MTN sees value in having locals in charge of marketing

Mobile operator MTN places great importance on having local people in charge of its marketing in the various countries in which it operates.

Speaking to ABN Digital at the Brand Africa Forum 2010, MTN Group’s chief marketing officer, Santie Botha said: “We operate as a global brand now, especially after the FIFA World Cup, but with serious local relevance. [If you] look at the marketing directors in every single one of the MTN countries, nine out of ten times it is a local person.”

She said that in Nigeria, for example, the firm’s marketing director is Nigerian-born Bola Akingbade. “He knows what is required in terms of MTN from a global point of view and then exactly the nuances in the [local] market.”

South Africa-based MTN currently operates in a number of African countries as well as in the Middle East.

According to Botha, MTN used its sponsorship of the 2010 FIFA World Cup not only to market the brand to customers in the countries in which it already operated but also to communicate the brand’s global aspirations.

“People always think when you talk FIFA 2010, [you are talking about] 11 June to 11 July 2010, just for that month. But we actually made the decision to get involved in FIFA in 2006 already. So we really viewed it as an investment to say MTN as a business had global aspirations [and] to say that it is about the emerging market place. It wasn’t just about the few countries that we operated in . . .”

Commenting on a question about what it will take for African brands to become globally recognised, Botha said: “If you want to be a global brand, you also have to be a global business. You can’t just be a global brand, and people say, ‘well where can I buy this product?’ or ‘where can I buy this service?’ Whatever you want to achieve with a brand, it needs to compliment what the business wants to do. And I think therein lies the story of MTN, the business vision came first, to say our aspiration is to be a leading telecoms operator in emerging markets. So if that is your aspiration from a holistic business point of view, how do you make sure that in the minds of all stakeholders the brand actually compliments that?”

Interbrand’s recently released annual ranking of the 100 “Best Global Brands” 2010 featured no African brands.