Aso-Oke and consumer behaviour
WHERE is our Aso-Oke? It is unfortunate that both the elders and the youths (the leaders of tomorrow) of the Yoruba ethnic group can’t substantially tell where their Aso-Oke has gone. Aso-Oke, the ultimate traditional wear of the Yorubas is continually losing its presence even at the grassroots level.
Aso-Oke acknowledged as ‘Yorubas classic’ is a hand loom woven cloth which is very much identified with the dressing culture of the people of South West. It has a lot of indigenous attributes as reflected in its usage over time. Though, it may be worn ceremonially or casually, Aso-Oke is very prestigious and is often used as a ‘commemorative cloth. That is, a cloth chosen or produced as uniform dress in order to honour and remember an important person or celebrate a special event or any other epic ceremony.
Aso-Oke when worn carries messages and is an outward sign of the status of the wearer asserting his national identity, cultural affiliation, his reputation, sometimes, even his political affiliation. It is seen as a strong expression of communal solidarity and love in the South West. More importantly, it is used for cultural festival such as the masquerade costume. It should go without saying that it is a heritage of the Yoruba culture.
However, the irrelevance or insignificance that has betided its presence or sustenance in today’s world is unimaginable especially with reference to the South West Nigeria. Accordingly, concrete thoughts have been given to the unnoticed fading away of the cloth. The onus is on the Yorubas to ensure they do not lose their heritage cheaply out of negligence and their own inactions.
In the business circle, the factors which hold ground as to the slow extinction of the Aso-Oke can be said to be negligence of the study of the consumer behaviour as an integral part of strategic market planning. This revised marketing concept is, in fact, the basis of the approach to the concept of a ‘Holistic Marketing’ – a 360 degree view of all the elements of a business.
Socially responsive marketing along with internal marketing, integrated marketing and relationship marketing is said to be the four key points of holistic marketing. On the one hand, the societal marketing concept calls on marketers to fulfil the needs of their target markets in ways that improve the society as a whole whereas relationship marketing emphasizes the importance of customer loyalty and retention rather than focusing on meeting sales quotas.
On the other hand, internal marketing is a process that is geared towards the optimum engagement and motivation of a company’s employees at all levels. The believed abstraction being that employees who are physically engaged and emotionally present in the company’s product are more likely to want to help promote that product in the community and uphold high standards of customer service and satisfaction whereas Integrated marketing combines all forms of marketing communication with one common theme of creating a consistent brand image for the customer —the Radio ads, television commercials, magazine ads and newspaper ads, all centre around a common slogan, motto or message.
Theoretically, there are a number of factors influencing the purchases by a consumer. Some of these factors are social, socio-cultural, personal and psychological. However, the most influential factor responsible for the behaviour of consumers of Aso-Oke is the socio-cultural factor – that is factors derived from the different components related to societal or cultural environment from which the consumers belong.
Categorically stating, the influence of culture on buying behaviour varies from country to country. Therefore, understanding the dynamics of the market is of exceptional essence. Marketers have to be competent in analyzing the culture of different groups, regions or even countries else the future of the heritage inherent in cloth like Aso-Oke will be left in the dark.
Truly, culture is multifaceted and the understanding is crucial to the needs and behaviours of an individual. Culture does not only influence consumer behaviour. Social class, gender, family and other generalities all have their own rooted share in culture. The Aso-Oke to the Yorubas evidently carries an aura of various sub-cultures like religion, ritual, festivals, trades and so on thereby influencing the choices of customers in their own individual capacities and even together.
However, contrary to the testimony of Aso-Oke, kan’ga, and a South African tradition cloth sold tens of thousands even as at 1997. Today, the figure sold is in millions. More interestingly, the traders of the cloth acknowledge that a motto, proverb, image and texts, or party political slogan printed on the cloth as part of it design were often crucial to the selling potential of the kan’ga. Even more overwhelming is that kan’ga is charged with “human experience.” The expository piece powered by Standard Bank African Art Collection at the University of the Witwatersrand Art Galleries revealed kan’ga becomes a more complex object linked to social rituals within communities and to the economic, political histories and even the heritage of the region. As such, the study of consumer behaviour in marketing as it relates (Aso-Oke) is very contextual in this light.
More so, in the present space of competitive and globalized world where customer is the king, it is recommended that in designing marketing strategy for fabrics and textiles, marketers should take serious cognizance of the factual influences of hooting in society’s culture. Revised marketing strategies like the use socio-cultural representations, especially in promotional appeals should be adopted. Advertising agencies, fashion design houses, music, cinema and so on are all producers or contributors of cultural products and services designed to meet cultural goals.
The Kan’ga thrives very much in the textile market in South Africa because of the cognisance it is given and inculcated in the marketing of the cloth. Today, unlike, Kan’gas which design patterns are constantly revised to maintain a contemporary relevance and to respond to changing circumstances, the Aso-Oke is not. Now, most governments and organisations (such as the United Nations) recognise the agitprop value of the kan’ga and use it as a stimulator for indoctrination, communication and education. In addition, locally manufactured kan’ga has largely replaced foreign imports since in the 1960s when Tanzania and Kenya built integrated mills thereby paving the way for cotton textile factories to establish in most African countries.
Till this day, Aso-Oke is still being produced on a small scale by local manufacturer thereby rendering the local manufacturers incapable of meeting up with high demand. Consequently, this has caused many people to resort to other available readily made products such as Ankara and Lace thereby subjugating the progress of Aso-Oke.
More so, Westernisation or ‘over- Westernisation’ is also blamed for the downward slide of the Aso-Oke in our nation. The introduction of Western clothes and European style garments – which diluted our culture – changed the consumption patterns and created a strong competition for the indigenous textile industries.
Again on the contrary, the President Mobutu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (which Mobutu renamed Zaire in 1971) began a process of de-Westernisation by decree. Mobutu ruled out Western dress and chitenge cloth (Kan’gas), printed in distinctive African patterns became the norm.
In conclusion, there is a beginning of life for every product, then the growth, followed by maturity and then decline. While the life cycle of every product starts to decline after it reaches maturity, some entrepreneurs are innovative enough to adapt to the change to renew or extend the life cycle of their product and still be relevant in the industry. This is further made possible by the understanding of socio-cultural factors that affects the product.
In the same way, we can revive Aso-Oke, its heritage and other values embedded in it via effective innovative and adaptive measures.
For example, there is nothing forbidding a combination of Aso-Oke and modern clothing which we see in other culture-driven nations such as South Africa.
Adebiyi, the prince of Oba-Ade kingdom, wrote in from www.urbantimes.com/citizen/jyflames/