MTN’s Bernice Samuels Interviewed by African Business

30 May 2019

Telecoms companies have dominated the marketing landscape these past 15 years. We spoke to Bernice Samuels, chief marketing officer at MTN, about the group’s strategy when it comes to branding and marketing and where it fits within the company.

Where does branding fit in from a strategic standpoint?

As MTN we believe that a brand is as a brand does, so our branding is strategically significant, not just to drive awareness, recognition and recall but also in defining our customers experiences. So our brand positioning of BRIGHTER LIVES informs everything we design, build and deliver.

How important would you say branding is to the African consumer?

African consumers are no different from other consumers in their aspirations and expectations of brands. We are all human, and want things to be easy, personal, and give us some control delivering good quality, value, affordability, innovation and access. This being said, MTN is a brand born in Africa, and we want to reflect our African origins in how we go to market.

How important is being an African brand?

With Africa being a young continent, young Africans want to live a modern, connected life. We want to be second to none in shaping and making this possible. We want to lead a modern digital life experience in ways that are relevant to the African context. In enabling this, we believe that we will be the consumers’ choice, not only because we are an African brand, but also the very best at what we do in Africa.

You are at the forefront of technology and the new digital space. What are the main tools needed to build a brand; have they changed materially since you launched all those years ago?

Yes and no. We believe that the discipline of marketing is always about putting the customer at the centre of what you do. So it’s vital to diagnose the market, understand needs and meet these in a distinctive and differentiated way versus competitors. The channels at our disposal are indeed changing, with social media storefronts, instant messaging, mobile responsive web etc, which expand our route to market for our product and services and thus the design approach in constructing our marketing messages.

You operate in over 20 countries. Do you adapt the messaging to the different markets or is there one singular message that you like to put out there?

We have the same brand positioning as a mother brand in every market in which we operate. What differs are the operational and marketing tactics on the ground which must be locally relevant and resonate with consumers.