By Amodani Gariba & Dagny Zenovia
Smartphones have become a complete necessity in today’s life. This has also shifted the business side for mobile phone companies. As Ghana is Africa’s biggest mobile market, Samsung, Tecno, Infinix, Itel, and Apple continue to seek to expand its mark in Ghana. Some of these brands have added Ghana smartphone ambassadors to impact sales and loyalty.
In this article, we discuss whether local brand ambassadors impact sales of smartphones in Ghana. We look at the history of each brand in Ghana plus survey local consumers of each brand. In particular, we focus on whether the Chinese mobile phone brands will win the competition for Ghana’s mobile market.
According to Business Insider Africa, Samsung is the most popular mobile phone brand in Ghana, holding 23.71% of the mobile vendor market share. Tecno holds 18.52%, Infinix holds 15.03%, Apple holds 13.74%, and Itel holds 6.5%. Looking at the market, the Chinese mobile phone brands, Tecno, Infinix, and Itel, which are all owned by Transsion Holdings, hold the largest market share with 40.08%.
Smartphone Brands Compete For Africa’s Mobile Market
Transsion Holdings’ journey to success in Ghana and Africa is based on the philosophy “Think Globally, Act Locally.” In 2006, Zhu Zhaojiang founded Transsion in China. He opened his first African office in Lagos, Nigeria in 2008. His business strategy focused on appealing to customers with a price lower than its competitors plus spending a lot of money on advertising. In 2017, Transsion fully expanded its focus to the African market.
Making an extra effort to localize its efforts in Africa, Transsion developed products to specifically target the African customer. For example, Transsion provides dual and four-SIM-card phones to appeal to the need for juggling the multiple SIM cards Africans carry to balance cost. Also, Transsion improved camera exposures by creating a database to learn how to detect darker-colored skin. In the beginning, Transsion chose to start selling their product in rural areas. They also were the first to offer after-sale repair services. Marketing included ads printed on walls across cities plus local celebrity endorsements. Transsion also has a manufacturing plant based in Ethiopia.
Samsung’s journey to success in Ghana and Africa as the King of Electronics holds a long history. Founded in 1938, Samsung is a Korean multinational conglomerate. After shifting Nokia out of the number 1 spot, Samsung continues to expand its reach in Africa across its multi-product line. Samsung designs specifically for African consumers with its “Built For Africa” strategy. Focusing on its smartphones, Samsung provides phones with dual-SIMs features. Samsung partnered with Universal Music Group as well as African and international music labels to develop Kleek, a pan-African mobile music streaming service. In 2013, Samsung partnered with the Eko Project to launch the third Samsung Electronics Engineering Academy in Lagos, Nigeria.
Apple’s journey to success in Ghana and Africa can be described in one word: untapped. For the longest time, Apple has had no flagship stores, services, or apps available throughout the continent. From October 2019 to October 2020, iOS represents 10.66% of the mobile operating system market share in Africa.
In April of 2020, Apple announced it is expanding its App Store, Apple Arcade, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and iCloud to 20 countries, including Cameroon, Côte D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Libya, Morocco, Rwanda, and Zambia. Apple Music is launching for the first time in 52 countries, including Algeria, Angola, Benin, Chad, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Tunisia. Recently, Apple has focused on growing sales from its service segment as consumers globally have slowed down in upgrading their smartphones. This is the largest expansion Apple has done since 2012.
Do Local Brand Ambassadors Influence Sales For Smartphones In Ghana
To answer this question, we conducted a survey. The reactions we got were mixed – the majority of the respondents feel they were not influenced by local brand ambassadors, but think others might be.
The smartphone market in Ghana could be described as intensively competitive. What used to be the domain of European (Nokia), US (iPhone) and South Korean (Samsung) smartphone brands are now seeing a heated contest from Chinese Brands (Infinix, Tecno, etc.). To boost marketing, Chinese smartphone companies, like Transsion and Huawei, are hiring local celebrities to be brand ambassadors for their flagship smartphones. Two of Ghana’s famous Afro-dancehall musicians, Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy, among others are brand ambassadors for Infinix and Tecno respectively.
Ghana Consumers Smartphone Preference
We at Africans-on-China wanted to understand whether these brand ambassadors influence the preference of Ghanaian smartphone consumers. With our survey, we randomly picked ten Ghanaian smartphone users from different parts of Ghana. The survey asked each respondent these three same questions:
- Why did they buy the smartphone they were currently using?
- Were they influenced by local Ghanaian brand ambassadors, like Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy?
- Do they think local brand ambassadors influence other Ghanaian smartphone consumers?
Of the respondents surveyed, 50% use Chinese brands, 20% use iPhones, another 20% use Samsung, with the remaining 10% using other brands. Whether they were influenced by local brand ambassadors, only one – Asiedu Shadrach – of the ten surveyed answered in the affirmative.
Shadrach said he is a big fan of Stonebwoy. Shadrach plans on buying the latest Tecno smartphone just because Stonebwoy is the brand ambassador. Interestingly, save two, all the respondents, however, believe brand ambassadors could influence other consumers.
60% of the Chinese brand users surveyed cited strong batteries as the main influence of their choice. Others said Chinese brands are affordable yet come with cool specifications. Isaac Mensah, who uses a Huawei handset, said, “[unlike Huawei] there are so many restrictions on iOS. Huawei is a growing brand, yet very innovative and [comes] with appealing features.”
It is clear from our survey that local brand ambassadors may be playing a role in driving sales for Chinese smartphone brands in Ghana, but what appears to be the main drivers are cost and specifications.
