22 June 2018

Zimbabwe: Mazoe - Why We Must Not Kill This Zimbabwean Brand

Mazoe juice has a long-standing history of brand loyalty unseen not only here in Zimbabwe, but the world over.

Its true value is hinged in the desire by its huge loyalty base for long-term connections and mutual trust on both sides of the equation.

But the latest consumer backlash for this Zimbabwean brand now shows that the reasons we believed that loyalty was an important social value are no longer valid.

Consumer resistance to the brand started on Facebook before it went viral in less than a month, costing one of the country's leading brand sales and consumer confidence.

This came after reports that Coca-Cola Company and Schweppes Zimbabwe Limited were reportedly adding artificial sweeteners to the Mazoe concentrated drink, something which critics say can cause cancer and brain cell damage among other health risks associated with this.

The sweeteners, some health experts say, have the same kind of health consequences as sugar that causes diabetes, obesity and tooth decay since they contain aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K or acesulfame K) and sodium cyclamate.

All this is quite scary to a growing and health conscious consumer base in this country.

Competition in the food and beverage sector is quite intense and Schweppes Zimbabwe must take this seriously.

Mazoe is one of Zimbabwe's most enduring brands that need to be protected.

It means Zimbabwe, it means jobs, it means money and above all, it's one brand which we as Zimbabwe have come to be known for.

For several decades, Mazoe was a brand that did what it promised - to keep the nation quenched and with that lasting original flavour.

Zimbabweans have remained largely loyal to the brand despite the heavy presence of South African branded competitors.

Loyal Zimbabwean consumers continue to purchase the Mazoe brand week after week, month after month, year after year - all because of that original flavour which did not have artificial sweeteners.

In the busy, sometimes overwhelming lives of grocery shoppers, the Mazoe brand earned its place in the pantry or refrigerator and Schweppes Zimbabwe was rewarded with consistent purchases.

It's all because the manufacturers had figured out how to differentiate themselves from a whole range of rival brands!

Schweppes Zimbabwe must take note that while many products fail to differentiate at the risk of their own demise, those brands which differentiate themselves from the competition through positioning will continue to win.

They must also remember that consumers are not inclined to be loyal to brands as they once were because the underlying value of loyalty itself is no longer particularly relevant.

Times are changing, competition is becoming fierce and the company must do everything to protect its brand, not by glossy public relations statements, but by moving swiftly to respond to what the market wants.

Zimbabweans and other consumers elsewhere in the region and abroad are still willing to give loyalty to Mazoe.

This must not be taken for granted because some other competitor with tenacity can easily move in to fill in this gap.

For most beverage and food companies, their most important marketing activity is usually brand building.

Yet, so many well-meaning beverage and food executives do exactly the opposite.

They actually kill their brands by not remaining sensitive to the needs of the market.

For most local companies, meetings and market research are not about serving the consumer and adding value to what the consumer wants. Their decisions are often just the opposite.

The push for immediate sales, cost cutting and profits often means that the consumer is neglected or ignored.

Our beverage and food executives often don't see the relationship between the consumer's preference and increased sales and profits.

Destroying a brand to save the company is foolhardy. All efforts of major brands must target to enhance the consumer experience or grow loyalty to the brand.

As a country desperate to enhance our "Proudly Zimbabwean" tag, we should not solve company problems by destroying our brands.

The signs of brand killing are subtle.

The deathblow to a brand is often a slow, gradual one rather than a quick and obvious one. The lethal decisions are often couched in terms of doing the right thing for the company.

Marketing experts say cutting the consumer research budget is easy to do. They say it produces immediate bottom-line results and the negative effects won't be felt for years.

But of all the budgets that have the longest payoff to the company, it must be consumer research, they argue.

They say information learned from consumer research may take years to convert into new benefits or products.

Schweppes Zimbabwe Limited needs to up its game on consumer research to capture the taste buds of an increasingly complex Zimbabwean consumer, who is now sensitive and conscious of his or her own health.

With social media now taking the lead as a major source for consumer information, a brand's reputation on social networks will impact on a customers' impression of it. It is, therefore, essential that the firm also moves to take its business online and create a strong presence.

It must be an active participant on online forums associated with the Mazoe niche.

This latest backlash started online and it is through this stronger online presence that the firm will share its practical advice and contribute intelligently to conversations on these forums to ensure the survival of the Mazoe brand.

The Mazoe brand has had a wonderful link between Schweppes Zimbabwe and its consumers.

We must treasure that relationship. And, we must not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

We must build brands and not destroy them in the name of cost cutting and profits.

Zimbabwe

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