Monday, 9 February 2009

Are consumers in Malawi just more brand-savvy?

Malawi's Daily Times carried an interview last week with Fredrick Changaya, Marketing Manager with Candlex Limited, described by interviewer Caroline Kandiero as "one of the local companies boosting Malawi’s economy". Mr Changaya emphasises the brand-driven nature of his company's success in business:
"Q. Candlex is one local company that has been in existence for some time, how can you assess the competition on the market?

In our industries, there is stiff competition. Many companies provide similar products to Ufresh, Butex, Moonlight candles, Bodycare Glycerin etc.

We thrive against competition by providing products, which offer better value propositions than many rival brands. We thrive in leading letting others follow.

Being a truly Malawian company, we believe that people of this country deserve good quality products; we do not think like many, that good quality is for export--the so called export quality syndrome. Home is best and home deserves better products such as Ufresh, Ufresh powder, Butex, Moonlight candles etc!"
This little exchange on IP infringement is quite revealing:
"Q. Production companies have complained of counterfeits, how is your company coping?

Differentiation by raising the quality bar such that those who want a genuine Candlex product will definitely notice one and those that deliberately go for counterfeits will also do so.

Working with other stakeholders such as industry members, MBS, Cama, Ministry of Justice, Registrar General etc to create laws and other infrastructure that impedes flourishing of fake products".
This all sounds so simple -- but it raises the obvious question: if "raising the quality bar" works for Candlex, why doesn't it seem to work for anyone else? For one thing, in most sectors of most industries in most jurisdictions the notion of 'counterfeit' is not limited to poor-quality goods but includes quite serviceable goods too; for another, part of the nature of counterfeits is that they so resemble the genuine product as to make it difficult or nearly impossible for the average consumer to detect the difference at the point of purchase.  Or are consumers in Malawi just far more sophisticated than those elsewhere?

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