Quality branding makes for successful business – Chizor Malize

Mrs. Chizor Malize is the Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, Brandzone Consulting LLC, a globally inspired multi-disciplinary brand consulting firm founded on the premise to help organizations creatively and innovatively align their branding and marketing strategy to their business goals and objectives.
With over 15 years experience in branding and marketing, Chizor is passionate about helping organizations realize the full potentials of their brands.

As the Chief Executive Officer of Brandzone, she has managed several international brands in the local market while managing and creating indigenous new brands of repute. Among this portfolio of brands include Total, BMW, Land Rover, Qatar Airways, Heritage Bank, Fidelity Band, Falcon Corporation, Aquila Leasing, Alphastar Paints and The George Hotel Brands. She has garnered deep and extensive experience in Branding and Marketing that span across diverse areas such as Branding, Advertising, Communications, Public Relations and Digital/NewMedia working previously on notable brands.
Chizor holds a Bachelor’s degree in communications and a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) with specialization in Marketing (CIM), and an Executive Education Alumni of the London Business School and Columbia University, New York.

She was recently nominated by REBRAND™ USA, as a Jury Board member on the REBRAND 100® Global Awards Board, the only member from out of Africa, amongst the world’s top global Business Leaders, Brand Strategists and Designers. REBRAND™ is the world’s leading brand transformation organization responsible for the REBRAND 100® Global Awards, the formost and most respected recognition body for the world’s best brands.
Chizor is a prolific and reputable international speaker; she also facilitates Marketing and Brand Management courses at respected institutions including the Lagos Business School. She is passionate about life, impact, enterprise and family!

Congratulations on your emergence as MARKETING EDGE’s Marketing Personality of the Year. How does this make you feel?

It feels absolutely good to be recognized for the great work you do. Our mission at Brandzone is to build and manage brands as catalyst for business and economic growth. Besides revitalizing and managing existing brands, we have created some of the most innovative and dynamic new brands in the market place.
More recently, we have also set up the most innovative knowledge hub for brand practitioners and experts, called BrandPlatform. BrandPlatform is a knowledge-based arm of Brandzone Consulting. It is focused on developing content and up to date information on the contemporary branding principles and practice that aid the growth of the branding and communications management. It is a groundbreaking platform that brings together industry experts through our flagship knowledge exchange programmes such as Conferences, Summits and workshops for intellectual engagement, knowledge dissemination and networking. Through the knowledge platform we equip and inspire Brand Managers and Brand Visioners to think, be creative and act proactively and strategically as they win markets.It’s exciting enough to give your best in the course of your job and see remarkable impact on the brands that you manage, but earning marketplace and industry recognition is overwhelmingly gratifying and I thank MARKETING EDGE for this recognition and accolade.

How would you trace your career evolution till date? What actually influenced the choice of your career? Why Marketing and specifically, why Branding?

A career in Marketing and branding can be extremely stimulating and exciting. Marketing empowers you to get into the consumer’s mind. Of course, one of the biggest reasons why so many people are drawn to marketing is the prestige that is often associated with working on some of the biggest, most recognizable brands.
Branding is used by virtually every organisation, both commercial and public, and the quality of your branding often determines the business’s success or failure. Whether it’s a financial institution, fashion retailer, government department, e-business or charity organisation – each needs quality branding to succeed. Also, if you’ve got a way with words, images, strategy and people and if you are plugged into what’s ‘now’, you would most certainly enjoy Branding. I guess a combination of all of these were the major force of attraction for me in the early days.
Today, I would say I find excitement in my ability to apply my creativity in all sorts of ways – from developing big-picture branding strategies for our clients, to the details of what imagery and texts or words to use in ensuring that the brand is connected with its target market at an intrinsic level.The ultimate for me is bringing about positive transformation to the fortunes of the businesses we manage through branding!

What do you consider to be the milestones or landmarks along the way and how did all these contribute to making the marketing personality that we have in you, today?

