Kekeletso Mabizela Women In Marketing
Women In Marketing

Women In Marketing Interview | Kekeletso Mabizela from Vodacom

“Advertisers continue to not understand women because the brainstorming sessions and final concepts approved and taken to market aren’t led by/do not include women”

Kekeletso Mabizela

Keke is a Digital Marketing Specialist at telecoms giant Vodacom. Coming from a social media background, her current role in digital has catapulted her to the next level. Let’s dive into this segment of Women In Marketing and learn more about her

THE JOURNEY TAKEN 

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career in marketing? How’d you end up at Vodacom?

Marketing has always been what I knew I wanted to do. Communications holistically. Having been a good communicator all throughout school and eventually going on to study a Communications Degree; majoring in Organisational Communications & Development Studies, I then identified a gap in how smaller (SME) brands either couldn’t afford the services of full-fledged agencies and also how traditional marketing as it had always been known was changing and morphing into a more hybrid service of PR, marketing and online channels. I took up consulting and created brand and communications strategies for smaller businesses in varied industries.

Fast forward a few years, in 2017; as the world of digital marketing enhanced consumer personalisation and data analytics tools grew. I studied and got certified as a Digital Marketing Professional. This helped expand the knowledge and capability to search engine optimisation, programmatic buying and the VERY REAL necessity for brands to accept that social media wasn’t a passing fad and to be in a position to help them transform and adapt accordingly. 

The 4th quarter of 2018 landed me at Vodacom, with the wonderful opportunity to join the B2B side of the company and direct the organisational strategy through a digital-first approach. 

I see that you were previously at BlueMagnet as a social media manager. How has this experience prepared you for the current role you are in at Vodacom?

The shift from social media to digital marketing strategy helped immensely. It helps one realise the mutual importance of each medium. Big digital media budgets do not nullify organic social media and the need for solid community management and content calendar strategy. 

If done right, the two elements tag team effectively to guarantee a consistent flow of comms and content by a brand to its intended audience. It’s customer retention and ‘relationship management’ with half the admin.  

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?

Two of the greatest challenges are 1. Making your voice and views heard; in the boardroom and in briefings as well as approvals. The 2nd challenge is with people who do not understand that Marketing isn’t simply brochures and putting stuff on billboards. (bless their hearts). 

It’s the small things like that that could make one despondent and make the working environment almost unbearable and bring about feelings of asking self “What am I even doing here? Do I even know how to do this?”

Whenever said challenges rear their head, it’s important to remember your “why”. Unless you were literally forced into Marketing (with a gun to the head, because otherwise, why haven’t you decided on another route by now) then your “why” should keep you going and remind you just how badass you are.

Another vital point to remember in work and adulting holistically: You don’t know everything right away. Consumer behaviour and preferences are changing, this fraternity itself is evolving almost daily. There’s only 1 you and only 24 hours in each day, you don’t have to be a hero in everything and to everyone. Lastly, have fun doing this. 

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?

Advertisers continue to not understand women because the brainstorming sessions and final concepts approved and taken to market aren’t led by/do not include women. This issue isn’t new and although drizzles of transformation are noted, women’s thought process, needs, and stories still aren’t being told by women.

Beyond the need to increase representation, another pertinent change comes with understanding that even in our “women-ness”, we are different and multidimensional so once the stories are being told by women, for women, they too cannot simply be champagne flutes and pink scatter cushions. 

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?

My work day always starts with a cup of coffee (and none of the complicated mocha latte skimmed this or the other stuff). I’m happy with a classic americano or cappuccino. There are the standard weekly status calls/meetings with different stakeholders plus catch ups with different members of the immediate team, but outside of that, depending on the time of the month, a lot of the work is either putting together briefs for upcoming projects or reviewing concepts for debrief and eventual approval. 

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?

The global lockdown brought most industries to a halt. In particular, the retail store arm of our organisation made the tough call and closed stores. This shifted traffic and customers to our online and self-service platforms, which meant that the Online, App and Digital channels teams had to buckle down and ensure that said channels were well-oiled machines. 

WFH also meant more instant messaging and phone calls back and forth, in order to streamline what would ordinarily have been a quick chat in the office, but collaboration tools like Skype, Zoom and Teams have kept the ship afloat. 

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?

Thankfully, my employer has always been quite flexible with working hours and remote working (all in line with the digital telecommunications organisation narrative) so the shift to WFH for an extended period wasn’t too big a shock. 

The one thing I did note though is the amount of work I do get through because I am seated at home, in one spot, with no disruptions from a colleague or a lunch break. This is why it’s vital to block out time in the daily calendar to take what would have qualified as a lunch/tea break if I was still in the office. 

Remote operations go hand in hand with the large industry push for digital transformation and automation of many processes. Post-Covid, life will not go back to ‘normal’ and it is important that all professionals ready their minds for a way of working that will function and colour outside of the lines of email threads, meeting upon meeting upon meeting, and shifting accountability and responsibility. 

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

What have been some of Vodacom biggest successes in marketing over the past 12 to 18 months?

