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Utilizing Online-Marketing and Branding; With Some Scenario in Local Communities in West Africa:       

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By: WILLIE BEE TINGBA, JR

DIGITAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST
REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA             

Online Marketing

Liberia as member of the West African community can change its approach of buying, selling, and generally interacting with the world using technology with the presents of mobile operators and other small technology schools and firms. In today’s emerging markets, internet marketing is becoming increasingly popular. It is the practice of marketing, identifying, paying for, and delivering products and services using the internet. Beyond purchasing and selling, many individuals use the Internet as a source of information to compare prices and view the latest products on offer before making a purchase either online or in a traditional store.

Marketing in Liberia through the internet is increasing by the day. Online marketing is still in its beginning stages in Liberia due to the country’s lack of ICT infrastructure. As of right now, there are few kinds of electronic commercial platform in the country. Due to the comparatively low promotional pricing offered by GSM operators for mobile phones, mobile telecommunication has achieved successful penetration in the country recently. Contrary to this, internet penetration in Liberia has been slower, but consumption is increasing, especially in metropolitan areas. Liberia’s Telecommunication Authority (LTA) estimates that mobile phone prevalence is 75%, while internet penetration is at 14.9%. The two active mobile networks like Orange and MTN using GPRS, EDGE, and WiMAX technology do offer internet access, as do other service providers.

Although some fiber optic cable is being laid in Liberia, most internet connections are still done via VSAT, which is both expensive and unreliable. Credit card usage is relatively limited in Liberia due to the country’s poor infrastructure, making online shopping difficult. In the commercial banking sector, only a few banks give their customers Visa electron or debit cards, as well as ATM and POS access. Some commercial establishments, primarily major hotels, and a few supermarkets, accept Visa electron and debit cards for payment of goods and services (through POS). These electronic payment cards can be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but they can’t be used to make internet purchases.

Online marketing involves the advertising and selling of goods and services to potential customers through digital platforms mainly the internet. Online marketing provides limitless opportunities to businesses to compete with popular brands because it enables them to reach out to millions of targeted customers worldwide, irrespective of the geographical location of a business. For example, through online marketing, a small business in Monrovia, Liberia can sell its services or products to targeted customers in New York City, USA.

Admittedly, online marketing may sound quite complex because it is somewhat technical and requires a lot of effort. However, it can be learned and mastered. And there are varied number of avenues that can be exploited namely social media marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing, affiliate marketing, email marketing, and pay-per-click advertising.

What is social media?

Social Media is a platform that lets us participate in social networking. We can share our posts on various social media platforms to improve business visibility. Today it is the best source for news updates, marketing, education, and entertainment. The importance of social media is undebatable. It is a powerful channel of marketing—a game-changer for any business. It provides us the flexibility to communicate at both personal as well as business levels.

social media marketing is a new trend and rapidly growing way in which businesses are reaching out to targeted customers easily. Social media marketing can be simply defined as the use of social media channels to promote a company and its products. This kind of marketing can be thought of as a subset of online marketing activities that complete traditional Web-based promotion strategies, such as e-mail newsletters and online advertising campaigns.

                                       E-Mail Newsletters
Email newsletters are an email communication you sent out to inform your audience of your latest product, news, tips, or updates about your business product, company, or institution. The idea of an email newsletter is to keep subscribers or client connected, engaged, and informed about what’s new with the organization or business.

 Newsletter marketing is the practice by which businesses send informational and product-focused content via an emailed letter to a client list that comprises potential and existing customers. Most American, European, Asian, and other developed western countries online businesses utilize newsletters to keep their brand top-of-mind for consumers, establishing authority in the space and notifying readers of products that may interest them.

