As Kenya confirmed its first Covid-19 case in March 2020, an innovative business idea was taking shape. By the time movement restrictions and other measures to contain the pandemic’s spread were being rolled out, Wowzi, a new technology firm, was being born.
Just as the pandemic would rewrite how life is lived, Wowzi was embarking on changing how brands interacted with their customers.
“Wowzi came to be in difficult times. A lockdown was announced just three days before we launched and began to aggressively engage prospective clients. The current was going downstream, yet we were headed upstream. There was no other way of dealing with the situation but to adapt and grow the business,” recalls Brian Mogeni, one of the founders, who is also the organisation’s Chief Executive Officer.
Together with co-founders Mike Otieno and Dr Hassan Bashir, they rolled out an influencer marketing platform. Wowzi works by linking up brands with individuals willing to amplify their messages. On it, anyone, from watchmen to celebrities, can sign up as influencers – all they need to do is to download the app (currently only available on Android-enabled devices) and submit the required information, including their identification documents and social media handles. Brands and marketing agencies can then create campaigns conveniently, cherry-picking influencers relevant to their target markets.
“Many purchasing decisions are influenced peer to peer. This is because people generally trust their peers. They do not buy products but relationships and experiences. This is the drive behind Wowzi, hence our belief that we are humanizing advertising. It runs on our innate need to share experiences, which in turn cultivates trust in products and services amongst friends and acquaintances,” Mike explains.
At the moment, there are 30,000 verified and approved influencers on the platform. Each of the influencers is categorized as a nano-influencer, micro-influencer, macro-influencer, mega-influencer or premium influencer depending on their following on social media. These span different demographics, including gender, interests, professional interests, geographical location and age.
Since June 2020, Wowzi has run 1,000 campaigns for 120 brands. These have ranged from large multinationals and fast-moving consumer good firms to small enterprises, such as a small computer shop in Nairobi’s Central Business District.
Brian says that Wowzi also supports influencers to progressively enhance the quality of content that they create, through mailers and webinars.
“While influencer marketing has existed for centuries, execution has been a big challenge. Wowzi makes it neater, less fragmented and convenient. We have made it more convenient for brands to run campaigns without worrying about managing several influencers and handling payments,” he explains.
On the platform, influencers can also enjoy enhanced exposure and have a regular stream of gigs, beyond their regular networks.
In just one year, Wowzi has reported phenomenal growth. The headcount at the firm’s Nairobi headquarters has grown five-fold, with ongoing plans to expand across East Africa in the short term before looking to the rest of the world.
Brian attributes the accelerated digitization during the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak for driving Wowzi’s growth over the last year.
“The pandemic has made individuals who were not open to digital technology to consider it and adopt it. This has made engagement richer between brands and audiences,” he adds.
For Mike, the first campaign that Safaricom ran on the platform, Raukia Tunukiwa, was a turning point for Wowzi.
“It was much more successful than we had imagined. It blew our minds and overshot the targets immediately. We thank Safaricom for the great opportunity to deliver on business objectives,” he says. At the end of the 12-day campaign, it had reached 180,000 subscribers.
This was the first of 97 campaigns that Safaricom has undertaken on the platform, across different product lines, involving 2,000 influencers who got 15,000 gigs.
As the firm marks its first anniversary, and bracing for the second year of operation, the firm is aiming to create one million earning opportunities for content creators.
“We are extremely focused on the customer since day zero. We are committed to continually understand their needs better and to identify challenges in the value chain to incorporate in our solutions. All we are determined to do is ‘wowzing’ the world,” Brian says.
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