Industry in focus - Branding and Marketing: An employer’s insight

In week three of our focus on Branding and Marketing, expert Uzoma Okoye kindly took a moment to reflect on the industry, his career, and offer insight into the challenges of building and recruiting for agencies in his sector.

What inspired you to work in Branding and Marketing?
I originally got into the business because of the creative; being able to express ideas in novel and unique ways, to tell a story and capture the imagination of customers. But I soon realised that there was so much more that goes into creating effective brands; the research and strategy leading to ideation. It offers a perfect blend of art and science.
I love that it encourages people from every discipline and every walk of life. Every project is different and you are constantly having to learn about new products or industries, get deeper knowledge and a better understanding of people in order to communicate effectively to them.

SHORTLIST’s recent ‘Misfits’ campaign used TV, print, online and social media - which area excites you most right now and why?
I am excited by every form of communication, but digital marketing holds the most potential for reaching audiences. It is broader than social media alone and includes mobile marketing and other disciplines.
Every campaign we do now usually has a digital marketing aspect to it, from finding new and innovative ways of using SMS to developing applications on social media platforms. It offers opportunities for engagement and conversation that traditional media doesn’t give you.
Traditional media is by no means dead and requires the same skill sets. For instance, we shoot film and commercials that might not be aired on TV but go straight to becoming content for web.

Is it easy or difficult to recruit new talent into Branding and Marketing? Why?
Recruiting talent is one of the key areas in any organisation, but this has to be complimented by rigorous training across the board.
We have a recruitment policy of combining dynamic, well exposed mid-level candidates with entry-level graduate trainees, and through our intensive program we hope to turn out well-groomed talent both for ourselves and for the industry as a whole.
The industry is broad enough to accommodate many disciplines, from accountants to artists, but I like to think that on the whole, those that are curious people tend to thrive.

How valuable have mistakes been in helping you improve what you do?
Growth is about constant learning and that includes mistakes. I have made more than my fair share; but it’s about looking for the best in every situation and incorporating it into what you do, so you can do it better.
The creative process is often about moving from one ‘mistake’ to another. A wrong stroke of a pen can spark off the big idea. I started off as a mechanical engineer. It took a series of random events to discover my call. Never fear mistakes. They can be the springboard to your future.

What challenges does the Nigerian market present for new, and developed agencies like ETU ODI?
Building a business is one of the most challenging but rewarding things a person can do. It is the same across the world, but of course every region has its peculiarities. Aside from the general challenges in our country, the communication industry wrestles with challenges of regulation, talent, and client relationships.
There are stringent regulations about what we can air, with the aim of ensuring that all material is relevant and truthful. There are multiple agencies, depending on medium and industry sector, so the process can often be cumbersome, expensive and can stifle creativity.
Finding skilled staff is always a challenge. Our desire is to create international quality work and in a service industry like ours, it is about having good processes, the right culture and attracting the best talent. Our education system has declined in recent years making it harder to find good quality recruits, but it’s easy to spot those that have passion and drive to improve themselves. The right attitude is more valuable than experience.
Great work is created in an atmosphere of respect and trust. This is ensured by consultants having the best information available and proactively proffering solutions to clients’ challenges, as well as clients valuing the services of agency and not abusing their position in the relationship.

What advice do you have for those wanting to break into the Branding and Marketing industry?
Getting your foot in the door is often a daunting task, but even before you approach companies, you need to do your research and identify the ones you want to work in. Try to understand the company structure, the culture and the types of people that they are looking to attract. A lot of times, the best way to assess the company is from the inside, so give away your services. Offer to work for free, ask to shadow a key member of staff for a couple of days, or try to join their internship program.
Never underestimate a well-crafted CV and cover letter. You can’t imagine the number of applications I get that are so badly written, with errors, or CVs attached with no cover message.
I always think it is important to be memorable in some way. Of course your outstanding resume will set you apart from everybody, but in an industry where creativity is valued it is always good to add a touch that will differentiate you and make sure you are top of mind.

About Uzoma Okoye
Uzoma Okoye is a brand communications expert with wide experience in a number of marketing communications disciplines, gained through working for some of the top agencies in the UK where he rose to Creative Director level, before setting up and running an award winning agency.

With his return to Nigeria, he brings international quality and experience gained through working on some of the largest brands such as Peugeot, Orange, Esso, HP and IBM. He is currently CEO and Executive Creative Director of Etu Odi Communications, a full service creative agency that is viewed as one of the most effective in the country.