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Mama Lemon: Lessons on entrepreneurship and market penetration

Do you remember what we used in our kitchens before the introduction of liquid wash in our kitchens? Depending on what your mother preferred, you are likely to say bar soap or detergent. Now, that feels like ages ago, doesn’t it?

When liquid wash was introduced into our market, “Morning Fresh” stood out as a household brand. It got so popular that even when other liquid wash brands tried to penetrate the market, some people still called them “Morning Fresh” even though they had their own names.

Well, I noticed “Mama Lemon” about two years ago when I went to the market and couldn’t find Morning Fresh from any of my regular suppliers. My kitchen was running out of stock of liquid wash so, I had no choice but to try it out. 

From my experience, the product is just as good and does the job. However, I could not help but notice a few things Mama Lemon did differently to penetrate the market and command their own share of consumers’ attention.

I’ve highlighted my observations below as a lesson for entrepreneurs and manufacturers in Nigeria.

5 Lessons learned from Mama Lemon

Penetration price

Mama Lemon found a pricing sweet spot to warm their way into the market. They priced their product higher than hand made liquid soaps but not higher than established brands. Thus, they made it easy for people who make decisions based on price to consider their product first.

Product differentiation

You’ll observe from Mama Lemon’s packaging that they did not go all out to appeal to the high end of the market. The packaging communicated the idea that even though this is a good product, anybody can afford it.

Product quality

Even though their packaging doesn’t look as luxurious as that of Morning Fresh, the product is very good. This way, they retain market share – especially among price sensitive customers. The truth is that it is almost impossible to ignore you when your product is good.

Local Context

Mama Lemon obviously took some time to research and develop a communication plan fitting for the environment they wanted to play in. This is evident in the name of their product “Mama” which is an endearing word for Mothers in many African homes. You must have also observed this integration of local parlance with other companies eg. Coca Cola imprinting names like “Oga”, “Mama D Mama” etc on Coke bottles.

Persistence and Courage

This is probably the most important lesson of them all. You can complain all day that the market you want to enter into is saturated or overtaken by big players; but if you don’t make a move to get in, you’ll never know what you could have made of your own enterprise. Even when there was a king in town (Morning Fresh), it did not stop Mama Lemon from going into the market and pushing hard. If they did not courageously enter the market, you wouldn’t even be reading this article.

From my opening story, you may have also noticed that the scarcity of Morning Fresh gave visibility to Mama Lemon. This is a pain point for most manufacturers including myself, scarcity of our products gives our customers the opportunity to try out an alternative and trust me you are in a danger zone if that alternative meets the customer’s needs.

As I shared in my book Profit, when entering into a new market is not the time to make noise and draw the attention of all competitors waiting to drown you. Instead, focus on creating a good product that people will happily tell their friends about and choose your own position in the market. Define the vacuum you are coming to fill, that established brands may have overlooked and make that your own advantage. That’s what Mama Lemon did. They were strategic to subtly integrate into the market until they gained wide acceptance.

As a recap, here are the five lessons again:

  1. Penetration price
  2. Product differentiation
  3. Product quality
  4. Local context
  5. Persistence and courage

Apply these lessons but also work hard to make your product available when customers need it.

4 Comments

  1. Toluwalope Oluwadare

    How do you avoid making noise and drawing the attention of competitors if you also have to advertise your product for visibility. Compititors will most likely see adverts.

    • Bola Adefila

      Hello Toluwalope,

      First as a new entrant in the market, your first point of call is to ensure availability of your products in the market. Think carefully about this, let’s say you go on a spending spree advertising, so we end up seeing and hearing about your products through the different media platform you’ve used and afterwards we go to the market to purchase and we can’t find it anywhere. what do you think will be our first impression/reaction? Hmmm! your guess is as good as mine.

      so what you need to do is get wholesalers, retailers to stock your products first, you may even need to entice them with incentives to carry your brand at the initial stage, remember you are a new kid on the block, they don’t know you and they don’t know how well your products will be received therefore your initial energy should be channeled to where and what matters. when you have succeeded in gaining acceptance with the middlemen, your next job is to drive the attention of the consumers to these middlemen.

      you can read more about this in my book ‘PROFIT’. Hope this was helpful.

      thanks for your comment.

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