“Stop paying lip service and just do it. For companies promoting diversity, there have been big rewards in growing their equity and market share.”Mondé Süssmann
An aspiring Ironwoman, Mother and also, the Head of Corporate Communications for ARMSCOR. Mondé shoots down the notion that women cannot be multifaceted. We salute you! Let’s learn more about her in this segment of Women In Marketing
THE JOURNEY TAKEN
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career in marketing? How’d you end up at ARMSCOR?
I started my marketing career at Unilever, first as a sales rep, then SAB in brand management launching various cider brands. Worked on Simba brands during the crazy Pokémon days. Brought back Ghost Pops. I felt that I represented South Africa in promoting Brand SA to the rest of the world. Moved into the petrochemical industry starting with Plascon and BP. Now in my 4th year at Armscor promoting the brand in SA, Africa and the rest of the world.
You have accumulated an envious amount of experience having worked for top-tier companies such as Unilever, SAB as well as Castrol. What did you learn from these roles and how do you apply experiences in your current role at ARMSCOR?
I’ve learnt how to grow brands in recessionary environments such as during the PIIGS crisis (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece & Spain) in 2010-2012. At SAB some cider brands were a success such as Redds, not so much Solantis or Dooleys, but you learn from your failures as well. Unilever gave me a grounding in marketing. My global experience at BrandSA and BP/Castrol have allowed me to bring those lessons into my current job.
What have you learned at ARMSCOR that you had not learned at previous companies?
The defence industry is very complicated. The route to market is tiered from government bilaterals to the end-user. It’s not the same as selling a packet of chips or a can of beer. Industries that are complicated like oil & gas, petrochemicals, waste and defence are attractive to me because they are not easy; they’re not glamorous but the results are rewarding.
As a woman in the marketing and communications environment, what challenges do you face within and outside the organisation? What message do you have for other female professionals in the fraternity?
We’ve battled for decades to be taken seriously in this environment; to be heads of brands and communications; to be trusted with big budgets. It’s still a struggle but it’s about taking up your space and refusing to play second fiddle. Know your worth first, and then do not compromise.
What made you fall in love with the world of marketing? What particular moment in time pushed you to pursue this as a career? After all, we all wanted to be Doctor’s growing up, right?
I’m a creative person by nature, besides my academic qualifications I have a diploma in Fashion Design so I have an eye for innovative work. When I entered the business world I had studied Psychology because back in 1986 there were no Marketing degrees. So I channelled my interest in human behaviour to marketing. It’s always about what the customer thinks, feel and do with your brand that matters and delivers on the bottom line.
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
What does your typical day of work look like? How does your calendar look and are you a coffee or tea kind of person?
We never have a typical day as we can be strategic in one moment and go quickly into crisis mode when it comes to communications. I used to survive on coffee but I’m a water person now.
Forbes has an annual ‘The World’s Most Influential CMOs’ report. For the year 2019, one of the key highlights from the report was that 31 of the 50 CMOs were women whilst there were 19 men. In your opinion, is this a positive representation of gender equality?
It’s a good representation because for many years women have not been represented. We can still do more here in South Africa.
Closely linked to the previous question, several studies reveal that women account for the majority of purchase decisions including traditional male products such as automobiles, consumer electronics as well as home improvement products. Despite this, surveys further show that advertisers still do not understand women. Why do you think this is the case and what should change if research says that 50 of the most influential CMOs are in fact, women?
There’s a tendency for herd following in executive meetings or during an advertising pitch. I cringe whilst watching some ads that are still produced these days. We can do better.
COVID-19 has been a disruption to a number of organisations. So much that several businesses, small and big alike either having to cut down on staff or being forced to close down. On the same token, however, several organisations have used this time to regroup and use this as an opportunity for change in structure and processes. How has your organisation and specifically, your department, countered against the impact brought by the pandemic?
We’re in the defence space so during the national state of disaster that’s when we come to the fore and ramp up our services. We’ve remained agile as a department.
Systems around remote work and video conferencing are increasingly becoming a staple to most organisations. To illustrate this, according to the infographic created by Visual Capitalist, Zoom is now worth more than the 7 biggest airlines in the world at a whopping market capitalization of just over $40bn. Working from home/remote working is an aspect of modern-day work that has been long overdue. Why do you think most organisations who are seemingly able to convert to this way of work have struggled to convert? Furthermore, how have you and your organisation structured your work since the COVID-19 pandemic? Any key lessons?
We’ve implemented staff rotation which has worked well for my team. It’s allowed for work-life balance which is critical psychologically during this time.
What are the most unique challenges you face in your industry and at the workplace? How do you tackle these? What steps can companies take to make their businesses more equal in terms of pay and employees with regards to gender?
Stop paying lip service and just do it. For companies promoting diversity, there have been big rewards in growing their equity and market share.
Storytelling seems to be the next rising buzzword. What’s the ARMSCOR story? How are you telling it in an interesting way?
We’re are a gateway to African defence solutions and we achieve this by supporting our partners in peacekeeping efforts in the continent.
As a mother, how has the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the way you work? Furthermore, should organisations be cognisant of mothers? Is enough being done to cater to new parents, specifically mothers?
Work-life balance is critical for women to succeed. Now that children are homeschooled during COVID-19, I need to be cognisant of a single mother who has to manage the online school for her children.
What have been some of ARMSCOR biggest successes in marketing over the past 12 to 18 months?
As an SOE, we continue to be looked at how we manage the taxpayer funds. We’ve continued to maintain unqualified audits over the years whilst growing our commercial businesses.
BCG published its innovation report for 2019 and at the core of its selection criteria are companies that have successfully married Artificial Intelligence in their products and services. According to you, what makes something innovative? How do you define innovation at ARMSCOR?
We’re are at the forefront of the 4IR in defence technology.
At the time of publishing, an article from The Digital Marketing Institute estimated that the influencer marketing industry will hit the $10bn mark by 2020. Whether it is B2B or B2C, it is evident that brands and organisations have had their own 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?
There’s a market for influencer marketing after COVID-19 but it has to be authentic. Influencers whose likes depended on shallow Bali or Dubai shots are exposed right now because their content leaves a lot to be desired.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
TED, Hootsuite, Pinterest, Strava, Instagram, MS Teams, FB & Twitter, Kobo & Academia
What do you see as some of the major trends in digital in the next 12 to 18 months?
AI coming to the fore & improving the working life of a marketer.
2020 AND BEYOND
What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information? Physical book vs eReader?)
The Race Within by Gourley & Biscay. It’s about endurance; I’m an aspiring Ironman. I do duathlons for now. Becoming a Conscious Leader by Hayden. So relevant during this pandemic.
What is on your Netflix watchlist/How do you relax?
I’m a cyclist – MTB & Road. I swim & run. I run a cake decorating business and a craft business which are investment businesses into my retirement. That’s how I relax.
A unique message for all young professionals in the marketing industry
Learn & continue to learn – at work and academically.
What haven’t you solved? What challenge is on your plate?
How to fit in sleep in all my commitments
Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read
Any bucket list items (professional as well as personal)?
Do my PHD in marketing. Complete my Scuba diving course. Go to the Tour de France (unfortunately, I cancelled my trip this year due to the virus)
Who are some of your female heroes?
Oprah, my daughter & my friends
What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?
What does the word feminist mean to you?
Independence of mind
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Cut yourself some slack sometimes
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Diligence & perseverance no matter what
Which superhero/heroine or literature icon exemplifies your personality at work and at home?