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2021 Transform Global Award: What Arden & Newton/Ardova win means for Nigeria businesses

Globally, what guarantees phenomenal success in a business or large corporation isn’t just the quality of its products or services. Success is assured by building a powerful brand that communicates business value and attracts the right stakeholders.

A quick look at the world’s most successful businesses, Google, Apple, Amazon, Mercedes Benz, Pepsi Co, Walmart, show a visible pattern of what powerful branding does to a business. When these names come up during discussion or argument, what comes to mind? What value do people attach to the name?

Every year, these businesses invest heavily in communicating a process engineered into a company’s business foundation. The process is a brand strategy. It’s one of the foundational pillars of businesses. It simply means identity and, by extension, ownership. So when people mention Amazon and Walmart, they are identified as low-cost brands, while Apple and Mercedes Benz communicate exclusivity or luxury.

While international businesses are more intentional about brand strategy, Nigerian medium-and big-sized companies are adopting branding to communicate business value and capture market share.

Last week, two Nigerian businesses, alongside their agency partner, were celebrated at a global branding event for excellence in creating a distinct business identity through branding. In the 2021 event held at the luxury V hotel in Dubai, the Transform Middle-East and Africa (MEA) Award recognized companies building valuable brands across 30 countries.

Every year, the Transform Awards event is held in London, Dubai, New York, Shanghai, Stockholm, and Sydney.

Transform celebrates businesses with exceptional brand strategy. For the past eight years, the London-based organization is the only global platform that recognizes companies and creative teams exhibiting exemplary work in brand development.

Along with its partner brand strategy agency, two Nigerian brands, Lagos-based Arden and Newton, competed internationally and won three awards. Ardova Plc, an indigenous energy group, operating in the downstream Oil and Gas industry in Nigeria, beat off competition from MAG, a multinational conglomerate based in Dubai, to win gold in the “Best corporate rebrand following a merger or acquisition” category.

The Lagos based energy group also won the bronze category for the “Best Naming Strategy” (Ardova Plc), a name crafted following the acquisition of Femi Otedola’s Forte Oil in 2019.

Nigeria’s first wellness-inspired restaurant, Pitstop Lagos, won the bronze category for the “Best strategic or creative development of a new brand”. In 2020, its agency partner, Arden and Newton, created a differentiation strategy that allows the restaurant to thrive and capture market share in a saturated industry.

Read Also: Ardova Plc to emerge Nigeria’s largest downstream energy firm

Pitstop Lagos, Ardova Plc, alongside their agency partner, Arden and Newton, were the only African country to win gold and two bronze medals at the 2021 edition of the Transform Middle East and Africa (MEA) Awards held in Dubai.

Arden & Newton and Ardova: A brand for a brave new world

All the winning brands at the 2021 Transform Middle East and Africa (MEA) Awards had two things in common.

Firstly, they all collaborated with a brand strategy agency that designed a brand strategy unique to different industries. Secondly, they are all successful brands thriving in their countries.

While success is generally relative in life, it’s a different concept in business. Beyond profits, successful companies build magnetic brands that foster trust and loyalty, stand out among their competitors, boost their value, and attract the right shareholders. The winning brands at the Transform awards embody these metrics for success.

For these businesses, collaborating with a brand development agency is a surefire strategy to sustainable success.

For instance, in the “Best corporate rebrand following a merger or acquisition” category, Ardova partnered with its agency partner, Arden and Newton, to re-create a brand once connected to the Nigerian economy and society’s fabric, the African Petroleum (AP).

As part of its corporate strategy, Ardova walked back from the future to create a brand around sustainability. The world is slowly moving from a fossil-fuel-based economy to clean energy. Ardova, which means “Preserving the earth’s value”, is positioning its brand as a leader in sustainable energy through its product offerings.

Globally, top energy companies like total are rebranding to renewable energy. Recently, Total Oil rebranded to Total Energies in preparation for the future of energy.

Arden & Newton achieved the same for Ardova; its brand is developed to be an early adopter in the use of renewable energy or a brand that preserves the earth through its products.

“When we acquired the firm in 2019, our vision was to create a company that would champion energy sufficiency and lead the transition to cleaner energy in Nigeria.

“Ardova Plc, the business we have now become, is the result of the in-house alignment of purpose and strategy to deliver this new company. This was possible with our collaboration with Arden and Newton, who we found to be the right brand consultancy to build the brand we envisioned,” said Olumide Adeosun, the CEO of Ardova Plc.

In the last decade, Arden & Newton — with a proven track record of working with mid-size and large companies across sectors — has developed expertise in brand consultancy.