The first Fibre-to-the-Business telco operator to market. Solidifying the Group’s positioning as a purpose-led organisation, showcasing how the brand is more than mobile and how our different solutions have enabled digital-inclusion for businesses and citizens- be it through education, smart monitoring tools and the overall strength of our network infrastructure.

Can you talk about some of the company’s digital innovations?

The organisation is one of the first to insource the entire digital media ecosystem; strategy, media buying, implementation and reporting. The entire team is in the office; which helps streamline the flow of information and pace of output. 

The marketing technology stack of platforms is also phenomenal- from automating the briefing process to agencies, to using big data to generate probability and propensity models, that help to inform audience datasets pulling into AAM and onto different digital media channels. 

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

  • The GetAbstract app is phenomenal- constant learning and knowledge stacking in bite sizes. 
  • Sharepoint is great too – centralised, easy, controlled access to relevant information, as and when needed. Definitely cuts down on the number of emails I receive. 
  • Music Streaming apps are also a personal must for sanity and drowning out the humdrum of the office environment to focus and get things done. 

What makes something innovative? How do you define innovation at Vodacom?

Innovation = An easy to implement, use and scale solve to an existing pain point. A truly innovative solution also addresses multiple variants of preferences and working models. 

First to market? Absolutely. Sustainability and accessibility? 100%. 

How do you leverage data to inform your decision-making?

Application of a data-driven marketing strategy is paramount to gaining insights for current customer behavior and forecasts for future numbers. A large part of effective output in my digital campaigns lies in cost-containment by using efficient, brand-safe platforms, that generate the best ROI and serve the intended objective. 

Through continual data analysis, the brand is also able to update and refine UI/UX functionality for customers functionality best suited to their needs and preferences, and to guarantee a pleasant engagement and affinity with the brand each time. 

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

Honestly, my corporate saving grace and productivity hack is building relationships, at every level of the organisation and in different units. A lot of the delays and misunderstanding in tasks comes from either waiting on someone to respond to an email or waiting to get an open slot in their calendar to chat. An established relationship helps – I go from being just another mail in the inbox of 230, to a quick phone call (which will be answered if they aren’t in a meeting or putting out fires) and resolution.

Always understand the lay of the land and see beyond the horizon of your own area. 

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

The invisible dotted line has always been there. The ecosystem needs to continuously source and feed data from one aspect to the other- Sales Team hold direct relationships with their customers. Marketing Teams can sell anything yes, but it doesn’t help to go ahead with a dope messaging matrix if it simply will not land to their intended audience; over and above what the data and industry insights said. 

Additionally, selling is also changing. The shift to digital channels demands a closer operational line between both teams- for better audience targeting, channel optimisation, vertical-personalisation and conversion. Tracking and reporting dashboards give sight and enable continuous refinement for all.   

2020 AND BEYOND

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

I read everything. I believe in amassing knowledge on the world and people and things. It makes for interesting conversations, builds humility  and stretches how I navigate my own life. 

I’m currently working through The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Do More Great Work by Michael Bungay Stanier. 

Physical books are my true love (even better coupled with a glass of red). Uncompromised.

If you could give other digital marketing managers and those aspiring to enter the field one piece of advice, what would it be?

If you’re thinking of going into the digital realm, do it. It’s exciting. There’s tons to learn and test, and data to help put out messages and propositions that impact lives for the better. Aspire to be a hybrid digital marketer (it isn’t necessarily like being a jack of all trades) It’s about knowing enough about everything to truly operate and stay up to date in an agile organisation.

And as I always say to my colleagues: “If you’re going to wake up to do a thing daily, have fun with it. Adulting 101 is hard enough.”

A unique message for all young professionals in the marketing industry

You have a voice, use it. No idea is too small or boring. Any input you give in the knowledge-sharing session is part of the brilliance of the eventual success. There’ll be days where it’ll seem mundane and repetitive and just ‘stuck’, those days pass because as with life, in the greater scheme of things, everything flips and finds its light. 

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

Yikes. I don’t know. 

Probably the back end world of code and data analytics. I’ve taken up an AI and Machine Learning course so fun times ahead. 

Any bucket list items (professional as well as personal)?

An international assignment. I love SA and everything about this crazy place of ours but a good 3-5 years on a global scale for work would be wonderful. 

To visit The Klementinum Library in Prague- the most beautiful library in the world. Seriously. 

To be a housewife..eventually, and spend my days growing my book stacks and tending to my small vertical farming operation and flock of sheep. (This is a valid bucket list item LOL)

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

Don’t try to be like someone else. Reference points of inspiration are great but always aspire to be ‘You’. Each day, work at being a better you than you were  the month before.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

My ability to analyse, comprehend and simplify any situation. My adaptability. My get it done spirit. Take me anywhere, creature comforts or not, I’ll ride. I’ll make it work and make a fabulous time of it. 

Which superhero/heroine or literature icon exemplifies your personality at work and at home?

Superhero? Definitely Buttercup of the Powerpuff Girls – Action driven, willing to get down and dirty to get the job done, fast, strong, effective. On a more human front- Mary J. Blige– a good dose of classy, effortless badass. 

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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.