In our conversation with Olusesan, he made us understand that value and price are relative. So, the debate over the unnecessary glorification of the real estate industry is overflogged. The experienced Marketer, who is the Head, Marketing at Alpha Mead Group also discussed the imminent indispensability of Artificial Intelligence in the marketing industry. He is that sage that gathers young people to spur them on. You will want to read this one.
Before we continue, Share of Voice is a conversation with the brightest minds across industries – the Brand/Communications/Marketing Executives, C-Suite Executives, CEOs, Media Personalities and Influencers.
See how our conversation went:
Hi Sesan! Your marketing experience must come with fairytales – the challenges and successes. Is there at any point where your background influenced how you scaled to become the Head, Marketing at Alpha Mead Group?
Let me start with my fairytale. My preferred course of study was Criminology. I don’t exactly know what it meant then, but I just loved the sound of it, and I remember how I always pictured myself as a super cop of a sort.
But life happened. I was ‘Jambed’ a few times and eventually, the whirlwind threw me to a polytechnic – Moshood Abiola – to study Mass Communications.
Right from secondary school, I have always written stuff – essays, poems, articles and so on. So, when I found myself studying Mass Communications, it wasn’t much of a problem. Few months into the course, I abandoned my super cops dream and picked interest in advertising. Fortunately, I had an amazing advertising lecturer, Wasiu Tejuosho, who knew the names of virtually all the ad agencies in Nigeria then, and will tell us beautiful and appetising stories of campaigns.
Besides the fact that names of these agencies; Lowe Lintas, STB McCann, Rosable, Blue Bird, etc were just too fascinating to resist, Dr Tejuosho was a good storyteller. I imagined the agencies through his stories then.
So, you can imagine my obsession with ending up in an Ad agency when I left school. But that was before a class on Public Relations, and another class on Propaganda and another one on the agency structure. I became hopelessly confused at some point. I hope I will tell the full story someday.
I eventually convinced myself that I can be a good copywriter. Although looking back now, I think I would have done better in strategy. So, when it was time for my one-year internship, I told myself it was going to be at an agency or nothing. But it didn’t get to be as easy as I thought, as I didn’t get the opportunity to see the four walls of any agency.
After my IT at the Public Affairs Department of NNPC NAPIMS., and with encouragement from my boss not to return to a Polytechnic, I got into the University; where I convinced myself that I was an agency material. I tested my copywriting skills when I contested for political office on campus. I wrote all my advert copies myself and directed the art and they worked.
When I left school, I went back to the agencies. This time, with a letter to work without pay. But no one called me back – or let’s say the front desk ladies never delivered my letters.
I finally got an opportunity as a copywriter. I gave it everything and scaled through and met the CEO. While I was waiting for my offer, #OccupyNigeria happened. And that was the end of that chapter. The agency never reached out again. I called severally but didn’t know what went wrong. So I gave up and convinced myself to try something else.
Few months after, 3Invest Limited offered me employment as a content writer – that was how the journey started from communication, PR, event management, brand and eventually to marketing. It has been an interesting ride, because, besides my academic qualifications, I have had to pioneer these functions in most of the organisations I have worked with and that comes with a lot of learning, failing, unlearning, self-doubt and sweet successes. And as a bonus, I have had amazing bosses who took a bet on me.
So how have these things influenced where I am today? I will say they added up to make me: to define me and prepare me for the challenges of today. I joke with my team that I started my career at the very bottom. Carrying roll-up banners, going to Somolu, Lagos, to push my prints, sleeping in the press, using Canva to do my designs, and running the official social media accounts I was managing from the Danfos. I pioneered the communications unit at 3Invest so I was doing a lot of things. To manage time, I will run all my social media posts from the bus en-route the office in the morning and monitor and respond to social media enquiries during my transit back home.
So, my team hardly have the benefit of rabble-rousing me. Of course, I look away most times, but I always let them know we know the tricks. I have an idea of how long certain things take, or what goes into certain activities.
So now that I have to lead a team of diverse people across countries and businesses, all these experiences add up and I can say they have brought me this far and will take me further.
Was there at any point when you told yourself you need to do something else? And a point when you said, “this is me; I will do this till the end of the world”. Tell us about it.
Well, I think I am fortunate. I have always loved and still love what I do. Although it became a disadvantage at some point. But I am wiser now.
You know that cliché that if you do what you love, you will never work for a day? That is me.
In the early years of my career, I always told my friends that I am being paid for things I will do for free. I love writing, I enjoy thinking – in fact, when things are too simple, I ‘problematise’ them so they can make me think. Can you imagine someone is paying me for doing these things now?
So, the point when I think I need to do something else is the day marketing and communication do not require on-the-go thinking again.
But let me share a short “working for passion” story; it might help someone. My mistake in my early years was enjoying what I was doing without asking for the right value. I just always said yes. I never looked at the money. I only looked at the challenges, the excitement with sleepless nights and the fulfillment after I resolve them. The lesson is never let passion deprive you of what you are worth.
The marketing industry seems to be divided into ambiguous sections now, especially with social media ‘influencers’ categorising themselves as marketers too. What are your thoughts on this?
I think it is just sheer ignorance. What a lot of people call marketing now is just mere content sharing on social media. All these things are means to an end. Marketing is the end in itself. Without marketing, none of these things will be relevant.
Marketing is where the strategy sits. One of the things marketing determines is what channel will be used and how the channel will be used. For example, a marketing strategy can decide to use social media but not use influencers and vice versa. Influencer marketing communication is not exclusive to digital channels.
