#SpotOn With Tomi Ogunlesi

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My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.- Maya Angelou

In this edition of #SpotOn, an ad man sailing through the oceans of marketing and brand management, Tomi Ogunlesi delivers profound insights on tips and nuggets that has kept him thriving and pushing forward in his present path.

Tomi Ogunlesi who is the Corporate Brand Manager of arguably the leading electronic transaction switching and payment system in Nigeria, brings to bare the saying that success really is a combination of preparation and opportunity, having started acting on his passion, and igniting his creativity even when it didn’t look like the road to be taken.

He is a brilliant strategic thinker who has been able to express his creative prowess on brands like Intel, First Bank, Virgin Nigeria, Reckitt Benckiser and many others.

Enjoy the chat but more importantly apply these truths to your life.

 

Who is Tomi Ogunlesi in 140 characters?

I guess the descriptor on my twitter profile would be expedient, given the expected brevity of the response to this poser.

Ardent Student of Culture+Brands. Post Modern Marketing Strategist. Classical + Contemporary Pianist & Guitarist. Art Collector. Very Good Bad Guy! J

 

…..Are we out of characters yet?

 

How did growing up affect your choice of career?

I am not too sure about this, but what I can say in hindsight is that I think certain experiences along the line conspired to put me on the track that I’m currently on. Both of my parents were in the medical field, and I grew up on a campus-like environment in a house that was pretty much a library of sorts. My siblings and I used to compete to be first to read the dailies once they came in. Would say I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to be surrounded by a diverse repertoire of titles and subject matter ranging from such extremes as The British Journal of Psychiatry (understandably so, my father being a career psychiatrist), a good chunk of Sigmund Freud, C.S Lewis’ books to Enid Blytons (Famous five, Secret Seven, etc).

Also remembrance-worthy is that I believe my older brother, now a pretty acclaimed writer/journalist/blogger and social media ‘overlord’ sort of influenced me to start writing stuff from early on….I still have weather-beaten scraps of drafts of wannabe ‘Enid Blyton’ type stories I wrote back in the day, and Ah yes! I also used to draw all manner of stuff…..At the point of making a ‘career choice’, I remember being quite confused, being that I seemed to be interested in so many things but a common denominator was that whatever it was had to involve writing and being imaginative or ‘creative’. I was also discerning enough to know that the mathematically-inclined fields weren’t my strongest point. At different times, I was under illusions that I would be a medical specialist, a renowned economist or a NASA scientist, eventually sometime in the course of undergraduate life, I realized the world of advertising (even in the limited perception I had of it back then) probably held the allure for me….the rest, as is said, is history, lest I bore you with the detail!

 

What facilitated your interest in the creative industry?

I may have touched on some of these in answering the last question, and whilst I was persuaded that I could be ‘creative’ and I knew would probably fare better and be most engaged doing something eclectic, sometime in my 3rd year of undergraduate studies (studying environmental chemistry & toxicology in a University of Agriculture!), I began taking more than a passing interest in adverts.

By year 4 when I was going for what was known as the ‘SIWES attachment’ (It’s probably still called that), I had started actively building my own scrapbook of adverts, complete with headlines, body copy and art direction. I’d basically taken up the pastime of recreating adverts that caught my fancy, trying to string headlines that rhymed well enough and all of that kind of stuff. By the time I was back from the 6 month internship, I had become convinced that all of the NMR spectroscopy, hazardous substances management, analytical chemistry etc. wasn’t going to be my thing!

Lest I forget, from reading a lot of newspapers, I started noticing certain guys who were always in media briefing pictures and event photo-splashes, characterized by their mostly sharp sartorial looks, and the very interesting names of the firms they represented. Not like I really understood much of what they did at the time, but what was interesting to me was that there were a few of them I’d started to encounter in the papers recurrently, and the striking thing was that they seemed to have their fingers in many different pies, always being seen with different clients. I suppose that also struck a chord, and shaped my resolve to break into that business to really experience what those guys had. Funnily, as trivial or primordial as those motivations now seem, those where some of the things that really gingered my interest…It’s worthy of mention that the scrap-book of imitation adverts I started building as a 3rd year undergraduate was instrumental to my getting my 1st advertising job in Lagos about 4 years after, 2 months before I completed the NYSC. Of course, I quickly got to appreciate the more profound sides to advertising/communications once I was privileged to get into the mainstream .and there’s been no looking back since then.

