Nigerian Breweries, Guinness locked in poaching battle
Rivalry between the two leading, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage makers, Nigerian Breweries Plc and Guinness Nigeria Plc, has heightened as they have shifted competitive edge to recruiting quality personnel needed to market their products and brands.
Prior to the new rush, Austin Ufomba, a former staff of Guinness Nigeria, First City Monument Bank and marketing Director of Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, had rejoined Guinness Nigeria as chief marketing officer. The acquisition of Ufomba signalled Guinness Nigeria’s pursuit of the top ladder spot of dark beer category.
However, Ufomba’s arrival also triggered off some quiet exodus of key marketing personnel one of who is the current marketing manager, Gulder, Legend and Goldberg in Nigeria Breweries, Mr. Emmanuel Agu.
The industry has never before witnessed such acquisitions in recent times from both companies. The arrival of Kufre Ekanem, a long-time corporate affairs manager of Cadbury West Africa/Mondelez International to take the place of retiring Yusuf Ageni as corporate affairs adviser at Nigeria Breweries Plc triggered off multiple announcements of key staffers by arch-rival, Guinness Nigeria.
Apart from Agu and a few others who joined rivalry brand from Guinness Nigeria, the over a decade Corporate Affairs Manager of Cadbury Nigeria, Mr. Kufre Ekanem, was introduced to news men during a Gulder Ultimate Search 10 unveiling in Lagos. Ekanem is replacing Ageni as Nigeria Breweries Plc’s corporate affairs adviser.
Ageni, who has spent over two decades with the brewery giant, has retired from Nigeria Breweries and Ekanem, who left Cadbury having put in over a decade and a half, has taken his place.
While Nigeria Breweries appointment may not have a direct bearing on marketing and sales of its products, one cannot say the same about Guinness’ appointment.
On Tuesday, Guinness Nigeria announced new director level appointments in its organisation as part of its strategy to continue to provide Nigerians with the most iconic and admired consumer products in the Nigerian market. The new appointments include movement within the team as well as new joiners.
The appointments, which were announced by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr. Seni Adetu, confirmed that Afeez Ajibowu is appointed regional sales director, (West and North West), Chizoba Ojielo was appointed regional sales director (East and North East) while Innocent Nwaononiwu was appointed as sales services director. All the appointments take immediate effect.
While the aforementioned appointments from Guinness were deemed promotion, however, the most significant and eye popping recruitments were the announcement of Patrick Awotwi of Glo as the route-to-consumer director and Eyitemi Taire of Airtel as customer marketing director with effect from 15th July 2013.
According to a statement signed by Olayinka Edmond, Communications Manager, Guinness Nigeria Plc and made available to Saturday Independent, Adetu said: “We aim to be the most iconic and admired consumer goods company in Nigeria and we realise that a major enabler for this lies in the opportunity to transform our route-to-consumer as well as expanding the capability and capacity of our sales organisation. These appointments will give depth to our overall operations and will ensure that we are better able to serve every Nigerian across the country.”
Ajibowu resumed at Guinness Nigeria Plc as regional sales director- West and North West, from his former post as head of sales, British American Tobacco Nigeria, and (BATN). He is a seasoned sales and marketing professional with rich track record at conceptualising and deploying, vision and strategies, in multinational consumer goods manufacturing businesses including at British American Tobacco Nigeria and SC Johnson Inc. Ajibowu has worked in Nigeria and Europe at Heineken, Cadbury Schweppes and GloMobile.
Chizoba Ojielo resumes as Regional Sales Director – East and North East. Before his elevation, Ojielo was distributor development director and worked with the company’s entire sales force to expand the company’s distribution footprint across the country. He has also acted as field sales director also in Guinness Nigeria.
Taire, a former Nigerian Breweries key marketing personnel albeit non-alcoholic beverage is a consummate marketer and resumes as customer marketing director. She was, until recently, the head, brands and communications – Nigeria Region, Airtel Nigeria; where she led brand management, trade marketing, media operations, sponsorships and events in the business. Her rich resume include sterling accomplishments in fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs) and banking.
Taire has managed several brands as brand managers and, as product manager of non-alcoholic drinks; marketing msanager, Africa and Middle East and, later head, strategy and planning for Heineken/Nigeria Breweries Plc. Prior to joining Airtel, she worked at British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) as marketing manager, New Products and later as value for money manager. Taire holds a Bachelor in History degree from the University of Warwick and an MBA from Imperial College, United Kingdom.
Awotwi is considered a thoroughbred sale professional. He joins the Guinness team from Glo Mobile as sales director. He has also been sales director, Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited, and was at various times in Guinness Ghana, the distribution manager and divisional Sales manager – Greater Accra.
Beside inter-industry poaching within this category, the industry has also witnessed high level poaching intra-industry. Agu, who is the marketing manager, Gulder, Legend and Goldberg at Nigerian Breweries left senior brand manager position at Guinness early in the year to resume at NB Plc. There are several unmentioned horizontal movements in recent time but investigations showed that Guinness has been the biggest loser in the process.
Prior to this new competitive frontier, these brewery giants have become familiar foes in the areas of new product introduction, packaging, sponsorship and brand acquisition.
In its demonstration to protect and maintain market dominance, Nigerian Breweries, few years ago, bought over Goldberg and Malta Gold produced by Sona Breweries and Life from International Breweries. This move according to industry watchers was taken to protect fringe market being dominated by brands like 33 Lager Beer, Trophy and Champion.
Guinness Nigeria responded by introducing Dubic apart from introduction of brands like Snapp, Gordon Spark, Smiroff Ice and Harp Lime to remain top of mind rather than top of the market.
Guinness Nigeria under the auspice of Diageo has also made a strong presence in spirit category with Jonny Walkers’ brand and Barleys. The brand no doubt has continued to push competitions to the wall with its marketing strategy concerning spirit category.
Commenting on the new development between the two competitors, Charles Igbinidu, Chief Executive Officer of TPT International, said it is rightly said that the most valuable asset of any company is the human capital. Human beings are responsible for generating great strategies and winning ideas. Consequently, he said the better the quality of human beings in the employ of an organisation, the greater the chances of achieving the goals of the organisation. This is even more so in a very competitive environment.
“I believe that the two organisations had looked at their manpower strength and needs before taking the decision,” he said.
Speaking further, Igbinidu stated that in the area of differentiation, the high profile recruitments might help if the right people were actually recruited. In other words, are they people with out of the box ideas, he queried, adding that time will tell and it is not something that one can say yes or no to. The people have to prove themselves.
According to Muyiwa Akintunde, CEO/Lead Consultant, Leap Communications “High profile recruitment is a plus for any brand, whether formidable or struggling. If for no other reason, it helps to fine-tune marketing strategy deriving from the diverse industry insights of the new hands. But it is not all the answer to enhancing brand value in the consumer’s mind. The consumer ultimately makes a choice on account of the values derived from the brand.”
On whether brand differentiation and performance would be affected by these developments, Akintunde said: “For such brands with already set market penetration tradition, we should expect not so significant change in direction irrespective of the new recruitment, at least in the short run.”
Another industry expert who pleaded anonymity predicted that the wind of recruitment necessitated by the competition between these companies would soon blow harder horizontally.
According to investigations, there is mass motivation to key staffers of these two companies to discourage poaching, as baits for crossover to competitions are basically financials and promotion to director levels.