Few weeks to the expiration of MTN Ultimate Wonder promo, where at least a consumer will win an Aeroplane, the debate the strategy generated at inception is still on among stakeholders.
In 2008, Samsung rattled the Smartphone market when it introduced Samsung J700 phone. To appeal to consumers and win their loyalties for the new product, the company had supported it with a campaign called 'Samsung NextHero Cup', through which it intended to empower youths.
And to further push the campaign, the mobile phone company listed a consumer promotion to reward buyers of the Samsung J700 phone. The winning prize was a trip for 10 lucky winners to London to watch Chelsea.
Another contributory factor to the success of the new product was the role play by Didier Drogba; the company's then brand ambassador for Africa and the Middle East, who was well loved by football enthusiasts.
As a result of this strategy, Nigerian youths, who were willing to go to London to watch their favourite club live rushed to market and bought many Samsung J700 phones. Few months later, the company placed a full page advertorial in a national newspaper to announce the name of the 10 winners that would make the London trip.
Among other things, the advertorial urged the winners to come to designation place in Lagos, with their ID cards and international passports. Though the supposed winners complied with the conditions, the process was frustrated by Samsung.
According to THISDAY investigation, the company, on knowing that the development could tarnish its image, assembled the winners and rewarded them each with N50,000 and one Samsung J700 phone.
A source in the company, who craved anonymity, revealed that one of the winners, who rejected the gift, dragged the company before a Lagos High Court. Though they later settled out of court, the family was paid an amount higher than others with a phone.
However, it is not only Samsung that has found itself in murky waters over fraudulent promotions, in the past consumers had complaints about promotions of 7-Up, Glo and Coca Cola. In the case of Coca Cola, a lecturer in the University of Ife had openly challenged the world's number one brand to come out and defend itself.
MTN Wonder Promo and Others
From any angle one chooses to look at it, the desperate for consumers' loyalties is pushing Nigerian mobile telecommunication companies to eat more than they can chew. In an attempt to outdo one another, they are daily shunning out mouth watery promotions which are becoming serious burden for consumers.
In recent time, Etisalat, Airtel, Glo and MTN have introduced one promo or the other. While Etisalat's 'Win a Country' promised to make winners have access to many resources or their money equivalent, MTN, another mobile network giant, came out with a big surprise, through its MTN Ultimate Wonder promo that a winner would win an aircraft.
To participate in the MTN Ultimate Wonder promo, new and existing customers were advised to recharge with a minimum of N200 to qualify for weekly draws.
Meanwhile, recharges of minimum of N3,000 over the duration of the promo, which will end next month will qualify for the grand prize of an Aeroplane. It was however further stated that if the subscriber finds the aircraft cumbersome, he could collect its money equivalent.
As a result of the criticism that trailed the announcement of the promotion, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) quickly directed MTN Nigeria to make further information available to its subscribers on the ambitious campaign.
A statement signed by the Deputy Director, Public Relations Abiodun Obimuyiwa, which was made available to THISDAY, said the directive was handed to MTN at a meeting convened by the agency to address the apprehension and concerns of consumers on the promotion.
According to the statement, CPC said that MTN has left out some information needed to adequately guide consumers on the promotion.
It quoted General Manager, Regulatory Affairs of CPC, Ms. Oyeronke Oyetunde, as saying that MTN left out the market value of the aircraft to be won, the size, the delivery period to an eventual winner or cash equivalence in local currency for a winner, who may prefer a cash reward for the grand prize.
CPC frowned at the fact that consumers, in all the existing communications on the promotion, are not properly directed to the site where the terms and conditions applicable to the promotion are published and the fact that the reference to those terms was in small print.
It directed the communication outfit to reflect and correct all the lapses in its subsequent media interactions and communication, which MTN assured would be done within the next two or three weeks because of the intricacies involved, particularly in the change of its advertisement.
According to the statement, the MTN team at the meeting had explained that the promotion was introduced because "we wanted to do something different and to start something that would excite our consumers."
