Misconception about marketing by May—May Ogoigbe

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Digital Marketing and Communications Expert, Business Mentor at The Tony Elumelu Foundation: ‘The biggest misconception about marketing is that anyone can do it’

May-May Ogoigbe

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May—May Ogoigbe is an amazing and talented Nigerian marketer who creates communities, backs causes and generally raises the bar and pushes the marketing craft forward.

She has 6+ years excellent experience across multiple industry verticals leading Digital Marketing Campaigns. May-May has worked on clients including Molfix, Morning Fresh, Dressmeoutlet.com, MaxyStuff UK, Seamans Schnapps, Oriflame Sweden and a few more.

As one of the 2021’s TEF —The Tony Elumelu Foundation mentors, she is contributing towards the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Africa by working with young, smart and ambitious founders. So when she’s not working with SMEs, May—May is a teacher / mentor equipping people with the marketing knowledge they need to succeed in their businesses.

We are so excited to have May—May here! And we think you’ll like her as much as we do!

Here, we had the pleasure of speaking with May—May. And we were excited to learn more about her career and ask about marketing advice she might have for small businesses. We also discussed what got her interested in a marketing career, and her career progression.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity & length

First ‘obligatory’ question: what do you do?

To put it simply, I’m a marketing professional who’s strongly focused on helping SMEs grow. Over the last six (6)  years, I’ve functioned in the marketing space working with startups, agencies, FMCG brands etc, to create compelling marketing campaigns that drive business success.

How did you start your career, and how has it progressed since?

I got into marketing in a roundabout way. I studied computer science in the University. I studied it because I was compelled by my curiosity. As a teenager, I would usually use my pocket money to browse at the cybercafe. I was really interested in computers and the internet. Then I somehow fell into Marketing by happenstance after NYSC in 2016 and before I knew any better I’d built an entire life and career path out of it.

I got my first role as a marketing comms manager at a startup in Lagos. I was there for a year and 5 months. I had no prior marketing experience. I learned on the job. All the experience and knowledge are very well worth it. Then I moved from the client-side to the agency-side. I worked for MaxyStuff UK for a couple of months. I got to learn new stuff, continuously read/update knowledge, work with different verticals and groups of people. Then I moved into the multinational space to join Oriflame Cosmetics. I’ve been at Oriflame for more than four (4) years and I’m currently the Digital and Communications Manager. I’m happy with what I do here. I think that’s more important. My journey has been a wonderful experience and the joy that comes from seeing the businesses that you work with grow is actually self fulfilling.

So if you are scared or feel like you know nothing, don’t be scared. Take whatever job opportunity that comes your way, may be it’s a small marketing position or retail sales, learn and take all the lessons you need to learn from that job and keep going forward.

After becoming aware of marketing as a career, what first got you interested in pursuing it?

My love for social media. As a teenager, I remembered using Myspace and Hi5. Myspace was Facebook before Facebook with the ability to customize everything. When Facebook came, I created my account in 2008. And before that time, I already had an email address. The whole internet thing was very interesting to not want to be a part of it. So I just developed a very strong interest in social media and know how it all works.

I remember how my mom would always complain about me being on the phone all the time, when I first owned an internet enabled phone. Who knew I’d later end up working in marketing. So when I learnt there was a role for everything I was doing with my social media accounts and discovered I could start a marketing career off my ‘personal’ experience, I decided to give it my all.

Several years later, here I am.

Haha, African parents always think anything their children do on their phone is worthless. May, I envy marketers who have played in various industries. I mean yes, you work really hard & make things happen – all day. What is the most interesting industry you’ve worked in?

I’ve worked across a number of different industries.I started out working for a startup in the fashion industry. And I’ve been in the beauty industry for more than 4 years. And it is the most interesting industry I’ve worked in. It stands out. In my role as the digital and communications manager at Oriflame, I have seen people start from nothing and become something. Like, the growth is so phenomenal. In the beauty industry, people get to do the things they’re mostly passionate about. There is room for everyone in and out of the industry. For example, the beauty industry is one of the industries that use affiliates to market their products.

So if you are an outsider but like cosmetics, you can partner with cosmetic brands, sell their products and get a commission from it. This gives power to people who are enthusiastic about beauty. You have fun and make money at the same time.

This is why I’m happy to be playing a pivotal role in this industry. Helping Nigerian women to live their dreams, ensuring they get the needed skills, and telling their stories using social media.

Tell me about the best and worst marketing projects you’ve been on.

The best would be a recruitment activation we did that we got to use guerrilla marketing. It evoked the creativity we were always hiding, it was so unconventional. For the activation, we placed human—billboards across strategic locations in Lagos. A couple of our brand partners were able to spot them. And this drove a lot of awareness for the recruitment campaign. We also saw a significant increase in new joiners. The result we got remains the highest in the history of the organization. It was so phenomenal.

The worst? We hired a dancer for a product launch event. On the day of the event, he put up a shameful performance. Everyone was disappointed, especially the audience. It was an utter disgrace. Because we all anticipated an electrifying performance from him. The delivery was disastrous. It’s the worst project I’ve been on.

But this taught me an important lesson. It’s not every time you trust people to deliver on a job you’re not sure they’ve done before. Sometimes, they just have to first show you they have what it takes to deliver.

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So what are the best things about your job?

Getting to work with different people. I believe people are important in every area of marketing. People are my business!

