“Too often, people confuse pieces of information or facts with insights. Insights are the ‘aha moments’ when you have connected the dots between the facts and finally uncovered the underlying motivations behind customer behaviour,” – Gazie Decker-Iheanacho
Today’s interview is a little different. As you may well know, last year we kick-started the #BIAfricaTopMarketers interview series with a view of getting the marketers of top organisations to share their expertise in marketing, what they are doing differently, and how brands can expand.
In this regard, we’re excited to announce our first guest of 2021, a passionate marketer with over 13 years’ experience in fast-moving consumer goods and paints & coatings industries – Gazie Decker-Iheanacho – the GM, Marketing at Chemical & Allied Products (CAP) Plc., a subsidiary of UAC of Nigeria Plc.
CAP Plc., are the manufacturers of Dulux and Caplux paints in Nigeria, and Gazie’s experience cuts across strategy development, marketing management, customer insights/ market research, and product innovation.
BI Africa: Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and what made you choose a career in marketing?
Gazie: I did not plan to be a marketer from the beginning. I started my career as a mechanical engineering intern but got bored very quickly for some reason. I asked for an opportunity in the marketing team, threw myself into consumer engagement activities happening at the time, and I have never looked back since. I love interacting with people, observing, and trying to understand them. It just seems to fit well.
BI Africa: What experience in your past has best prepared you to be a marketing expert?
Gazie: I have been fortunate to have had opportunities cutting across different marketing roles, industries, and geographies. Some of these have been more focused on strategy, some on planning & implementation, and others a mixture of both. Also, some have been confined to single geographical markets, and others have cut across several markets with considerable differences in customer behaviour and trends. These varying experiences have helped me develop into a more rounded marketer. Also, I have had very supportive managers who have helped shape my career.
BI Africa: What are some of your favourite tasks as a marketing specialist?
Gazie: Developing compelling customer insights – it is the bedrock of all great marketing strategies. Too often, people confuse pieces of information or facts with insights. Insights are the ‘aha moments’ when you have connected the dots between the facts and finally uncovered the underlying motivations behind customer behaviour. Another is strategy development because it is always rewarding for every business professional to develop solid, well thought out plans that address nagging problems. It is all about solving problems.
BI Africa: What is the greatest motivating factor for you as a marketing specialist?
Gazie: Results! When plans have been implemented and shown to have delivered the desired results or better. Marketing is somewhere between a science and an art, but too often many get mesmerised by the latter and fail to pay enough attention to the science of measuring effectiveness. It is not always very straightforward, and this may partly explain the behaviour. However, any marketer who can effectively measure and demonstrate hardcore results (impact) will always be considered worth their salt.
BI Africa: What is your marketing superpower, the most important skill that makes you a great marketer?
Gazie: I do not consider myself to have a superpower. I always try to approach every business problem from the basics. My firm belief is that if you can get to the root of the problem, understand the driving factors, and then work your way through the facts one step at a time (and not get swayed by opinions in the process) you will have a much better chance of success.
BI Africa: You have a client who has participated in every marketing campaign you suggested without attracting many new customers. What do you do?
Gazie: It would be helpful to get feedback from the customer to understand, amongst other things, why they bought into the campaign, what worked for them and what did not. However, the bigger opportunity lies with the target customers who did not engage with the campaign. Why did this happen? The latter is where your success lies if you want to turn around the results in the future. Failure is a better teacher than success.
BI Africa: Tell us about a product that you successfully marketed. What was your strategy, who was your audience? What channels did you use, and how did you measure the impact?
Gazie: I worked on a menthol-based candy brand project with a former employer. It had been launched two years earlier, but the performance was dreadful. Within twenty-four months, we rewrote the story growing sales more than fifteen times. I say “we” because it was a team effort; there were other capable professionals on the team. We started by developing an in-depth understanding of the brand and the market. In selling as in medicine, prescription before diagnosis is malpractice.
Firstly, we had to ensure that we had a great product; even the most aggressive marketing cannot save a bad product. Then, we ensured that our pricing was competitive. From our diagnosis, our biggest bottlenecks were in the areas of awareness, product trial, and availability in the right channels considering that consumption was largely driven by impulse. We intercepted millions of our target audience, primarily young urban adults, at key points in their journeys to give them an opportunity to taste a tablet or two. This helped us create both awareness and trial. Next, we ensured that our products were available in the most important channels, especially on-the-go. As revenues grew, we re-invested profits into further support, thereby multiplying growth. Our success measures were aligned with our objectives – the number of mouths sampled, volume growth and return on investment.
BI Africa: Can you describe a method you use to encourage and leverage customer feedback?
Gazie: I will call out two – selecting the right feedback channels and developing the right attitude towards customer feedback. The former is more straightforward because the rapid advancement in technology, digital media, and tools has enabled quick, effective two-way communication between businesses and their customers in the past two decades. Your customer profile should determine the right feedback channels to use. The second factor is more crucial because you can miss opportunities to improve customer experience and prevent attrition if you ignore feedback or are defensive about it.
BI Africa: What new, modern tactic, tool, or aspect of marketing should marketers pay more attention to, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Gazie: It is no secret that the pandemic has significantly accelerated digital disruption. I read a McKinsey’s survey of global organisations the other day, which mentioned that the pandemic had accelerated digitisation of supply chain and customer interactions by about four years. Marketers need to look at how they can increasingly leverage technology to improve customer experience and ease the journey from start to finish. Also, for businesses that are primarily into tangible products, capitalising on digital tools to deliver value-added services could considerably drive customer loyalty and differentiation.
BI Africa: Is there a role for marketing when it comes to corporate social responsibility?
Gazie: Social responsibility should be viewed as an integral part of marketing, whether product or corporate brand. For several decades, marketing and businesses, in general, focused primarily on profit. However, over the past two decades, organisations are increasingly adopting the triple bottom line concept. This revolves not just around profit, but also social and environmental metrics. Customers are concerned about their functional and personal emotional needs and those that affect the wider society. If you desire to build a long-term sustainable business, you need to be concerned about your customers’ concerns.
BI Africa: What advice do you have for career climbing marketers who aspire to become a CMO someday?
Gazie: Firstly, you need to build a personal development mindset; do not delegate that to your employer. Also, you need to build on key competency areas such as insights generation, strategy development, innovation, integrated marketing communications, effective brand activation and measuring marketing effectiveness. This requires some good practical experience, so do not miss opportunities to get involved in projects that offer you exposure in these areas. Thirdly, you need to develop the right attitude towards work. Get into the habit of doing more and better work than that which you believe you are paid for.