By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
THE moment you step into the reception area of B3 Communications on Ajao Road, off Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja, you are sure to be hit by the seriousness of the staff, as it wafts soulfully from the dozens of laptop in use. This, surely, is a tradition of many marketing communications firms.
There was a time when all about marketing communications were advertising and public relations. The executives of the agencies offering those services were suits-clad CEOs, whose works were done mainly in the office, with fun. Time has changed, now.
Though executives are still suits-cladded, strategies have moved from the pannelled room or ornate gate offices to the laptop, anywhere. There is a new thinking, and brand conscious executives' angle to get new ways of marketing a product, without being hemmed by the old ideas.
Marketing communications have become important issues in today's relationship between the producer and the consumer, and many companies performing such functions are leveraging customers and partners for opportunities to establish market leadership.
B3 Group is one such firm that has offered services that are not conventional advertising, which have enabled it to build solid relationships with the consumers and establish its clients as the leading providers of their services.
For the firm that is led by Joe Anatune, it is "more strategy, less stress."
Anatune, who left Dawn Function where he was the company's executive director and chief operating officer, says, B3 the company he founded in 2003, is showing enough seriousness in the industry so as to be highly regarded.
A fact, which suggests the empowering of staff to function well and equally, build the desired brand. He says, with a smile, "we are capitalising on the low cost infrastructure and overhead associated with maintaining big offices. We use talents who are interested in boding together to find fulfilment. The results are what we spend our time and energy on, not on office details. Our clients can attest to benefits of our model and with our team using high-speed secure Internet access it's just like we are right next door! Consequently, our teams are motivated, responsive and we can offer more competitive rates than traditional firms."
The B3 boss says, "the whole gamut about marketing communications solutions is 'customer interrogation'. Being able to design products, provide services and logos for your client's use."
He notes that his company has worked with a lot of clients to leverage integrated marketing and public relations campaigns so as to paint a clearer vision and focus in the market.
Anatune muses, "the era of marketing communications has slid in." And driven by activism in the boardrooms and threats of pulling out accounts by CEOs, agencies have become more consciously provocative with brands.
Brands were originally developed as labels of ownership: name, term, design, symbol. However, today it is what they do for people that matters much more, how they reflect and engage them, how they define their aspiration and enable them to do more.
He re-echoes the opinion that a great brand is one a consumer wants to live his or her life by, one they trust and hang on to while everything around them is changing. "One that articulates the type of person you are or want to be, one that enables you to do what you couldn't otherwise achieve."
When brand recognition builds up to a point where a brand enjoys a critical mass of positive sentiment in the marketplace, it is said to have achieved brand franchise. One goal in brand recognition is the identification of a brand without the name of the company present.
To him, three things are essential, especially in the process of brand building: "Nobody is inventing the wheel, no two individuals can be the same and above all, there is need to exploit whatever talent God has given you to get the best result."
He smiles and exhales; "B3 Communications was chosen to reflect our field, which is brand building. Our thinking was that we should break away from the conventional way of running advertising. We are brand builders. The basic thinking at the point was, let us help clients not just in advertising, but also, the totality of their marketing efforts. Based on that, we choose the name - Bold Brand Builders. So, the B3 stands for Bold Brand Builder. We have been in business for four years."
Atanune says products are no longer sold in the factories or shops, but the ability to win the consumer's mind. "With marketing communications solutions; MCS, B3 has successfully positioned our clients."
When B3 Communications began four years ago, the marketing communications segment was just beginning to gain attention from industry influencers. It was being talked about as an extension of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) market, however, with the involvement of major players, the total idea has changed considerably.
What of conventional advertising? He answers affirmatively; "there is nothing wrong with it. Everything is all about how best you can be ahead of your competitors: how do you outwit your competitors."
He continues, "conventional advertising means that a client comes to you, you either produce a jingle for him, or produce a commercial advert or do a newspaper layout and produce newspaper advert. Advertising business is like that of a doctor. If a patient comes to him, the obvious thing that might be worrying that patient, may be, somebody might be telling him that he has headache but it may be a symptom.
So, what we are doing is, when a client comes to us, we subject his brief into serious research and in the course of the research, you will find out that it is not just advertising, rather, the problem might be distribution, your problem might be packaging. It will be wrong for us to say because we want to make money, go ahead and advertise, get our commission and all that, we want to be professional about it. Based on our background, we will tell you, look, this is where your problem lies. Perhaps, you have to address the problem before the advertising you want us to do for you will work. We have taken the issue a little bit deeper, not just the advertising. In the marketing climate, we are looking at the marketing process. I don't know, perhaps you may call it marketing clinic if you prefer that term."
Anatune believes that 2008 will be better. His optimism is buoyed by the fact that the real sector will be able to attract more funding this year, and this impact tremendously on the business. "If there are more products, there will be need for the services of marketing communications solutions company."
But do we have enough of them in Nigeria to handle the suspected upsurge? He answers, "we do not have. That's why we have companies handling conflicting accounts."
Anatune had his primary education in Awaka and secondary school in Emekuku, Owerri, Imo State. He attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to study marketing and graduated in 1985. Since then, he has been in general marketing and advertising management. He started his working life with a company called Nipol - a plastic manufacturing company based in Ibadan. From there, he worked briefly with May Manufacturing Company Limited. He later joined Dawn Function, where he rose to become Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Lagos office. He left the company and with some friends, founded B3 Communications Limited.