Pause: Your Company, and it’s Brand.

Pause: Your Company, and it’s Brand.

This weekend Johannesburg South Africa, will host the first ever NBA Basketball game on African soil. We are very proud to announce that Econet is one of the main sponsors of this global event which will be watched by millions around the world. I thought I might also use this opportunity to speak to you, about an important aspect of developing your business, as an entrepreneur:


When you start out in business one of the most important things that you must do is to choose a good name. This is something you and your partners should do very carefully:
# It must be original, as far as possible;
# Have the ambition to make it global… Think ahead to when the company is no longer just in your country but has gone to other countries__ will this name you have chosen still be good?
# Keep it simple, clean and effective.

Get professional advice:
Econet Wireless was originally called “Enhanced Communications Network”, a banker friend changed it to ECONET. I later added Econet Wireless. After many years I went back to ECONET because we have other businesses in the group, which are not wireless communications.
Getting professional advice is very important. Don’t take names and logo designs as something you just prepare yourself:
Initially I worked with a friend who was an advertising expert, and he taught me amazing things about names, and colours, and brands. He later set up his own advertising agency, and later moved to work in America. He is highly gifted man. I always, always paid him for the work he did for me. This too is an important principle: if it’s valuable you MUST be willing to pay for it!

The brand:
Having a good name for your company is not what gives you a “brand”. This is a highly complex subject. For a start just remember that when you register a company, it becomes a “legal person”, which acquires a unique personality and characteristic just like a real person. It’s amazing how first that personality mirrors the founder, and in time also its workers.

___At Econet we say we are “Inspired to change your world”…. It has been more than 20 years since we adopted that.

Brand visibility:
Advertising and sponsorship of events like this NBA game is one of the ways we try to promote and give visibility of our brands. Big companies spend billions of dollars. You don’t have to be a billion dollar company before you invest in the visibility of your brand. When I started out I always looked for the most innovative, and cost effective ways to market our brand. I sponsored school sports grounds, bus shelters, street signs.
A good entrepreneur must understand marketing of not just products, but also the values of the brand.
# If you are serious about building a business,then you must have budget for advertising and promoting your brand and it’s values. This is not just about advertising to sell a product.

Brand Integrity:
You must be careful what you associate your brand with. Before we agree to sponsor anything for instance, we sit down and enter into written agreements which cover the expectations of either party, as well as expected conduct. For instance I once authorised sponsorship of a certain sport organisation in one of our markets. The complete disregard of the agreement by the sport’s governing body was quite astounding. For me if someone does not respect an agreement or undertaking I will never do business with them again. We decided to stay away from that sport, and it’s governing bodies.

I hope that one day we will have an opportunity to have a more I depth discussion on marketing, and advertising of your business.
Meanwhile I hope you enjoy this little advert that our people did on this historic occasion:
And if you are a basketball fan, enjoy the game!

The End.

Author:Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.

16 Replies to “Pause: Your Company, and it’s Brand.”

  1. Afterthought 1.
    An agreement to sponsor an event like this one took months of detailed negotiations which involves lawyers and experts from both sides. What emerges is s document that can run into more than 100 pages. This is quite normal and part of international practice.
    An agreement to put your company name on Manchester United for instance would be very complex, and involve many, many experts and lawyers. This does not mean you cannot do it, but you must know what is involved

  2. Afterthought 2.
    An advert like the one we have here is done by experts in marketing and advertising. It might only be a few minutes but it involves weeks or even months of planning and discussion by creative experts.
    If you have now reached a stage where you want to advertise on local TV or radio. Don’t just draft something yourself, but seek out a professional to help you. This is part of the professional development of yourself and your business.

  3. Afterthought 3.
    Always make a distinction between sponsorship you might do to help a community or the disadvantaged, and “commercial sponsorship” you might do to promote your brand. Sponsoring a sports team for instance is commercial sponsorship. Here we are talking about commercial sponsorship.

  4. Joshua, writes:

    what if the name is African will investors or customers take you sereously?

