Mr. Martin Mabutho is the General Manager, Sales and Marketing, MultiChoice Nigeria. In this interview with Brand Communicator, he talks about achievements of MultiChoice in Nigeria, the pay TV industry and the marketing landscape in general.
Assessment of the Brand and Marketing landscape
The Nigerian market is very vibrant and highly competitive across all sectors, whether it’s in FMCG or a services sector like ours, it is super charged. The pressure on us as marketing practitioners is always on and most of it is from consumers who are in my view are the most discerning and uncompromising I have seen in my many years of working across the continent. They know where their support lies when it comes to CPC’s point of view or a media point of view and that’s a good thing.
The pay-tv space has become more competitive and contrary to popular belief that MultiChoice is a monopoly, I can assure you that we are not. It is an exaggerated viewpoint. People insist on calling us a monopoly and I think it’s an inaccurate assessment. If you look at the true definition of a monopoly, you will see that we are not. We are a dominant player, and our dominance comes partly from the fact that we have been here for a long time.
How did we get here? So, the experience, the leadership and generally, the expertise has made us the dominant player in the industry. Over the years we have seen many players come into this space and that’s a welcome development. I believe this is obviously to the benefit of the consumers because as a consumer, if you do not have something to compare against, then you are at a disadvantage. As a market leader too, I believe that we need competition that will enable people to compare and see how good we are. Even though consumers know us as the best player in the market, we need to give them real facts and figures to back up those claims, that constant reassurance, reinvention and proof of living to the brand promise is more critical now more than ever.
We need to convince the potential customer why we think our brand is the best otherwise he is not parting with his money. I think we have an amazing team who are marketers from different fields and we try to get them to understand what the Pay TV market is like.
They understand the need to substantiate and back up their claims. So, in spite of the competition, those that have chosen to stay with DStv have stayed because they have been able to compare and appreciate the value they are getting. We are seeing more customers who actually buy because they would have searched and researched, interrogated and compared the products or services and eventually chose us over the rest.
I have had the opportunity of visiting many of the ad agencies in the process of looking for one to work with and as expected, some are very strong on strategy but may be less gifted on creative thinking and so forth. That’s the exciting part of having your account out for pitch – you see a wide range of ideologies meet amazing creative directors etc and at the end you have the most challenging opportunity to pick the best fit. Currently, we have three agencies working with us. We have X3M Ideas, Noah’s Ark and 141 Worldwide. Now, in these three partners, we saw a clear understanding of not only our product but how our product itself needs to be woven into the lifestyle of the people we are targeting.
Something I picked up also was that we also have a good number of agencies who genuinely have a keen interest on what is happening outside Nigeria. I like that because it is important that you know what is happening in all areas even when it is not your field – follow trends and innovation and in so doing widen your scope. So, compared with other markets where we operate, our partners are doing an amazing job. Sometimes, three out of five of the works that we do here end up being used in Kenya, Ghana and Zambia because our counterparts asked for permission to use the materials, which is amazing. These guys have never been to those markets but there is an understanding of the service we provide – core understanding of the Pay TV service, and our product and how we want them to impact people’s lives that speak to my other colleagues in different countries.
So, their works speak to other markets and we are very happy. I think the creative level in Nigeria is on steroids. It is big and the most important thing is to note the age of people working in those agencies. I have worked with South African advertising agencies where team members are kind of young, but here in Nigeria, they are even younger and most of the agencies like X3M Ideas are not even affiliated. It is admirable.
Assessment of MultiChoice in Terms Of Marketing and Sales
As the team lead, it has been very rewarding and challenging. I am happy we have moved the business to greater heights. The first thing that one had to do was beef up the team with newer fresh thinking individuals. I recruited a new set of marketers and retained less than 10% of the original cast. It was important to do so because the business had been around for over 20 years and my mandate to implement a new way of handling the brand and ensure it took its rightful place in society. Every brand goes through such a process to maintain standard and remain relevant. The brand is definitely more visible, more active and by my own admission we know its always work-in-progress so we a set of short, medium and long term milestones to reach.
We didn’t change that much with sales. Maybe, we just expanded the structures and we innovated in two areas. We introduced the concept of the GOtv product and we came up with an additional layer of our sales and distribution network. We kicked off our canvassers’ scheme and took off with our ‘sabi men’ who do after-sales service to the guys who the canvassers have sold to. We sold GOtv on the streets, which was in a way a very unconventional way of selling such hardware. It was a paradigm shift because one would expect that electronics are sold in shops. I don’t want to take the glory for it alone because the head of strategy, my colleagues in sales and then the guidance of our Managing Director who was brave enough to allow the “experiment” made it possible when we said this is what we would like to do.
Other Innovation of Multichoice In the Outgoing Year
The most important one was adopting a more customer-centric approach to our business. We have a customer first policy in our business. So, we introduced measures that make it easier for our customers to get in touch with us. We have brought on board a lot more vendors for payment of subscription. We have made it possible for customers to clear their accounts and clear error messages remotely via their phone. We have launched a killer app called DSTV Now, which enables the customer to watch DSTV on his phone or tablet anywhere with great 3g coverage. We have increased the capacity of the Explora decoder in terms of the catalogue. We have brought Box Office from premium package to access. We have brought some of our key content that was previously just sitting at the top right down. Compact is like our new very favoured well-performing bouquet which with N6000 you will get over 90 channels including two sports channels that will show you EPL and La Liga games, and that is a big thing for us. We got it right with this one – our subscribers are over the moon.
