The Media Yearbook, the only one of its kind in Africa, offers an important and independent overview of the media industry in 2015 as well as giving important insight and perspective into global trends and forecasting for 2016.
Four of South Africa’s top marketing leaders reveal how they got into the game, the best advice they’ve ever received as well as their top brands.
The people who participated in this survey are: Enzo Scarcella (ES), chief marketing officer at Telkom, Peter Cronje (PC), head of marketing at OUTsurance, Enver Groenewald (EG), director for Africa in the channel and communications management division at Unilever and Nikki Twomey (NT), executive head of marketing and communications at Standard Bank.
How did you get into marketing?
ES: It was by default rather than design. I read economics and anthropology at Harvard, and then returned to South Africa in the hope of being a management consultant. A marketing opportunity presented itself and I was restless and I’ve been a restless marketer ever since.
PC: Completely by chance. I was heading up finance at OUTsurance and the previous head of marketing (also a CA) was chosen to spearhead our new business in Australia. I approached my boss Willem Roos, one of the founders of OUTsurance, and asked if I could give marketing a whirl and the next day I was appointed. That was over 8 years ago.
EG: A friend of mine needed a “suit” to handle a difficult financial services account that their agency had just landed. What started as a three month gig turned into a 20- year love affair with marketing.
NT: I would say I evolved into marketing. When I worked for Edgars as a merchandise planner, I became very close to the “four Ps of marketing” because you focus heavily on product, price and placement.
When I moved to Standard Bank, there was more emphasis on the promotion aspect. Marketing in financial services was growing and I became passionate about the power of a trusted and consistent brand and over time grew from marketing communication into brand marketing.
It was exciting and extremely challenging to move from the marketing of products to marketing services.
What’s the best and worst career advice you’ve received?
ES: The best advice was “to be passionate about what you do”. The worst advice was “to be passionate about what you do!” I think any trait which is overplayed becomes a negative.
PC: The best career advice that I ever received was from one of my uncles who encouraged me to study towards becoming a CA (I was actually more interested in becoming a vet). It’s a qualification that tees you up to operate virtually anywhere in a business at the highest levels.
I can’t say that I’ve received any really bad advice – none that I can remember at least. I have no regrets about the choices and the path I have taken.
EG: The best advice I’ve ever been given is to always work harder than those who work for you. The worst advice I’ve received is to “bill as high as you can and bill as fast as you can”. The “fast” bit I agreed with but the “high” bit didn’t sit too well with me.
NT: The worst career advice I ever received was to “always try to recruit people who think and act completely differently from you.”
I went through a phase of ignoring my gut instinct about people and making some dubious appointments that caused me more of a headache than anything else.
The best career advice ever was that “everything works in cycles, so relax, stop fighting and go with the ebb and flow. Before long everything goes full circle.” I can’t believe how true this has turned out to be in my career.
Who gave that advice to you?
ES: A former boss who believed that passion conquers all. I think passion married with intellect and great judgment is probably a more potent career cocktail.
PC: One of my uncles gave me my best career advice.
EG: The best advice came from the CEO of an account I pitched for and won many years ago and whose example has always inspired me.
The worst advice was from one of my first employers in agency life.
NT: Both pieces of advice interestingly were from the same person – an outstanding retail marketer who was my boss for a period of time.
What brand can you not live without?
EG: Apple. Without any hesitation.
In your opinion, what has been the best marketing idea in history?
ES: The smartphone – it’s probably been the most disruptive consumer product in the history of mankind. It has disrupted the Telco industry, the camera industry, the publishing industry, the music industry and the education industry.
PC: I am naturally biased towards our own (traffic) pointsmen project. It creates huge brand equity for us and makes our brand more tangible.
However, I really think that M-Net Open Time many years ago was the best marketing idea in South Africa’s history. It got people hooked on quality content for free.
EG: De Beers’ “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” encapsulates the very essence of creating immense consumer appeal and demand from nothing more than a stone. This is marketing thinking at its absolute sharpest.
NT: I think it has to be Coca-Cola commandeering the Christmas period with the red clad Santa Claus. To this day most people don’t realise that this was a marketing campaign.
What’s the best marketed brand (other than your own) in South Africa?
ES: Johnnie Walker. Great segmentation, value creation and lifecycle management.
PC: Toyota. They make iconic South African advertising that builds a unique love and loyalty towards the brand.
EG: FNB for breakout thinking in a sea of ‘me-too’ financial services brand-building.
NT: I am loving the way Woolworths is driving consistency around its brand promise and infiltrating it across all its customer touch points. Relevant and focused.
What advice would you give to someone interested in a marketing career?
ES: The size of your budget is inversely proportional to the creativity required to break through. Go small and then make it big.
PC: Make sure that somewhere in your studies you get a proper handle on numbers and data analysis. Become an Excel guru – it’s the most powerful decision support tool humans have invented.
The days of using gut feel only are gone. If you can’t manage by numbers and make all decisions accordingly, there’s a much higher chance of wasting advertising money and not being successful.
EG: Working smart is not a smart substitute for working hard. You need to do both.
NT: Marketing is the blend between science and magic. Both are important and both need to be taken seriously.
This story was first published in The Media Yearbook, an annual title of Wag the Dog Publishers.
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