New avenues in local branding

INTERNATIONAL personalities, such as artists 50 Cent, late Tupac Shakur, Snoopy Dog, and Eminem, politicians Barak Obama and Che Guevara as well as sportsmen Roger Federer, Mike Tyson and Lionel Messi are not only readily recognized by the public through the nature of their exploits but also through the way they are branded.

Branding is intended to identify and differentiate any given object or human being from others.

Therefore it makes sense to understand that branding is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition, but it is about getting your prospects to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem.

A brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot.

The Namibian entertainment scene has been uplifted by the promotion of brands that has seen that rise of record labels such as Mshasho, Omalaeti and GMP among others.

Seven years ago, local brands were not so popular and people preferred international labels associated with 50 Cent, Tupac Shakur and Eminem. But with the emergence of popular local artists, there has been a shift in the trend and people are going for local labels.

Djokic Bozidara Dragan well known as Antonio has been instrumental in the creation and expansion of brands on the Namibia entertainment scene.

For the past seven years, Antonio through his company, Antonio Art, has been instrumental heavily involved in manufacturing, branding and selling of local labels t-shirts, caps, jerseys and other branded products at his shops around the country. Windhoekers, especially local label fans know Antonio through his two shop-stands in the Post Street Mall where he sells mostly products branded with local labels.

His company, Antonio Arts, specializes in manufacturing of branded goods such as t-shirts, caps, towels, key holders, and many other products as well as publishing corporate items. Antonio originally hails from the former Yugoslavia but stayed in Zambia for three years before coming to Namibia.

“I first came to Namibia seven years ago to attend the Windhoek Trade Show from Zambia for two weeks.

During my two weeks stay I realised that Namibia is a land full of opportunities for small entrepreneurs and decided to apply for a work permit.

After getting a work permit, Antonio established his business Antonio Art with an investment of N$ 15 000. His business at that point only sold posters of international artists and was not doing so good. The posters had to be bought or printed in South Africa.

However as months passed, his business started selling t-shirts and caps of international artists and labels and it grew slowly.

“While I was selling posters and t-shirts of international artists and labels, my customers started asking me why I do not sell posters and t-shirts of local artists. The local music industry was just in its infancy that time.”

He has since started printing and selling posters and t-shirts of local artists, politicians, DJs and Sports personalities to the market and paying royalties to them in the end. Last year he bought 15 sewing machines from Ramatex when it closed down. He also recruited five former Ramatex employees to work in his factory where he is manufacturing t-shirts and jerseys.

The factory is in Windhoek West and he plans to start manufacturing branded trousers and jeans products soon with various labels.

The machines from Ramatex are able to weave cotton and Antonio is using them to manufacture quality fabric for t-shirts.

His company currently employs eleven people, with nine permanent staff and two on a temporary basis with the ultimate aim of increasing the number of permanent employees to 20.

“Apart from the two shop stands in Post Street Mall, I also own three other shops in Oshakati, Otjiwarongo and Walvis Bay and plan to open three more shops in Oshikango, Ondangwa and Rundu in the near future.”

In these shops Antonio sells mostly locally branded products which he designs. He says his company has the capacity to cater for a tender to manufacture branded t-shirts from as small as 10 t-shirts to 1000 t-shirts. Antonio Art services are aimed at everyone, individuals and companies, he says.

“Currently I am working with 27 artists and out of that, 17 are upcoming artists, but i am not only dealing with musicians. I am branding regalia for former World Champion, the Hitman, radio DJs, politicians such as Dr. Elijah Ngurare, Ben Ulenga and Kuaima Riruako. Namibia is only working up to realise the power of official logos on any product that one thinks of, slogans and messages through what people wear,” He says.

Heis looking into diversifying his company services, and said he is currently also involved in sponsoring of artists.

“I just signed an agreement with Fishman, an upcoming artist whom I will be managing and is also in a process of signing up another upcoming Angolan Artist, Young Flo”.

He says there is a huge market of Angolans in Namibia that is currently being underutilised and his aim is to target them.

Currently, the brands of radio DJs is hot property. Dj Maldini of Omulunga radio, Dj Lezzie of Radio Energy and Dj Lucy K of Fresh FM, are selling like hot cakes. It’s like people are buying campaign material for a politicial party, yet it is just for the love of their celebrities,” he said.

During last year’s election campaign, Antonio donated t-shirts and caps branded in Swapo Party colours to the Swapo Party.

“I appreciate the way the Swapo Party has been leading Namibia and specifically due to the opportunity the Swapo led government has afforded me to run his business in a stable country. Namibia is a very stable country and very democratic and to be afforded the opportunity to operate my business in this country is an honour. I came as nobody, now I am somebody.

I think other African countries should follow the Namibian democratic way of governing which is pro-business and favourable for foreign investment,” says the Slav.

A workaholic, whose day starts at 7 am and ends at midnight, this artist-cum-designer prefers working at night and at the age of 50, he has little time for fun. An artist and entrepreneur of repute, Antonio says the secret of growing a successful business is in making sure that one does not borrow loans from a bank but rather strive to do all business transactions in cash.

“If you have a project that you want to do but do not have enough funds, put that project on hold until you raise the necessary funds from your own earnings. All the youth are running to the banks for loans even for projects that can be achieved with little cash. It’s not in the money, it’s in your ideas,” he concludes.

The company is responsible for designing but his clients always contribute their inputs or new designs that they want to be printed on different products.

Although branding of labels is a relatively new concept within the Namibian music industry, the results of its benefits speak volumes and Namibian artists have used this concept successfully in promoting themselves and their labels.

“Fans like branded products of their favourite artists or recording labels.

Today they will ask for t-shirts but tomorrow they will ask for something totally different such as cups and key holders and as a business you should be able to address the needs of the customers.”

Antonio used to have some of his products printed and manufactured in South Africa, but he has managed to set up a factory to manufacture some of these products in Namibia.

“My aim now is to be able to manufacture all the branded products here in Namibia which means I will not be ordering any item to be manufactured in South Africa in the near future.”PF