Women In Marketing, Jacqui Uys
Women In Marketing

Women In Marketing Interview | Jacqui Uys from Clickatell

“Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives”. 

Michelle Obama

Jacqui is the Global Director of Digital Marketing at Clickatell. Coming from a strong matriarchal family, she shares her journey with us on this edition 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 Clickatell?

I’m fortunate enough to come from a family of strong women, with my mom, sisters, and I being particularly close. Mom taught me from an early age to embrace my independence, and that it was OK to be a ‘strong woman’, regardless of who I made uncomfortable. My career started with me entering the advertising world, working in account management, and then growing into senior roles across several high value local and international brands such as Coca Cola and British American Tobacco.

Women In Marketing Interview | Jacqui Uys from Clickatell 1
Jacqui Uys

I soon fell in love with how the digital space was developing and how it would change the way we work. Digital strategy would become my passion. Being ever curious, I decided to travel and expand my professional horizons. It’s a great big world out there for the ambitious woman, and I was determined to see as much of it as possible. 

Following a stint in South Africa, I was fortunate enough to co-found Br& Consulting Africa – a Nigerian-based digital marketing agency with a full-service suite of digital offerings geared to unlocking value across East, West, Southern, and Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the UK. Our vision was to bring globally relevant digital and marketing excellence to our African clients, and I must say – working across and with, so many different African cultures, instilled in me a deep passion for the continent.

Too many professional African women, in my experience, view their professional futures abroad. While the desire to increase one’s earning power is understandable, my time in corporate Africa opened my eyes to the possibilities inherent to this amazing continent.

Yes, there are many business challenges to navigate, but it was during this period in my career that I truly grew into my identity as an African woman and decided wherever my career took me, I would always be unapologetically African.

After an extremely involved and productive stint at Educor, Southern Africa’s largest private education provider, where my primary task was restructuring and optimising their global marketing processes, I realised that Clickatell spoke to my absolute need to be challenged on a daily basis, while providing products and services that, as a life-long digital marketer, I knew would add real, quantifiable, region-specific value to the marketplace.

As the Director of Digital Marketing for a company spanning across the Americas, Canada, the Middle East, West Africa, and Southern Africa, I feel I’m matched with an amazing business and team that are well placed to leverage my experience and skill set into digital-marketing specific innovation.  

You have accumulated an envious amount of experience having worked for top-tier companies such as Ogilvy as well as Educor Holdings. What did you learn from these roles and how do you apply experiences in your current role at Clickatell?

Ogilvy was an amazing experience for me – working with high-end advertising pros who really understand both the creative and the production processes are always a joy. At Ogilvy, I was fortunate enough to get back to my roots as a ‘creative’ and was constantly reminded of just how much passion goes into high-end copywriting, designing, strategy building and account management.

It’s often easy as busy executives, to take ‘creative’ for granted. This particular stint reminded me that at the end of the day, you can onboard all the fancy apps and innovations available, but without quality content, it is all for nothing. Ogilvy also required me to work very closely with high-value clients, giving me front-row exposure to the critical importance of client relations and client experience.

Heading up the Marketing at Educor, I gained a holistic understanding of Southern Africa’s Education sector – the myriad challenges, the amazing people working in the sector, and also, the many opportunities for business-minded, innovative problem solvers.  At Educor, it reminded me of the absolute importance of having a smart, loyal, hard-working team to lean on. I was reminded on a daily basis that as a marketing leader, regardless of how amazing your plan is, without the right personnel to deliver the end product, again, it is all for nothing.

What have you learned at Clickatell that you had not learned at previous companies?

The biggest learning curve for me was getting comfortable with Tech jargon. As marketers, we tend to think, and rightfully so, that given time, we can master the marketing mix for any industry. However, Clickatell is very much a tech-industry leader, so I spent a good amount of time getting to grips with Platform Integration, APIs and shortcodes.  

From a business perspective, Clickatell has taught me just how reliant Big Tech is on inter-departmental unity and collaboration. All digital agencies must have some level of efficiency to be successful, however at Clickatell, our processes are so specific and aligned that one has to really trust one’s counterparts.

I’ve also been extremely fortunate to work with Clickatell’s C- Suite team of experienced global executives. Each one of them brings an impressive global understanding to the table, allowing different perspectives, views and experiences to inform our business processes. As a rule, I’ve always actively avoided being the ‘smartest person in the room’ – there is no growth there. At Clickatell, I’m able to work with a team with diversified specialities, meaning there is always something new or useful to learn. 

