You may or may not have come across what is referred to here as the ‘Fake or Real’ Amstel malta campaign. There’s a video currently in circulation alleging that a fake Amstel malta brand is in the market, warning consumers to be careful while purchasing the brand. The video shows what it calls original Amstel malta brand and then the one it calls fake. In fact, it is almost convincing. What you can only do if you don’t want wahala is to simply tell yourself “I won’t drink Amstel Malta again”, since you don’t know which is original and you can’t take the pains to always check every container of Amstel malta you want to drink. In fact, this even happened to me. I had told myself I will not drink Amstel Malta again until I decided to dig deeper into this ‘fake Amstel Malta’ campaign only to discover it was actually Super Story (apologies to Wale Adenuga productions).
Now, check this out. It happens that there’s no such thing as ‘Fake Amstel malta’. The company that produces the drink, NB Plc only made some slight changes on the container and felt the next right thing to do was to get approval from “the relevant regulatory agencies, including the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC.” Well, that is definitely the right thing to do… on paper though. I wouldn’t want to say that the Public Relations (PR) team of NB forgot that the malt drink market in Nigeria was not just competitive but fierce, shrewd and having a no-holds-barred atmosphere. So sneaking in some changes on the malt container for whatever good reason was not enough. Paying for adverts on a few elitist media to make the changes known to the public, was also definitely not enough in this digital society where governments can even be overthrown on whatsapp.
What is now happening to Amstel malta is that the ‘fake malt’ campaign has continued to resurface from time to time, knocking out some consumers who are not enlightened enough to figure out that the ‘fake product’ campaign is actually a fake campaign. Whether the company wants to believe this or not, the fact is that a good number of people will definitely stop drinking Amstel malta because of this campaign. How many people who received the whatsapp video on the existence of fake Amstel malta have seen the other write-ups debunking the claim? People in rural areas is even cities, who received the message on whatsapp may not have the data to browse the internet to read where NB debunked the false claim. They might not even watch television to at least have the chance of coming across the message debunking the fake amstel malta campaign. What of those youngsters who save their data just to watch movies online and download latest naija songs? They may have seen this message on whatsapp but might not visit the social and mainstream media platforms where NB’s statement debunking the fake malt campaign was posted. So has the PR team of NB taken the war beyond the online community? Has the team even realized that this is a war? There are battles that begin online but can only be won offline.
Some people are of the opinion that very mean competing brands may have arranged the fake Amstel malta video to give a sucker punch to the market leadership position of this malt brand. The NB is now facing what could be described as one of the greatest public relations challenges any company could face in modern times, regarding one of its products, Amstel malta. The negative campaign against Amstel Malta has been on since 2016. This is because as at January 2017, some social media platforms were posting messages from NB debunking the Fake Amstel malt campaign.
This Day online recently posted a comment from NB debunking the current fake Amstel Malta campaign which suddenly resurfaced from no where. Did I say “from no where?” Sorry, we can guess where the fake malt campaign came from. Don’t rule out the fact that two groups of sources are possibly at work here. First, competitors who could be planting the story or videos from time to time to ensure that the Amstel Malta brand takes a serious hit whenever is dominates the market for a long time. Next is innocent Nigerians expressing the spirit of consumerism, who definitely have not seen the other side of the story where NB debunked the argument. This second group is made up of those who are exhibiting the saying that whenever you wake up is your morning. So whenever you buy a smart phone and the fake Amstel Malta campaign video flies into your phone via whatsapp that’s definitely when your own campaign to ‘save the world’ begins. You start sharing without asking questions. There are several people who will always buy the fake malt story at any time. Many will not even bother to ask the sort of questions I asked before decided not to believe the story. If you look at the two containers of the the so-called fake and original Amstel Malta you will discover that there are just about three slight changes. So you ask yourself someone who was able to ‘fake’ other important features on the original container, what does the person stand to gain by spending so much money to make a fake one? Why not start your own Malt drink company? That’s by the way.