The team pointed out that the grand prize is a four-seater aircraft, worth $400,000, which is equivalent to N72 million, though it disclosed that an order was yet to be made because of the possibility of its winner preferring a cash award.
When questioned on what will be made available if the possible winner prefers the aircraft, the team disclosed that an order would thereafter be made, delivery of which would take six or eight weeks.
Director General of CPC, Mrs. Ify Umenyi, said the lapses discovered in the promotion underlined her Council's insistence that all sales promotions must be vetted before going public in order to safeguard the interest of consumers.
Like other similar promotions, the MTN Ultimate Wonder promo attracted huge criticism, with many consumers and analysts calling on government and its regulatory agencies to question the process of the promotion. In an interview with THISDAY, a construction engineer, Mr. Ayo Akinyemi, described the promo as nothing but a Greek gift that is being tossed at consumers to rip them off.
According to Akinyemi, "The operators and their perpetrators in government know the truth - they know they are deceiving us. Aside the fact that there is traffic on their networks, as a result of people, who want to win aircraft or millions, consumers are the looser if we consider what these will rake in while the promo continues. Today, we are experiencing bad network because the providers are selling more lines with little or no regard for the upgrading of their equipments,"
Shortly after the MTN promo was launched, an educator with Whitesands School, Lekki Lagos, had lamented in an opinion published by a national newspaper that "the details of the incredible promos from the GSM companies will reveal how these multinationals are playing on the intelligence of vulnerable Nigerians, making billions of Naira, while our government lets them get away with blue murder.
"These are strange times indeed. Now pray, where else in the world can this madness play out except in our country? That these companies can even contemplate these offensive promos says a lot about how low our country has descended. A country where anything goes; a country where businesses can do whatever they like without any fear of sanction. Now we can all see why our country is rated as investors' haven!
"Now we can all see why our country is rated as investors' haven! Let's even examine the economics of the MTN offer. The promo is slated to run for three months. For three months, gullible Nigerians will be in a mad race to win an elusive airplane. The contest is on already.
"Knowing ordinary Nigerians' gullibility and quest for "miracle" and ambition to achieve the good life no matter how crooked, MTN has hit the gold mine with their new promo this time. In a country where the 'new craze' is to own private jets, the company is feeding into the new craze and taking advantage of it. It is indeed a smart thing for MTN to make millions with the promise of an aeroplane," he had complained.
Also, the National Association of Nigerian Students had alleged fraudulent activities in the Etisalat and MTN promotions, and called for on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) to probe them.
But in reaction to the position of the students' body, the Assistant Director, Regulation and Monitoring, NLRC, Mr. Henry Uwadiae, described it as untrue and mischievous, adding that apart from issuing permit for promo activities in the country, the commission was monitoring all promo activities and had demanded for the names of winners from the telecoms operators to ensure that they got their prizes.
Uwadiae said the Etisalat and MTN promos that were currently running were duly regularised and approved by the lottery commission, explaining that the body had been following every aspect of the promos so as to ensure that the operators complied with regulations and present actual prizes to winners without short-changing Nigerians.
MTN had on August 17, in Lagos, launched the Ultimate Wonder, a new customer-based 'recharge and win' promo where customers are expected to win weekly cash prizes while the ultimate winner would go home with a Cessna 182TA aeroplane in a grand prize presentation this month.
Between Promo and Brand Loyalty
Does promotion enhance brand loyalty? This is one question analysts have continued to deliberate upon. While some brand owners see it as a mean to the end, some analysts believe that promo only offer short term advantage.
A Marketing Communication practitioner, Mr. Victor Ikem, recently stated that research had shown that sales promos do not usually drive brand loyalty.
"In fact, consumers are known to have felt negatively towards brands after several futile attempts to win prizes offered in sales promos. They even tend to rebel and demonstrate this by veering over to competition. In a market like ours where the integrity of virtually everything is taken with a pinch of salt; any possible rumour that the sales promo is fraudulent is capable of doing irreparable damage to the brand," he said.
If the position of this expert is to be taken serious, then promoters of promotions in the Nigerian market need to think twice and do their survey very well before rolling out promotions.