Marketing: Where Art Thou?

Oct 30 , 2021
By Christian Tesfaye

Walk into nearly any office, and one of the least treasured departments are accounting, human resources, public relations and even marketing teams. The jobs are considered fillers, the employees disposable and accessories to the core business that do not require integration with strategies. It is also one of the reasons that Ethiopia’s private sector remains woefully uncompetitive.

Last Thursday, Utio Connect held one of its monthly Marketer’s Meet networking events. It was on the topic of “identifying and reaching your target audience,” with guest speakers Karolis Sklenys, senior business development manager at Eskimi DSP, and Azariah Mengiste, CEO at Enzi Footwear.

Eskimi DSP is a company focusing on programmatic advertising, which is at the forefront of digital marketing these days. Programmatic is a marketing strategy of buying ad space using algorithms that use a bulk of data to decide where a business should advertise and how much it should pay for each of them. It bypasses those that run the platform on which the ad is running and allows the marketing team to manipulate the ad space. Basically, it is a better mousetrap for reaching the right consumers.

But the business sector in Ethiopia is far from a point where it is considering optimising marketing strategy, mainly because most do not have a strategy in the first place. The furthest most business go is hiring a sales force or paying for ads on TV or radio.

Part of the problem is that the private sector is underdeveloped. Mom-and-pop stores dominate the economy in urban areas and their customer base is anyone that happens to walk into their shops. Customer acquisition strategy is word of mouth, which is not bad for a business starting out but devastating when it remains the only means of reaching out to potential customers. Considering the amount of work, or lack of it, many companies put into serving their customers, retention rates are also meagre.

Awareness may be behind why small businesses do not work on marketing, but what about the big ones?

Until recently, even massive national companies did not bother with proper marketing strategies. They did not need it since most parts of the economy used to be – and some still are – dominated by a few, mostly public, companies.

Why would Ethio telecom spend a dime on marketing when it is the only player in the game?

It can just build the infrastructure, open access and wait for customers to come to it because they do not have any other door to knock on anyway.

Increasing competition in several parts of the economy has changed the business as usual approach. Companies slowly recognise that to make it in a crowded field, they need a brand, trusted public face, corporate social mission and stories to tell. They need a comprehensive marketing strategy to get to consumers faster and target them more accurately to get a bigger bang for their buck or a better ROI.

We see in real-time the result of all of this. For instance, the Addis Abeba City Administration does not market condominium housing. It just tells people that a new round will begin. Since the target group is mainly adults who cannot afford a house otherwise, it does not need to persuade. On the other side, private real estate companies targeting higher-income groups must market better than the competition. It is why we see a nuclear family on every TV ad and billboard for a real estate company.

Or take the explosion of TV ads with high production values for beer brands in the early 2010s. Greater competition in the brewery market and the transfer of ownership to global brands from domestic ones changed the way we engage with these companies and how they reach us, all the while almost single-handedly bringing to life a marketing industry.

PUBLISHED ON Oct 30,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1122]

Christian Tesfaye ( is a researcher and Fortune's Deputy Editor-in-Chief whose interests run amok in the directions of political thought, markets, society and pop culture.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Put your comments here

N.B: A submit button will appear once you fill out all the required fields.

Editors' Pick


Fortune news