Mrs Iquo Ukoh Executive Director Marketing Services, Nestle

You can never catch Mrs Iquo Ukoh, Executive Director Marketing Services at Nestle unaware. She flows like an undeterred river; in gait, words and total expression. In this rare interview with Kehinde Olesin, the nutritionist/dietician was even the more. Calmly she gave deep insights on the marketing industry in Nigeria, gender issues, professionalism and trivia. Excerpts…

You have worked mostly if not all your life with Nestle did you at any part considered working for any other sector?

Most people in a career need to evaluate their market worth from time to time. Again when you are successful doing what you are doing well you will have head hunters come after you. I believe it is important each person registers this milestones in one’s career however it is important also you ascertain clearly what you want to make of your career. For example why do you need to make the move, what will this move bring to your career, money, elevation or a different experience that may ultimately help your career acceleration ? I have seen a person make moves that at the end of the day was pointless. So it is always a question of look before you leap.

Having trained as a Nutritionist/Dietician working in Nestle has actually being enjoyable interacting with foods and consumers and the interaction of this two elements and impact on health is my world.

Mrs Iquo Ukoh Executive Director Marketing Services, Nestle

Making a career move to go into marketing has further added that excitement to the whole work experience. Mine, as I always say is the marriage of creativity in marketing and science in nutrition

As a woman how do you see the recent trend of the female gender acceptability in the highest echelon of the marketing industry?

Gender Balance seems to be the buzz word in cooperate circles. It is good to note that the corporate world is gradually waking up to the fact that either female or male can competently and successfully, function in executive positions and in the board rooms. With more women leading in organisations as CMOs it is further gratifying to see people who understand the consumer manage the affairs of the consumer.

The challenge the women face is coming mainly from societal and maybe religious perceptions. ‘The weaker sex’. This has been severally interpreted to also mean weak in the brain. Today as we see women head the affairs of government, global businesses and institutions the bias is gradually subsiding but there still a long way to go.

But we also have to look at the flip side, the question is how really easy is it for women particularly those that are in the middle of raising a family to manage at the top? Planning well ahead and ensuring that the home front is stable is always a great help in ensuring success at work.

Generally how do you see the marketing industry in Nigeria? Are we professionals enough?

It is definitely a Consumer market today. With the proliferation of brands and limitless choices for the consumer it is imperative that brands continue to be heavily and consistently supported. At no other time have we had such short attention span from consumers. You practically have to bombard from all sides or else you get lost in the myriad of choices stirring the consumer in the face all day.

Brands and businesses that have succeeded in this market have been built on solid marketing platform and over a consistent period .Marketing today is not a choice but an integral part of doing business.

Today, many businesses understand the importance of marketing in ensuring sustainable business grow Marketing cost are seen as investments not just expense.

Is every acclaimed marketer a professional maybe not quite so, as a few are still confusing a sales function with that of marketing?

No longer is a brand manager responsible for the nice adverts but is also responsible for the bottom line of his business portfolio. Of course the degree of responsibility will vary from company to company. Those working in multi -national companies will naturally benefit from the global best practices

The indices affecting smooth marketing varies. What are the challenges you face as a marketer and how do you think young and upcoming marketers can avoid these?

As I mentioned earlier, marketing is one of the functional that helps to ensure sustainable profitable growth of the business. Marketing is also that part of the business for which the impact and effect is more medium to long term. As it happens frequently environmental factors do necessitate that our well articulated strategies and plans have to be reviewed to meet target number objectives. In a lot of cases Marketing budgets are usually the first to be considered for downward review. Implication is that all the plans and strategies are truncated when efforts are geared towards the delivery of numbers. But again as managers the ability to adapt to these vagaries of businesses what separates the women from the girls

Data is a key element in decision making. What many marketers will tell you is that if only they had a better solution to this our lives will be made easier. More accurate predictions about the business can be made. Take for instance the population; we swing from 150 million to 170 million. What really is the population of Nigeria? It is a challenge when you fly blindfolded like this.

Who and what influenced your career and how?

Studying Nutrition/Dietetics was my choice, but the dream of working in a hospital as a dietician soon faded after my dietetics internship. For me see sick people day in day out was going to be challenging. Nestle therefore provided me the opportunity to express the nutrition interest but the icing on the cake for me was the detour into marketing. Who influenced me? No one really, just found a platform to express myself

What do you like most about your job?

The unending search to understand and satisfy the consumer keeps me going every day that moment when you can say yes! This strategy worked. The young consumer (16yr-25yr) particularly challenges me. These are people that are so multitasking and yet I want to grab their attention, they are listening to music, tweeting, eating ready … practically about 6 things at a time.

What are the challenges you have balancing home and office engagements?

When I was still raising a young family this was a slight challenge but with planning and the strong family support system we take for granted in Nigeria I was able to cope. Children are all grown up now so not a problem anymore. I do feel for young mothers these days because house helps are no longer a reliable option and more grandmothers are now still working, so the young female executive is challenged in this respect

Describe yourself in three words?

Visionary, Resilient, Creative

How do you feel about being honoured with Marketingworld Lifetime Achievement Award?

I am humbled and appreciative of this recognition .It is a charge to continue to do more and help younger professional grow.