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Nigaz name sparks racism debate

July 2, 2009

A marketing blunder in Nigeria has got online communities all of a twitter, after a joint oil and gas venture with Russia was named Nigaz.

Russia’s Gazprom and Nigeria’s state-operated NNPC formed the company – pronounced “nye-gaz” – last week.

Nigerians No Nigaz, a group formed on the social networking site Facebook, says the name could be pronounced in a way offensive to black people.

Users of Twitter have also expressed disbelief at the decision.

“Russian & Nigerian companies have formed new oil firm called… Nigaz. I’m not lying,” says Osa Oyegun, under her Twitter name ChocolateMezzo.

The topic has prompted hundreds of tweets.

Henry Makiwa, known as makiwahenry, said: “Lol [laugh out loud] of the day: Russian/Nigerian oil conglomerate has had PR branding blunder after naming joint company ‘Nigaz’.”

‘Bright moment’

Correspondents say despite the hoo-ha caused online, newspapers in Nigeria have not picked up on the story yet.

The fact is that whenever there is a blunder like this it delights people, it gives them something to talk about
Branding consultant Simon Anholt

Simon Anholt, a top branding consultant who developed the National Brands Index, says this may be because such faux pas are usually “harmless”.

“The fact is that whenever there is a blunder like this it delights people, it gives them something to talk about and it gives them a bright moment in what might otherwise be a dull day,” he told the BBC Network Africa programme.

He admitted that it could be seen as offensive, but said it was fairly uncommon for companies to change their names.

Such blunders are more common in government-run organisations, he said, “because they simply don’t have the marketing experience to check these things out properly”.

But he says the fuss is likely to die down.

“People will soon forget that the name sounds bad,” he says.

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