Most businesses only think branding is necessary when their sales are down – Mobolaji Caxton-Martins (Brand Specialist)



  • We are a summation of different brand experiences

 It is little wonder why a graduate of Applied Physics – Geophysics from the University of Lagos will opt for a career in brand management and innovation instead.

 Those were the words of Mobolaji Caxton-Martins, Brand and Innovation Management Specialist as he talks branding, brand identity, and shares his wealth of experience in an exclusive interview with Businessafricaonline digital editor Alaba Ayinuola…

Mobolaji, A facilitator of brand storytelling and innovation at Orange Academy has a big goal: to be part of creating the future through insightful intelligence and practising brand management. He has enjoyed a rapid and aligned career in branding, advertising and consulting. His footprints can be trailed to such brands as Etisalat, Unilever Lifebuoy, Samsung Mobile, Skye bank, MoneyGram International, Wema Bank, Keystone Bank, Haier Thermocool, Airtel and most recently FBNQuest. He has an undying commitment to sustainable innovation for Africa leveraging the millennial generation and its occupation revolution.

Mobolaji discussed how his passion for branding affects his personal life and career.

You can check out Mobolaji’s heartfelt interview with BAO below as he shares his expert thoughts on branding and innovation management. Excerpts


Tell us about yourself?

My name is Mobolaji Caxton-Martins and I am a proud Lagosian. I see myself as a serial innovator; always restless in creating value. I am naturally curious and interested in people; I often ponder about what motivates us as humans, what influences our decisions, how we form opinions and perception and what fosters sustainable relationships between ourselves. I have always wanted to be part of creating the future through insightful intelligence and practising brand management has been the most logical avenue for me. I must say that I am a blatant enemy of routine and I believe branding provides the perfect opportunity to innovate and bring about sustainable development. I don’t believe in thinking within or outside the box as I am constantly inventing shapes which will be defined by the future.

Why is branding so important?

Humans are intuitively an emotional lot and research has proven that these emotions are responsible for most of the decisions we make. I tell people that as a business, there are a few things that you cannot necessarily avoid; you need to be identified by your audience, you need to differentiate yourself from other businesses like you, you need to build a community of customers who make repeat purchases otherwise your business wouldn’t be sustainable. There are more indices to consider but the ideal question is how you achieve any of the above objectives if you do not establish a memorable brand experience. What the brand does for you is elevate your business from just a functional transaction to an emotional relationship. It engages your audience in a human way which makes it easy for your product or service to play a human role in the lives of your audience. As people, we are a summation of different brand experiences and these experiences determine how other people perceive us. When you wake up in the morning, you make various brand conscious decisions as should I brush my teeth with Colgate, Macleans or close-up? Do I have my bath with Dettol, premier, imperial leather, palm-olive, etc.? What lotion or after-shave should I use? What shaving stick or shaving cream should I use? What perfume should I wear? What brand of denim should I wear? What car should I drive?? The list goes on and on but what we need to realize is that we all make these decisions, some put more thought into it than others, all the same, each of these decisions say something about us and if your business is responsible for any of these products or services, you want to ensure that you are well identified, positioned and differentiated to make the choice of your selection easier for your consumers.


Please share 3 links of brand whose brand identity inspires you. What do you like best about them?

This is interesting. I must say that what inspires me about a brand goes beyond its identity. A brand really isn’t just its identity or logo as we most often call it. I have learnt to see a brand as a strategic cultural idea and a summation of all the tangible and intangible attributes of a product, service or person. A brand has various vectors such as its personality, identity, people, environment, communication, etc. Identity only plays one role which is basically identification i.e. logo, packaging, appearance, etc. For the purposes of identification, I am mostly inspired by iconic identities which have stood the test of time and have become a part of the human visual vocabulary. Here are a couple which I would share with you:




What mistakes do companies make with branding?

It is great that you have brought this up because most business organisations in Nigeria make a lot of terrible branding errors and what I observe is that the root cause is either blatant ignorance, official bureaucracy or a corrupted choice for retrogressive brand management. Often when I am giving a lecture, what I say to my audience is that a brand should first be internal before it becomes external.

Martin George, a marketing director for British Airways once said:People ask me how many brand managers I employ. I reply that British Airways has 50,000 brand managers. Every single employee of our business, whether they come into direct contact with customers or not, needs to be an embodiment of our brand. A bad experience with telesales can undermine millions of dollars of advertising”.

This single statement sums up most of the challenges we have with Brand Management in the African context. A lot of our brand managers still believe that brand building is simply a function of advertising, this thinking has unfortunately affected the advertising agencies in their capacity as service providers. Most agencies now think only in boxes of Radio, Print, OOH and TV.

This thinking has also deprived us of all the opportunities to grow and innovate as an industry. I see brands undergoing re-branding exercises and the first thing they think of is a logo switch, these efforts should as a matter of priority be focused on the internal experience first before any external communication is done.

As David Ogilvy once said, “Advertising a bad product will only make more people know that your product is bad”.

In the same vein, most businesses only think branding is necessary when their sales are down, what they need to realise is that brand building and marketing are entirely different and this is hoping that the business can already tell the difference between marketing and sales. What you see with best-practice global case studies is a consistent effort with brand building and therefore the business is sustainable for centuries. Business owners need to consult brand specialists the minute they conceive the business idea and not when they are only ready to penetrate the market. I once had the opportunity to work with a team which was responsible for creating the brand experience for a four-star hotel in Nigeria and the level of involvement was unbelievable. We worked on the naming and identity creation, developing a brand story and progressive brand strategy, collaborating with the architects on the sort of design and experience which we wanted for the hotel, collaborating with the administration team to interview new hires from the security team to the bell men to the kitchen staff. We knew what we wanted the overall brand experience to be and we needed to make sure that the right people were hired to deliver this experience.

We made sure the brochures told a consistent story and even the uniforms of the workers were designed with the brand experience as a filter. We ensured that a brand academy was established for every new hire and acculturation was a scheduled affair. We had not even started discussing advertising, we needed to make sure that the experience was right. This is a core challenge for businesses. When a business ignores brand experience at the beginning, it only means they will be back a couple of years after asking for support with repositioning. Repositioning a brand is a thousand times more difficult than getting the experience right in the first instance, it is quite shocking because it costs more and requires a longer duration to take effect yet I see more brands seeking repositioning in this market instead of focused brand building.


What is the impact of digital on brand management?

I am indeed pleased with the advancement of digital technology in the marketing space. However, I have often said that this also needs to be considered as a part of a holistic experience. Digital marketing only plays a role within brand communication. Brand communication is just a part of the overall brand experience. I see a lot of vacancy advertisements for digital marketing managers and whilst this is a commendable improvement, the objectives need to be questioned. Digital marketing must be a part of a communication cycle and just a part of a whole. It is cheaper and more measurable; however, the achievements cannot be overestimated. Traditional and Digital Marketing must complement each other, what I struggle with most times is the fact that most businesses do not even have a communication strategy talk less of a brand strategy yet they require the services of a digital marketing expert, one needs to ask; what is the context? Even a professional digital marketing expert should ask this question before accepting such an offer.

I am indeed honoured to interact and share learning with you on this platform. I believe in co-creation and collaboration and I am open to further discussions with anyone who has an independence of mind towards life and is not enslaved by routine. The future has never been brighter for the African millennia generation and with the advent of internet technology, the world has become a much closer and smaller space with no barriers for learning and value creation.