You obtained a LLB at UNISA (girl you fancy!). In an article written by Glassdoor, it has become seemingly easier to apply for work at companies such as Google, Apple and Starbucks as they do not require applicants to have a degree. How can young women utilise the internet to upskill themselves particularly if they cannot afford to obtain a formal education?

Baby steps, please! Gaining my LLB is a passion project of mine, and I’m still finalising my qualification. Learning is fun for me – especially learning something that brings value to my portfolio. Education will always be super important, especially when it comes to getting you through the door; however, I have always believed it’s the makeup and determination of one’s character that will ultimately lead them to success.

‘Digital’ evolves every few months, so to all the aspiring marketing leaders out there – up-skill, up-skill, up-skill! 

I have a degree under my belt and a second one on the way – amongst several accreditations – but they have only enhanced my journey. As mentioned, my mother is my greatest inspiration as she was a successful woman in a male-dominated business environment.

The majority of the success I’ve enjoyed so far is the drive, determination, and passion I have to improve myself. Education is important, but there are ways to up-skill yourself without necessarily enrolling for a degree.

I started THINK Global Institute for exactly this purpose – to provide high-end, affordable digital qualifications for everyone, regardless of where they are on their career journey. As the first African startup to be granted the opportunity to offer the globally accredited Digital Marketing Institute’s courses, we proved our value on an international scale.

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?

Recognition in male dominated world.

“Gender differences in laws affect both developing and developed economies, and women in all regions. Globally, over 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men”.

UN Women Article

It’s a struggle all women face and it presents itself in our daily lives. Men generally don’t understand what women go through to be successful in business and life. Professional women need to have each other’s backs, be cognizant of how we respond to and interact with each other and allow our greatness to shine.

 After all – together we are stronger.

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?

Much to my parents’ dismay, I was very much a boundary-pushing child. ‘Cheeky’, I believe is the word most often used to describe my youth, ‘Curious’ is a better description I’d use. I liked to question everything and would often speak up when most kids would not. This, as you can imagine, led to more than my fair share of scoldings, but fortunately, later on in life, translated into me having a voice.

Marketing allows me to use that voice – to express my true, authentic ‘self’ in my everyday work life. Marketing combines the things that I enjoy, and that I am good at – creative strategy, analytics analysis and tangible, immediate feedback and gratification!

Not to mention – the adrenaline rush that comes with high-value creative-corporate problem-solving!

Marketing also allows me to explore both the creative and disciplined sides of my personality. I’m studying Law, while holding a degree in Design, and these two disparate sides of my personality are allowed to come together when working as a professional marketer.

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?

Get up, meditate for 15mins, (any longer and I am back asleep), exercise, coffee and then team meeting with my South African team on daily task deliverables. From then on, its admin and other internal meetings are done with the other SA team departments and then my day really starts around 14h00. My meetings with the US teams generally start and continue into the evenings, with some immediate deliverables to get done after and so the cycle continues.

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?

That depends on what your concept of what ‘gender equality’ is – I long for the day when equitable gender or race representation is no longer something we have to keep tabs on and is a natural market response. What these numbers tell me though, is that given comparable education and opportunity, women are more than capable of being digital marketing leaders.

Women In Marketing Interview | Jacqui Uys from Clickatell 2
Women In Marketing Interview | Jacqui Uys from Clickatell 3

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 is no easy one answer, but in my opinion, one of the reasons is that traditionally, marketing has always been a mass communications function, allowing for segmentation along very broad lines such as gender or race. Although the data science and tools have improved, the outdated media and marketing mindsets and ‘frames’ still largely exist today, because ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’.

This new breed of female consumers though has been brought up to demand and expect personalised marketing communications. Professional marketers today finally have access to specified analysis, segmentation and targeting tools, as well as a wealth of industry experience and history to lean on, and I strongly believe that in the near future, women are going to be better serviced by their brand-specific targeted marketing messages.  

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 count our blessings each day, Clickatell so far has not been negatively impacted to the point of having to regroup and restructure. Our business is solid, but having said that, COVID-19, has had a Global impact on business in general, we all have to rethink the previous “norm”. We are focusing heavily on how to be a good support partner to our current clients.

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?

