In America, the phrase what’s my name is common among the urban elites, especially African – Americans, I have tried though, to understand but without success why the phrase has been monopolised by rap artists in their lyrics and also by those whose ego may require some massaging during illicit bedroom gyrations.
However, this does not deter from the fact that a person’s or an entity’s name is everything; this will also include companies, organisations, institutions and even countries, hence the Igbos in Nigeria have a saying that Ezi Afa Ka Ego (Good name is worth more than money).
Companies like Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Nike, McDonalds and so on may however think differently, in association with their Image and branding consultants, their own thinking and philosophy may be Ezi Afa Wu Ego (Good name translates into money).
I am a big fan of Ben Murray-Bruce, the Nigerian owner and CEO of Silverbird Productions. Mr Bruce is arguably Nigeria’s biggest show business personality; His company has made it possible in the past for Nigerians to enjoy music concerts from such notable acts such as Shalamar, Lakeside and some of the other entertainers that were popular in the eighties. His Silverbird brand has also been extended to broadcasting (Rhythm FM, Silverbird Television), Beauty pageantry (Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria and Miss Silverbird International), cinemas (Silverbird Galleria) etc. Nigerians however will remember Mr Bruce and Silverbird mainly for his exploits in beauty pageantry.
In the eighties when the Miss Nigeria franchise was beginning to lose its glamour and the interest of Nigerians and sponsors, Silverbird introduced the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) pageant which eventually took over the market leadership from the Miss Nigeria franchise, owned and operated by the Daily Times (a media organisation owned by the Nigerian government). Silverbird, using their MBGN platform produced the likes of Omasan Buwa and Bianca Onoh who at different times wore the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria crowns.
Bianca Onoh: MBGN 1989 & Miss Intercontinental 1989
Bianca Onoh’s reign as the MBGN was more memorable because it was during her reign that Nigeria first staked its claim to winning a major Beauty pageant internationally, Bianca represented Nigeria at the Miss Universe pageant of 1989 and won the Miss Photogenic title, a consolation prize some people said at the time.
Bianca’s achievement though consolatory was well celebrated in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, because it cheered other Nigerian and African women up. They have always complained that their bosomed physique and features have long been neglected and are unappreciated by the judges in major international beauty pageants.
Bianca’s story wasn’t completed yet, she went on to win the Miss Intercontinental beauty pageant in 1989. Although the Miss Intercontinental franchise, operated and later abandoned by Silverbird did not quite measure up with the Miss World, and Miss Universe pageants in terms of prestige, it was still well celebrated in Nigeria, especially by women who felt that it was their time, Africa’s time and therefore a win and crown for all of them, they were buoyed by the fact that Bianca contested against other world beauty queens who possessed the slim features normally preferred in such contests.
One man who really showed his admiration and appreciation to Bianca for doing Nigeria and Africa proud was Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the ex Biafra leader and warlord, also a very good friend to Bianca’ father (Chief C.C Onoh). Ojukwu eventually married Bianca in a relationship described in the local media as that between The Lion and the Jewel, in reference to the title of a book of the same title written by Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka.
When Mr Bruce was appointed by the Nigerian government as the Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), his younger brother (Guy Bruce) took over from him as CEO at Silverbird. Guy did not disappoint and carried on with the family tradition. His efforts paid off in 2001 when Agbani Darego became the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria. Ben Bruce saw in Agbani (his protégé), a world beater and therefore pulled the weight and strength of NTA and his contacts in government and the business world behind her, she was sponsored to the 2001 Miss World beauty pageant.
(Agbani Darego: Miss World 2001)
The rest is now history; Agbani Darego won the contest and became the first ever Nigerian and African to win the Miss World pageant. Her victory stretched the Silverbird brand and image further, nationally and internationally.
Mr Bruce successfully brought Julia Morley and the whole Miss Word road show to Nigeria in 2002 for that year’s Miss World event slated for Nigeria. But unfortunately the naïve writings of a local journalist sparked off religious riots in some parts of the country and the beauties fled, and so did the image, tourist revenues and media sponsorship fees that Nigeria would have earned had the event taken place in Nigeria.
Subsequently, Mr Bruce controversially lost his government appointment at NTA, the same way he had won the appointment in the first place, Nigerian tabloids were awash with gossips about the true reason for his appointment and eventual sack, there were several conspiracy theories bandied about, the most mundane linked Mr. Bruce romantically to the president’s wife.
Undeterred, and with fame and fortune already in the bag, Mr. Bruce happily went back to rebuild his Silverbird empire and brand. He has since launched the Silverbird galleria, Nigeria’s first high class Cineplex with several other Silverbird projects on the way. He seems to be pursuing the brand extension and serial entrepreneurial strategies made popular by Richard Branson and Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the Virgin and Easy Groups founders.
However, It can not be particularly said that such strategies are always very successful, brand extension can sometimes lead to brand proliferation and also Brand arrogance, the last stage obviously spells doom for the brand, it is at this stage that consumer apathy sets in, serial entrepreneurs like Branson, Stelios and their disciple Bruce begin to face reality at this stage and recognise the mortality of their cherished brand names.Both Stelios and Branson are severally having some problems at the moment with some of their recently introduced businesses, particularly the Easy cinema and Virgin money and Virgin Mobile brands.
(Miss Silverbird International contestants)
Will Mr Bruce experience the same problems with his recently launched Miss Silverbird International?
Especially in a crowded and competitive world pageant market, already with established leading franchises such as the Miss Earth, Miss World, and the Miss Universe pageants, the latter both owned by the American maverick, Donald Trump.
I really wonder at the reasoning behind the brand name - Miss Silverbird International beauty pageant, the now abandoned Miss Intercontinental sounds more interesting, at least winners could proudly announce it, and also wear the crown but would the eventual winners proudly announce themselves as Miss Silverbird International?
(Sanja Papic, Miss Silverbird International 2005)
Miss Serbia and Montenegro has won the inaugural Miss Silverbird international, in an event which had amongst others the Nigerian super model Oluchi Onweagba and the ex- Miss World, Agbani Darego as judges,.With a cash prize of $20,000 and promises of increasing the prize money to $200,000 in the coming years, I am wondering if Mr Bruce has not already lost out to the likes of Donald Trump even before starting in the race, as Donald Trump and the other franchises offer more attractive prizes to their winners.
Going international with the Silverbird brand, through the Miss Silverbird International beauty pageant may be a little premature at the moment, especially considering the nature of the beauty pageant business as well as the apparent little recognition of the Silverbird brand internationally, even Donald Trump would not dare to rebrand either the Miss World or Miss Universe pageants as Miss Trump beauty pageant, doing so will obviously affect the prestige and image of the two famous pageants.
(Judges at the Miss Silverbird International 2005) If Mr. Bruce was to localise the Miss Silverbird, that may prove more successful because of the brand familiarity and equity already built in Nigeria and in Africa.
I think that Mr Bruce may have crossed the fine line that separates brand extension from brand arrogance. It is still early days yet to judge the success of the Miss Silverbird International franchise, but then and so is it still early days and therefore the best time for Silverbird to pull the plug on this destined problem child and eventual dog, which from all indications may never become a Silverbird star or cash cow.
Guest posted on 10-14-2005, 09:16:10 AM
When will the next contest take place and have they started selling the forms.