I miss the £1 shop. You can go in with a tenner and come out with all kinds of household items, chocolate, sweets, even scented candles and tupperware. I also miss Tesco. Buy one get one free offers, everything you need under one roof and at a price that is easy on the pocket. Here, we have the maxmart, shoprite and Game. They have everything yes, but you will spend no less than 100ghs for the same amount of items. Yet they are popular here with the Ghanaians. In fact if they got these items at the same price you would find them at Tesco’s or Sainsburys, the average Ghanaian will feel that it is not quality.
It’s all about prestige. Ghanaians love a brand and the more expensive the product, the more prestigious it is. This is the reason why MTN is the number one brand in Ghana. It has built the brand as a product of wealth. Even now, where there is a healthy amount of competition, they still maintain the larger percentage of the market. Not by dropping their prices by any significant amount but by convincing the consumer that somehow the have a superior brand of network. Recently I was sent a text message that I, as a VIP customer (by virtue of being a post-paid customer), have now got my own personal relationship manager. There is no reduction in my monthly tariff, no reduction in my blackberry subscription, no free minutes on weekends or any other type of rebate but I am part of the elite as I have a relationship manager. My cousin who is a prestige customer (by virtue of the fact that he is a post-paid customer and pays an extortionate amount of money every month on his bill) was given his relationship manager about 3 months before mine was allocated, you would have thought he had won the lottery. So now, we have the ability to number port, will he move networks, who give out free minutes and offer a cheaper tariff. No. Why, because he feels that he is getting a better quality from his current network.
Another example is KFC. In the west, it is a place where you would grab a quick bite when you have been out in town the whole day. Here, people get dressed up purposely to go out for the evening and have their dinner. Why, because it is a well known brand. The quality does not compare to the UK version in my opinion, but it is ok. However it carries a name, and people want to be seen. So if a bucket of chicken costs 50ghs, people will pay.
In my local Argos. Binatone products were the cheapest brand you could find. In Game it is sold at 3 or 4 times the price, people buy it, because it is found in Game, and anything sold in Game is prestigious and elite so they rarely mark these products down, if they were to do that, it would devalue the brand, and people would stop buying.
If you go to a person’s house and their TV is not made by Samsung or LG then the person is immediately exposed as not having much money. I remember my TV was a Telefunken model. I was the butt of everybody’s joke whenever anyone came to my house. My cousin called me stingy for not paying the extra 150ghs for the Samsung brand, but that’s what I could afford and well it showed the same picture quality that the Samsung would have showed. When it got stolen I’m sure that he was secretly pleased as I had pretty much disgraced the family name by bringing an unknown inferior brand.
My final example is to do with cars. Now I don’t know much about them, but I do know that my little Kia is now 3 years old and apart from a warn out battery last year and a few tyre issues it has done me proud. It has not failed me so far (touch wood) and for a little car on these here roads it has proven itself to be quite durable. I think I mentioned earlier about the deals we were trying to get with companys for our staff as part of the change journey ride we are on. I managed to negotiate a good discount with Rover and African Motors. We had a meeting with the staff where I cascaded this information. They were not interested because they wanted a Toyota deal. Toyota on the other hand were not interested in doing any type of discount for our staff because well the majority of the population will buy their cars at whatever price mark they tag them. And it’s true, a person would rather buy a second hand Toyota from abroad, and pay the duty which would be the equivalent of the total cost of my car then buy a brand new Chevrolet.
The mentality here is, reduce the cost, devalue the brand, and it works. That’s why you will rarely see marked down prices on popular items in Game, Shoprite or Toyota. A place like Rhapsodys will ask you to reserve a table on Christmas day at a cost of $1,000 and KFC will offer you a bucket of chicken for 50ghs. Because this is the cost of the brand and those that can pay are part of the elite. The fact that one can pay shows how prominent one has become.
I remember a lady in my office was selling a £5 Primark shirt for 50ghs and her sales pitch was that it was from the UK. It sold like hot cakes because of the brand attachment to the UK. I remember her coming up to me, I just laughed as it seems that I must have now fully integrated into Ghanaian society that this chick had forgotten that I had lived there all my life and that I knew how much it costs because that’s where I did most of my shopping.
If 20 Ghanaians why they like the more expensive brand, they would tell you it is because it is better quality. But really, how much better quality are you getting. Is it really the quality or the feeling that you are part of the elite because you can afford to buy it.
I implore anyone who hasn’t been to the West coast to come and see. People think that Africa is a poor nation. There are poor people yes, but in my life I never had a 55″ TV. This morning I am sitting in my cousins house watching Three and a half men on a 55″ LG TV. That about says it all…