Where are Kenyan digital agencies voices?

August 8, 2012

The Communications Commission of Kenya plans to switch off all counterfeit mobile phone handsets on September 30, 2012. This time the regulator, which estimates that Kenya currently hosts 3 million fake phones, may finally walk the disconnection talk after several aborted attempts in 2011.The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), says piracy costs legitimate Kenyan manufacturers losses of over KSh 30 billion and the government KSh 6 billion in foregone taxes annually.

The commission’s press release contained this interesting part: ‘‘…in consultation with representatives from the four mobile operators, mobile phone manufacturers and relevant government ministries and agencies, we will continue to execute this mandate…’’ So, where are the advertising on the internet agencies hiding as other stakeholders, particularly the mobile phone service providers, lobby to mitigate the damage the mass disconnections will have on their profit and loss sections of their balance sheets? And it’s not only on this subject that Kenyan digital marketing agencies’ voices are missing in action.

From the planned Konza City to the TV signals’ analogue-to-digital migration to the 2013 elections, no agency of advertising has exhibited the guts to publicly articulate the digital opportunities and threats these events will present. No, it doesn’t require them to diminish their bank accounts by sponsoring the Kenyan team to the 2012 London Olympics. Engagement can be cost effective. Why, for example, can’t one organise a quiz night where guests can test their knowledge about marketing in Africa or advertising on the internet? Then this occasion can be recorded and uploaded on the firm’s website and social media channels such YouTube. How about one agency or a collection of them visit Kenyan universities and persuade students to consider a career in digital marketing? One result of this proactive action will be to delete the myth from their minds that their future is in making apps. How about lobbying the government to channel a certain percentage of its communications budget to digital marketing?

Mobile advertising in Kenya, one cog in the digital marketing wheel, grew 12% quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of 2012. If Kenya’s advertising on the internet companies don’t act swiftly to claim this territory, then Indian and Chinese agencies will swoop in and eat our nyam chom and leave local agencies to fight over the madondo leftovers, just like they have feasted on the juiciest parts of Kenya’s ICT sector.

Posted in: Advertising in Africa,Information and Communications Technology,internet marketing,Mobile phone applications

When will regional brands release digital marketing’s blindfold?

August 1, 2012

Kenya has committed itself to beating the deadline to migrate its TV broadcasting signals from analogue to digital by three years: by the end of 2012, instead of the universally agreed upon deadline of 2015, according to the Communications Commission of Kenya.

According to the CCK, some advantages that Kenyans will enjoy because of switching to digital broadcasting  include: “improved reception quality, a variety of enhanced broadcasting applications, multimedia data and entertainment services…” Even the TV ad urging those Kenyans who own analogue TVs to buy set-top boxes to enable them receive digital signals has earned itself a high recall value according to Spot On.

The CCK deserves praise for realising and rooting for digital’s adoption. But, what about brands, especially FMCG ones in Kenya? (and by extension, in the East African Community?). How come no CEO has announced that advertising on the internet will get a healthy slice of their marketing budgets by say, for lack of a better year, 2030? How come no marketing communications tender bid documents spell out that advertising on the internet will be part of the message platforms and that a potential agency of advertising should possess verifiable success in this area?

No, advertising on the internet doesn’t mean building a website, slapping products on it and a contact email beginning with ‘info@…’  It doesn’t mean opening Facebook and Twitter pages and then converting them to be your brand’s ‘special offers’ matatus. It doesn’t mean opening a YouTube channel and turning it into an archive for your TV ads.

Marketing in Africa nowadays, especially advertising in the internet, is about engagement and none is executing it better regionally and currently than Nokia, with its ‘Don’t break the beat’ campaign.  Nokia would have decided to exclusively use traditional media to publicise this rapping contest, but it probably read CCK’s early July press release that said that Kenya now has 29.2 million mobile phone subscriptions. And probably its agency of advertising advised Nokia to engage with its target audience via mobile phone by requiring aspiring rappers to register on the campaign’s mobisite.

