Chinedu Oparaku: The Brand Manager whose magic wand will change the status quo

We cannot stop telling the stories of people who either turn ideas into solutions or help to make sure those solutions are projected well to the world. That’s why, with Share of Voice, we want to tell the stories of the brightest minds across industries – the one who found these companies, the ones who brand them, the ones who communicate what they sell, the ones who market them, the influencers. We have had conversations, in all visual formats, with people like Arinola Adeniyi (Venivici), Tosin Ajibade (OloriSupergal)Samuel Ajiboye (Alpha and Jam)Adenike Fagbemi (Nixxhash Communications) and so on. More reason we asked Chinedu Oparaku, an experienced Marketing and Communications professional, and the Senior Brand Manager of Meristem to tell us his story.

This is how it went.

Chinedu’s personal and professional journey, especially with Meristem Nigeria. 

Professionally, my journey as a brand manager has been directed by grace and loads of purpose. Most brand managers often say they stumbled into this field, or school made them find it. However, the journey started out of a desire to create an impact that transcends generations. This is what I believe the entirety of my work entails. I create impact by leveraging my knowledge and skills to guide brands into developing and deploying solutions for the public, while they still make a profit. I have been privileged to work directly and indirectly for some of the world’s favourite brands like ExxonMobil, Kanekalon, Coca-Cola to mention a few.

Currently, I work for Meristem Securities Limited, a leading financial services provider. At Meristem, the mandate is clear, we are in the business of creating and growing wealth for people. Therefore, as a brand manager, my task is in two phases.

Firstly, I ensure Meristem continually develops and deploys wealth creation solutions for the target audience, by leading product and services development through the in-depth audience, trends and market research. Secondly, to ensure the target audience are aware of these solutions, can afford these solutions, can easily access these solutions and ultimately these solutions are delivering on set promises.

Thankfully, strategies put in place have ensured Meristem continues to deliver on its promises, and today this has earned Meristem a recognition amongst the top leading financial services providers.

Approaching change in the time of a pandemic

The current reality created by this pandemic is a sad one really. Because apart from distorting people’s way of life, it is claiming lives and causing people jobs. But with everything thrown at the human race, we will survive and get stronger.  At Meristem, the effect of the pandemic has also, had some impact on us a business. For instance, we have not been able to be physically there to host our clients to a good time with some of our proprietary events like the Meristem GreenFest and our Breakfast sessions. We really can’t wait to get back to this. However, on the positive side, it has allowed us to leverage our technology channels to the full drive. We have implemented the remote work system for our staff, we have also gotten our clients to continue enjoying the benefits of our wealth creation solutions through our digital channels, and most importantly, it has given us a time to bond further with the world. This period has also given us an opportunity to identify pain points of both markets we serve and those we don’t and helped us understand how to contribute our share efficiently in making the world a better place.

Chinedu’s pains and gains

Sigh! before gold is formed it passes through a furnace. Being a brand manager is synonymous to this phrase, only that at different times, your gold will have to be melted again and formed to something else that brings value within the current society. As a brand manager, you get accustomed to the word ‘no’. I have been told ‘no’ a lot of times, especially on days when I feel my idea is as novel as it gets. It hurts on some days, but I am always thankful because the ‘no’s’ will always take you far. Some of my best wins have been as a result of being told ‘no’. An example of this is the current Meristem corporate campaign “You’ve come this far, let’s take you farther”.

Another decade. Now, what should we expect from Meristem and Chinedu?

In this new decade, Meristem is positioned to evolve and redefine wealth creation for the public. The goal of Meristem is to be the distinct and preferred financial services provider, by ensuring the idea of financial services is redefined to fit into the ecosystem of people’s lives, so people can truly achieve their goals in finances, healthcare of choice, education of choice etc., without having to worry about a rainy day. Personally, my goal is to continue doing what I love – building brands that solve problems. The goal is to help at least 100 Nigerian businesses create not just African solutions, but create and provide global solutions.

The AI talk

The truth is AI and technology is rapidly evolving the definition and scope of work. However, I do not feel threatened by AI, rather I look at it as a partner, that makes my role easier. For example, conducting trend and market analysis can be done easier and smarter with AI. I do not feel threatened because, as a brand manager, the real strength you possess is being human. As a brand manager, you are expected to feel the pain of the target audience, and therefore, create or modify products and communication messages to solve that problem. This is a unique quality that the AI can’t handle.

Waving the magic wand at the Brand/Communications industry in Nigeria

Brand/Communications in Nigeria has evolved and come a long way I must confess. I mean I was trained by some of the smartest minds in the game and I am grateful.

With a lot of factors, branding and communications is a field where success is largely dependent on your understanding of the local problems, paint-points, tonality of emotions and lingo. These elements make or mar a lot of brands and decide if communication attempts are successful or not.

In Nigeria, at different times, we see brands literally copy and paste strategies deployed in different regions, without even attempting to localise it for our market. This is a major brand flaw and I feel brands and brand managers need to be cautious of this.

Another thing I will like the fix is the mental orientation of some brand managers. As a brand manager, your job is not just creating campaigns, or doing a nice communication. As a brand manager, you are a parent, and the brand is your baby. You are to carter for the entirety of the baby; this being the brand. You are to be concerned with how your baby will feed, in this case, how will the brand make sales, how will the baby grow, in this case, how can the brand evolve, what solutions can the brand create etc. With this understanding, brand managers will be able to create more value for their brands.

And, I will recommend that brand management be taught as a specialised course in Universities by working professionals, so we have fresh graduates who are experts and ready to disrupt the country.

What else about Chinedu?

Well, I love knowledge, I love to learn about even the most random of facts, and these eventually help me find a common ground between myself and people or establish a connection between brands and their markets of interest. I love God, movies, stories, politics and general engagement activities especially games. I like to consider myself a very logical and rational being, with a strong sense of emotional intelligence.

During pleasure periods…

When I am not working, I am watching movies, lost in my creative thoughts about random things really, or hanging out with like-minds.

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