I ask the question again, NB where is your PR team? Sneaking in some changes on the container and pushing the product into the market without appropriate backup campaign has potential consequences, and that’s what Amstel Malta is facing now. What is happening now shows that the changes were simply sneaked into the market, whether the PR team agrees or not. The public was not carried along while the change process was on. This is a fat lesson to other companies making such changes on their product content or container.
The PR team of NB was definitely not proactive enough to envisage this challenge and do more than press conferences and adverts while introducing the changes or even debunking the claims. The company is still making the elitist mistake of just posting counter comments on social and mainstream media to debunk the claims without planning and executing a brutal campaign to save the Amstel Malta brand. People in the villages are still circulating the video. Some are even verbally passing the message across in local languages to their loved ones in the village, telling them why they should avoid buying the drinking for local events they’re organizing or even accepting it if offered to them. The bad news is that this negative campaign is going nowhere except the NB gets their PR team to make this disappear gradually. The video and entire campaign might take a quick nap but it’s only a matter of time before the monster is woken up by any of the two groups I mentioned earlier – the very mean competitors or the innocent consumerists attempting to ‘save the world’.
The PR team of NB needs to watch closely to identify what is keeping the negative campaign alive and come up with a deliberately planned corner-to-corner campaign to smoke out the sources of this trouble. The PR team should see this as a do or doom campaign to save the brand, since some people helping the negative information to spread think they are ‘saving the world’. You better choose between ‘saving the brand’ and ‘saving the world’. These are the two teams at play here just that the ‘saving the brand’ team has not done enough.
Checkout this statement issued by NB countering the fake malt campaign which was posted on This Day online on January 18;
“The attention of Nigerian Breweries Plc., (NB) has been drawn to a video circulating on some social media platforms alleging the existence of a ‘fake’ Amstel Malta in the market.
“This claim is based on the fact that there are differences in the NIS Logo on the Amstel Malta packaging.
“We wish to clarify and assure all our valued consumers and lovers of Amstel Malta that there is no fake Amstel Malta in the market.”
In the comment, the NB explained further that it recently revised the packaging of Amstel Malta and incorporated the new NIS Quality logo from the Standards organisation of Nigeria, (SON).
“this change was approved by the relevant regulatory agencies, including the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC.
“The claim, in the video under reference, that the Amstel Malta with the new NIS Logo is ‘fake’ is incorrect and misleading.
“SON, the owners of the NIS Quality Logo, have variously confirmed the change in its certifying logo and had in fact commended Amstel Malta for being the first producer to incorporate the new NIS Logo in its packaging.
“The false claim and video have been previously addressed by NB in 2017 when the video was first circulated. A joint press conference was addressed by SON, and NB Plc affirming the packaging change with new NIS logo and correcting the false claims in the video.
“We are concerned that the same misleading video has resurfaced and is again being circulated on some social media platforms. We therefore appeal to the public to ignore this video and refrain from re-circulating this untrue information.”
Nicely structured reactive, traditional, damage control, comment. But who explains this to the woman in the village whose son in the city told his niece to tell mama? Who makes this comment known to the guy who just bought a smart phone and suddenly gets the fake malt video, then posts it to a whatsapp group where 80 percent of members never knew NB had a joint press conference with SON in 2017 to debunk the allegation? The PR team should think of better ways to plant the correct version of the story in the minds of potential and actual consumers of both the Amstel Malta brand and the fake Amstel Malta video in circulation. This definitely goes beyond issuing statements. Everyone knows that NB has integrity, enviable milestone and pedigree which gives all its brands market leadership position. But let’s not forget that even heavy weight boxing champions get knocked out someday once the opponent sees the slightest loophole. Since you missed out on a proactive corner-to-corner campaign to explain to the public why you made slight changes on the container, such as removing ‘low sugar’ information on the new container, this is another opportunity to provide explanations. Assuming the fake Amstel malta campaign is fake as the makers of the product have said, does it then mean the new container has another version of the drink with high sugar content or what? A lot of questions to answer. There are strategies that should be considered in this campaign to ‘save the brand’ which the PR team members should figure out. That’s their job.