Liezel Bygate, LinkedIn, Women In Marketing (Yellow)
Women In Marketing

Women In Marketing ft. Dr. Liezel Bygate from Bliss Brands

“With all our rapid progress and advances in technology, people are still emotional beings who crave connectedness. What differentiates a brand and its advertising is how it makes you feel.”

Dr. Liezel Bygate

Dr. Bygate is Bliss Brand’s Marketing Director. Yes, we said Dr! With a PhD in Chemistry, let’s find out why she pivoted towards Marketing as a career choice. Welcome to Women In Marketing.

LET’S GET PERSONAL

WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?

I grew up in a small town in the Eastern Cape.  I have very fond memories of a simple childhood spent playing outdoors and pottering around rock pools at the beach. I then spent 8 years at Rhodes University which were some of the most fun of my life – the friendships formed there are still strong 25 years later.

SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS? 

I’m a champion hula-hooper.

WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE? 

I have always loved nature and it pains me what humanity is doing to our planet.  I would probably get behind some environmental cause.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!

Hands off my roast potatoes!

WHAT MADE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD OF MARKETING? WHAT PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME PUSHED YOU TO PURSUE THIS CAREER? AFTER ALL, WE ALL WANTED TO BE DOCTORS GROWING UP, RIGHT?

Close – I wanted to be a vet.  I ended up doing a PhD in Chemistry with noble ideas of curing diseases like cancer.  However, something was amiss for me being in the field of science – I think it was the narrow world view as well as the lack of the creative aspect.  

I was lured into the corporate world through Unilever’s graduate programme and that opened my eyes to the world of marketing.  I just loved the psychology behind it – understanding what makes people think and act in certain ways, and how to influence them.  As a scientist in marketing, I get to exercise both sides of my brain – with a logical and analytical approach to problem-solving, as well as finding creative solutions to challenges.  My background makes me unconventional in this field, but that’s just the way I like it.

IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL IN THE WORLD, WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?

I would most definitely be our cat, Teddy.  Gourmet food on tap, tummy rubs on demand, long naps on the couch and a house full of willing slaves catering to his every whim.

WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE ALONE?

When it comes to challenges at work, I am confident and fearless.  But in the role of mom to my 2 little girls, I am reduced to a quivering pile of uncertainty and doubt.  Talk about the toughest job in the world.

ENTERING THE WORKPLACE

GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!

My day starts twice. The first start is anywhere from 4.30 am with a kid tugging on my sleeve whispering “mom, can I watch the iPad….?”  This is followed by a whirlwind of getting dressed, brushing teeth, shovelling breakfast, frantically searching for some random item that’s required at school which we forgot to tell mom about last night, and fighting through school traffic.  

After that, my actual day can start – always with a cup of coffee. Being in marketing my days are quite varied and involve working with a lot of different people.  I like to have a variety to keep things interesting.

HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?

I found this difficult in the multinational environment I was in.  Working long hours and frequent travel became undesirable when the kids arrived – that’s why I made the move to a local company.  Where I am now, I have a good balance of work and family time.  Good planning and efficiency have shown that there is no need to work beyond office hours as a matter of routine.

YOU HAVE ACCUMULATED AN ENVIOUS AMOUNT OF EXPERIENCE HAVING WORKED FOR TOP-TIER COMPANIES SUCH AS UNILEVER, GSK AS WELL AS AVI. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THESE ROLES? HOW ARE YOU APPLYING THESE EXPERIENCES IN YOUR CURRENT ROLE AT BLISS BRANDS?

I have a fairly short attention span when it comes to sitting in a role.  I have actively sought to keep changing my environment and what I do to keep growing and learning.  Each role I’ve had has taught me a different perspective – some have been great, others not so much.  But overall I have gained invaluable knowledge on how and why businesses and brands prosper or fail.  I can take something positive out of every role I’ve had and I’ve learned to look for the learning opportunity.  There is no perfect job out there, but rather something to be gained from every experience to build towards a breadth of knowledge, which is priceless.

JOB HOPPING IS A COMMON PHENOMENA ESPECIALLY IN THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF ADVERTISING AND MARKETING. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON JOB HOPPING? DOES IT HURT OR AID ONE’S CAREER? 