Getting to know their pain points, offering solutions, then businesses trying out the suggested solutions, and then coming back to let you know the solutions work. That’s the best part of my job, the joy that comes with this is unquantifiable. The part I’d not trade for anything in the world is helping people grow beyond their limitations, providing them with the right advice, skills and resources needed to learn and build their skillset.

Seeing businesses grow by implementing your strategies, tactics, advice etc, gives you self joy. Do you know the excitement that comes with seeing a billboard you commissioned on the road?

Helping people is an important pillar of my happiness and my largest consistent source of income.

May the feeling never die. What’s the worst?

Office Bureaucracy. The degree of approval layers you’ve to go through to get things done is ridiculous. You’d have an idea for a campaign, and you’d have to get approval from 5 or more people. Most times, your idea ends up sitting in your Google Drive for life, if you didn’t  delete it.

If you were to pick between a community or a mentor, which would you pick and why?

Well, from my personal experience, mentors are important. I have learned a lot from my mentor. A mentor can be a great thing if you use it properly and the mentor has the competencies that you seek. There are certain people who have gone ahead of me, they have experienced a lot of things in their space, and these are the people I always love to learn from. People like Neil Patel and Bozoma Saint John. They have done so well in their career. So it’s a mentor for me.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans are simply focused on helping people and businesses to grow. And I’ve activated this plan by creating the Marketing Experience Summit, an annual event that brings together marketing enthusiasts, startup founders, SMEs to learn about marketing trends, marketing strategies etc. The plan is to build it to become one of the largest marketing summits in Africa.

There are other things in the works as well. My focus long term is to help small businesses win through Marketing and we are building the right platform just for that.

Link platform to – https://thefifthalley.com/

Effective Marketing is key to the survival of a lot of small businesses and startups right now thanks to COVID-19. What are they getting wrong and what should they be doing next?

Many businesses are looking to build stability. We all understand that the impact the pandemic had on businesses last year was immense.

The common thing I see most businesses not doing is being empathetic with their audience. Meanwhile we need more of that than anything else. Empathy is always missing in their marketing materials. They say they’re easy to do business with but make people jump through hoops to get pricing information. They build complex marketing automation without empathy for the people receiving it. They follow people around the internet with banner ads for the sake of “awareness”.

In whatever you do, you need to double down on understanding people. Transparency, permission, customer support, delivery, easy; all add up to empathy.  Having no empathy is a deadly sin in marketing.

Going forward, I think more businesses would go digital. They would build formidable businesses using digital marketing. More businesses domiciled offline should try to build community online leveraging on email marketing, virtual events, incentive programs etc.

What has had the most impact on your perspective as a marketer?

The biggest impact was a mindset change for me — getting to understand that people are everything. Giving myself and my team the space to fail, learn and rework has made me a braver marketer. Most people in the marketing space just focus on making the customers happy while focusing less on the employees happiness. As a marketing professional who has worked in several key spaces, I think that people make up the difference. Not just your customers but also your team members. As marketing professionals, we always think our sole job is making the client happy. We always think being happy to the customers is the only way. But the reality is that we have to be human, it’s not about the customers only or just your team members. This perspective has changed how I think about what we do in the marketing space. And I feel fortunate to have learned to see marketing through this lens.

What’s the biggest misconception about marketing that you wish more people knew?

The biggest misconception about marketing is that anyone can do it. For some reason, everyone thinks they understand marketing — social media makes people think they understand marketing. If everyone thinks they can do marketing then the people – marketers – who really can aren’t valued, and neither is the craft.

People outside marketing also think marketing is cheap and requires no money. The thing is, marketing can be affordable if you give it a big thought, tactic or execution. But the word cheap kind of demeans the value of marketing. This perception makes people think marketing is just posting content on social media, no it’s way beyond this. There’s an in-depth insight that marketing would help you discover to help your businesses connect with their target audience. Seriously, marketing has been bastardized a lot. People don’t respect marketers because they think it’s just posting content everywhere.

Tell me one important thing you’ve learned that you’d like to pass to other marketing professionals.

Be confident in yourself. Sometimes, you present an idea to a client/boss/lead and they won’t just get it. We’ve probably all been there. This is when your inner critic starts saying things to you.” You’re finally exposed as the fraud you’re.” That’s the worst feeling ever. The time when you’ll silently sip water to calm yourself down. You’re already mentally crawling under the table. Or already fleeing the room. Because nothing is more terrifying than trying to present an idea and people say “wetin be this idea?”.

I’ve been so many times in the situation that I’ve just pictured. But the truth is, being sensitive is a mandatory professional hazard. You don’t necessarily have to feel like a failure when things like this happen. You know your shit. Don’t pressure yourself. To really gain confidence in this industry you’ll need to fall on your face (a lot), and become a pro at managing those situations.

If someone does judge you for your ideas or creativity, just smile. Don’t take it to heart. Find ways to make things work for everyone! Self-doubt, like any bully, picks on you when you’re most vulnerable and you’re most vulnerable when you’re stuck. Starting to see this as a mandatory professional hazard keeps self doubt train rolling right through stinky town and onto greener pastures.

Name two products you can’t do without and tell me why.

I can’t do without Google products. Gmail, Meet, Drive, Docs etc. The second product I can’t do without is Canva. I use these products every single day.

Pick a random pic from your camera roll and tell me about it.

This reminds me of the vacation that I had before the pandemic. It was so memorable. I felt like I had no worries, just good food, great weather. Everything was simply fantastic.

Finish this sentence. If I weren’t a marketer, I would be…

I would be a lecturer. I am so passionate about teaching and sharing what I know. I might take this up as a profession in the future.

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