    My reply:
    If you really want to have authenticity finding an African name for your company is one way to do it. These days increasingly people are turning to the use of African languages to find good names. What is key is to keep it simple, and easy on the tongue for others who may not know your language.
    The Japanese are very good at popularizing names based on their language: Mitsubishi, Seiko, Toyota…those are all Japanese names that we now recognize as global brands.
    Many of the most common names today started as people’s names: Barclays, Johnson and Johnson, McDonalds.
    Always do a “Google name search” to make sure no one else has the name or Domain name. Don’t copy names of other people’s companies because you can be sued.

  5. Global brands whose origin or owners are from Africa:
    __Can you list any global brands whose brand or owners are from Africa?
    (My list would really surprise you!)

    1. 1. Econet Wireless- Strive Masiyiwa
      The brand name is Buddie
      2. SABMiller- is a multinational brewing and beverage company -Originated in South Africa

  6. Sir, my name is Felix we want to invest a big amount of money in Africa ,we want to invest in the big projects sir can you help me to figure out those projects and sir if I get your e-mail I will explain more here is my e-mail:
    Thank you very much!

  7. 1.MTN ($ 5,381Billion), South Africa, Telecommunications

    2. Woolworths ($885Million), South Africa, Retail
    3. Shoprite ($834Million), South Africa, Retail

    4. Dstv ($827Million), South Africa, Media

    5. Spar ($679Million), South Africa, Retail

    6. Castle ($655Million), South Africa, Beverages

    7. Pick N Pay ($647Million), South Africa, Retail

    8. Safaricom ($357Million), Kenya, Telecommunications

    9. Tusker ($263Million), Kenya, Beverages

    10. Dangote ($253Million), Nigeria, Consumer, Non-Cyclical

  8. This a great piece Dr. Masiyia!! I am a Ghanaian-born software entrepreneur and I have been following your post for the past 2 Years and I have turned things around.
    My first company (iPerl) is a software technology company focused on developing software solutions for ONLY the Healthcare Industry in the form of: Electronic Health Records (EHRs), Healthcare Business Intelligence, Health Information Exchange (HIX), Revenue Cycle Management, Electronic Claims (E-Claims) and etc.. Our major product is: HELIX (“Hospital Electronic Information Syxtem”) and our vision is to become the GOOGLE of the Healthcare Industry in Ghana and Africa.
    My next start-up will be called: BlackRut (..coming from the african roots). I recently registered the domain and I’ve started the company registration. I want to make it a global brand and a household name, God willing.

    Thank you for everything, Dr. Strive Masiyiwa. (I have a full notebook on all your post. I follow you everywhere you go. (Aliko Dangote, Strive Masiyiwa, Elon Musk, Sam Jonah etc.) You are great Men! #Bryan (Ghana)

  9. Tawanda,

    Anglo American
    Discovery /Vitality
    BHPBilliton(Will be South32 are spin out)
    Old Mutual
    Ethiopian Airlines
    Standard Bank of South Africa
    Lonmin to an extent

    I’m impressed. This is brilliant. Yes these are amongst global brands started by people from Africa. There are many more, but I love your list 10/10!

  10. Understanding marketing is one of the core skills of a successful entrepreneur. There is a lot more to professional marketing than adverts in newspapers or on TV. This is something I appreciated very early in my business career. Whenever I would travel I would go to the business section of any bookshop, and buy books on marketing and branding. I soon began to realize what really goes on behind a successful marketing strategy, and development of brands. It also helped me to find experts who could help me, as I began to understand their field.
    Today, I have introduced some of you to the importance of marketing. Now go to Amazon, and research books that you can buy to help you get the basics, and build from there.

  11. This week’s reflective moment: being faithful.

    Daniel 6:4
    Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was FAITHFUL, neither was there any error or fault found in him.

