1.1     Background to the Study

                    It is not enough to develop a good product. This is because no matter how good a product may be, it cannot communicate to the market about its availability, uses and usage, features and performance. Hence, there must be a planned effort by an organization to inform, educate and persuade the target market about its products.

          According to Udom and Nwehinne (2012, p.108) “The invention of the internet and the notion that the world is a global village have reawakened managers’ consciousness towards developing products and strategizing integrated marketing efforts that would guarantee maximum advantage to their companies”. There have also been alarming increases in customer relation activities, research and development in order to be sensitive and responsive to customers’ needs and desires. Again, business organizations are giving utmost priority to promotional activities that will keep target consumers constantly informed about its products in the market (Nwabueze, 2006).

          One of the ways of achieving these objectives is through advertising. It is one of the activities of a firm designed to create product and organizational awareness in order to elicit favorable response or reaction from the target market.

                   Reginald (1970) cities in Udom and Nwehinne (2012, p. 110) identifies advertising as “the flow or process of communicating to a clearly defined audience, information about the production in such a way that the audience will be encouraged, stimulated or persuaded to take action (or buy).

                   The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines advertising as a group of activities aimed at influencing, educating and informing, including dissemination of information in any paid non- personal form, concerning a product or services and idea to compel action in accordance with the aim of an identified sponsor.

          The definitions above gives the same meaning but convey this meaning in different terms and arrangements. They all point to the fact that advertising is not only about giving information but also stimulating or persuading action in response to the message.

                   Moreover, it is a key promotional technique which plays up a product’s advantages with a view to winning customers and keeping them. It does this job more effectively when combined with other promotional mix variables. It may surprise you to know that some organizations that have achieved relatively huge success in the market such as Nigerian Bottling Company, Nigeria Breweries Plc, Cadbury Nigeria Plc, etc, still spend money on advertising and other promotional tools (Nwabueze, 2006). This underscores why advertising itself is often referred to as marketing support tool (Nwosu, 1990).

          As competition rate in the market continue to increase, organizations now use multiple/different sales promotion methods targeted at the wholesalers and retailers who distribute their products to stimulate demand. The integrated marketing approach used by most companies to increase sales and sustain customers’ loyalty is direct marketing.

                   Direct marketing, according to Nwabueze (2006, p. 277) “is the use of contact and mass communication channels to create a two-way immediate feedback communication scenario for the purpose of prospecting for and selling marketing offers to customers”. This approach eliminates middlemen in getting goods across to consumers. Kotler (2003, p. 620) sees direct marketing as the “use of consumer-direct channels to reach and deliver goods and services to consumers without using marketing middlemen”.

                   Also, Arens and Bovee (1994, p. 495) defines direct marketing as “the system of marketing in which the marketer builds and maintains its own database of customers and prospects and uses a variety of media (from personal contact to mass media) to communicate with them”.

                   However, the communication referred to here involves immediate or direct response opportunities such as provision of phone number for calls to be made immediately or later, interactive opportunity (phone in programme, face-to-face communication scenario, web chat, among others.

          In other words, it consists of the use of telephone, catalogue, kiosks, internet and direct-response television (phone-in) programmes), to search out and engage customers in business discussions with immediate feedback inform of order placement. The opportunity for immediate response and relationship cultivation makes direct marketing an essential strategy in achieving marketing objectives. As in the case of direct marketing, a database is used to identify the customers, the message and marketing offer are made to suit the targeted consumers, a mutually beneficial relationship is then built with the customers to ensure repeat business.

                   A look at the pioneer and largest brewing company in Nigeria, The Nigerian Breweries Plc indicates that they engage in different marketing approaches to win patronage of their myriad brands – Star Lager, Gulder Lager beer, Heinekan Lager, Torbo King, Maltina, Amstel malt, Fayrouz, among many others. But this study attempts to investigate whether direct marketing influences Eket consumers’ patronage on select brands of Nigerian Breweries.

1.2     Statement of the Problem

Direct marketing is a personal communication tool in the integrated marketing communication (IMC) mix used to persuade customers to buy products. It is a marketing communication technique and eliminates middle-men in the selling process.

Since it is a two-way communication and interactive tool, it is used to cultivate and maintain a good relationship with the customers.