Smartphone Brands Hire Ghanaian Brand Ambassadors
African brand ambassadors are gradually rising in popularity and value across the continent as well as globally. Thus, an increasing number of Ghana smartphone ambassadors are being hired for campaigns.
Tecno signed Stonebwoy as its brand ambassador in September 2020. He is the official brand ambassador for the Camon-16 Series, one of Tecno’s latest smartphone models. He performed at the Camon-16 launch in Accra and included Tecno branding in his recent music video for Putuu Freestyle (Pray).
Infinix signed Shatta Wale as its brand ambassador in September 2019. He is the official brand ambassador for the Infinix Hot 8, one of Infinix latest smartphone models at the time. He also performed at the Hot 8 launch in Accra.
Samsung signed KiDi as its brand ambassador in February of 2020. According to Samsung Ghana, this decision was made to make the brand look “cool” to consumers. He hosted an “Enjoyment Challenge” where participants posted on social media dancing or singing to KiDi’s song “Enjoyment” for the chance to win prizes from Samsung.
Apple has yet to sign a Ghanaian artist as its brand ambassador.
Marketing by word-of-mouth still holds as much value, sometimes even more, than brand ambassador campaigns. When it comes to smartphones, consumers are more interested in whether the product meets their needs instead of whether their favorite artist is pictured with the product. This is where tech influencers come into play.
For example, Ghana’s Sorji Grey reviews electronics on his YouTube channel that guides potential consumers as well as tech fans. Even though there may not be data just yet on whether sales in Ghana are influenced more by celebrity brand ambassadors or online influencers, our survey responses suggest that details on specs and price are more important than entertainment. As Ghana and Africa’s mobile market continues to expand, brands would benefit from expanding their marketing strategies to incorporate local thought leaders and influencers.
Will Transsion Win The Competition With Its Current Branding Strategy
It is spectacular how Transsion has been able to dominate the smartphone market, not only in Ghana but also in other African countries. Our survey findings provide a glimpse of the prevailing socio-economic conditions of Ghanaians, which also somewhat influence buying behavior. This also may answer why Transsion is dominating the market, at least for the time being.
A lot of African countries have problems with the supply of electric power. Therefore, it is essential that Africans use smartphones that come with stronger batteries – making them less reliant on electricity. This explains why some of our respondents cited battery power as the reason for buying Chinese brands.
The majority of Africans struggle financially. In Ghana, the minimum wage is US$2 a day. Millions in the lower rungs of society are paid at the minimum wage or slightly above. According to the latest report of the Ghana Statistical Service, 45.6% of Ghana’s population are in the state of multidimensional poverty. With the exception of the upper-middle-income class or the rich, not many can afford the latest Apple or Samsung smartphones, because of the cost barrier. The latest version of an iPhone may cost 6 to 10 times the salary of many workers in Ghana. This explains why some of our respondents cited affordability as a reason for buying Chinese brands.
However, would Chinese brands continue to dominate? To answer this question, we have to find out if the prevailing socio-economic conditions of Africans are evolving. First, we know Ghana’s power outage problem is effectively a thing of the past. At about 4,500 megawatts, Ghana produces more electricity than it actually needs. This means Ghanaians would be less worried about electricity to recharge their smartphones, making a lasting battery, not a sought after spec for Ghanaian smartphone consumers in the future.
Are Ghanaians getting richer in the future? This is difficult to tell. Our guess is that the economic condition could improve in the future. Before the pandemic, Ghana consistently posted some impressive growth rates. In fact, in 2018, Ghana was the fastest growing economy in the world. The IMF is projecting a full return to pre-pandemic growth rates in 2022 and beyond. We know this sounds simplistic, but high growth rates may translate into more economic prosperity for citizens, resulting in an increase in the purchasing power of Ghanaians. Therefore, in the future, low budget smartphones may not appeal to Ghanaian consumers.
Most Ghanaian consumers of Chinese brands do not care about privacy, like users of iPhones and other sophisticated brands. Recently, an anti-fraud company, Upstream, found out that Tecno android phones have a pre-installed malware called Triada. Triada, according to Upstream, “poses a security risk by installing a malicious code called xHelper on the device; this code finds and accepts some fraudulent subscriptions without the user’s knowledge. Apparently, such subscriptions, when successful, consume airtime.” Aside from a few, Tecno smartphone users were unperturbed.
Chinese brands are dominating the market, but they must innovate to keep that spot. The conditions contributing to their dominance are subject to change. Therefore, they must be prepared to meet the Ghanaian consumer every step along the way.
The Competition Continues
Looking forward, Transsion has created a large footprint with deep roots in the African mobile market. The competition is now more focused on price and specs. In Ghana, Transsion is second to Samsung, but, expanding the scope to Africa, Huawei is second to Samsung. Initially, Transsion was undercutting the competition by price. Now, Huawei is doing the same.
Thus, Transsion has recently expanded its products to include ecosystem products, such as smart bands and Bluetooth headphones. Transsion has also developed software systems along with app stores, games, and other apps to work with those software systems.
As the difference in price and specs blur among the competition, Transsion might have to lean more into branding and after-care services to stay in the lead.
Finally, the competition over securing Ghana’s mobile market will be determined by more than just entertainment. The Ghanaian consumer is seeking smartphones that fit their technology needs, price point, and lifestyle. Using local brand ambassadors is a nice touch, but will it move the needle to win over consumer loyalty?
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
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Africans on China (AoC) is a media-tech platform and consultancy on a mission to create a self-sufficient Africa that relates with the world, especially China, on mutually beneficial terms. We are led by a team of passionate African professionals who are experts in their field. Together, we bring decades of strategic and business expertise in the African and Chinese business and educational markets.