Have you eaten kenkey with okro stew before? The feeling is indescribable!

It’s more exciting when the stew has thick pieces of salmon with cow intestines; what many Ghanaians refer to as ‘towel’. You have to try it to understand what I’m saying.

Now due to my unquenchable appetite for kenkey and okro stew, I was very happy when I walked with my twin brother, Desmond, and the rest of my friends to a kenkey joint at Odorkor a few weeks ago.

Immediately we got to the place, I hurriedly joined the queue to make our order.

That was when one of my friends raised an objection.

Speaking pidgin, he said, “Naaa … Schandorf, you nor for do this. You paa wey you dey read news for JoyNews wey you dey come form kenkey line nu? … Eno fresh. You go spoil the ‘brand’ oo”.

In other words, “given your ‘status’ as a presenter on the screens of JoyNews, you shouldn’t join an open queue to buy kenkey in the full glare of the public like. It will stain your ‘brand'”.

My friend continued, “Echill … Make abuy give you”; offering to replace me in the queue.

Well, despite his insistence, I refused to exit the queue. The last thing I remember was that, we all ate the kenkey and okro stew happily on that eventful Sunday afternoon.

As for the taste, I already told you in the first paragraph to try it and confirm for yourself. But let me whet your appetite with the picture below … hahaha

Paa Kwesi Schandorf: The misconception about 'branding' and why people live 'fake' lives
A typical example of neatly served okro stew with kenkey. Photo credit for okro stew: myrecipejoint.com Photo credit kenkey: sweetadjeley.com

Now let’s forget about my lust for kenkey and okro stew. What did my friend mean when he said forming a queue to buy kenkey will hurt my brand?

What did he mean by ‘brand’ in the first place? To be honest, I think I understood the point he was driving at.

For many people in this generation, especially the youth, branding is largely about the cost of the cloth you wear; the expensiveness of what eat; the prestige of where you buy your food; the pixels of your phone’s camera and whether you drink your water in a bottle or a sachet.

Let me quickly state that, I am not in any way suggesting that we must abandon our quest for quality and the good things of life. It is good to aspire for the best. The point however is that, personal branding goes beyond all of the above.

This is how Wikipedia defines personal branding: “Personal branding is the conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition, to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact.[1]

It is interesting how there was no emphasis on one’s shirt, phone, shirts or any physical artifact.

A man’s brand is not defined by the place he buys his shirt or the phone he uses; be it an android device or the latest iphone model.

As far as I’m concerned, branding is more about a person’s character and the behaviourial qualities he exudes when dealing with people. Every other element, as far as I am concerned is secondary.

Unfortunately, when it comes to branding in our world, there is a lot of focus on the aesthetics (what we see).

And so for a lot of people, if you look fashionable enough with the latest phone model, a good perfume, a nice footwear with ear pods in your ears, then you have a ‘solid brand’.

This misconception of what branding is has led many people astray; causing a lot of young people to abandon their morals and dignity in the process.

The erroneous assumption about branding has also influenced many people to take decisions that have proven counter productive.

These days, we hear of how young men take huge loans to fund big weddings which they later pay through their noses.

There are also stories of young ladies who also warm the beds of rich men just to acquire glamorous phones and laptops; in order to keep up with their fame as ‘big girls’.

I don’t know if it’s true, but much recently, there have been stories about how some celebrities in Ghana and Nigeria travel to satisfy the weird sexual cravings of rich Arabs, in order to get some dollars to support their luxurious lifestyles, just to keep their ‘brands’ intact.

In a nutshell, a lot of people are doing some many unthinkable things to preserve and sustain their ‘brands’.

But pause for a moment. What is wrong with using an android phone? So long as you can make calls and interact with your family and loved ones, why should you indulge in internet fraud or sleep around just to acquire an iphone to ‘sustain your brand’?

Why should you, an NSS personnel spend your meagre 559 to throw a party for your girlfriend, just to keep your supposed ‘reputation’ as a good boyfriend?

It even gets worrying when some people refuse to eat or hold food served in polythene bag because they believe it will dispel prospective suitors.

In order to preserve their so called brand, some also resort to lofty lifestyles which their budgets cannot support. We have heard of people who pay huge amounts for their birthday photoshoots, without knowing where the next meal will come from.

Apart from the clear absurdity in of all these instances, we miss the actual point about branding. Your brand , like I have hinted is what comes into people’s mind when your name is mentioned.

It is actually what people associate you with and how people feel when your name is mentioned.

Paa Kwesi Schandorf: The misconception about 'branding' and why people live 'fake' lives
Kaftans and suits don’t count for branding

At this point, let’s look at the letters that make up the word ‘brand’ (B-R-A-N-D). If you ask me to ascribe a meaning to each of the five letters, I’ll say that keep it this way:

B – For Behaviour

R – For Relational skills

A – For Attitude

N – For Networking abilities

D – For Demeanour

Therefore a combination of good behaviour, affable relational skills, diligent attitude, exceptional networking abilities and a courteous demeanour makes a good brand.

And so it’s not enough to hold an expensive phone and refuse to hold food in a polythene bag.

If your phone can take the sharpest images and you eat at the choicest restaurant, yet you have a repugnant behaviour, relational skills, attitude, networking abilities and demeanour, do you have a brand at all?

Long before I thought of writing this article, the good books had already stated that a ‘good name is better than riches’, and that should shape our appreciation of what branding is all about.

At the risk of a repetition, let me state that, I am not saying we should settle for less. My concern is that, the conversation about branding should go beyond the optics.

Branding shouldn’t be about the wearing of fine African prints, neatly ironed kaftans, customised sneakers, suits and anything the eyes can see.

Your virtues, mannerisms, gestures, ethics and morals are also part of your branding. Indeed, they form the core of it.

In conclusion, let me reiterate that as human beings, we must remember that life is transient and passive. We may be the toast of the world today, but tomorrow, nobody will even remember our names again.

Where is Dasebre Gyamena; one of Ghana’s finest musicians? Where is Terry Bonchaka of ‘Puulele’ fame? 2

Where is Suzzy Williams, one of the sensational screen icons back in the day? Much recently, we can also ask of the whereabout of the talented Ebony and Ghana’s fine striker, Junior Manuel Agogo.

These were names that held prestige and prominence. But today, where are they? Nobody lives forever!

So in case you don’t agree with my thoughts on branding, the truth about death alone should impress upon you to be modest without seeking to impress anybody all in the name of ‘brand’.

On that note, I’ll continue to queue like everyone else once the appetite for kenkey and okro stew rears its head.

Because branding is not all about what people see about you, but more of what they feel about you when you show up.

Ciao!

The author of this piece is a writer, a broadcaster and a corporate emcee (MC), by name Paa Kwesi Schandorf. He is currently with the Multimedia Group, and a nominee for the 2022 BBC World News Komla Dumor Award. You can reach him on 0273141821 or derrick.ayirebi-acquah@myjoyonline.com.