If Nokia, despite the challenges it’s been facing for the past few years now, can roll out a digital campaign in East Africa, what’s stopping regional brands with fewer challenges and more data about their consumers from doing the same? If the CCK, a parastatal, is leading the march to encourage Kenyans to hug digital TV signals by the end of 2012 instead of 2015, why aren’t regional brands reassessing their current analogue message platforms and measuring their effectiveness and returns on investment against advertising on the internet?

Posted in: Advertising in Africa,africa,internet marketing,Mobile phone applications

Why ‘Direxer’ has made life tougher for Internet marketing in Kenya

January 27, 2012


Over the last decade, the Kenyan government has moved some of its services and procedures online, with the Simba cargo declaration system a memorable initiative. Taking previously-manual tasks online brings many benefits to both the government and citizens: speed, measurement, retrievability, convenience, reduced paper waste, etc.

Therefore, it’s frightening to know that our government’s Web security fence is so porous that Direxer, an Indonesian student, recently hacked over 100 government websites! What’s worse is that not only did he boast about his ‘achievement,’ but the Kenya Police website had been hacked in early January, and no urgent steps were taken to stop a recurrence.

The consequences

To most of us with regular Internet access, we shrugged off these invasions with, ‘As long as it wasn’t my personal data, it’s cool” reaction (the Immigration Ministry’s site was one of the hacked sites that might contain your personal details).

Unfortunately, Kenyans, local e-commerce sites and Internet marketers should be afraid, very afraid. First, we have now earned a reputation as a top hackers’ dream destination. This means they will outdo each other for bragging rights in attempts to outdo Direxer. Two potential targets are Kenyans’ Facebook and Twitter accounts because statistics show that there are over 1 million Kenyans on the former and we occupy second position in Africa in using the latter.

Second, potential e-commerce customers will hesitate to transact online because of their legit fears that local sites aren’t secure enough to protect not only their credit card information, but other data such as email and physical addresses and cell phone numbers. This fear will lay to waste the whole purpose of promoting e-commerce in Kenya and drive customers to foreign-owned e-commerce sites where they will feel their data is secure, even though the October 2011 hacking of Sony’s Playstation site proves no site is impregnable.

Third, if local e-commerce sites’ owners have to spend more of their time worrying about security (and its costs) instead of optimising their sites to attract, motivate and keep customers, then Internet marketing in Kenya will mutate into Web security products instead of beneficial actions such as Internet marketing.

Fourth, if Direxer stole sensitive data such as names and cell phone numbers, there is a huge possibility that he will auction them to identity theft merchants who will then use this information to increase the cases of mobile phone fraud schemes such as those that inform you that you have ‘won’ money in a contest, for example.

Direxer’s antics have just made Internet marketing in Kenya a 100 times tougher proposition to sell.

Posted in: internet marketing

From conception to delivery

January 13, 2012

Tandaza Technologies, the mobile applications development subsidiary of Pamoja Media, launched Payuka today at the Android marketplace.

I spoke to Comark Maloba, chief technical officer at Pamoja Media and also the brains behind Payuka, about well, the app! Excerpts.

  • When did you come up with the Payuka idea?

It was around September 2011. Two things contributed to the idea formation. First, a group of Swedish newspaper journalists came to the office to research about how African newspapers publish their content online. East Africa was their last stop after West and South Africa. Second, I observed that people pay for sports content instead of for example, politics, by SMS subscriptions and going online.

  • What made you come up with the idea?

I’m a football fan and I’ve always wanted to interact with the games that are being shown on TV or placed on sites such as BBC and Goal , not just listen to the commentators. Look at it like being in the stadium itself. With those two combined I thought:

“Why not focus on an app that not only enables you to view what the scores are, but also lets you get the mood from similar people.’’

  • Where do you see Payuka being mostly used?

When I first thought about the app, I thought about my immediate sphere of influence: my Facebook friends and the people I follow on Twitter. The strategy then changed to how Payuka could work both in Africa and the rest of the world.

  • How did you test drive Payuka?

