“Earning acceptance in the workplace by male colleagues is a challenge and women absolutely need to prove their intelligence and competency in a way that men do not”Yoko Bewick
Yoko is Infinity Brands’ CMO. We explore a myriad of themes such as being a mother in the modern workplace as well as why it’s important for marketing and sales teams to have a symbiotic relationship. Welcome to our latest segment of Women In Marketing
THE JOURNEY TAKEN
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career in marketing? How’d you end up at Infinity Brands?
My journey to marketing was born from a love of communications.
Having joined a large corporate in an administrative role, I was presented with the opportunity to complete my schooling and to further my education. I completed my matric certification and immediately registered for a Degree in the field of Communication Sciences. As a full-time employee and mother of three, I opted for distance learning and managed to complete my degree in the minimum time of three years.
Professionally, I worked my way up the ranks and fulfilled a communications role within the Marketing and Communications team. Noting the close link between effective communication in Marketing, an organic transition occurred and I was soon promoted to the position of a Marketing Manager. Here I was responsible for a multi-billion Rand brand and it’s reputation, working under an Executive and often as only a two-man team.
Given the career trajectory and growth restrictions within a flat organizational structure, it was with a heavy heart that I parted ways with a brand that had provided the opportunity for me to flourish. I did however require greater challenges in my life and career. Having responded to a vacancy advertisement for a Chief Marketing Officer, I underwent a number of evaluations and interviews and was appointed as the successful candidate.
I have grown from working in isolation to being a subordinate to an Executive in a small department, managing large agencies, and being the care-taker of brand reputation. I have taken every learning opportunity and now lead an in-house creative team of eleven members, and provide marketing strategy, insight, and guidance to two Franchise brands with a combined total of thirty-seven franchisees.
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 show that advertisers still do not understand women. Why do you think this is the case and what should change?
Women fulfill a wide range of needs, both within the economy and the family sectors.
Given the patriarchal history of what was for many years considered the norm in terms of a family and provider structure, women have typically been seen as the nurturers, caregivers, and home-makers. With the evolution and forward-thinking regarding gender roles, advertisers are in the difficult position of identifying a target persona for females. Some women successfully juggle a high-end career, whilst arriving home to bake a warm pudding for her family on a cold winter’s evening. She may even spend her time at school functions or volunteer for various organizations over weekends, then spoil herself with an international holiday. This makes it exceptionally difficult to define a clear strategy under which to reach the female consumer.
In the South African context, we have a rich and diverse approach to the role of the female under our varied cultures and belief systems – this too becomes a challenge to advertisers as careful messaging must be considered so that it is not exclusionary or offensive.
Personally, I find the challenge a joy as the communication aspect in Marketing to such a diverse and complex consumer – the female – is an interesting field to navigate and great learnings can be obtained through this.
What have you learned at Infinity Brands that you had not learned at previous companies?
The greatest take-away, growth, and learning at Infinity Brands has been to adapt to various staff needs and personalities in order to obtain the best output possible from staff. I have learned a great deal about the value of human capital and how to effectively manage staff members to allow them space for creativity, growth, and love for continued learning within the exciting business space of Marketing.
Who are some of your female heroes?
I do not have any particular heroes but am inspired by every woman who is able to provide for herself and/or her family. This may be in a professional or personal capacity. My personal hero is my aunt, who cared for us, instilled within us all a great sense of family, wiped tears, and gave stern reprimands. To this day, she is the glue that bonds our family – blood or otherwise.
What steps can companies take to make their businesses more equal in terms of pay and employees with regards to gender?
I believe that organisations should build a sound structural framework, which assesses the human capital need and grade positions according to seniority and remuneration levels. Only then, should candidates be placed into roles. This will eliminate the disparity in gender preference and should be an ongoing evaluation undertaken by the Human Resources department.
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?
