Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Last weekend Gulu district chairman Norbert Mao was elected Democratic Party President.

He beat out the evergreen Kampala mayor Nasser Sebagala, to come within spitting distance of his long held ambition to run for the presidency of this country. Our Ugandan businessmen can learn a thing or two about branding from Chairman Mao.

Branding is about managing the feelings that surround your company with the intention of improving sales, profitability and market share.

Branding revolves around the management of the key components of awareness, association, experience and loyalty as these relate to the brand.


Mao burst on the scene with his very visible run ins with Museveni’s government in the early 1990s. But even before that he was involved in a very emotionally charged campaign for the guild president against another promising young firebrand Brigadier – then Lieutenant, Noble Mayombo. The OBs of Namilyango will remember him as their head boy prior to that. Recently he has been an MP and even more recently the chairman of Gulu district. The picture of Mao shaking LRA leader Joseph Kony’s in the jungles of southern Sudan will forever be seared in the minds of millions of Ugandans.

Awareness is not created by just slapping a few glossy posters all over town. Enduring awareness is created by a long and systematic publicity campaign – and better still if it is anchored on perceived success and propelled by a third party.


Mao is an old boy of Namilyango College. He attended Mwiri Primary School – another name with formidable historical links. He did law at Makerere (never mind its reputation now). And has done a fellowship at the prestigious Yale University. He has been an MP, a district chairman and is now leader of the oldest political party in Uganda.

What are your brand associations? And do those associations mean anything to your target market? The New Vision is Uganda’s leading daily, does that association, being the market leader resonate with its target market? Leadership denotes authority and the paper’s target group is looking for news it can trust. Opinion is another matter, but the last word on the news they know they can get from the New Vision.

Daimler Benz targets affluent clients who want to distinguish themselves from the rest of us mere mortals. It makes beautifully crafted, well engineered and pricey cars. A Mercedes says you have arrived.

Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are.


Youthful but wise, an outspoken rhetoric but judicious in choosing when to speak and more importantly when to shut up, ambitious but not obnoxiously so and as far as we know, not a blemish on Mao’s character in regard to corruption.

The customer’s experience with your company comes with the use of your products and the interaction with your staff. The customer experience with your company more than anything is the best case for why branding is not just a function of the marketing and PR departments.

You may have the flashiest and most memorable TV and radio ads and the most striking company signage but it will count for nothing if the driver in your company branded car drives like a bat out of hell in rush hour traffic.


Mao has only lost one election—the battle for a seat in constituent assembly in 1993, in comparison to the may others he has won through out his life this suggests he commands some loyalty.

Customer loyalty – like all loyalty is forged over time and is where the extent to which you managed awareness, associations and the experience your company offers your clients over time comes to a head. If your clients are fair weather friends then you need to re-examine your branding strategy.

Kampala can not be accused of being branding country. A lack of general competition – the type that presses businessmen to look for every available edge, is not found here. But that day is not long in coming and corporate Uganda needs to be prepared.

Published February 2010, New Vision

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