Online Advertising Campaigns

Online Advertising (ad) campaigns are online strategies with the pacific goal of promoting a business’ product or service by increasing engagement, traffic, and conversions. An ad campaign is a set of advertisements that revolve around a single message and are intended to achieve a particular goal. For example, a local business in Liberia might create an ad campaign to meet one of the following business objectives:

To create brand awareness for a new product

To drive sales of a product or service

To generate leads by asking people to sign up for an email list or another free offer

Branding

Branding is the process of promoting the qualities of a product or service to targeted customers through coordinated design and advertising efforts. The purpose of branding is to highlight the uniqueness of a brand’s name, symbol, design, or quality. Indeed, the importance of branding cannot be overemphasized. A company’s brand identity is the experience or perception of customers about a company. Therefore, business owners need to pay a lot of attention to branding, such that it can become a source of competitive advantage.

It helps greatly if a business can distinguish its products or services from those of competitors and emphasize on the value it promises to offer customers. Evidently, businesses in Liberia and Africa can improve upon their fortunes if they embrace the idea of branding.  For example, with all the natural resources in Liberia and Africa as a whole, Liberians and the rest of Africans generate a fraction of its income. Liberia and entire Africa serve as primary producers of raw material for industries in advanced countries. These raw materials are mined, cultivated, and harvested from Africa soil, bought at low price with little or no taxes, and transported overseas for processing to the western industries.

A product which was obtained from Africa mostly in Liberia for $1 can be processed and sold by western industries for the cost of $100 to the Africans/Liberians who sits and waits for readymade products. Industries and Production managements in Africa lack funding and national interest this deviate the interest of local business entrepreneurs from producing products they prefer selling readymade products which are easy to trade.

SOME SCENARIO IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES IN WEST AFRICA

My friend Diamond Mohammed Newton who left Liberia for Ghana for a vacation then 2021 bought me a customized hand bead with my initials on it for my birth Anniversary from Ghana at a cost of $25. This hand bead was placed in a nice small case decorated with ribbons at the top. It looked expensive and classy enough for the cost she purchased it. This same bead with the same quality is made in our country Liberia and costs about $5. You might be amazed and want to ask why the inflation on the cost among these countries for the same quality of beads. The producers and marketers of the hand beads here in Liberia lack branding and marketing skills. These beads are sold on trays in Liberia here without any casing or decorations to attract customers.

Yes, it is true that the beads will not be worn with the casing and ribbons, but these two elements improve the appeal of the customer in such a way I normally say it is a classy way of selling products for a good price.

A local juice in Liberia cost about $25 on a local market by local traders in plastic cups and bags. These same juices are sold in recyclable bottles for $150 by factorizing in the country and cost between USD $5 to $10 per glass in restaurants owned by immigrants. Some of these local traders prepare these juices with more quality than these restaurants by lack of branding. By selling these juices on plastic bags and cups remove the customer’s attention from the quality of the product to its container.

There are designers in Liberia who make less than $200 a month, even though they are talented and disciplined. The reason has been they fail to market their designs. The public is mostly unaware of their services and products. The most famous designers in the world market their products daily. They understand that the awareness of the public to their designs will aid them to sell and create new designs. That is why online marketing has been the easiest way to shop from one state to the next. Through the internet online shops like, Amazon, Pinterest, and eBay have been well established to market products. This has also improved jobs for marketers who have expanded their careers to online marketing.

BRANDING STRATEGIES

Branding strategies are some of the most critical aspects of business strategies and it provides a sustainable competitive advantage. Branding strategies would allow you to differentiate your business products and services from those of your competitors’. Today’s digital economy has made it easier for small businesses to gain access to branding experts and leverage branding in a meaningful way.

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with branding strategies you could implement for the growth and development of your business. Here are four common brand growth strategies for businesses looking to extend their services or product offerings. The four brand strategies are line extension, brand extension, new brand strategy, and flanker/fight brand strategy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Willie Bee Tingba, Jr. holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Information Technology Infrastructure Management Services at the United Methodist University (UMU). He is a candidate for Master of Science degree in Information Systems Engineering at Uluslararası Kıbrıs Üniversitesi. He is a Digital Rights Activist, Former Lecturer at the BlueCrest University Liberia, Founder, and President Emeritus at the Liberia Information Technology Students Union (LITSU). He can be contacted on the following numbers and email addresses +231777538605. Email: williebee0880321976@gmail.com / williebee19@yahoo.com

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