Adebayo Adekanmbi is Chief Marketing Officer of MTN Nigeria. He combines multi-disciplinary competencies as a Brand /Marketing Strategist, Consumer Insight Data Analyst and Business Intelligence professional.
Taking a look back at your career trajectory before your appointment as CMO, would you have dreamt that you’d be marketing lead for one of the biggest brands on the continent ten years ago?
I have always been a self-driven professional. Ten years ago, I was already on a high pedestal of business management with senior level leadership responsibility and C-level commitment at a multi-country level, which then meant that I was on the path for something big to happen. Prior to that, I had also prepared myself for the opportunities that life would bring in terms of capacity building and exposure to the best training and gaining certifications in the best places in the world. I had also garnered some hands-on experience with some of the global brands as well as professional validation of my skillsets, both in the hard and soft side of marketing. I was generously exposed to some of the best mentors and managers who provided the shoulder to see beyond the time and I am grateful to God that all these things have helped to mould me into what I am today.
What we are seeing today wasn’t a fluke or a random happenstance?
My rise and elevation hasn’t been a fluke. It was a consistent journey of self development, global exposure, multinational work experience, proven results and development of multidisciplinary skillsets. As you may be aware, I led Analytics/Business intelligence at General Manager level, in addition to my hands-on brand management expertise as an agency strategy director, and at global level at MTN South Africa, where I managed the expanded portfolio of global go-to-market strategy and implementation. It is a big pleasure to have transversed a broad spectrum of Strategic marketing practice, from the logical side of number crunching to the excitement of creative brand expression.
You know, there are people who move up by knowing somebody or perhaps it’s a family business – often the expression is ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’. I’m sure you know what MTN stands for in terms of recruitment, following global best practices and standards. My sincere advice to the emerging future talents is to take time to build valid and proven career and not sucked in the euphoria of media blitz. No one builds a great career on the pages of magazine. You must have tangible competence that is tired and tested and avowed to be superior than your contemporaries. You must proactively seek to earn the reputation of a global talent via cross-border work exposure and professional/academic endorsement. They must invest in knowledge and be willing to go beyond their comfort zone. Why can’t a brand person learn the financial analysis and mathematics of the business he or she manages? Marketing is a serious intellectual business and the mental rigour requires both the logic and the magic. We must inspire the next generation to build intellectual capacity at a young age and then build experience with it. It is the surest way to your destination, especially with the favour of God.
You have just launched the BetterMe campaign. What has informed the need for this campaign as the BeBetter campaign was considered to be very good?
This journey started about two years ago with the Be Better campaign, which was our digital brand positioning message to the market. We were saying that people need to leave good behind and look for the next frontier enabled by MTN’s vast digital portfolio. We saw that the Internet was a game changer for an average Nigerian, though voice has done a lot. An average Nigerian teacher for example must have access to content like a teacher in America, with the only difference being your location. Since all the content needed for a teacher is already on the Internet, why not promote it and let people know about it? It is still a part of our quest to make information available to ordinary Nigerians. We felt that you as a person, plus the internet, will deliver something, which is BetterMe.
BetterMe is a simple equation, myself as an ordinary Nigerian plus the power of the Internet that is the leverage, the connection and the opportunity that comes with the Internet will make you become a better me. BetterMe for us is a new social lexicon that defines an ordinary Nigerian who leverages the power of the Internet to do extraordinary things. It is that ordinary mechanic by Obalende Bridge who has become a master in fixing Honda cars, not because he has gone to any school, but because he knows how to go to the Honda website and check the latest trends from Honda, hence attracting more customers, reducing the time he serves the market and making more money for himself. With the My2015 BetterMe app we are bringing the Internet down to the level that every Nigerian can understand and not just talking data. A young lady who is a hair stylist for instance, can post the hair she does on Whatsapp, as a platform to attract a new clientele base. This also speaks to our strategy why small and medium scale entrepreneurs should have their own websites. Going forward, you are going to see instances like www.chukwudiandsons.com, where more Nigerian businesses position themselves for global opportunities. Why should a business use Gmail.com as a corporate email address? There are companies that even disqualify a firm from competitive bid when emails are not sent from official emails like email@example.com. MTN enables this with ease. The my2015 BetterMe app dramatises the role of the Internet powered by MTN in the lives of ordinary people and the resultant effect of the transformation that comes through the power of the Internet.
A lot of young entrepreneurs have a fear of approaching large multinational corporations like MTN with their business ideas and plans. Are these fears justified?
At MTN, we run an open door policy because we serve 60 million customers and we won’t pretend that we know it all. As a learning company, our biggest source of learning is our customer and our ecosystem. We want to learn and gain fresh insights. If you are a young man out there looking for a platform where you can share and express your ideas, MTN is the place to go. There are many content developers who have taken the risks to come to MTN. Some people have lost out because they are afraid of their ideas being stolen when they put them forward. For us at MTN, as a responsible organisation, we have succeeded based on our ethical values which we treasure so much and have placed at the core of our operations. We respect every idea of our partners and anyone that comes to us. If you can’t come directly to MTN, we have created a proposal platform online where you can drop your ideas.
Secondly, you can also walk in through our ecosystems via vendors and suppliers such as advertising and events agencies who work with us and share our values. They can help put your ideas forward to us. You can also bring in your ideas through organised knowledge groups like CCHub. I know that there are various clusters like that around. CCHub has a working relationship with us. They come around and we share learning, we show them our strategy and they understand our focus and where we are going as a business. They in turn aggressively seek content that serves those purposes.
What three things would you say to a young professional or entrepreneur who is looking at moving to the next level in order to achieve success within their own space?
I will capture this as the 3 Rs – Relevance, Reputation and Revenue.
First is Relevance. How can you enhance the relevance of your skillsets consistently? Can it serve a need, is it a solution? Can it be customised to bridge a gap? Secondly, you must build a reputation for the relevant idea you have. Build a reputation for yourself around the ecosystem where you function. We have many super guys out there that are excellent at creating relevant solutions but do not have the right reputation around them. They have a reputation for being late for meetings or not meeting expectations, that’s not a good reputation to have. Lastly, the question of revenue mindset must be addressed. You must have a commercial mindset. A lot of young chaps with great ideas lack commercial mindsets. They are great thinkers, they have a solid reputation, but they don’t know how to take their products to market. These three principles must guide the logic of every young person who has the desire to get to the top. Even at MTN, we approach things from this angle – make sure the product is relevant, hinged on our global reputation as an innovative company and executed with a mindset to deliver optimal value to our subscribers and better return to our stakeholders (government tax returns, shareholder returns etc.). There is also room for collaborations in these 3R models. In enhancing your relevance, collaborations and endorsements come in. Reputation often comes by aligning with established partners, either through cobranding, ingredient branding, or tactics endorsement. Within the three levels enunciated above, you will find the power of collaborations, co-creation and engagement running through the value delivery pathway.