“Only you can decide the life that’s right for you.” Chizor Malize talks about being an entrepreneur and the power of branding
Chizor Malize is an internationally renowned Brand Expert, and one of the few Leading Ladies in the Marketing sector in Africa. After spending a good number of years with a leading financial institution as the Head of Corporate Communications, she took the big leap into becoming an entrepreneur. Speaking to her was all shades of amazing as she shared her inspiring experience of being a leading light in the corporate and business industry.
In your own words, who is Chizor Malize?
Chizor Malize, is the Managing Partner and CEO of Brandzone Consulting LLC. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in English Language 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), London and an Executive Education alumnus of both the London Business School and Columbia University, New York. I am passionate about God, family and enterprise. I delight in coaching and mentoring young people, especially women. I am frequently involved in “on the spot mentoring”, structured coaching and long term mentorship program.
Awesome! You are the Managing Partner at Brandzone Consulting, a strategy-led Brand Consultancy; tell us about that?
Brandzone Consulting LLC, www.brandzonellc.com, is 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. We help organizations realize the full potentials of their brands. We do this by creating world-class solutions in Branding, Communications, and Digital/New Media. We have built and managed some of the most innovative 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 Bank, Falcon Corporation, Aquila Leasing, Alphastar Paints and The George Hotel Brands.
What influenced the choice of your career? Why Marketing, and specifically, why Branding?
A career in Marketing and branding can be as stimulating and exciting as travelling to space. Branding is used by virtually every organisation, both commercial and public, and the quality of its branding often determines a 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 to the details of what imagery and texts/words to use in ensuring that the brand is connected with its target market at an intrinsic level.
A lot of people use Advertising, Branding and Public Relations interchangeably; are they the same thing? In the simplest terms possible, define the key differences?
Unfortunately this occurs in our experiences every day but it is the level at which our market is today. Branding leverages a strategic process to create an identity for a brand (organization, product or person). Advertising is a non-personal form of promotion that is delivered through selected media outlets that, under most circumstances, require the marketer to pay for message placement. But the marketer has to have a brand in the first place to pay anybody to advertise that brand. Public Relations is a professional way of maintaining a positive and favourable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person. Again, you have to have a “strong and positive image” created through the branding process in the first place to want to “maintain” that. Therefore, Branding is the start point and the mother of them all.
What influenced you decision to move from paid employment to become an entrepreneur?
Only you can decide the life that’s right for you. I am passionate about learning, I have ideas that are unconventional, I want to make things happen and I want to change the world and impact positively. To make all of these happen, you need to be in control of your life, your time and your resources. I chose the path that offers me the tremendous opportunity of maximizing my potentials while impacting others and the world positively.
Was the decision an easy one? Did you feel any fear or anxiety? And what advice would you give other women who are currently transitioning?
I am naturally a very fearless person and I am never intimidated to take on or face new roles, challenges and uncertainties. Some of the words that define who I am would include audacity and optimism. I am oftentimes confident in the choices that I make and ever willing to face the consequences of such decisions. Also I am an extremely optimistic person. For me, my level of optimism about every goal I set, no matter how small or how big, is most often the great propeller. I would advise other women in transition to keep their level of optimism very high.
What have been some of the high points and major milestones you’ve recorded in the nearly seven years of running your business?
There are a lot of high points but I would mention a few. First 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. Second 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 the 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, giving young people and the next generation of 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, they tend to run lean. This means they’re responsible for doing everything on their own. This usually equates to working really long hours, juggling numerous projects and having to constantly come up with new ideas. However, once you learn to overcome the challenges, you’ll be able to reap the rewards.
With the renewed focus on SMES driving and transforming the economy; would you say it’s important for small businesses to have strong brand presence? And if yes, why?
With small businesses accounting for over 80% of the private sector entity in most countries, branding is crucial for small businesses. It equips them to be able to stand out and capture potential clients. But first, let us start by defining what branding is. Branding embodies all the elements that make up a brand. This may include the logo, packaging, colours, and reputation for good client services. Branding helps for differentiation, quality and competitiveness, increased sales, revenue and profitability. I am sure every business wants to be successful at these, small or big alike.
