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10 Mins. With Cletus Onyebuoha

By Yemisi Suleiman

The fifth edition of Coca-Cola pan-African music initiative, ‘Coke Studio Africa’, was held and broadcast recently. Working behind the scene to produce a musical TV show that is at the forefront of bringing talented artistes across Africa together is Cletus Onyebuoha, Assistant Director and Head of Marketing, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited. For Onyebuoha, who runs the strategic marketing operations for the 33 African countries that make up the West African Business Unit, the customer is key and ‘Coke Studio’ is all about creating world-class music and delighting consumers.
The recently concluded ‘Coke Studio Africa’ showcased seven of the best musical talents from Nigeria who collaborated with other talented African music stars, together creating effortless fusions, generating global buzz for musicians who want to be on the global stage and ultimately unveiling the magic of music in Africa.
Cletus Onyebuoha tells more about this Coke initiative and his views on the Nigerian music scene and style.


Cletus Onyebuoha
Cletus Onyebuoha

Tell us what the show Coke Studio Africa 5 was all about?

Coke Studio is a non-competitive music show. We bring together artistes from across Africa and assemble world-class music equipment; then, we bring together all these A-list artistes from all over Africa. We get them to create music spontaneously right there in the studio and do some stage performances of their existing songs. It’s about producing world-class music and mixing musicians from different African cultures and creating something beautiful in a day.

Does it end in the studio or do we get to hear the music outside?

You’ll get to hear it outside. Coke Studio airs on AIT on Sundays and Mondays on MTV Base; some local TV stations also airs it.  So, it doesn’t end in the studio. People see it on TV and also watch it on YouTube and consumers have access to it.

What is the idea behind the Coke Studio initiative? 

Like I said earlier, Coke Studio is for creating world-class music and delighting consumers; we know that one of the biggest passions of these consumers is music. They love music; the average youth today buys music, plays music, loves everything music. For us at Coca-Cola, it’s about talking to these youths in the language they understand, which in this case, is music.

This year’s edition is probably the biggest or loudest so far. What’s the difference between all?

A couple of factors were considered. First, regarding scale; we scaled it up. Last year, we had about eleven countries participating. This year, we had 16 countries. Regarding broadcast, we had to increase our outreach. Coke Studio is broadcast in 30 countries in Africa which is more than last year’s. The number of artistes also increased. Although we have some repeat artistes who made it back, there were also some new artistes who had never been part of Coke Studio. The selection process of artistes doesn’t stay with us alone; consumers also take part in selecting the artistes that come on the show.

Are you, personally, a music lover?

I am a music lover but I am more of a content lover. I listen more to the lyrics because I like music that philosophizes a lot. Once the philosophical part of the song is there, the rhythm which is equally important becomes secondary. So for me, it’s about what the artiste is talking about or more about the rhythm. I go for music that is meaningful.

So who is your favorite local artiste?

Locally, I will go with Tuface Idibia because he’s the one person that makes a lot of sense whenever he holds the microphone. I know some people think he’s no longer as hot as he used to be but he’s the one I will prefer anytime as he talks about real life issues that are relative and he sings it in languages you can understand – from English to Pidgin to his local dialect.

How would you describe the Nigerian music industry today? 

I think Nigeria’s music industry is coming of age but there is still a huge room for growth. When I was growing up, Nigerian music was just there; although we had some artistes but really few. I remember when I was in secondary school, it was Alex Zito and Co – those old school artistes that were the rave. You hear them and love their lyrics but they were not as popular as what we have now. Then, the industry was at the elementary stage; no money and, you know, money makes the world go round.

When you think about it now, it doesn’t matter what you do, there is so much money out there. The industry we have now is looking more like that of the West because they equally have the means to push themselves, which is why I am saying they have come of age.

Secondly, the rhythms are usually danceable but the problem is when one artiste does a good beat, the next set of artistes will copy and do the same. It’s only a matter of time before you miss the originality. I struggle with that a lot. So yes, there have been a lot of progress that is visible but there is still a huge room to grow and get better.

It would appear that music is a big thing for Coca-Cola. Why is this?

Because our consumers are into music; end of story. Our consumers are music lovers and we have to give them what they love. Through that, we hopefully connect with them more and they love our brand in turn; that means better sales for us.

How do you take time off to relax with your busy work schedule?

When I am indoors, I read a lot and play music but when I go out, I socialize and hang out with friends. I love football as well so I watch and talk soccer but mostly, socialize with friends.

Let’s get to know you a little bit; your educational background, when you started on the job, etc.

I started my marketing career with Procter & Gamble before I joined Coca-Cola. I’ve been a marketer all my life. I managed Pampers for four years then sanitary pads. I launched Oral B in 2011 and Ariel as well. I joined Coca-Cola about two years ago; by January, I’ll be two years here. Before P&G, straight from school; after P&G is Coca-Cola. 

So what do you like about what you do?

I love Marketing generally because, for me, Marketing is about how you creatively transform your product for the benefit of your consumers. It could be purely by communication; how you get the consumer to continue to love it and buy it is the domain of Marketing and refreshing this value constantly for consumers takes a lot of creativity, takes a lot of grit, takes a lot of striving and serious thinking. And, you have to be good at making quick calls and decisions. Marketing is tough and dynamic. I love my job because I love sitting at the edge of my seat constantly and that’s why I love thrillers; they keep me glued to the screen trying to put pieces together and that is what Marketing is like. I love it that way.

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