#BreakFreeWithErica: Why it makes for an effective brand revolution

Celebrity endorsements attach the fame of a celebrity to a brand or product. According to philosopher and author, Mokokoma Mokhonoana, “A celebrity’s body is an advertiser’s canvas.” However, the question of whether or not celebrity endorsements are an effective advertising strategy is one that derives different responses in different contexts. Slapping any and every known face on a brand without intention, consideration of the celebrity’s image in relation to the brand, and basic research would most likely result in disastrous consequences and a waste of time.

But when done well, brand endorsements could be iconic, valuable, and influential. 

An example of a successful brand endorsement is Nike’s partnership with golfer, Tiger Woods. Nike’s goal was to penetrate the golf merchandising market with its apparel, equipment and accessories, and they successfully did that by having one of the best in golf be the face of their brand. According to a Marketwatch claim in Social Media Week, just one endorsement can spell an increase in sales by 4%, almost immediately.

That’s some pretty impressive statistics.

In the Nigerian market, brands are currently looking to the reality TV scene to pick out their ‘celebrities’. The Big Brother phenomenon has proven to be a massive success; tagged as one of the biggest TV shows on African television. It only makes sense that its exports are incorporated into PR plans and marketing strategies. More often than not, the top housemates from each season would have gathered an impressive number of loyal fans and followers upon leaving the house — which most brands want to leverage on. Erica Nlewedim, although not a finalist, has been one of the most sought after Big Brother Naija housemates from the last season. After snagging a major endorsement deal with Star Radler and Legend, she went on to collaborate with Partnermobiles, and Swarovski jewellery — just to mention a few.

Her latest endorsement crossed her over to the financial sector, as she recently became Kuda Bank’s first-ever ambassador. 

KudaXErica

Kuda Bank, a microfinance institution approved by Nigeria’s Central Bank, is the country’s first digital-only bank, with a famous mobile-first challenger bank for customers. The bank which was founded in 2017, successfully raised $10 million in a seed round — one of the largest seed funding any African startup has ever received. Kuda Bank has been experiencing exponential growth in just a short amount of time, still, the founders are looking to push the brand’s products far and wide across the continent.

Babs Ogundeyi, co-founder and CEO of Kuda, spoke of his vision, stating “We want to bank every African on the planet, wherever you are in the world”. He added that while it’s based in Nigeria for now, the plan is to  “build a Pan-African digital-only bank”.

To do so, there are several challenges the brand needs to overcome; one of them particularly is the distrust a lot of Nigerians have towards the Fintech sector. Ofcourse, it makes sense that the brand would employ marketing techniques to push their products further and help bridge the gap with consumers.  

Introducing Erica Nlewedim

The Fintech brand announced its first-ever ambassador, Erica Nlewedim, on Tuesday, 9 February, 2021. A short clip showing the cheerful ex-BBN housemate speaking on the benefits of banking with Kuda and why she aligns with the brand was deployed on various social media platforms including  Twitter and Instagram. The announcement on Kuda’s platform on Twitter garnered over 47 thousand likes and close to 1,000 retweets in 24 hours. It also amassed over 22,000 views on Instagram.

Kuda Bank contracted independent directors and media companies to produce the brand’s promotional videos. Uche Odoh, a filmmaker, photographer and content creator, directed the first promotional video launched on social media. 

Consequently, Erica has appeared as the face of their instructional videos and also made appearances at brand events. She hosts a hilarious series where she takes up the character of a professor who answers questions that sheds light on living your best life with Kuda Bank. Dennis Ekamah, the founder of MediaAfrica, took on the baton and produced some of these instructional videos. 

For International Women’s Day 2021, Kuda held an online event on  25 March, 2021 in which Nigerians were invited to register for and partake in conversations with some of Nigeria’s leading ladies — including Erica. The event featured a discussion about how these women challenge the status quo in Nigeria, with the hashtag #ChooseToChallenge used to market it on social media. 

Kuda Bank also unveiled a special package for Erica and her fans, providing them with a special referral code assigned to Erica’s name. If one joins using the code, they get twenty-five free transfers to other banks, a free debit card, and other benefits. 

Shortly after Erica’s ambassadorial announcement, Kuda Bank rose to number 3 in the Finance category on the Apple App Store and Kuda’s Instagram followers rose from 26,000 to over 30,000 in less than a week. Also, the Africa-focused challenger bank passed 1million Android downloads and announced that it had successfully  reached the $2 billion transactions per month milestone. 

The digital bank has focused a lot of its marketing power on digital platforms but it isn’t fully restricted to that. Billboards plastered with Erica’s face spread across the bustling city of Lagos in strategic points like Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way. Fans were asked to take pictures of these billboards and upload them on social media tagging Erica and Kuda Bank. 

Why it works

The adopted copy for the campaign was #BreakFreeWithErica. It can be seen on the brand’s billboards ads, and in their digital commercials. A noticeable thread that connects the ads is an exuberant, carefree, free-spirited Erica showcasing Kuda’s products. The phrase, #BreakFreeWithErica, acts as a double-entendre as it speaks to attaining the carefree nature Erica exhibits by enjoying the free products that Kuda offers. Kuda’s major selling point is that it is the first mobile-only bank licensed by the Central Bank of Nigerians (CBN) where consumers can enjoy zero card maintenance fees, free transfers, and automatic savings. In essence, it’s a free bank for the free. 

Not only does Erica embody the exuberant nature that it requires to pass the ‘break free’ message but she also has a loyal and dedicated fanbase — which is the most important ingredient. Erica’s fans not only respond actively to anything she’s involved in, but they also have purchasing power. There is obvious engagement and a noticeable increase in product sales when Erica comes onboard any campaign. In addition, the modern consumer is increasingly craving authenticity and vulnerability, and this is Erica’s biggest strength as a brand ambassador. Kuda Bank taps into all these things and delivers a campaign that lets consumers know why to buy their products, not just the celebrity. 

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