Advertising can’t solve every marketing problem, argues Fanen Acho

Headstart Consulting Chief Executive Officer, Fanen Acho, is a marketing, media, communication, and creative professional with a trove of experience from stints with DDB Lagos, Superbrand, African Practice, and corporate organisations.
He decided to champion a new cause when he discovered a gap in integrated marketing communication (IMC).
Acho argues that communication solution has gone beyond campaigns, in this interview with Senior Correspondent, GODDIE OFOSE. He also admonishes brands to stop adopting marketing campaign as solution to every marketing problem.

 

Fanen Acho
Fanen Acho

New segment in IMC
We have a platform called free spirit, which recruits for the media, marketing communication field.
We noticed a gap in the industry; the reason for a lot of movement, even in corporate.
There was no dedicated recruitment platform that offers services. So, we felt we should create a platform that allows us to do a database of professionals in our industry that could be recruited by large corporate organisations and agencies.
We started it last February. We have had over 180 people by July this year. The plan is to do a nationwide fair. Ultimately, our goal is to make it a talent recruitment platform.

This is just one of the services Headstart offers.
Most schools are not producing market-ready graduates and because of that many employers are not interested in fresh graduates. They want people who are experienced and ready to work. Generally, the quality of graduates is very poor.
Second, most young graduates do not believe in time, they do not want to go through the process. They want to get a job today and earn what a person who has been in the industry for 20 years earns.
Most times you are looking at the level of passion and interest. If you get that, you can train them. It is very difficult to get people who want to learn and grow.

Strategic offerings
Headstart is not a recruitment company; it is a strategy and innovation company. Our core work is on brand development and innovation. Recruitment is a small part of what we do to solve a need in the industry.
For example, when we started in 2009, our first big client was Skye Bank. The first task was to review its brand management department and see how it could become more effective.
When we did the work and the department was restructured, the next thing was that the people in that department did not have the skills to do the job. So, we felt we could help them recruit for the department.
Recruitment is a service we add to enhance the work we do. We do not do core advertising work, campaigns, and all that, but core brand strategy work.
When you are done with the work, you leave the client, but sometimes there is nobody in-house to implement what you have developed, which means you have to recruit.
So, it is a complementary service.

Values
We like to see ourselves as a strategy company and we work in five core areas – enterprise innovation, brand development, creative services, organisation transformation, and market intelligence.
Our approach is integrated and interdisciplinary. When a client brings a brief to us, we do not want to just assume that it is a branding problem.
For example, a client came and told us its sales were dropping. A typical advertising company would say let us do a new campaign to create awareness and all that.
But when we analysed the problem, it was not a campaign that was needed, the problem was distribution. So, it was solving a distribution problem.
We do not assume that every problem is advertising problem. Most times, even marketing problems have roots that are deeper than marketing; it could be a people problem, a process or culture problem. So, we do not see ourselves as a typical advertising company but a strategy and innovation one.

HeadStart anniversary
HeadStart anniversary

Readiness of market for new ideas
The problem is understanding what we do.
I give you an example. A client came to us requesting a new logo. When we did the analysis, we discovered that, fine, the logo needed to be changed; but there were other issues.
Right now, we are helping a businessman who wants to create an e-commerce platform. We analysed the whole process and we are working on developing a financial model for the business.
He was surprised that we moved from designing a logo to now showing a two-page excel sheet on financial model.
So, the first thing is to get them to understand and appreciate what we do. When they ask if we are an advertising agency, we say no, but we do some advertising. Are you a design firm? We do design but we are not a design firm.
The issue is getting them to understand what we do. But in six years, we think we have made some progress in getting clients to understand what we do.
For most clients, the relationship grows and it is really not about what we can do and cannot do, but about approach.

The future
We have very ambitious goals.
First, we want to be a resource to the industry through free spirit. Two, we would like to be in the forefront in strategy and innovation discipline. Third, we want to focus more on creating proprietary products and assets that clients can explore as against doing speeches.
Right now we have three main products besides our consultancy services.
We have a product called Dexterial, an online research platform that analyses PR activities. We have Free Spirit, a recruitment platform. We have Find Your Edge, and Leading The Brand, a brand acculturation platform.
Instead of chasing clients through pitches, they come to us for our proprietary products.