    God looks for FAITHFUL men and women to carry out His purpose and work here on earth.
    Daniel is a remarkable and inspiring example of a faithful man.
    Daniel was impeccably faithful and devoted to the Lord. There was neither error, nor fault found in him. He was neither corrupt nor negligent. He was faithful in all his dealings. He served God with purpose and uprightness, in truth and unmistakable commitment. His faithfulness was with direction. He was clear about who he was faithful to, and what his faithfulness was about. He remained faithful to God even when he was persecuted by his government in things pertaining to God.
    As believers our primary allegiance, dedication, commitment, and loyalty is to God and His Word before anything else.
    We must remain at all times steadfast and undaunted in our service and allegiance to The Lord.
    We must object to doing anything that is not consistent with the Word of God.
    Tribalism, racism, nepotism, acting in bad faith, dishonest dealing with others, disregard for the law or the rights of others, environmental destruction, abuse of State or government resources or your position for your own purpose or your friends, family, members of your tribe….all these and more are examples of unfaithful behavior in the eyes of the Lord.

    Daniel was what we would call today, A CIVIL SERVANT.

    __Extract from a teaching on being faithful.

  12. Prosper Temba, writes:

    Sory , I have a question on the issue of company names, I have seen some names that are identical from different countries. The only different is eg Tanzania ie. Example (T) ltd and Kenya ie. Example (K) ltd . How about this?????

    Many international companies register global trade mark protection for their names, covering different countries. If you use their name it might be either they did not protect it in your country, or they do not think that you are a threat to them, so they simply don’t bother coming after those who have copied their name.
    As I said in the beginning it is not advisable to copy the names of existing companies, if you have a hope to one day be very successful and even expand beyond your country’s borders. You could find yourself being embarrassed when lawyers arrive to order you to change the name of your company. It’s always advisable to be “faithful”( have integrity) in all your dealings.

  13. Samofoha writes:

    hello mr Strive Masiyiwa thank you so much on the branding lecture, but i have a question. i have registered my company with a name which is unique to me and in my country nigeria,but to my greatest surprise i google searched the name on the internet and was astonished to see the same name which i used as my company name being used by other companies in the UK and kenya.what will i do??

    My reply:
    Welcome to the club!
    I deal with this problem almost every month, because we have so many new businesses being registered. Once we choose a name for a new business, we start the search on the Internet to make sure it is authentic. If we find someone else has the name, we will not use it.
    Sometimes you find out late that someone else has the name. What we then do is to find out which name came first. We also want to find out what business those people do. We then contact them to try and find a way forward. Sometimes we just pay them to change their name if they were first. If we cannot do anything we change the name and look for something else.

  14. Mike from Zambia, writes:

    Thank you very much Dr Strive Masiyiwa for all these great postings that go a very long way in helping us the start-ups in business. Sir, i have a situation down here in Zambia, its like my registered business name is also used by some some two different unregistered businesses (very common in my country) in two other cities. Now that has acted as a plus to my business for a very long time, i get several customers who come like; is this the same as that one in Lusaka? or Chingola? and just that brings in lots of sales because those customers feel if we are found in different cities, we are big, genuine and reliable. What is the best thing to do in such a situation?

    My reply:
    Imagine if one of those other companies commits a major scandal, and the owners are reported in the newspapers as criminals, shall you not also be seen by people as a criminal?
    It is not advisable for you to be associated with people who are not even trading lawfully, because sooner than later their activities will catch up with them, and you might be drawn into it.
    If you had money you would want to use your lawyers to stop them using the name, as you are the registered owners of that name. In many countries you can simply report them to the authorities, who will order them to stop. But I do not know the situation in Zambia. In many countries trading using a name of another company is considered a form of fraud, and you can go to jail.
    However if this is not possible, do everything to make sure your customers, and the general public understand that you are registered and they are not.
    You must always “jealously guard” the name, and brand of your business. Global companies like Apple, MTN, Coke will come after you in a big way if you ever attempt to use their name.

  15. Good day Sir, I am Chisom Sam Orji and i am a Nigerian. I commented on your fb page but i realized that was not the best place. I have followed and gained lots of insights from your teachings and i’m grateful. I just wrote a book Greatness Culture, teaching to understand purpose, maximize life and achieve greatness. Thia book project covers a wide range of topics and targeted at the youths of Africa. It is with all humility that i request for you to write the foreword. My email is +234 817 710 1825. Please sir i need an email with which i can forward my manuscript to you. God bless you greatly.

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