As much as I opt to believe that the perception of women being less capable no longer exists, I am continuously met with challenges that make it evident that this is not the case. Women need to work that much harder to prove their competence and capabilities than men. I have personally experienced this and find that once the confidence of a male counterpart is obtained, a fantastic working relationship is able to blossom. Earning acceptance in the workplace by male colleagues is a challenge and women absolutely need to prove their intelligence and competency in a way that men do not.
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?
I am an unashamed coffee addict! I openly admit that I drink far too much of it and that it is my day time beverage of choice. To start a day without coffee is to not start at all. I typically check in on any urgent emails, ensure that my calendar leaves sufficient free time for me to accomplish my duties, and to have enough time to spend with my team. I find that I need to dedicate myself to one project at a time, or I tend to become caught up in the chaos. I am old-school in that I love writing on paper and organize my day with a written list that I check-off.
COVID-19 has been a disruption to a number of organizations. 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 organizations have used this time to regroup and use this as an opportunity for change in structure and processes. How has your organization and specifically, your department, countered against the impact brought by the pandemic?
Our department has been in the fortunate position of being able to work remotely. The nature of the marketing support that we offer has resulted in a decrease in workload but has allowed for reflection as to how we are able to optimize our time and delegate our work to produce higher-quality results. The company has had to make the difficult decision to reduce working times to accommodate financial needs, and this has been an extraordinary challenge.
Having to manage creative tasks by sharing these with various designers, as opposed to having a designer work on a project from start to finish, has provided some interesting insight and has shown that we are able to overcome the disconnect challenge and to merge insights and interpretations, to produce a superior end result.
The time now available to our team has allowed each of us to develop or hone our skill sets and to ensure that we are able to return stronger and more united. It has also provided an opportunity for the overall departmental strategy to be reviewed and for us to identify missed opportunities that may have otherwise been overlooked.
Remote work and video conferencing have become proverbial overnight celebrities. Some say that it has been long overdue whilst others are struggling to adjust this new normal. What is your take on this and how have you structured your work accordingly?
Indeed virtual meetings were quite the trend at the beginning of the lockdown period. So much so, that I soon found myself spending more time on video conferencing and in talk-shops than actually delivering the output required. There have been benefits in that collaboration is able to take place in real-time, but downfalls to attributing too many hours of a day in unnecessary meetings. Our team has adjusted by arranging weekly meetings, and scheduling of urgent items for discussion only between certain times in a day. This approach has proved effective and I feel that it has also contributed to the decline in the novelty of the virtual meeting.
What are the most unique challenges you face in your industry and at the workplace? How do you tackle these?
Within my workplace, I find that as a woman my input to strategy and suggested approach to campaigns or business growth discussions are often overlooked. The required due diligence in preparation and justification ahead of concept presentation is significant. This has however given me a leading edge in that I am utterly confident in my approach and that it is rare that I am challenged on applied logic to opinions and input.
As a mother, how has the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the way you work? Furthermore, should organizations be cognisant of mothers? Is enough being done to cater to new parents, specifically mothers?
Organizations should absolutely make provision for working mothers. Not to say that they should receive undue benefits, but a level of empathy and compassion should be shown to mothers in the workplace.
I truly believe that by accommodating moms at work, organizations will breed loyalty, commitment, and retain high-caliber staff who will always walk the extra mile. As a working mother myself, I am in a fortunate position to – within reason – take my laptop along to the netball field and continue to work whilst supporting my child by being present. By having this level of flexibility, I tend to offer additional hours to ensure that work is delivered, even if this means burning the midnight oil when it isn’t really required. This is the thanks that mothers will supply to employers, who will in turn receive great benefits from loyal and long-term staff.
My children are at an independent age, but the lockdown has changed the way that I work, by virtue of me being able to work from early morning hours, often from 04h00, so that by the time the children rise from their slumber, I have contributed a significant part of a working day to my company’s needs. This translates to me being able to spend real quality time in discussions with my children and bonding on a far deeper level than before.
What have been some of Infinity Brands’ biggest successes in marketing over the past 12 to 18 months?
