The Windhoek Observer (WO) caught up with Henriette Crouse (HC), Brand & Marketing Manager at Hollard Namibia to talk about her role, career experiences and what it takes to manage a big brand.
WO: What does it take to be a marketing specialist?
HC: Balls…experience and exposure to a range of products, services, markets and challenges. In my opinion being a specialist in marketing means your way of thinking differentiate you from the rest.
As a specialist you have the ability to always stay one step ahead of your competitors, just because you refuse to follow. You lead in your campaigns just because you challenge the norm daily. I studied Marketing Management, which is important, but I became a specialist by putting my hand up, when a certain skill or resource was not available for a marketing project.
I might not have had the expertise at that specific moment. It is impossible to stay on top of every aspect of marketing at all the time, so you call in advice from experts, you listen, you learn and you adapt your thinking and adjust your decision making on a daily basis.
WO: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
HC: We work in an extremely fast paced environment. It is great, because I have mandate to make any marketing related decision, but with it comes a certain responsibility not to mess up an award-winning brand. Streamlining processes to deal with this pace, is an ongoing battle, because a day only has 24 hours, no matter how you shake it up!
WO: Have you ever had to handle a social media crisis? What did you do?
HC: Yes, I looked after the social media for the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, when they were in the process of a massive restructure. One of our posts on a massive gingerbread house, yes you read correctly, went sour very quickly, ended up on national news, talk shows, and off-course social media platforms went crazy.
How could we spend money on gingerbread houses when people are losing their jobs? Off-course the ingredients were sponsored, but not mentioned in the post, and in an instant, you are suddenly dealing with a very delicate situation. If you have the correct people in the team, and a nimble environment you take these offline very quickly and deal with the risk involved, and as always no publicity is bad publicity.
WO: Do you see media practitioners as partners or threat?
HC: Partner for sure, and one I appreciate very much. The media in my opinion plays a vital role in the success of any institution in Namibia. For example, we embark on many projects that need to have the support of the Namibian people behind them, not only CSR initiatives. The media has the power to influence the thinking of an entire country, through their stories. A journalist can change a life by writing the right story.
Look at the story that was written on Godfried that lost his foot and family in a lightning strike in Tsumeb. If the story was not in the newspaper, my Managing Director would not have seen it, and Hollard would not have been able to become involved and together with Advance Orthopaedics built a new foot for the “Little Man”, so he can also kick a soccer ball like his fellow mates.
WO: Do you have a specific strategy of handling the media?
HC: I am in the lucky position; well okay I saw his talent and stole him, to have the best copywriter/photographer/floating-on-a-wolkie-specialist in the world. He writes amazing stories that everyone enjoys and find worth their time. So my strategy is to be proactive and supply the media with great media releases. If I have the time, I thank the media whenever they run my stories, also for placing our stories exactly as is. That’s again because of that guy I stole and his talent. No one wants to change perfect.
WO: How did you end up in marketing?
HC: My dad sent me to one of those career dudes that told me I have to go study marketing. I remember walking out of there thinking, what an idiot, everyone knows I should only farm, because sheep don’t talk back. I have always been a “plat op die aarde” southern Namibian farm girl, which naturally comes with a fantastic personality to boot. Again that copywriter guy wrote this.
One day I took this personality of mine for a bit of traveling and experienced other cultures around the world much different than we are, which opened up a world of opportunities for me. I eventually ended up working for a number of international companies, as a consultant, where I had the privilege to be part of amazing teams, who planned and executed some of the most outrageous, fantastic, over the top, daring and inspirational campaigns I had ever seen. I grew to love the challenges involved in watching an idea grow from concept to success.
WO: How do you handle pressure?
HC: I am on most days the only person running through the office in high heels, operating at 300 percent to the frustration of the poor team, but when it gets closer to crunch time, I become unbelievably calm and deal with what can be handled at the time. No point stressing over cycling kit that didn’t arrive in time from Belgium, because of a snowstorm.
Again because I surround myself with a certain type of people, this is where the entire team normally jumps in and to rectify the situation. Namibian people are amazing at working together. On a personal level, I train every single day of my life for at least 30 minutes. It is my, me-time, my stress release and keeps me healthy.
My life doesn’t allow for the luxury of getting sick. Luckily, in Hollard, and again the right people around you, there is always a completely inappropriate remark or joke floating around to crack you up. Not sure that might just be in the marketing team.
WO: What are some of the growing trends in the marketing industry?
HC: I am too busy to research trends, which is not good, but at least it is an honest opinion. What is happening in the rest of the world cannot be implemented in Namibia. Here you have to think with your feet in someone else’s shoes and catch them off-guard with a purple kiss when they turn their head.
WO: What is the state of the marketing field in Namibia?
HC: There is a lot of clutter and advertising available that will not add any value to your marketing strategy, then again there are some amazing out of the box thinking platforms available for you to reach target markets. There is a definite need for more people with overseas digital experience, lead generation, sales pipelines and app building.
WO: Do you think all marketing graduates should be registered as specialists like any other fields such as Health Officers?
HC: I never focus on a piece of paper only, when I source talent. I search for a certain thing that sets them apart from the rest. Marketing departments consist of so many different positions that require talented people from across the board. Each and every one of those people, whether they are designers, copywriters, art directors or creative directors have their own unique set of skills that they bring to the table.
Unfortunately as in all occupations, there is an abundance in qualified people roaming about, so experience in the industry is a very important aspect now. Your credentials count, but your ability matters more. You can have a bad doctor too by the way!
WO: Do you think marketing practitioners get the recognition they deserve?
HC: Practitioners? Sounds like something that needs a stethoscope and a white coat. Look, if you are in marketing, you are never going to be rich, but if done right it must be one of the most rewarding jobs to have. If I could remember the name of the guy that summoned me to go study marketing, I would probably send him a thumbs up on WhatsApp now.
WO: What is your favorite sport and team?
HC: I honestly cannot comment on that, because I don’t own a TV and don’t get time to watch sport at this stage, but I do remember having police officers keeping a watchful eye over me when I was going cray-cray during the Rugby World Cup when Namibia played against South Africa.