The Story Of Three Beggars


Being an Insight Manager of a Lagos ad agency has thought me several things. One of such is paying attention to the street. One of those beautiful nonsenses was this romantic close-up with three beggars on the street of Lagos.


‘Alakoba oni koba yin o…’ The Hausa beggar ranted mercilessly. 

‘Eee ni ra’la kobaaa…’ He continued.


‘Please abeg, help me abeg, please abeg…’ Another kicked off.

And ‘Shhhhhhh____hhhh’ Here comes the 3rd loser beggar.


Commuting between Touchstone in Yaba and Okota-home via Tejuosho – Ojuelegba – Lawanson – Itire– Cele route brings me across different categories of people; the middleclass, and mostly the mass market and the societal down-trodden we usually refer to as ‘E’ in socio-economic-classification.


Somewhere between Odo-Eran and Cele Bus stop is this dirty and densely-populated meat market dominated by the D and E socio-economic-class; the paraga-selling Anti Kafaya, the Mama Shade alagbo jedi, Boda Luku eleran obe, Alaye mi Killer and his igbo-selling gang, Mama Rashida the tomato seller, Anti Shakky and her ponmo business empire, Sister Chioma who sells bend-down underwear for classy ladies, Mr. Uchenna and the CD pirates, John Okafor and the okrika brothers…and of course, our dear three beggars whom I have been privileged to study for over a period spanning three years.


Victor you must be crazy! 

Why spend executive time on such low life? Why discuss dirty beggars in a smelly part of Lagos suburb? Why not Victoria Island or VGC beggars? Or even the corporate beggars in suits and ties? Why not the presidency and the political mafia group? Why not the election and the melodramatic politicians? Why not Arsenal FC lifting the Champions League? Why not Unilag chics buying bend-down bras in Tejuosho at night?


Well Jack, the naked truth is there are lots of marketing tactics to learn from these three gentlemen who’d employed different persuasive strategies to capture the attention of the Lagos market.


‘…alakoba oni koba yin o…’ Beggar-A (BGA) yelled at the top of his voice with a well-injured and dilapidated Yoruba language from a northern beggar, whose teeth had been graciously eroded by several years of no-brushing policy.


‘…please abeg, help me abeg…’ The second beggar pleaded on…


The beggars continued ranting on top of their voices – throwing the hook, line, sinker, and bait along the customers’ pathways. Of course, the market responded, but in different degrees, ratios, and according to their creative persuasion.


I habitually investigated their bowls and their daily income; and it’s obvious that their market share differs; somewhere in the ratio of 6:3:1; and this got me curious. 

What was BGA observing but ignored by BG2 and B3? They were in the same business, in the same location, then what are they doing differently? 

A Case Study. 


BGA attracted prospects because real values were attached to his persuasive offerings; the values we so much cherish, like safety, prosperity, wealth, long life… 

‘…alakoba o ni koba yin o…’

He gave out free values, and dished them out without measure, breaking psychological barriers of language, race, tribe, religion, location, and societal status. And it worked for him. Market flowed in from the four cardinal points. BGA was a creative dude who could have been a top copywriter of any ad agency. He was a rational strategist due to his ability to merge real value with emotions. BGA rocks.


A few steps away was the ‘Please abeg’ crooner, a real-time begging sensation whose main strategy was to direct emotional attraction to himself. He had a single-minded and punchy content – Help me abeg – but no value was attached to his campaign. No prayers, no blessing, no offering. A selfish, egomaniac, narcissist marketer. 


BG2 had forgotten that branding is more about customers, and not him, yet he diverted all the attention to himself without giving out anything. Emotion takes you to the market, logic keeps you there. Customers want to enjoy value for their money and when they saw no value in his offering, they turn back from BG2, preferring to place their hard bets on a value-offering scheme. The BGA.


This is a strong indication that logic and emotions must interplay to create a successful marketing program. Most appeals are lost at the consumer interaction point when consumers surprisingly find a disconnect between the initial creative illusion and the real world; when they discover that the noisemaker has nothing to offer except noise, hence, they look elsewhere.


B3 is the third begging brand. The hungry-looking sorry man sat quietly by a rickety structure, a 100kg DEAF AND DUMB placard hanging mercilessly on his neck and nearly pulling him to the ground. Few coins took abode in the metallic plate in front of him. This guy was silent, never saying anything… hoping for the mercy of the market. Expectedly, the Lagos market evaded him like a plague, passed him unnoticed like a punch in the air, scrambling for those with strong value propositions like BGA. How could you pose to be DEAF AND DUMB in the world of Barrack Obama’s ‘Yes I Can!’.


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