9 August 2014

Tanzania: Ya Mchina - the Power of a Stan

BITERS, Haters and Fakers are not only the three masked fears of every hip hop hopeful, as even brands attract the attention of these three characters.

Great brands attract wide attention; however, within that attention there will always be detractors, for valid and invalid reasons. Imitation is the best form of flattery, and though it can be bad for the original brand, it is one of the most wide spread indicators of a brand's mass appeal.

Let's look at how this form of recognition manifests and how it affects consumers (mainly of limited means) who really love their chosen brands.

First, let's meet 'Stan', also known as the super fan. The term came from a song, released in 2000 by Detroit rapper Eminem, which talks about an obsessive fan of the artist.

That super love came to be known as "staning". For most people engaging with a brand in a simple way, such as buying it (if it's available for sale) or attending a soccer match (if your brand were a football team), is enough... but for most Stans that's only the beginning.

"Staning" for a brand (as in being a huge fan) manifests in many ways. People name their children after their favourite brands, I am sure we have heard of a Samsung Shayo or Azam Omari somewhere. There are people who tattoo their favourite brands on their bodies as well, demonstrating that this brand faith is forever.

Meanwhile others will build a shrine to their favourite brand; just think of your friend whose closet is filled with wall to wall Louis Vuitton. Just don't make the mistake of pointing out that some of the goodies are not even made by Vuitton! In Africa often a Stan can't get their brand for any number of reasons.

This may be due to affordability, as is the case for many luxury brands; or lack of availability like a new Apple iPhone every time it enters the market. Even geographic challenges can prove to be a bit of a bummer, talk to that Simba/Yanga fan in Sumbawanga.

Every time Simba versus Yanga meet for a match it's never where he is. What is a Stan to do... ? Enter the knock off, the (often) cheap imitation; the ya mchina. Premium brands and musicians get this sort of Staning the most as evidenced by the mountains of counterfeit goods destroyed annually by authorities.

Never mind the gigabytes of videos, songs and even photographs we share wirelessly every day without the original owners seen a single shilling. Simba and Yanga soccer fans who can't attend a match live can always tune into their humble Nokia to catch the match. But what is a young woman with a thirst for some Louis V to do?

Kariakoo is often the answer or that fabulous friend whose car boot always has something special for you, especially after a trip abroad. The ya mchina has come to the aid of many a Stan, who just has to wrap him or herself in the dream of luxury before they can afford the real thing.

Though premium brands do not get the revenue from ya mchina sales, they definitely get the love, increasing the brand's following by multitudes. As they say, of cause with a wry smile, imitation is the best form of flattery... The down side?

The love, loyalty and pride generated by the knockoffs, though tax free, is unfortunately not bankable. Luckily it is not the end for brands, these days we have figured out how to turn Facebook likes into something more tangible.

Just last weekend, the internet belonged to Beyonce when she casually released a remix of her song Flawless featuring Nikki Minaj. Yes most people (Stan's included) worked very hard to download a free copy somehow some way.

However in the middle of the "Bee-Storm" some Stans demanded to know when the song would be in the i-Tunes store so they could buy it! In the end we discover that this Stan flattery can be developed into a veritable currency of its own.

Which is what brands love in the end, a legion of Stans (those that buy and those that don't) who will fight for you. Incidentally, Nikki Minaj delayed her new album release, and this couldn't be a more perfect time to let the world have it.

The Stans are hungry. l Share your thoughts with us: #HotwireOnBrands, #BinnsOnBrands, @kabelobinns, www.hotwireprc.com, FB HotwirePRC, info@hotwireprc. com

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