Indigenous Brand Names In Nigeria: The New Picture

CATEGORY: Branding | Communication | Strategy

Have you ever craved hot, steaming amala just because you passed that spot called Amala Shitta in Surulere?


Yeah, we know the food is great, but the gist is in the fact that even the name waters your appetite. First time this hit me, I saw ingenuity, but now, I see strategy and brands stealing the market space with something the consumers can relate to. I’ll tell you more…


As my Uber rolled down Admiralty way in Lekki that sunny afternoon, I spotted a travel agency called WAKANOW. I said it aloud to myself twice and then I smiled as it immediately came to me. Waka is a Nigerian creole word which refers to the verb “walk”. It also has a compound form called waka-waka referring to a restless person, or in this context, an itinerant. I was quite impressed with the business owners after I did my analysis. The business could have been called Fly services, or something funky, but I cannot ignore the call to action in the business name. So, I’ll walk into a WAKANOW office with the believe that these guys can get me moving in no time.


I was still nursing my admiration of the thinking capacity of the brand owners when I passed by EBEANO. I held myself back from clapping, I was happy with what I was learning. I quickly ran the name through the indigenous naming stethoscope I had created in my head. Ebeano is an expression in Igbo language for the adjective “original”. Because of the structure of the building, it could pass for a supermarket or a mini mall, so if it was called Fair Price or “Real deal” it would still convey some form of class. But the business owners decided to find a name that reminds us that they are worth the patronage- they sell Original. For them, the best way to pass this message was in the business name. They called themselves “The original”.


While I was enjoying my newly gained knowledge, the LED light on my phone started to blink indicating I had a message. I unlocked my phone and lo, it was a message from KONGA. It was black Friday and some perfume prices had been slashed. Ha! These guys always get me! For the first time, it occurred to me that Konga, when pronounced with an accent, is a Yoruba word for a well. This online store is always my first stop for everything I need to purchase. Then my analysis: Konga (a well) is a source of water, which is of utmost importance to human existence; so, one can safely say that the idea behind KONGA the online store is that it has everything you could possibly need. Or maybe my imaginations were running wild.


Then I remembered DEALDEY. I was almost giggling like a child at this point. In case your pidgin is not yet ‘warri-verified’, dealdey is a way of saying ‘there’s a deal’ or in the context of this literature, “there are discounts”. By the way, this is an online store and they found a way to tell us they give good discounts.


I really love fried chicken. But somewhere in my head, I’m still waiting for Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) to decide if they want to sell chicken or turkey since the name says both (but that’s alright). Blow Fish, Domino, Cold Stone etc. they all sound great even though I don’t want ice cream that’s stone-cold, (but that too is alright). All I’m saying is, as much as we love to sound like a big deal, I think an ingenious indigenous brand name works just fine, and it sells too. Maybe Nigerian business owners have become loyal to their cultures or maybe the bright ones are springing up. Either way, with no guilt, they can now recite: To serve Nigeria with all my heart, to be faithful loyal and…I think I’ll just leave that there…


Written by

Ifeoma Jukpor

Content team.