My career in marketing took an interesting turn as the Marketing Manager of Valucard, Nigeria’s premier electronic card product. The greatest milestone achievement for me was creatively and ingeniously driving the democratization of Nigeria’s payment system through the introduction of Valucard, moving us from cash to card culture. Valucard eased off the days of “Ghana Must Go” as a means of moving cash around the country. It was trail blazing and heralded the success you see today with the various electronic payments that exist now and a great springboard for the current boom in e-commerce in our economy.
From Valucard, I proceeded to manage the Standard Trust Bank Brand as Group Head, Branding and Communications, a brand we creatively built into today’s UBA brand upon the financial services consolidation. That Brand has grown exponentially into over 24 countries across Africa with offices in Europe. As the Divisional Head, Marketing and Branding at Access Bank, I had the responsibility of managing the Bank’s brand through growth and expansion. I seamlessly rolled out the brand into several African Countries such as Gambia, Cote d’ Voire, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Rwanda, Ghana and an International branch in London.
Today, at Brandzone, we create world-class solutions in Branding, Communications, and Digital/New Media. We have managed some of the most innovative international brands in the local market while creating and managing indigenous new brands of repute. This portfolio of brands include Total, BMW, Land Rover, Qatar Airways, Heritage Bank, Fidelity Bank, Falcon Corporation, Aquila Leasing, Alphastar Paints and The George Hotel Brands.These bodies of work contribute significantly to the growth of the industry, and the overall economy through the business growth of those brands.

In what ways did your course of study and trainings prepare you for the career you have built over the years?

I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) with specialization in Marketing. I am a professional member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), and an Executive Education Alumni of the London Business School and Columbia University, New York.
My background in Marketing and Communications helped a lot in shaping my thoughts and passion for the career in the early days. In addition, I believe the robust and extensive experiences and exposure to global best practice through advanced education sharpened the interest. The icing on the cake no doubt is the opportunity of working on various international projects and our global affiliations. They have helped to keep the quality of our output highly elevated.
You seem to have a strong marketing and branding pedigree, what would you attribute your success in the field to? What is your advice to those coming behind?
I would simply share insight into what I consider as the 4 traits of successful marketing and branding leaders that helped me grow fast in my career.
Revenue ownership and accountability. Successful Marketing and Branding leaders understand that they need to be accountable for revenue. Marketers must be able to demonstrate how marketing and branding directly impacts the bottom-line positively.
Adaptability. The consumers are constantly changing and this has been made worse by technology. With the rise of mobile and social technologies, customers have become more powerful than ever. So as customers change, marketing and branding must change.
Insight Driven. Successful marketing and branding leaders are customer centric and they make no assumptions. They seek and share market insights with the rest of the operations that keep the organization ahead.
They build relationships: Successful marketing and branding people relate well as great team builders and connect nicely to the market place and their consumers. They focus on building relationships in order to build trust, admiration and credibility that extend beyond business transactions.

You rose through a successful corporate career and have established a Consulting practice in a field that is predominantly filled by men, from your experience, what does it take for a woman to succeed in the corporate world, especially in our clime?

Highly successful leaders, whether men or women, are visionary, confident, creative, emotionally intelligent and purposeful. They never give up or quit and they create their own style. Same rules apply everywhere in the world.
The world knows many hugely successful female leaders from a wide range of industries, be it politics, enterprise, fashion, entertainment and science. These women possess some key characteristics that have enabled them to become so extraordinarily successful with some building large and thriving businesses, employing thousands of professionals, inspiring their audience year after year, while becoming living legends and role models for other aspiring female leaders. Like I said, the same rule applies for successful men and women alike.
Talking entrepreneurship now, what have been some of the high points and major milestones you have recorded in the nearly seven years of running Brandzone?
There are a number of high points but I would mention a few. One is having in a short time created and managed some highly recognizable and indigenous brands of distinction such as Heritage Bank, Fidelity Bank, Falcon Corporation Brand, The George Hotel, etc. Two is creating and launching the BrandPlatform, our knowledge platform through which we conceptualize and roll out Branding workshops, Summits and Conferences. Brandplatform conceptualized and executed Africa’s biggest and most innovative branding conference in Nigeria, which attracted the industry’s best in terms of experts and thought leaders thereby setting standards for world class knowledge engagement in Nigeria. Lastly, it’s giving young people and the next generation branding professionals a platform to learn and build up their capacity through our globally aspired and world class organization which is known today to be the breeding ground for world class brand professionals. These milestones are high on impact and very heart warming.

