• Full Tank Start to 2015

    Most of the folks in our office ride into work in the morning but every once in a while we conform to the Nairobi norm and drive into work, alone in our five seater cars stuck in endless traffic and all heading in the same direction from the same direction. Like we said, it's the Nairobi norm.

    When petrol prices dropped we also joined in the jubilation. Our delight led us to think why hadn’t this happened sooner? Global crude oil prices had dropped 40% in the last 6 months and this surely should have been reflected in the local fuel pump prices. 

    We decided to find out exactly how much of a drop Kenya had experienced in local petrol pump prices vs global Brent Crude prices / barrel, using a KES/USD baseline. The result is in the below plotted graph. 

    Click here to view larger image

  • Genericide

    At times the impact of brand can be so powerful that it takes on a whole new life of it’s own. Earlier this week a certain so and so at the ARK offices complained “I washed my jacket and it now smells of Omo ya Ariel.”  

    Wait… what? Omo ya Ariel?! 

    Sellotape, Elianto, Blue Band, M-pesa ya Airtel, Thermos, Orbit, Big G, Cutex, Hedex, Panadol, Nissan… and many more brand names have now become generic terms to describe a product category in Kenyan colloquial terms. 

    Globally, we have brand names that have turned into verbs, like Google it. Surely this is fantastic news for these brands, the ultimate compliment to show your dominance amongst competitors in the market place. Well… not really. Allegedly there’s a downside to a brand becoming bigger than its context. The risk of genericide.

    Genericide, a portmanteau of generic and suicide. 

    If it gets to a point where consumers understand the name of your brand to be the name of a product category rather than an identifier of its exclusive source, your brand looses its distinctiveness. Other brands could seize the opportunity to latch onto the popularity of the name to promote their own brands.

    First thing you’d do is call an IP lawyer, but the apotheosis of irony could strike. Should competitors convince intellectual property judges that it’s an everyday term, your trademark could slip into the public domain, you could legally lose your brand trademark and your brand - a victim of genericide.

    In the Omo ya Ariel example, Omo stands at a loss. 1) the Omo brand name has become meaningless, synonymous and indistinguishable from other detergents  2) as a brand you wouldn’t want to be mentioned in the same breath as your competitors by consumers. It’s a space you want to dominate and retain.  

    Destroyed by their own success. There have been many victims, just google it :)

  • The Value of Brand

    "What is brand and why is it important?”

     A question that ARK is all too familiar with being asked and always glad to answer. Occasionally, a few people switch off once they hear that we don’t print logos to stick on their company cars, or create banners saying “one stop shop for fresh & tasty food” to hang above their restaurant. That said, an increasing amount of companies are realizing the value of brands as an asset.

    Brands stand for something in consumers' minds and what they stand for are considered to be values. These values enhance a product or service beyond its functional purpose, the consumer gets value, hence they are willing to pay a premium for it.

    Another realization of brand value is being considered in companies’ balance sheets, for example when a company is being sold or in the case below looking for investment to grow.

    In 2008, the Kenyan internet space was just taking shape, the growth of mobile subscriptions and mobile internet was met with the anticipation of  Kenya’s first sub–marine fiber cable. A new mobile money product by Safaricom called  M-Pesa was gaining popularity and Ushahidi had just been launched. Exciting!

    Wananchi Online, a local internet service provider received an investment from East Africa Capital Partners (EACP) and Liberty Global. With the investment Wananchi Online set up Wananchi Group and acquired Simbanet.

    The company’s board had an ambitious plan to be the first triple play provider in the region.  They had started creating a brand but knew they had to get it right,they decide to invite ARK to do a quick assessment of what they had. The assessment called for a rebrand.

    We created a brand identity, new brand name, positioning and other cool stuff that now stands as the staple entertainment brand known as Zuku in many Kenyan, middle class, homes today. You can see more of  the Zuku project here.

    Today Zuku is the largest provider of fixed broadband and earlier this week they announced a $130 million round of funding from several investors, including its original funders – EACP. Kudos!

    Among other things, it’s a testament to the power of brand in the top line growth of companies.

    Image source: www.neutronllc.com


  • Brand Communication and Emojis

    Everything we do at ARK is based on communication. Everyday we roll into work and ask ourselves “How can we take A and deliver it as clearly, palatably and compellingly as possible to client X  and their audience?“ 

    That is why we were particularly intrigued by this change in normal text language known as emoji. One major event in the recent history of communication has affected the way we communicate today. Digital communication. A large number of us use smartphones, and with smartphones came the wide-spread use emoji in our daily converse. Today, they are a universally understood digital attribute of pop culture. Adding context and emotion to everyday communication. They appeal to today’s busy & cluttered world of communication where we all strive for brevity and clarity.   

    Yes, like anything else when abused, it can be annoying. However, this new universal language adds a layer of creativity to written language, for people and brands alike. Apple found a branding opportunity in emojis. The headphones on an iPhone appear as Apple EarPods and the iPhone as an icon for smartphones.

    Not to say that all brands should rush out and customise an emoji, but there’s room for everyone to participate. Brands could use emojis in their social media messages to add fun, colour and personality to their brand language.

    The world doesn’t need emoji but who knows, maybe one day it’ll be the conventional way of communicating. While we wait for that to happen, here’s a quick run down of the history of emoji, in emoji . 







  • Print Lives!

    World Cup 2014 is over and it certainly wasn’t disappointing. Nothing got the people going like the Brazil vs Germany match. From the aficionados, to the laggards, to those who just didn’t give a hoot about the Cup, everyone was captured, engaged and astounded. 

    Seeing “1-7” on the scoreboards was bad enough, but nothing depicted the churning maelstrom of emotions like the next day’s front pages. 

    Despite our little to non-existent understanding of Portuguese, Brazillian newspapers did a brilliant job of unanimously bringing home the messages of “humiliation” and “despair”. And all through the use of typography, graphics and imagery. 

    We’ve picked some of our favourite front pages (below) and noted a few best practices that were employed:

    • Imagery - Taking centre stage, large, hi-res & full of emotional impact, captured at the darkest hour. 
    • Typography - Reflected the weight of the article. One for the history books.
    • Headlines - Brief and bold statements that described the story and its emotion.
    • Use of negative space - Lending a certain feeling to the images and reflecting the atmosphere as was.  

    Virtually everything may have switched to online publication however, it has to be said that print still has its place. A much smaller place but nonetheless valid. Simple or complex, the way the story and graphics are designed is part of the news package as a whole. This occassion goes to show the power of visual communication is timeless. If done right, it will pull the reader in and relay the message.

    Hooray, PRINT LIVES!