Let’s drill down further; even for large organizations – why is brand refreshment a key necessity, even for them?
Big brands need to keep their brands revitalized and endearing in the minds of the consumers. It’s about remaining relevant, winning the minds of the target market, gaining their share of wallet and remaining profitable and alive! For instance, based on the 2015 Best Brand Brands Ranking by Interbrand, Apple and Google hold the #1 and #2 positions as the world’s most valuable brands. For that year, unlike before, the Tech-brands made up at least one-third of the brands ranked. Interestingly also some new brands such as Lenovo, Lego, Moet and Chandon made the ranking for the very first time. This tells you that brands evolve and even big brands must continue to do the right things to remain relevant and valuable.
What’s your opinion on mentorship – have you benefitted from it? And what are thoughts on the value and importance of mentorship, especially amongst women?
Mentoring relationship involves two parties who work together and cooperatively for the development of one of the parties. They often meet regularly to exchange ideas, discuss and review progress and set goals for further development. I have benefitted tremendously from this process and I currently mentor a large pool of young females across my different spheres. These include branding enthusiasts, budding entrepreneurs and young professionals with whom I share my knowledge, expertise and experience in a bid to helping them with their personal and professional development and also, to help them become top performing individuals.
Name three books you’ve read, and would recommend to others?
Hmnnn! Limiting to just 3 would be tough because I do read a lot and have read quite a lot in my lifetime but I would give it a go! First is “Who Moved my Cheese” by Dr Spencer Johnson. It’s a book about dealing with change and we all face change often times in our lives. Second would be “Leading at a Higher Level” By Kenneth Blanchard, of course it’s a book on Leadership and everyone at ALL levels should read this; not necessary people termed “Leaders”. Third is “Winning” by Jack Welch. Welch spent 40 years at General Electric and 20 years as the Chairman/CEO before retirement. If you want to be a winner in life, sit at his feet! His actions are all “straight from the gut” and filled with tips about how he revolutionized GE to become one the world’s most successful organizations today.
Let’s talk about the Brand Innovation Summit event. What are the plans for the conference this year, and when is it taking place?
The Brand Innovation Summit for this year is themed “BRANDING IN A VOLATILE ECONOMY”. It is scheduled to hold at The WheatBaker Hotel, Ikoyi Lagos. It is a gathering designed to enable practitioners and Brand visionaries/owners to share insights on branding and growth strategies inclusive of opportunities inherent in the market place locally and globally. The Keynote Speaker at this year’s Summit is Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, President, The Nigerian Stock Exchange. He would be joined by other notable speakers that include Yaw Nzarkoh, Managing Director, Unilever Nigeria; Olajumoke Adenowo, Lead Consultant, AD Consult; Bukky George, CEO, HealthPlus and Chude Jideonwo, Managing Partner, Red Media Africa/Co-Founder, The FutureAwards amongst other high profile personalities and industry experts. At Brandzone we believe in creating opportunities for knowledge sharing and capacity development and this is why we have remained consistent in developing such programmes that elevate the industry profile and practice.
How do you refresh, rejuvenate and relax yourself?
One of my relaxation therapies is exercise. I use the gym passionately and I, sometimes, run outdoors because I do love the outdoors. I also love the spa as I find that highly rejuvenating. The ultimate relaxation is with my family whom I treasure a lot. So I take time off work periodically to be with them fully. Travels are our favourite activity to do together as we all love to see new places.
Word of advice for younger female entrepreneurs?
I would say to young female entrepreneurs to have a plan for your business and you. Take time out to put together a well-researched business plan. That step provided me the right insight and details for a winning strategy. Focus is key and critical. Define your priorities for the day, month and year and don’t be pulled into a million directions all at once. This may seem obvious but it’s easier said than done. Get Up, Dress Up and Show up! This speaks to having a high level of optimism. Don’t be weighed down by any situation. Learn to start your day early, wear the gab and show up ready to go!!!
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa; an initiative that seeks to effectively mentor and inspire women, with particular emphasis on the African continent.
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