Job hopping can be invaluable provided it is done for the right reason.  Changing jobs for money or a promotion is a bad idea and will hurt you in the long run.  However, making a considered change for learning or gaining a new skill is a clever move and will eventually set you apart from your peers.  Another important consideration is time in a job.  Jumping too quickly will limit the learning opportunity – as a rule of thumb, I’d say anything under 2 years in a role is too short.

FOR OUR INTERVIEW WITH YAEL TAMAR FROM SOLIDBLOCK, SHE REMARKED THAT WOMEN ARE MOST LIKELY TO OCCUPY THE CMO ROLE AS COMPARED TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS. WITH WOMEN CONTROLLING OVER $20 TRILLION IN GLOBAL SPENDING, WHY HAS IT BECOME INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT TO HAVE FEMALE CMOS IN YOUR OPINION? 

I think it’s important to have women in the boardroom, full stop.  We think differently and bring new perspectives.  The fact that marketing is the function that is ahead in this endeavour isn’t really surprising – this field does seem to attract more women.  I think having a female CMO is only meaningful in organisations that take marketing seriously – i.e. where marketing has a strong voice at the boardroom table and can make a meaningful contribution as part of the leadership of the company.

SYSTEMS AROUND REMOTE WORK AND VIDEO CONFERENCING ARE INCREASINGLY BECOMING STAPLE IN MOST ORGANISATIONS. ACCORDING TO  VISUAL CAPITALIST, ZOOM IS NOW WORTH MORE THAN THE 7 BIGGEST AIRLINES IN THE WORLD AT A WHOPPING MARKET CAPITALIZATION OF JUST OVER $40BN. SUFFICE TO SAY, REMOTE WORKING IS AN ASPECT OF MODERN-DAY WORK THAT HAS BEEN LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE MOST ORGANISATIONS STRUGGLED TO CONVERT TO THIS WAY OF WORK? 

Indeed it is long overdue.  I think it is the old-fashioned notion of needing to control your employees that limit organisations from allowing this.  There seems to be a prevailing perception that productivity will decrease and people will abuse this “privilege”.  The reality is that good employees will get the job done and remote working is not a privilege at all, it’s common sense.

Visual Capitalist Graph, Women In Marketing
Image source: Visual Capitalist
Data source: Barchart

REMOTE WORK HAS COME WITH ITS OWN SET OF CHALLENGES, PARAMOUNT TO THIS IS THE FACT THAT EMPLOYEES ARE NOW ‘ALWAYS ON’ WITH WORK CARRYING OVER EVEN BEYOND WORKING HOURS. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS MANAGE THIS BETTER TO PROTECT THE WELLBEING OF THEIR EMPLOYEES?

I don’t think this is a new issue at all.  Ever since employees were given laptops, the expectation of being always available was there.  This was made much worse when emails became available on cell phones.  Many companies merely pay lip-service to this issue, stating that wellbeing is important – and then your manager emails you after hours and expects a response.  Managing this has to be part of the company culture – driven from the top.  

Remote Working, Women In Marketing 1
Top Struggles of Remote Workers
Source: Visual Capitalist

STORYTELLING SEEMS TO BE THE NEXT RISING BUZZWORD. WHAT’S THE BLISS BRANDS STORY? HOW ARE YOU TELLING IT IN AN INTERESTING WAY?

Bliss Brands’ story is a real David & Goliath narrative on how a little local company dared to dream big and take on the biggest and best multinationals in the world.  It started back in 2003 and through sheer grit and determination has withstood the ravages of market upheavals with new big global brands entering, the ensuing price wars, and not to mention the challenges of our local economy.  

2016 marked a turning point in the company and I joined them with a specific remit to re-invent and re-imagine what the MAQ brand could achieve.  It’s every marketer’s dream to build something new from scratch.  To be given the freedom to dream big and then actually make it happen was something I really could not resist.  And so the company story is mirrored in the MAQ brand communications, with all its unique assets, to tell the humble story of how a small unknown brand has grown in stature and confidence to become a household name. 

