is now more consumer-centric and brands that want to own the next decade need to understand this.
In your 10 years of creating customised experiential solutions for brands across the FMCG, Technology, Manufacturing & Financial Services industries, what has been the most important lesson for Ayodeji Razaq?
As a marketing professional, you must never stop learning. Each project/brand/campaign is unique, the only constant is innovation. It’s cliché but true. I have learnt to be a constant blank slate for every project and tackle the campaigns like it’s the first of its kind. That’s the only sure way to guarantee growth.
You are involved in branding and creating a seamless customer experience for corporates. On a national level, how important is image projection for Nigeria?
Nigeria is a country blessed with great potential but all that means nothing if the Brand image is wrong. We cannot ignore the fact that the country needs to prioritise its image building. As a country, the government needs to see this as an absolute must and take the steps required. As a matter of fact, employing and detailing the right professionals to drive this conversation is key. We are handicapped on so many levels because we are projected globally in the wrong light. A good name is better than Gold or Silver.
For Riquesa, what is the future?
We are just getting started. The goal is to be the Standard bearer for creating experiences. This is what keeps us up at night and what we wake up to do daily. It’s a long journey and we are giddy with excitement. We have no limits on markets to expand into further in Africa and across Europe. We just want to create new consumer experiences that make a difference. The choices are simple, innovate and create or just die.