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I am a slacker blogger. .. sorry to my five or six followers. new posts coming soon, creative juice is flowing. Blogs will be about the business and adventures of marketing in East Africa, from an expat POV. [expat = a person who left his/her country to live and work in another.]

First, a bit about my adventures and lessons the last year. A big one was working for a global ad agency that was nothing like the name they claim. August 2010 i move to Nairobi — job offer to help launch a top India telecom coming to sixteen countries in Africa. My house in Denver was rented, car sold, and a couple of crates of my belongings were on a ship across several oceans to Kenya.

Imagine in USA, the same person is a majority owner in every widget factory. They can fix the price, market under different brands, advertis. , PR, media, digital and research agency. It’s called a monopoly. No room for healthy competition, not to mention that one entity can control any message, media and rates for advertising. That’s Kenya.

Day one. “Who are you? Why are you here?” I was asked by a leader of this new agency. I’m told “there’s no such job” that i signed a contract and moved to the other side of the world for. “We may be able to use you as a project manager” (1/3 the original salary.) Months later i was offered a slightly better position; the clients liked me. I’d made friends and had passed some “test.” They had some of the strangest business and employee practices i have ever experienced. i realized my real job was about learning how different people from other cultures operate. The best way to get through was get my ego out of the way and just try to do my best and shut up. What I know about how to practice good and sometimes great marketing and teamwork wasn’t welcomed. But, there is no right or wrong, just different ways of doing business. If you don’t like it, then leave.

Next chapter. ckarma’s back; incorporated in Nairobi. I’m partnering with wonderful, like-minded people — ahhhh. Still passionate about Kenya and the power of marketing to create positive change.

Marketing/ branding in East Africa is a bit like the amazingly addictive show Mad Men, on steriods. When advertising big brands began in the 1960’s three TV stations, radio and print were it. Today, add in 1000 cable stations, digital, online, mobile, events, activations and innovative media to the mix.

Good to great marketing in East Africa. What are you talking about? Strategy, target audience insights, knock your socks off creative? Do clients care about good, or maybe effective marketing? Is there incentive to require agencies to demonstrate insightful, strategic and sound creative?

I’m ashamed of most of the work i see in this market. It’s full of ridiculous promises like using soap will secure your social life, or that the flour your food is cooked with makes you a better person. Right. The morning DJs go from peddling phones to furniture, food, and back to telecoms in every half hour. Is that really working, or is it that there’s only one game in town, so brands have no where to turn. Stay tuned.

Cindy Kerr

Author Cindy Kerr

Cindy is a senior marketing & communications specialist. She spent eight years in Africa leading marketing for social enterprises SunnyMoney & SolarAid, KickStart International, Nova Academies and Bridge International Academies. After a career in advertising, she started ckarma marketing to deliver unique web and print communications that drive results for companies and causes making a positive difference. She leads branding, websites and customer engagement.

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