It therefore relies on being able to address members of target audience. This may come in a variety forms including email addresses, mobile phone numbers, web browsers cookers, fax numbers, or prospects may be asked to call a free phone number, click on a link to a website, or get detailed information (booklets, pictures, pamphlets, cards, etc) through mail. In Nigeria  which is plagued with ineffective postal system, the mail may be delayed or fall into the hand of wrong persons. Again, poor telecommunication service may hinder smooth conversation in the case of phone calls to prospects. Again, this tends to be an elitist marketing approach which therefore attempts to sideline the illiterate and people in rural areas.

These issues, and others therefore question the effectively of direct marketing technique in winning customers’ loyalty.

Furthermore, the extent to which Eket customers of select products of Nigerian Breweries are exposed to direct marketing strategies of this company is not known. This informs this study to bridge the communication gap that had existed before now. The question therefore, is: What is the extent to which Eket customers are exposed to direct marketing strategies of select brands of Nigerian Breweries.

1.3     Objectives of the Study

          The objectives of the study were to:

  1. Find out whether Eket residents are exposed to forms of direct marketing employed by Nigerian Breweries;
  2. Determine the extent to which Eket residents are exposed to forms of direct marketing employed by Nigerian Breweries;
  3. Ascertain whether direct marketing enhances patronage of select brands of Nigerian Breweries among Eket consumers.
  4. Examine the extent to which direct marketing influences patronage of select brands of Nigerian Breweries among Eket consumers.
  5. Investigate the form of direct marketing mostly employed by Nigerian Breweries that Eket consumers are mostly exposed to.

1.4    Research Questions

                  To achieve the objectives of the study stated above, the following research questions were formulated:

  1. Are Eket residents exposed to forms of direct marketing employed by Nigerian Breweries?
  2. What is the extent to which Eket consumers are exposed to forms of direct marketing employed by Nigerian Breweries among Eket consumers?
  3. Does direct marketing enhance patronage of select products of Nigerian Breweries among Eket consumers?
  4. What is the extent to which direct marketing enhance patronage of select products of Nigerian Breweries?
  5. Which form of direct marketing employed by Nigerian Breweries are Eket consumers mostly exposed to?

1.5    Research Hypothesis

 The research hypothesis was stated in the alternate thus:

Hi: Direct marketing significantly enhance patronage of select products of Nigerian Breweries among consumers in Eket.

1.6    Justification of the Study

                  A study of this nature is of immense significance on completion, the study will provide information on the importance of direct marketing increasing patronage of products of Nigerian Breweries. Such information will go a long way in helping management of Nigerian Breweries to know how effective this marketing approach is in the marketing of their products in Eket. They may improve on their lapses if any.

Again, this work will propel further studies in related areas. On the whole, the research work will serve as a reliable and defendable reference material for communication experts, marketing students and scholars in related disciplines also may want to carry out research in the future.

1.7    Delimitation of the Study

           The work does not intend to cover all products of Nigerian Breweries. Rather, it focuses on only five, namely: Gulder Lager beer; Heineken Lager; Maltina; Amstel Malt and fayrouz. Again, the study is delimited to consumers in Eket only.

1.8    Limitation of the Study

The researcher experienced certain constraints in the course of carrying out the study, but efforts were however made so that those constraints would not affect the quality of the study. The main challenge of the study was in the area of the questionnaire distribution. The researcher was confronted with respondents who refuse to collect the copy of the designed questionnaire. Even some who collected the questionnaire needed to be guided to fill them out correctly. However, the researcher was able to overcome the constraint by explaining and directing those respondents who found it difficult to fill the questionnaire on how to go about it. For those who needed incentives in terms of cash payment before   collecting and filling the questionnaire, the researcher was able to persuade    them to fill by explaining that research was purely and academic exercise.

1.9    Definition of Terms

                  The following terms used in the study were defined operationally as follows:

Direct Marketing: This refers to a one-on-one approach employed by Nigerian Breweries to sell their products to consumers in Eket and at the same time sustain their loyalty.

Eket Consumers: These are residents of Eket who patronize select products of Nigeria Breweries.

Nigerian Breweries: This is an establishment that produces Gulder Lager beer, Heineken Lager, Maltina, Amstel malt and Fayrouz; and also use direct marketing to win Eket consumers’ patronage.

Patronage: This involves buying select products of Nigerian Breweries as a result of direct marketing.

Select Products: These includes Gulder Lager beer, Heineken Lager, Maltina, Amstel malt and Fayrouz, produced by Nigerian Breweries.