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Now that Kenya’s “Makmende” is global, who owns the brand?

What a week its been! Kenya and the world have been flooded by the Makmende phenomenon. The first Kenyan super hero as seen in the “ha-he” music video by Kenyan boy band “Just A Band”. Makmende has taken on a life of his own, quite literally. People all over the web are buzzing about Makmende including the Wall Street Journal. He has almost 20,000 fans on his Facebook page and so far almost 600 twitter followers (although Makmende follows no one!).

What I find even more interesting is that digital artists have gone to work and started making user generated images that depict Makmende in all sorts of funny and interesting “super hero” situations. Take for instance the one where he is re-worked as Leonidas leading his 300 Spartans from the movie of the same name or the iconic Obama “Hope” image re-worked with Makmende’s likeness and, not to mention, the GQ and Esquire Magazine front covers. It really is a huge and notable Makmende movement out there that Kenya and the world have taken to with so much gusto.

So, here is the next big question. Makmende has obviously become a fad and may even go so much further to become a venerable Kenyan entertainment brand. But, who exactly “owns” brand Makmende? I can already hear the printing machines going off this weekend and t-shirts as well as other Makmende merchandise hitting the streets of Nairobi by next week – this is going to happen for sure! (that’s if it hasn’t happened already). Meanwhile, Just A Band, who created brand Makmende may not see a cent from their creation if they do not secure copyrights right away (I certainly hope they have already started!). Most importantly, they should have at least signed some sort of agreement with the character who plays Makmende in their video to have exclusive rights.

Going forward, seeing that Makmende has pioneered the concept of internet viral marketing in Kenya on a global scale, the next thing I would like to see is how the brand is managed and how it can be monetized to the benefit of the brand creators – Just A Band. It may already be too late but time will tell.

I see huge prospects for Kenyan brands to partner with brand Makmende in commercials and other promotional initiatives. There certainly is potential and it will be exciting to see which brave Kenyan brands ride this wave for commercial gain. Personally, I have (already) made gains from Makmende through the post I made earlier this week that saw this blog featured on the Wall Street Journal and hit almost 20,000 visits (so far) this month. Makmende is definitely delivering super hero results to all who mention him! (But don’t tell him I said that!).

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3 Comments

  1. March 27, 2010 at 8:22 am — Reply

    I think the Makmende phenomenon has taken off precisely because it is NOT a commercial message. Here’s a cohort of savvy, intelligent web users who have found an authentic, fun and enjoyable piece of Internet content that is not trying to sell anything at them. And for that reason, have embraced Makmende with 20,000 arms and growing. Web users are getting smarter and smarter, and less receptive of the overt commercial messages that we brand building people are prone to throw at them. The question then is not whether a brand should paste a logo on Makmende’s head band. My suspicion is they as son as he takes a commercial message, be will lose his authenticity and become a branded mercenary, and the appeal will fade as fast.
    What we should consider then, is, can brands learn from this and create such commerical content over the Internet that is authentic and connects with consumers without overtly selling things to them? That, in my view, is the real challenge.

    • March 27, 2010 at 11:45 am — Reply

      Alvas these are excellent observations you have made. It definitely a call to action for marketers in Kenya to rethink how they can innovate the brand message. Its not so much an issue of selling but rather an opportunity to create viral messages that get consumers and the marketplace in general to engage brands.

  2. Josiah
    March 30, 2010 at 6:06 am — Reply

    Looks like JAB have taken steps to secure copyrights for Makmende.

    http://www.just-a-band.com/jab-statement.htm

    Extract:

    We (Just A Band) have obtained the sole rights to the Makmende character likenesses (the characters being Makmende, Britannia Zimeisha, First Bodi, Big-G, Wrong Number, The Askyua Matha Black Militants, Black Sahara, Godfrey and the Laydayz, Abscondita and Taste of Daynjah), “Nyoyo na Uji Films”, “Deluxe Nyeuthi”, “Finger of Nebula”, the “Makmende Amerudi” lettering and images thereof.

    This means that any copying or reproduction of any of the above characters FOR COMMERCIAL PURPOSES without permission is prohibited by law. Violators will be subject to criminal and/or civil action.

    WE HAVE NOT – as has been speculated – copyrighted/trademarked the word “Makmende”. We did not create that name ourselves, it has existed in Kenyan popular culture for a long time. Our copyright covers our representation of Makmende and the other characters/brand names in the video.

    Having said that, we love fan-generated artwork, as long as it’s not for commercial purposes. We’d like to send a special shout-out to the authors/creators of the Primary Makmendetics photo, and the 10,000 bob note and many other very cool pieces. Awesomeness!

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