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

AT THE TIME OF PUBLISHING, THE DIGITAL MARKETING INSTITUTE ESTIMATED THAT THE INFLUENCER MARKETING INDUSTRY WILL HIT THE $10BN MARK BY 2020. WHETHER B2B OR B2C, IT’S EVIDENT THAT BRANDS AND ORGANISATIONS HAVE HAD THEIR SUCCESS WITH THIS MODEL OF MARKETING. HOW WILL THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AFFECT THIS INDUSTRY GOING FORWARD AND DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS STILL A PLACE FOR INFLUENCER MARKETING?

I have a love-hate relationship with social media.  

It has become such a powerful phenomenon that it cannot be ignored and as such, brands flock there because “everybody’s on social media”.  For me, it’s Pandora’s Box – a complete hit and miss affair, and I use it very cautiously because there is such a lack of transparency and so much room for fraudulent behaviours.  For me, influencer marketing tops this high-risk list.  

Many influencers are largely self-styled “celebrities” and their paid-for endorsements may have their place if there is more substance to  them and what they stand for.  However, I think one of the positive outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic, even if it is temporary, is that celebrities who are famous for no good reason, both online and in other media, seem to have been sidelined as humanity faces a real crisis.  Most of them make no real meaningful contribution to society and this pandemic has exposed their irrelevance. (Bye bye Kardashians…) 

I hope that a new breed of influencers is born out of this – people with more substance and authenticity who can make a positive difference in society – especially to impressionable young people trying to navigate a complicated world.

HOW IS BLISS BRANDS CHANGING THE APPROACH TO MARKETING, GROWING BRAND AFFINITY, USER ADOPTION, AND ENGAGING CONSUMERS LIVING A DIGITAL LIFESTYLE?

With all our rapid progress and advances in technology, people are still emotional beings who crave connectedness (not connectivity!).  What differentiates a brand and its advertising is how it makes you feel. Consumers are constantly bombarded with cold, bland content – as advertisers, we are robbing them of their time. 

I try and make sure that in whatever communication we put out, whether it’s a TVC or a digital campaign, we create engaging content that makes people feel something and gives them something to connect with.  

This has driven our success over recent years.  It’s not a new thought, but sadly I think that many marketers have forgotten that this is what we should be doing.

WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?

Don’t be a busy fool.  Think!  – before you rush off and do stuff.  Take the time upfront to nail down what needs to be done and be crystal clear about why you are doing certain activities.  You’ll end up doing fewer things better and faster. 

2020 AND BEYOND

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING? (WHAT DO YOU READ, AND HOW DO YOU CONSUME INFORMATION? PAPERBACK VS EREADER?)

Paperback for sure!  I look at screens all day – the last thing I want to do is read another screen.  Plus, I just love the smell of a book…  

I don’t get a lot of time to read, but when I do I just love a good spy thriller or mystery – Dan Brown is the master.   I also really enjoy the Ken Follett trilogies – he writes so well, you get embroiled in the character’s lives.

WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?

I love to binge-watch a good series.  My latest loves are The Blacklist, Homeland and Outlander.  I don’t think I could ever watch a series one episode a week, ever again.

AS WE LEARN TO LIVE WITH COVID19 IF YOU COULD REPLACE THE HANDSHAKE AS A FORM OF GREETING, WHAT INTERESTING NEW GREETING WOULD YOU INTRODUCE?

The Japanese bow to each other – I think they’re on to something…

 WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?

My family – so near and yet so far, thanks to COVID.  A phone call is just not the same.

A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY

Chase the learning and experience, not the promotion.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

There’s a new disease coming without any cure.  Stay in science.

WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PAIN POINTS YOU ARE TRYING TO OVERCOME IN YOUR LIFE WHETHER PROFESSIONALLY, PERSONALLY OR BOTH?

I am thinking about what to do next.  I’m at the point in my life where I need to know that what I do matters, leaves a legacy and contributes to society at large.

ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS (PROFESSIONAL AS WELL AS PERSONAL)?

I want my next role to be associated with “making a difference”.

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE HEROES?

Jacinda Ardern – Prime Minister of New Zealand.  She is the perfect example of an authentic woman leader – doing things her way and putting her male counterparts to shame.  The world needs more women like her.

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Head of Relationship Management at naughtybanana. I am a father to an awesome boy who thinks highly of me; perhaps I'm doing something right after all. When I'm not establishing new business relationships, you might catch me reading a book or of course, being an awesome dad.