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

As we are a Global business we do have many of our staff that work from home already and being tech, we adopted this approach earlier on, pre-COVID-19, which I believe did help with the transition to all working from home full time. Key lessons would be to always “double-check” you are on mute, too often people forget to mute themselves and there have been some funny stories coming out of this, which I am sure you can imagine.

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

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 Clickatell?

Innovation, to me, simply means applying creative, efficient solutions to the problem at hand. Successful innovators are individuals who are willing to take the ‘problem-solving road less traveled’, whether via technology or just a change in mindset, in search of latent or inaccessible value.

Clickatell is at the forefront of Chat Commerce, so innovation is very much in our DNA. As a group, our hiring and retention practices, products, and services are all geared to ensuring we work only with individuals who meet our ‘outside-the-box’ approach to creating value for our clients.

It is often hard to unpack innovation as a marketing concept, but you know it when you see it. With the current Coronavirus status quo, marketing executives and creatives with the skill set and mindset to innovate will continue to be extremely valuable.

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 will always be a place in marketing for individuals/brands/companies who set the tone. Indeed, the very idea of ‘influencers’ is very simple, to attach your brand to another brand in the hope of cross-pollination – a concept as old as marketing itself.

The concept of ‘influencers’, and which platforms, Apps, or digital spaces they operate in, will always be part of the marketing mix. The form though may evolve. As consumers today are very much brand-savvy and digitally educated, professional marketers must continue to analyse the ‘who, what, where, why, when, and how’ of unlocking passive or latent value and allow their influencer processes to evolve accordingly.

During these COVID-defined times, successful marketers and influencers must be able to message three things for their brands. 

1 -Empathy, reassurance, and understanding.   

2 -Solutions to the status quo.

3 -The sustainability and ‘future-proofing’ of the solution. 

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

All social of course ( WhatsApp / FB / Linkedin  / Insta), Canva, Medium, All-MAC software, News 24, Google alerts, Behance, Banking apps, Jira, many many others…..

What do you see as some of the major trends in digital in the next 12 to 18 months?

In my opinion, the medium-term future of digital marketing will encompass these features.

  1. Chat Commerce, allowing both clients and companies to interact and transact safely, securely and remotely. 
  2. A return to quality Content Marketing. To quote from my latest article, ‘Content (marketing) is Still King’:

“The biggest companies in the world have come to realise that their consumers are drowning in a sea of generic, unoriginal marketing messages. In response to the ‘black hat’ SEO and content farm epidemic, and the ‘spray and pray’ attitude that still dominates the digital marketing field, Google, for example, has consistently reconfigured its search algorithms – PANDA, PENGUIN and BERT updates – to reward companies publishing well-written and original content.

As consumers become more digitally savvy, the ability to create and curate high traffic, brand-specific content will define marketing firms’ and departments’ success. With the digital marketing mix increasing in complexity, marketers must have clear guidelines in producing original, quality output.”

What are your thoughts on Marketing and Sales alignment? How do you align your Marketing and Sales team at Clickatell?

Many marketers may not want to hear this, but marketing, ultimately, is a sales support or enabler function. The endgame for every business is to convert sales in order to make money. This linear alignment is often not as easily achieved as one would think, as you are in effect marrying two departments, with often very different personalities and approaches.

At Clickatell, we view our marketing and sales as a connected cycle, with one leading naturally into the other, allowing for faster turnover and reduced costs. This alignment can be tricky, especially on the personnel involved, however, ensuring synergy between marketing and sales is very much a part of my portfolio and something I actively focus on every day. 

2020 AND BEYOND

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information? Physical book vs eReader?)

I am an audible girl, I buy all my books and listen to them, it’s easier for me to process this way. I generally read (listen) to two books at the same time. I am currently reading: ‘The Book of Joy‘ by Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu and then one to upskill with, which is currently, ‘Get to Aha! Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition‘ by Andy Cunningham.

What is on your Netflix watchlist/How do you relax?

I have recently been watching Tiger King on Netflix, yes Tiger king! All I can say is WOW…

The way I relax is to be on the beach and all activities around this and then to meditate.

A unique message for all young professionals in the marketing industry

Trust your gut and follow your passion, never forget you are unique and there is only one of you. Don’t conform, stand out from the rest by just being you.

What haven’t you solved? What challenge is on your plate?

There are many things I haven’t solved, but that’s life, we learn through experience, therefore I foresee many more experiences in my future. I have found the biggest challenge is myself, if I can master myself, I have accomplished my biggest win.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Believe in yourself and never give up!

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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.