Friday, May 26, 2006

Of Bird and Nigerian girls

(Off the cuff column published in the Nigerian Tribune of Thursday May 11 2006)

Have you noticed that many young girls are now to be found with the brand of mobile phones called Bird? I personally couldn't help wondering what the craze is with Bird phones among our young ladies these days when I was privileged to be at a social gathering in Lagos recently.

Some of my pastimes at boring social gatherings, by the way, include mobile phone surfing, which entails checking out the mobile phone brands wielded by the people around me. Not so I could pinch one, silly! It's just something I do, sometimes unconsciously, okay?

At my table were three young women with their escorts. Lo and behold all three had different models of Bird. I couldn't tell if they were friends or relations. They did talk to each other once in a while, but more to their phones and their escorts.

Then a couple of days later, I got visited by an old friend who used to be a die-hard fan of Nokia and Motorola. She still had the Motorola, but she had replaced her Nokia with a flip model of Bird with built-in camera. Well, she had a complaint about the ringing of the Bird not being loud enough for her. Otherwise it was cool. It was a camera phone for God's sake. And one with high enough resolution to display impressive pictures of her little cousins and several of hers taken in daring moments of girlish naughtiness. And more importantly, it didn’t cost her an arm and a leg to acquire.

What's the big deal about girls going for Bird, you ask? Well the big deal is that when the brand first hit our shores, most young women I knew wouldn’t be caught dead with it. Nobody had ever heard about the brand. Buy it for a wife or girl friend and she would fling it at you in a fit of righteous anger. Couldn't you find Nokia, Samsung, or Motorola on the shelf?

The model of Nokia called pure water (because it is just as common) would be better received by most ladies at that time than any model of Bird. You might want to put it down to peer influence. The girls wanted their peers to see a recognized brand in their hands, not one they had to spell out its name letter by letter.

To complicate matters for the promoters of the brand then, the models being aggressively advertised had no particularly outstanding aesthetics value. One of the commonest ones then, a flip phone with silver finishing very much looked like it was made of corrugated iron and glass.

If the truth must be told, this brand has since undergone total reengineering. Some models I have seen lately suggest that the manufacturers are spending all the money they have to make the phones look more and more like Samsung products while costing a couple of thousand naira notes cheaper.

Many analysts would want to argue that this and unrelenting advertising have broken some of the sale barriers and are winning more members of the fairer sex into the Bird fold.

The prices of phones are crashing fast across brand distinctions, but then Bird is among the cheapest on the shelf at the moment. The promoters have realized that the price weapon is a winning weapon among Nigerian youths any day.

So maybe all that has simply happened is that Nigerian ladies have realized that a Bird in hand is worth two Samsungs on the shelf. Or maybe, it is all about like attracting like. It seems all so natural to associate chicks with birds, right? And one more thing, some of our ladies fly at night, too!

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