And the lows? What have the challenges been? And how did you overcome them?

Being an entrepreneur has its benefits, but it also has its challenges. When entrepreneurs’ first start out in business, they tend to run lean and therefore are saddled with so much. This usually equates to working long hours, juggling numerous projects while constantly coming up with new ideas to keep projects ahead. However, with growth and increased investment in human capital, it balances out and the pressure is reduced, the new twist becomes ensuring that the quality, aspiration and culture of the organization are maintained since people have joined from diverse backgrounds. Another challenge is establishing credibility in the market place. In a very short time frame, we had recorded numerous projects in our portfolio, the number of referrals grew and so did our client base.
By remaining consistent to our core, keeping our eyes on our long term vision and delivering the quality output we are reputed for in the market place we overcome most of the initially challenges and the rest simply fell in place.

In your opinion is mentorship of young professionals necessary in developing industry growth? How have you benefitted from it? And what are your thoughts on the value and importance of mentorship?

Mentoring relationship involves two parties who work together and cooperatively for the development of one of the parties. They meet regularly to exchange ideas, discuss and review progress and set goals for further development. I have benefitted tremendously from this process. In my early days in Marketing, I deliberately and strategically sought to connect with our local marketing experts as well as global marketing icons I read about. I was intentional about sitting at their feet.
Ironically, while attending one of my numerous Marketing courses in the United States, I was privileged to meet “one on one” the renowned Professor Philip Kotler. Like you know, Professor Kotler is dubbed “The Father of Marketing”. He is an American marketing author and professor and is currently the S. C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, in Chicago, Illinois.
That experience was incredible, I added him instantaneously to my pool of mentors and I never stopped seeking new mentors within and outside of Marketing.
Yes, I currently mentor a large pool of young professionals across my different spheres, brand enthusiasts, budding entrepreneurs and young professionals, sharing my knowledge, expertise and experience helping them with their personal and professional development and to help them become top performing individuals.
More recently, we have envisioned and created the BrandPlatform Network which was recently launched at the Brand Innovation Summit 2016. This Network is designed for Marketing, Branding and Communications professionals and seeks to bring a formal process to the mentorship programmes for young professionals. The BrandPlatform Network has on its advisory board industry thought leaders like Bunmi Oke, Lampe Omoyele, Lanre Adisa, Obi Asika, etc. These professionals of strong pedigree have selflessly made themselves available as resource persons in our different programmes and remain committed to providing guidance and direction to the younger professionals coming behind us all for industry growth.

Your recent appointment as the only jury member from out of Africa for the U.S Based REBRAND 100® Global Awards for 2016 remains quite remarkable. What was the takeaway from a project of that magnitude and what is the next frontier for you?

REBRAND™, is the world’s leading brand transformation organization responsible for the REBRAND 100® Global Awards. Through the REBRAND 100® Global Awards programme, it encourages the repositioning, revitalization and redesign of existing brand assets to meet business and economic goals. The annual awards programme is international and is the world’s most respected jury award honouring excellence in brand transformation work, expressed through re-branding and brand redesign process.
Working for a whole one year alongside other renowned branding experts from all across the globe was insightful, enriching and educative. It was an extremely enriching experience that provided greater learning into what really counts and keeps brands ahead from region to region. This brings to mind our own National Brand, Nigeria. You would agree with me that no one is excited about the current image of Nigeria as it is today.
The current image of Nigeria though still evolving, needs to inspire and exude hope, confidence and citizen’s trust. Every country requires emphasizing their unique and positive characteristics. When the image is positive and is successfully transferred internally, there is positive impact on both the economic and political profile of the nation.
Considering the several attempts at rebranding Nigeria in the past, it has indeed become pertinent to focus on successfully creating this BRAND NIGERIA. To achieve this, the approach must be strategic, practical, realistic and consistent. Again, cutting edge branding strategy and expertise is required to make this process a success.
If there is any next frontier for me, it would be an opportunity to help build a highly resonating Brand Nigeria.


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