For GOtv, we launched ‘Small Pepper’ – who could have thought that customers can get a bouquet on Pay TV at one dollar a month. We have signed up a record number of local stations. Our content guys are extra busy and our entry level now is HD. Those are the ones that can readily come to mind now, but key is our customer service. It is an ongoing concern. The team is busy working with consumer watchdogs to ensure that they see what we are doing and that they also appreciate that while some of the complaints that they get are genuine, some will be a misunderstanding from a customer’s standpoint and to address that the education (consumer education ) continues.
We just announced Big Brother Nigeria and I am excited about that because I worked on the first one and 10 years later I find myself again leading the marketing end of the show. I know that from the 22nd of January until the end of the show in March, it is going to take over the airwaves. Conversation is going to change, and maybe that is what the market needs – something to lighten the mood a little. Everybody is complaining. We need to relax a bit and open our minds. Another innovation that we did is our ‘pop up’ channels for premium customers such as all those wonderful T.D Jakes movies, we have a dedicated James bond pop up channel coming up, never seen on television before special movies, the kiddies programmes for the holiday and much more. So, from the content angle, we are loaded. We have never been this rich in content before and we are in a good place. We are getting good feedback from our customers and that feels good.
Introduction of New Bouquet on DStv Platform
Consumer feedback is the first thing, and our research just showed that people want this service, but people also are struggling because of the recession in the country. We don’t operate in a vacuum, so if you come and you stay there without reaching out to the people you are on your own. It is important, as a company, to put our customers first and we have to demonstrate it by bringing down the money. Everybody wants to watch EPL. Everybody wants to watch all the new- making shows, rent movies and that is why we restructured the packages both for GOtv and DStv, so that our customers could get what they want at the price they can afford.
I don’t think conversations will be sweet in any house if at the centre of it, there is no GOtv or DStv. We have scheduled for this season with the full understanding that the kids must be taken care of, the teens must be taken care of, the mothers and the aunties visiting for yuletide must also be catered for. We know that the circle of interest for daddy or the uncle must also be catered for. We know that the grandparents must be catered for and if you go to see our DStv or GOtv programming now, you will see that that is what we have done and that is why we have pop up channels to fill the gaps we have not fully catered for. To top it all, we now have six cultural festivals that hold in Nigeria on our events channels too. We are going to have Calabar, Akwa-Ibom, Lagos, The Experience, King Sunny Ade’s 70th birthday and all. We have managed to get the best of the content for our people and we are not going to charge extra for it and at the top of it all, we are bringing back Big Brother Nigeria.
Significance of Nigerian Market In MultiChoice Operation across Africa
It is very significant. Judging by the number of TV households and the potential of the market, Nigeria remains very critical for us.
Unfair Treatment About Pricing
When we receive customers’ complaints, we ensure we attend to each and everyone of them. Granted some take longer than normal to tackle. We come across some on social media and we handle them within 24 hours and get families viewing their channels again. Some come back to say thank you for the job well done and that’s always encouraging. There may be some issues where the person did not go to social media and did not call but just lodged complaints through CPC, or media or print. We follow them up and see them through. When the issue with CPC happened, it was actually in a way a good thing in that we buckled up and exerted ourselves even more to resolve the issues. I am proud to say we sorted out most complaints well within the stipulated time frame and some of them are work-in-progress. I think what this has done is to help us be more customer focused. We just got the most amazing reassurance from the SERAS. They gave us Most Improved Customer Service Company Award and it wasn’t even a category but the judges panel made this special pronouncement. It was a bit embarrassing because we were not there to pick up the award on the night. We went to them and they said: ‘we can see that you guys are doing a great job’. I don’t know if it is possible not to have customers who complain, but I know we have improved a lot.
Expectation from MultiChoice on Value For Money
The saying that ‘content is king’ is going to drive our relationship with our customers. Not only do our customers deserve better service, I believe they want it now. We have refreshed the brand to make it more visible and that is why we are more of a customer-oriented organisation now. Customers first is what we preach internally. We need to let customers get what they are paying for. The customer must know what he is buying. Once he takes the decision to buy, he must have a full understanding of what he paid for and nothing less. We have already started and I can see the momentum already. You will see us taking a lead and being more responsive.
We just need to talk more about our corporate social responsibility. We revived the boxing game in Nigeria. We brought in GOtv boxing. Every time we have GOtv boxing night, people fill out the indoor sport arena at the National Stadium in Surulere. The biggest one is coming up on December 26 and we are going to have boxers from Ghana and Uganda. It is huge and enjoyed across 47 countries because we beam it live on Supersport. We do a programme called ‘GOtv Next Gen’ for younger boxers. We do some football clinics in some part of the country, and we do African Magic Viewers Choice Awards, now in its 5th year in March, to celebrate talent.
We hold CNN Journalist Awards with CNN across the continent to appreciate the efforts of our journalists. We also have work that we do with the Sickle Cell Foundation of Nigeria. We give our platforms at no charge to them to create awareness on sickle cell and help to stop the stigma around it. We have the ‘take a girl child to work’ initiative involving the girl child in an effort to play our part in the effort to break the stereotype of favouring the boy child over the girl child. In the area of Science we have the Eutelsat Star Awards where kids are encouraged to learn and write about satellites – the reward over an above getting the knowledge is that they get to win amazing prizes for themselves and their schools and if they are really good they could even get a chance to go abroad and watch a satellite launch etc.
We have our MultiChoice resource centres close to 400 labs that we have donated to different schools. Also, from the enterprise development angle, we have in excess of 2,000 young formerly unemployed youths selling decoders and now earning a living. We have the ‘sabi men’ also in excess of 2,000, MultiChoice dealers from mega dealers, to super dealers to branded stores, all amounting to over 10,000 people that benefit from associating with our business through the selling of our goods and services. It is worth telling but we don’t just go around gloating or beating our chest to make noise about ourselves, but we are going to start talking about all of this investment now.