We have had 4 test drive sessions this month.  We also test drove Payuka daily before we launched it at the Android marketplace on 13th January.

  • How long did it take you from conception to completion?

The Tandaza development team worked on the app from September 2011 to actualisation in January this year.

  • What challenges did you and Tandaza experience during the app development?

The first challenge was naming. We initially named it ‘kick-off,’ a name already taken. So, we had to rename the app and took into consideration that the name had to be memorable and easy to roll off the tongue. Second, because the developers lacked prior mobile apps development experience, they had to undergo best practice and standardisation lessons so that users can encounter a good user experience.

  • What metrics will you use to measurePayuka’s success?

I usually use Twitter to tweet about football. Most of the 900 people I follow on Twitter are Kenyans and I like to know what they are talking about regarding football. If at least 300-400 of them download Payuka and use it weekly during live games, I will know that they are responding well to the app.

  • What other app idea are you working on, or is it confidential?

There are actually 2 ideas at the moment:  the first concerns social gaming and the second, data collection. Watch this space.

  • When do you plan to avail Payuka to other mobile phone operating systems such as Nokia’s Symbian?

Coming soon.

Posted in: Information and Communications Technology,Mobile phone applications

Your SME deserves new year resolutions

January 4, 2012

We hope you had a blessed festive season.

As usual, when it reaches Jan.1, many people make resolutions such as to quit smoking, eat healthier, save more money, etc.  Whatever your personal 2012 resolutions, don’t forget to also do the same for your business, particularly if it’s a Kenyan-based SME.

One challenge Kenyan SMEs face is how to cost-effectively increase their visibility. The available platforms such as TV, billboards, radio, competitions, etc require big budgets that SMEs obviously lack. That leaves SMEs with the option of going online. Not only is the medium cheaper, any internet marketing efforts you embark on are measurable. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work hard at it. Below are some internet marketing tips that you should apply to your SME this year.

Get a website

A website is no longer a bragging asset only corporates can list on their marketing materials. Thanks to initiatives like Google’s KBO, SMEs can no longer claim unaffordability as THE reason why they don’t practise E-commerce in Kenya.  In last year’s Business Daily top 100 SMEs, 67 of them had built websites.  In the next edition of the rankings, all participating small and medium enterprises in Kenya should have websites. Don’t forget to also create a mobile site (mobisite) to target potential customers because according to a November 2011 report by the Kenya ICT Board, there were over 24 million mobile phone subscribers compared with just approximately 4.5 million internet subscribers.

In addition, your business should have a Facebook page. According to, slightly over 1.1 million Kenyans were Facebook users by June 30, 2011.

Show and tell

Take advantage of free, local classifieds sites to complement your publicity tactics. Capitalfm, Dealfish and Google Trader are popular sites where you can list your SME. If you run a fast food business, go further by signing up to a location-based application and collaborate with it to run offers, encourage loyalty, etc. Nikohapa is an example of a Kenyan, location-based application.

Words, pictures and videos

Now that you have a website and Facebook page, what’s next? Content. Create content that’s related to your business and we don’t mean sales copy. Write regular opinions regarding your industry, make how-to videos and post them on Youtube, take photographs of seminars that you attend and upload them on your Facebook page. Content creation is a great, indirect marketing tactic to complement your product/service descriptions.

To increase your SME website’s chances of appearing highly in search engines, include keywords that relate to your business/industry in the content. This is called search engine optimisation.

Finger on the pulse

The internet is too wide a space for you to constantly monitor your reputation. In addition to the obvious excellent customer service that you should engage in, there are tools to help you spot potential mines. Google alerts and trackur are some of them.

When it comes to measuring your SEO and Adwords efforts, Google Analytics is the most widely used tool, though Facebook also provides you with metrics regarding how people are engaging with your page via Facebook Insights. If you do a paid campaign, then Facebook Ads Reports is the go-to application to measure its performance.

There you have it, a firm foundation upon which to build a strong, internet marketing palace for your SME.

Posted in: Advertising in Africa,internet marketing