Beatrice Nyamari at the helm of Smart Codes

Thursday May 26 2022
Beatrice Nyamari

Ms Beatrice Nyamari. PHOTO | COURTESY

By The Citizen Reporter

You spent over 15 years in senior leadership roles across Africa with global companies such as Coca-Cola, WPP, and Airtel Africa; tell us why Smart Codes, and why now?

Two reasons: Tanzania as a country has been on a sustained growth journey. With the policies that our president has currently developed, these have sparked massive opportunities for growth of various industries.

To that extent being in Tanzania at this point presents massive opportunities for growth in various industries including marketing. Because of this growth potential it was an easy decision to relocate and take up an opportunity to be part of this development.

Smart Codes has been on a journey to lead innovation to stem change in how brand communication is done with innovative solutions. This is a key passion point for me. Being part of a growth development entity such as SC fits with my aspirations of changing the face of Africa and growing the continent in an innovation space.


How has the experience you’ve garnered over the years shaped you as a corporate leader?

They always say your network is your net worth. I have had an opportunity to work in various entities that enable diversity, and thinking both from a local and global perspective, helping me to think “glo-cal”

This means I take the global aspects and feed those into a local perspective. Understanding what is happening globally and bringing that home helps me be that corporate leader who is “glo-cally” oriented.

What defines your leadership style?

It depends on the circumstances, who, where and how. Millennials, Gen Z, are pretty different. In some instances, I have found myself even leading Baby boomers, which means that leadership style cannot be the same for all. Leadership has also been in various forms; whether I am leading a team in an agency, corporate environment or at home. The circumstances define the leadership style I deploy by understanding the people and environment.

Sometimes, you also find yourself in a space that is not a leadership space, but you have to rise and take the opportunity of responsibility. Leadership is not given. It is taken.

Marketing has become a very volatile industry with digital disruptions and other innovations shaping the future of the business; tell us how you’ve managed to stay a step ahead and what fuels your consistency?

I have a curious mind that ensures that I continuously learn and stay ahead. I ended up in marketing by curiosity and learning to take risks while applying my knowledge to learn a bit more. I learn, take the chance, fail, move fast, and repurpose that learning. Understanding what that digital disruption means for the business and being able to provide that solution that builds experiences that consumers are looking for, because ultimately, it’s how you make a consumer feel and understand and anticipate their needs that matters.

It must not have been easy achieving your level of success as a woman in a predominantly male industry, tell us how you managed to surmount gender bias.

From my career journey there have been more women than men in the marketing perspective in an absolute sense. My ability to grow within that environment and learn about other powerful women has helped me build the success that I have. Most of them have been my mentors, and I can start with Ann Kamunge, who was then a Media Director of an agency and transitioning to a new role in another organization. She still took the time to train me in media, making me one of the youngest media directors because of her mentorship.

Then I joined the WPP Scan group, where I met a lot of women clients who nurtured me to be who I am today. One of them was Hilda Gullacksen, who worked at Coca-Cola. She was a very meticulous individual. I can attribute some leadership skills through her mentorship and her leaders Bill Gray and Ahmed Rady as people who understood processes and global standards.

I can talk about my relationship with my immediate manager, the Vice president of Brand and Marketing at Airtel during my tenure there, who remains a great mentor and friend today.

She is currently an entrepreneur of an entity called Digital BeeHive. She is an individual who understands both the corporate space and has an entrepreneurial mindset.

Success as a woman is not a measure of how you beat bias from a gender perspective but is a sum of what you deliver as an individual that works and showcases their best self on a daily basis.

What is that one thing you cannot tolerate when it comes to work?

Tardiness and poor-quality work! Why would you wake up and spend your day as an individual who cannot deliver in a timely manner? Why would you allow yourself to say that this is the sub-standard quality of work that I have produced? This is devaluing yourself. You can have a bad day, one day, maybe, but it cannot be daily.

Did you have anyone to look up to growing up? Someone who inspired your drive.