Given that I have only recently joined the Infinity Brands team, I cannot speak to past success. I do however look forward to the continued study of past efforts and to building a clear and measurable way forward for the Marketing department. My greatest wish is to leave a legacy and to implement positive and financially beneficial change within the business.
What makes something innovative? How do you define innovation at Infinity Brands?
Innovation is inherent in us all. I define innovation as a unique thought, application, or perspective. When we take the time to listen to the views of others and sometimes merge these plans together, we are able to create a new perspective, a new way of implementing concepts, and improving the way in which things are done. That for me is true innovation. Identifying and adopting uniqueness, without fear or prejudice.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
I don’t think that I would be able to live my life without Adobe Acrobat Pro. That is my guilty pleasure!
However, Microsoft’s package of office applications is a must-have for me. The outlook interface and calendar features make my life easy to manage and my days simpler to navigate. Most recently, having worked with Wrike, a project management software, I am finding that I rely on the features more and more each day.
How do you leverage data to inform your decision-making?
I’m somewhat of a data nerd, as it allows me to make informed decisions on the success or failures of campaigns and marketing efforts. I believe in measurable campaigns so that we’re not only able to prove the financial benefit to the business in a quantifiable means but to also inform future decisions. I believe that failures are just as important as successes because if a campaign has been sufficiently measured and accurate data extracted, it will allow the team to improve or to not make the same mistake.
Data that relates to target audiences allow customer personas to be built with increased accuracy and in turn, can only benefit the success of campaign implementation.
What are your thoughts on Marketing and Sales alignment? How do you align your Marketing and Sales team at Infinity Brands?
The Sales and Marketing teams should nurture a symbiotic relationship. By receiving data on sales needs and leads, this informs the Marketing team as to where the focus and effort of upcoming campaigns should lie. Without successful marketing efforts, the Sales team cannot obtain the leads required to meet targets and grow relationships.
2020 AND BEYOND
What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information? Physical book vs eReader?)
Another guilty pleasure of mine is to fall deep into the abyss of true-crime. I have currently put down my e-reader in favor of podcast documentaries. I do gain satisfaction from picking up textbooks and reading chapters in no particular order. I enjoy collecting textbooks and associated academic material in the fields of communication, marketing, and management.
A unique message for all young professionals in the marketing industry
To all young professionals, I urge that you never stop learning! Continue to push yourself. Complacency has no place in your professional life and it will not allow you to be challenged. It is in the challenges and the unchartered territory, that we find our greatest growth and strength. Keep on learning. Keep on pushing!
What haven’t you solved? What challenge is on your plate?
I’ve never solved the theory of how the pyramids were built. Now that was an innovation. The accomplishment in the absence of advanced technology is inspiring. I wish to devise a concept that is so simple, but so great, that it leaves an impression on society for years to come.
I have set a personal challenge to myself, to grow a small marketing and communications agency that will allow young free-lancers to showcase their talent and to learn from a team of experienced professionals. I am currently becoming involved in volunteer organizations to offer pro-bono work to them, in order to begin growing an agency portfolio and reputation.
Any bucket list items (professional as well as personal)?
Professionally I aim to manage a marketing and communications agency and to be in a position to continue to contribute toward social development initiatives. The pay-it-forward aspect of ambition is my personal pay-off and dream.
What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?
The adoption of remote working with remote meetings. There are many individuals, particularly in the creative industry, who thrive better in their own environment and who are able to define their working conditions. I believe that further technological developments will occur to enable us to work more efficiently from anywhere on earth and that this will translate to increased productivity, commitment, and creativity.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“A crisis in your life is not a crisis in mine”.
This line has brought me through many challenges in that it has pushed me to take a step back, analyze, consider, make clear decisions, and then to proceed in a meaningful way that mitigates risk to the brand. The two minutes saved, by not getting caught up in the hype, translates to many hours of time and money spent correcting a poor decision that was made in haste.
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
I have a propensity to remain exceptionally calm and collected in crisis situations. It is post-fact that I do a little stress-dance in private. I also have a great deal of empathy and find that this places me in good stead within a leadership role.