Before 2010, Nigerian companies often outsourced brand development projects to international brand strategy consultancy in the United Kingdom, the United States and South Africa. Then, the Nigerian communications industry, filled with Public Relations and Advertising agencies, had no capacity in brand strategy development.

“When we started, we identified an obvious gap in the industry and decided we were going to step up to the task. While this was first a business strategy for us, it was also about honour for the local industry,” said Perez Tigidam, Creative Director of Arden & Newton.

Since 2010, Arden & Newton has filled the brand strategy gap and has owned the niche, producing impressive projects that could easily pass off as works from a foreign brand consultancy. What followed the decision to focus on brand strategy was a portfolio of profitable businesses disrupting their industry.

Arden & Newton and Pitstop Lagos: Building a functional society

It’s August 2020 in downtown Victoria Island, Lagos — post COVID-19 lockdown. A group of investors meet at a luxury restaurant overlooking the Lagos lagoon to discuss business. It’s late evening on a Sunday, and they are talking about the direction to move their new restaurant business, Pitstop Lagos.

It’s been seven months since the high-end restaurant opened and sales have been sluggish due to the pandemic. In Lagos, the pandemic affected the restaurant and hospitality industry. With no profit yet, and to build a sustainable business, they arrive at a final solution: hire a brand strategy agency pronto. The management of Pitstop consulted Arden & Newton.

Globally, the restaurant and hospitality business has turned to brand strategy to capture a slice of an already saturated industry. In New York, Equinox hotels carved a niche to be the world’s first fitness and wellness hotel. In Mumbai, Evo food built a brand as the first plant-based egg restaurant.

Locally, it’s a different story. Businesses and, most importantly, restaurants are guilty of product sameness. There’s nothing distinct about their business offering.

However, it’s different with Pitstop Lagos. When Arden & Newton finished the brand strategy of Pitstop Lagos, the restaurant rebranded to Nigeria’s first wellness restaurant. It’s a fitness-inspired restaurant with a growing community of cyclists, runners and fitness enthusiasts. The restaurant also prioritizes healthy food and inspiring healthy living as a business strategy.

“Though it opened just months before the pandemic hit Nigeria, Pitstop Lagos had a solid foundation as a wellness-oriented food offering. But, to survive Covid-19, the business turned to Arden & Newton for a new lease on life. The result is a brand refresh that is distinctive, differentiated and primed for further development,” a Judge at the Transform MEA award said as he handed Pitstop Lagos a bronze award for “Best strategic or creative development of a new brand.”

Beyond business, Pitstop Lagos, as a strategy, has a cosmic purpose committed to helping humans thrive in wellness and health to fulfil their dreams. There’s a reason for choosing this as a purpose its business is devoted to solving. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 70% (41 million with 32 million from low/middle-income countries) of annual global deaths are caused by physical inactivity, poor eating habits and alcohol abuse — all known as non-communicable diseases. These diseases are commonplace in a city like Lagos, where stress abounds, and that is partly what Pitstop Lagos has dedicated its brand to solving.

The brand strategy here is magical: creating a wellness community around a healthy restaurant brand brings traffic into the restaurant. For instance, every Saturday morning, fitness enthusiasts throng the restaurant for sporting and cycling activities.

Expectedly, the results have been impressive for the Victoria Island-based wellness-inspired restaurant.

“We’ve seen an increase in patronage at the restaurant, most especially in January, a period of slow sales in the restaurant’s business. Our wellness community has also grown into a close-knit place for friendship and fitness, driving more customers into the restaurants, especially on Saturdays where we meet as community members,” said Aminadab Adegoro, CEO Pitstop Lagos.

Business breakthrough via brand auditing

Both Pitstop Lagos and Ardova Plc have one thing in common: Leading brands in their industry. Leadership here means they’ve captured a considerable slice of market share, and they have a magnetic brand attractive to shareholders. For instance, in January, Ardova Plc announced plans to acquire Enyo Retail and Supply Limited, an oil and gas outlet in Nigeria. The move shows how influential the Ardova brand has become and its ambition to dominate the oil and gas sector.

Like Ardova Plc and Pitstop Lagos, other Nigerian brands can invest in brand auditing to relaunch their business for market dominance. A brand audit accesses a business position in its industry, checking its strengths, weaknesses, competitors and value offerings. An audit also evaluates a company’s culture, checking a business internal and external mission.

For companies stuck in a rut, struggling to profit or capture a fraction of market share, a brand audit is a start that would give a business an unfair advantage over the competitors. It sets a company sailing for market dominance. That could be your company.