I lost my mother when I was 19. By the time she had passed, she had infused so much knowledge that I use to date. She was an entrepreneur, a family woman, and a full powerhouse. She inspires me because I recall how she raised us and her efforts in making sure she delivers for her family, business, church and engagements with other people. She made time, and prioritisation for her was so crucial.

She left me with these parting words, “If anything ever happens to me, I would love for you to take care of your siblings just like I have”. She gave me enough ammunition as a 19-year-old to start the journey of life. She is the most inspiring human in my life.

Another person is my dear uncle, who passed on recently. At 90 years old, he had a music degree, a law degree and a nursing degree. His achievements were not only in education but as a human being. He was a phenomenal person. I draw inspiration from people who balance life, success and education.

What would you advise someone looking to venture into the advertising and marketing industry in Africa?

Before knowing your niche, you have to identify a gap and tap into it to make a difference. And even if you are going to do creative, what is your specialty in that space; is it creative excellence or innovative platforms around creative using data. You have to tap into a niche that identifies a gap to be filled on the consumer and business sides and think through a suitable solution for what marketers are looking for and review that with a lens of the country’s future. For example, you can specialize in helping SMEs to create templates for joint ventures. Tap into an existing gap that helps to sustain the business for the long term.

With your vast experience, a lot will be expected from your leadership; what is your forecast and how soon do you think you will need to settle in?

It starts with the people, a highly engaged team that spurs excellence and innovation. I am trying to build around three focus areas; people & culture, Africa growth and creative excellence.

Tanzania is not a new market for me. I’ve been in and out throughout my career. For me, settling in is not an issue; the issue is in my delivery of the key focus areas, which ultimately will enable us to deliver the best for our clients while ensuring their business goals are met while driving innovation.

From your quick analysis of the African marketing and advertising space, what would you highlight as some of the drawbacks that need to be addressed?

Two things come to mind.

In Africa, we are accused of operating in data darkness and not investing in research.

A lot of work we do needs to be informed in terms of qualitative and quantitative data on consumers and market requirements. Another consideration is the products and services. We are building products/services that are uniquely serving the growth agenda of the organization but not serving the needs of the consumers.

The gap that I see is in data, data usage and analysis to inform our decisions to form products and services and communicate them effectively.

Also, there is nothing unique about the go-to-market strategies of our products and services. If I launch one thing tomorrow, the same thing is replicated. We are lacking in terms of original thoughts.

From a marketing & advertising perspective, for example, in creativity and the use of humor, when one business does humor, all of us want to do it; when another brand wants to do influencer marketing, the other one jumps right in.

We are being led by current trends instead of looking at advertising now with a futuristic lens is what we lack in the advertising space in Africa.

We are inward-looking. The solutions we build cannot only be limited to a particular geography. For example, with what the pandemic has done, one can now sell their products and services while seated in the comfort of their homes. What stops us from a marketing perspective from selling ourselves with a global lens or African lens? What stops us from thinking from an advertising perspective in building content that is Tanzanian but applicable across the world?

What is your take on the changing trends of advertising and PR as businesses try to become innovative?

Let’s look at the trends in advertising in Africa. Covid disrupted the critical drivers for communication reach. Suddenly, everybody wanted to venture into digital and influencer marketing.

The critical question is; how effective was it and was it applicable for all industry categories, considering that some markets have now gone back to normal.

It is necessary to step back and understand whether some things are essential for your business or not because one company deciding to do influencer management may not necessarily work for your business. Maybe you need to do traditional marketing in a differentiated and innovative way.

Also, storytelling is another crucial aspect as we help the consumers experience and engage with your brand and not just hard sales. Sales are essential because that is why people are in business, but not everything is a sale. Sometimes, one needs to build those emotional cues to drive those sales.

A deeper understanding of your business and your edge is what you can use to tell a compelling story essential for your business to develop innovation.

How do you build that innovation within your environment to stand out? Innovation is not only on product and services but also how you communicate and the platforms to utilize, and that is why I am here to help deliver against these aspects!