I realized the world of advertising (even in the limited perception I had of it back then) probably held the allure for me

Motivation over the years…

Interestingly, for me, the dynamics of the world of marketing, brand management, advertising and the creative arts generally offers motivation in itself (even before any of the typical motivating factors such as financial compensation, awards and the like). The opportunity and leverage one has to infuse your thoughts and perspectives into the construct of brands, and to thereby shape experiences, culture, expectations etc. is fundamentally a motivation. The marketing/creative sphere is so lateral, iterative and engaging, as compared with some other more strait-jacketed fields of endeavor which are more linear in orientation (and less interesting, in my personal assessment).

I’m also spurred by the fact that there are so many possibilities in terms of growth and professional development prospects, and the realization that with interest, passion and continuous learning and exposure, one can take full responsibility for their self-development and career progress!

The reality is that once an individual finds their true spot, motivation becomes intrinsic, as frequently said, it’s just like getting paid as a bonus for doing what you ordinarily enjoy.

Your top three most inspiring books would be? 

Wow, I’ve got quite a bit of these, I’ll probably name more than 3

  1. Robert Kiyosaki’s books – ‘Cashflow Quadrant’ & ‘Dad, Poor Dad’…read these 2 books a long time ago, and the perspectives on financial literacy have been very liberating to say the least.
  2. Spencer Johnson’s ‘Who moved my cheese?’
  3. Malcolm Gladwell – ‘Tipping Point’
  4. And of course, from a professional POV, I cannot forget David Ogilvy’s masterpieces “Confessions of an Advertising Man” and “Ogilvy on Advertising”– despite the vagaries of time, the simple truths and insights espoused therein, about not only communication, but indeed human behaviour remain intriguingly relevant, moreso when you consider that these thoughts were penned at a time when marketing/communication was so straightforward, as compared to contemporary times.

The reality is that once an individual finds their true spot, motivation becomes intrinsic, as frequently said, it’s just like getting paid as a bonus for doing what you ordinarily enjoy.

What are the skill sets you think a lad interested in strategy and brand management should possess?

I would extend this beyond skill-sets to also mention attitude and a mind-set.

As regards the requisite skill-set to excel in strategy and brand management, I’d say the following

  1. Ability to strike a good balance between one’s left and right brains (logic and creativity…I like to call it a fair mix of ‘logic’ and ‘magic’)
  2. Necessarily, good communication capabilities – in writing, speaking, presenting (and listening of course!)
  3. A vast knowledge base – which can really only be acquired/broadened by learning, reading and getting exposure…it’s what’s also referred to as depth, and this is what separates a lot of high-flying folks from the rest, particularly within the context of our industry

 

On attitude, and mindset  (which is equally as important as skill-set, if not more…all the skills without the right attitude and mindset won’t get anyone so far, regardless of what field of endeavor they’re in!);

  • Real interest…or call it passion about what you do (or want to do)
  • Self-motivation…also stems from how much passion you’ve got
  • Open mindedness and a capacity to learn fast and to be comfortable with transition
  • A relentless quest for self-development and exposure
  • A resolute, somewhat persistent character (without the nuisance factor!)
  • Capacity to manage your expectations and also to quickly ginger up yourself and re-bound after disappointments….in reality, it’s a tough industry/circle to break into, and even tougher to break into the big leagues…there are bound to be plenty of disappointments…so brace yourself!
  • Also many young people manage to break into the industry only to realize that there’s so much hype…in reality, it may turn out not to be as glamourous as it looks from the sidelines….in many instances, pay at the early phases may actually seem like peanuts (when juxtaposed against the expectations and deliverables), and you’ll often have to roll up your sleeves to do dirty work. It’s called paying your dues 🙂 but remember, in the quest to build capacity, what you earn is secondary, initially, to the sheer extent of what you’ll learn! I never fail to emphasize this to upcoming folks…Take it from me… the fat paychecks and perks will become “your portion”, in good time, if you stick to the program!

 

In the quest to build capacity, what you earn is secondary, initially, to the sheer extent of what you’ll learn!

 

Candid advice to Nigerian youths.

Actively avoid the path of least resistance. To attain ‘excellence’, you’ll necessarily have to push yourself beyond personal boundaries and comfort zones so that you can achieve your aspirations, which have to be audacious but realistic, in the first place.

Another thing is that, I have noticed that it is very common for young people these days to feel that those who are in authority or those who are successful owe them something. I think it’s a problem that is generally endemic in these parts, and in fact does not characterize young people alone. Most people want an ‘easy’ way out. I think a change of thinking is critically required, especially among young people. Young people need to realize that they alone have ultimate power over their future and what happens or doesn’t happen to you. Take hold of your ‘destiny’ and maximize the opportunities, which are out there, though they may appear hidden.

The world owes you nothing, so manage your expectations and do away with the ‘entitlement’ mentality!

 

Kindly share your thoughts and feed backs in the comment box.

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