The medical doctor used in a Dettol ad, the dentist used in a Sensodyne ad or mama Nike Art Gallery in Meristem ad, etc, does not mean they are marketers. Social media influencers should stay in their lane. The difference between those in the TV ads and the digital influencers is that the Social Media influencers, most times, own their channels.
So when people classify influencers as “Social Media Marketing Experts”, I just – in the popular street lingo – look away; because you don’t even know where to start the conversation.
However, we must acknowledge that digital influencers have changed the narrative. They are a force to reckon with now. The creativity in that space is mind-blowing and the impact of their work on brand awareness and recognition can’t be overlooked. But hey, they are not marketers!
No one seems to agree that Artificial Intelligence might take over the Marketing Industry. But there are people who think AI is a threat. How do you look at this?
First, I think AI is an enabler of the marketing industry and not a threat. When people talk about Artificial Intelligence, I like to talk about Native Intelligence (NI). Both are types of intelligence, but the fact that one is artificial should say something to us all.
I like buzz words, but as marketing professionals, we know that sometimes when we sit with data, the intelligence doesn’t just add up. So, we take what the data is telling us and juxtapose it with our native intelligence, and decide on a plan of action.
AI is redefining marketing, but it will not replace it. I think it will even draw better attention to the value of marketing.
Real Estate has definitely been affected this period. But is there something Alpha Mead is doing differently this period to navigate through this, especially with customers’ changing needs?
One phrase that is very popular in Alpha Mead is “waiting time is preparation time”. I personally believe that it is how we have lived this phrase over the years in the company that is helping us navigate this interesting time.
Let me own up. I was lost in the first two weeks of this new era. I didn’t know what to do. Should we continue our marketing activities, or should we stop? What should we change? etc were some of the things that went through my head.
So I called my team and said “you guys remember what I always told you about leaders not having all the answers? Don’t border looking to me for direction, I am looking up to you too now”. Eventually, we agreed to halt all we were doing and go in the product route.
So, when everyone in our industry was talking about what kind of communication was right this time, we were thinking about how to we respond to customers’ changing needs. This led us to accelerate the release of products such as Rent4Less – which will enable people pay rent monthly; Call2Fix – an artisan-hailing app; and The POD – a Co-working space in Ikoyi.
We knew customers don’t have the kind of money they used to have; and where they have it, they are not willing to invest in Real Estate in uncertain times like this. So we decided to position for their needs in other areas of Real Estate that don’t require any huge capital outlay.
But you know that releasing a new product can’t happen in one month or so, so that is why I mentioned that the “waiting time” that we have put to use is a blessing to us.
What exactly is the message of Alpha Mead to its customers and what should we expect if there is going to be a post-pandemic period soon?
Our message since all these began, has been that “We Care…”. We have ensured this resonates across everything we do. So it is not only in our communication material. Even the products we released have towed this line.
For example, the real issue that enabled us quick approval for Rent4Less is the fact that people were losing jobs, companies were cutting pay and other things were just competing for the limited cash in the customer’s pocket.
So we said, since shelter is a basic need of man, we can help take the burden of annual rent away, the customer could put that money into other use rather than lock it into one landlord’s account.
You can expect more of this from us in the coming weeks. Our goal is to lower the entry barrier to Real Estate investment so that the pandemic will not drive people away from Real Estate.
There is talk of the overwhelming mystification of the Real Estate industry, which, in turn, influence prices. The argument pays attention to the fact that the prices are way too high in comparison to the offers. How will you shape your argument on this?
I personally don’t agree with that argument. Price is what the customer pays; value is what he gets. The question is why anyone should pay a price for a value they consider incommensurate?
It is true that some Real Estate assets are more expensive than others. But this is because price and value are relative. Trust me, when those who appreciate value see their kind of Real Estate, they pay for it without delay.
Therefore, my argument will be that it is not Real Estate that is expensive, it is what you want to buy that you can’t afford yet.
Is there one big idea you have had and can’t share because it is wild enough to cause an uproar? We are curious, tell us.
The only reason that I have not shared it is because it scares me. So let’s leave it for now.
Tell us how it will be for you post-pandemic. One word, only.
What if you were asked to do a webinar for young people who look up to you. What will you be telling them?
I think my story says a lot. But if I must summarise it, I will say: put in the required work, there is just no short cut to the top. It will not be easy, because if it is, everyone will do it. Pay your dues, there is always a price to pay. Do what you love, but ensure you’re paid commensurately with your value. Identify your enablers, detractors, advocates and blockers in the workplace, they are always there. The earlier you find them, the faster you will move. Get up and show up every day – there is dignity in labour. Read books, especially those that your bosses or leaders have read or are reading. Enjoy yourself, you’ve got only one life.
You can also read our previous Share of Voice conversations with Attai Oguche (Tecno) Solape Akinpelu (Meristem), Asher Adeniyi (Gigijobs), Stanley Okpara (SO&U), Jennifer Oyelade (Transquisite Consulting Talent Hub), Samuel Ajiboye (Alpha and Jam), Adenike Fagbemi (Nixxhash Communications), Bayo Adedeji (Wakanow) as well as Olajumoke Bolu-Kujero (Jumia).
Omoleye Omoruyi… an apprentice web/game developer, novelist, sensitive to happenings in the world. Meet him @Lord_rickie on Twitter/Instagram