The creative industry in Kenya, be it; media, advertising or marketing, tries to pull in audiences for brands. Part of this could be the reason global marketing companies, including Scangroup and WPP, seek for affiliations with local advertising companies to make deeper market inroads. And such is the vibrancy the industry has presented in the local market.
For instance, Safaricom, spent Kshs 9.71 billion in the first four months of 2019 on advertising, making it the largest advertising spender in the country, according to the Media Landscape Report.
It is from such huge financial/economic output that critics have come out claiming that players seeking to enter this field are pushed by the urge to make profits rather than from their professional merit.
Dr. Jared Obuya, a lecturer at the Department of Communications Studies, Moi University’s Nairobi campus tells this publication that this shouldn’t be the case, and that when it comes to the issue of professionalism, every profession should have some sort of standards.
“This is so that there is uniformity in the sector. Minimum standards are really necessary in every profession. It is about setting standards for monetary compliance, which includes training and codes of conducts,” the lecturer says.
One man, Saadam Suleim, has always had a passion in this multi-million dollar industry. And immediately he left high school (Muslim Academy) in 2008 he plunged into the murky waters, founding Dragonfly, a marking company, alongside his friend, Zachary Ouma.
Ouma was before then Head of Digital at Creative Edge, and Suleiman knew at first sight he would be his best business match.
“I had this passion in marketing. A close friend of mine introduced me to graphic design and I started selling this service to my family and friends, such as doing branded polo shirts,” Suleiman says during the interview at their office, located at Empress Suites, opposite the Oval, in Westlands Nairobi.
Ouma, he says, was not only very innovative when it comes to web-based content, but also complemented his vision- that of creating a big market for Kenyan Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s). And Dragonfly could offer them good quality, as this was a niche at the time ignored by global affiliates.
“Upto this date, we are proud to service Kenyan SME’s. Majority of our clients are Kenyans, though we are open to blue-chip companies. ” says Suleiman, who was just recently listed among ‘Forbes Top 30 Under 30’ leading African entrepreneurs.
The company’s clients range from corporates, real estate companies to agricultural firms, including Optiven Limited, Dairyland, DIB Bank, Hanaan Tissues and Kericho Gold tea, among others. It offers integrated, independent, end-to-end marketing solutions to these companies.
From a company that started off offering web-based services, Dragonfly has become a full-fledged advertising agency.
According to Isaac Kivai, the firm’s Finance Officer, they now offer a variety of services, including brand strategy, digital marketing and experiential marketing, which deals with on-ground brand activations for clients as well as design and branding and app development. The scale-up is setting its future sights on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
However, he says, their operations, just like in any other business, gets affected by business cycles.
“When business is not good for clients, the marketing spend affects our work and even our income. It is purely based on how the economy is. We always look for the economy to be promising,” he says.
He adds that their pricing strategy for services, which is tailor-made as opposed to a one-cut-fits-all formula, gives them an edge in the market, in addition to the fact that they take into consideration that some of their clients are SME’s who require quality services that are well-priced within their budgets.
To reach their target market, the company leverages on social media and digital platforms to tap their clients.
On his part, Ouma says Dragonfly tries to focus on giving its clients quality instead of quantity. This means everything is crafted to be at-par with industry standards. Values such as professionalism and being hands-on in whatever project that the agency undertakes. This has made Dragonfly to move from an agency that sought for clients to being sought for instead.
Of the many campaigns the company has undertaken for its clients, Suleiman singles out ‘Unga wa Dolla’, which they undertook in 2007, targeting the youth in a bid to promote their talent and express peace through the website and art. The campaign was among the top three brands that earned global recognition.
Dragonfly, Ouma says, focuses on experience rather than papers. “When it comes to recruitment, the agency tries to look at the skillset, experience as well as the personality. We have developed a culture, whereby we consider our family members as first priority.”
From two employees at inception, the company currently has 33 regular employees and project-based merchandisers outsourced externally as well as others across the region. The staff’s dedication is partly the reason the company was ranked 8th and the only independent agency in the top ten list of companies to win the APA award.
It has also won a number of awards, including being in the Gold category in the MUSE Awards, the African Crystall Awards and Gold for the ‘Art for Peace Campaign’. This year, the company won the Digital Media Awards (DMA) for its Dairyland Ice cream client.
In terms of innovation, Dragonfly is also the first advertising agency to do full colour packaging for its Unga wa Dolla brand, thus coining its name as the first to so in the competitive industry.
“We have changed the narrative of how flour should be conceived. Five years ago, flour was just flour. But we have changed that to how flour is connected in the mind of the consumer,” says Suleiman.
Despite common challenges, the company has kept up with innovations, and is now looking to expand its footprint from Kenya to other East African countries such as Rwanda.
Suleiman advises budding entrepreneurs wishing to venture into his field to embrace patience and persistence instead of seeking for instant gratifications.
“But the future also includes having to tap into youth who have a skillset in AI, machine learning and data integration. This is because there is a paradigm shift in how consumers consume information because with a touch of a button, one can do about ten things at a go,” adds Ouma.