By Josephine Agbonkhese
Elizabeth Oputa is Manager, Champagnes and Wines Portfolio, Moët Hennessy, Nigeria. A public relations guru, she has, in the last 15 years, provided marketing solutions for small businesses and multinationals in various industries including printing, beauty, advertising and oil, prior to her role at Moët Hennessy. The list includes Hewlett-Packard, Johnson and Johnson, and Pfizer—all in the USA.
She has in her kitty a bachelor’s of science degree in marketing from Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey, and a master of business administration in international marketing, strategy and finance from Simon Business School, New York, both in the USA.
Oputa who was in 2016 selected as part of the inaugural class of the prestigious Africa Business Fellowship, also holds a Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Digital Marketing Institute, Ireland.
In this interview, the Amazon, who is passionate about revitalizing the Nigerian luxury goods space, talks about her life, career, work with SMEs and love for mentoring women.
You’ve worked with notable brands in the US; why did you choose to settle in Nigeria?
Joining Moet Hennessy, for me, was a natural evolution for my career. I started out in sales, straight out of university. From there I moved on to direct mail advertising, then digital with Johnson & Johnson and brand marketing with Pfizer. After moving to Nigeria, I worked on several brands from a digital standpoint including Nigerian Breweries and Nestle. Moet Hennessy allowed me to round out the event activation aspect of marketing.
Have you spotted any difference between the PR industry here and what you experienced abroad?
The biggest difference is that the marketing teams are a bit smaller. That’s mainly due to the fact that in many industries, Nigeria is considered a market that’s in its infancy stage. But we should strive for excellence on a global scale always. Sometimes, many of us settle for mediocrity because we haven’t seen it done better here.
What lessons have you learned from your work with various industries over the years?
Over the years I’ve learned that it’s important to be authentic. Every brand has a target audience. Be authentic with the brand’s offering in a way that makes your campaigns ownable. One mistake I’ve seen with some brands is replicating another brand’s effort and although this may seem like it works at first, it always puts the brand one step behind. I’ve learned that it is best to be authentic with yourself and original with your efforts.
As a key player in the luxury goods space, do you think Nigerians are appreciative of luxury?
Luxury is mainly about experiences and I have found that Nigerians are very appreciative of luxury. It is developing and improving. People are becoming more aware of the value of luxury experiences. However, there is still an opportunity for luxury brands to come in and add more definition to the luxury goods space.
How are you helping SMEs as a member of the African Business Fellowship?
The key for small to medium-sized enterprises in Nigeria is ensuring the business’ operations are fail-proof. It doesn’t matter how much a business spends on advertising and recruiting new customers. If the operations prohibit that business from flawless delivery of the product or service, that business cannot survive for very long. This is the work that I’ve done for businesses in Nigeria. I also ensure the brands’ online presence.
You’re said to be passionate about enhancing lifestyle experience and encouraging travel tourism for Nigeria; how?
Before I started in this role, brands were activating but not with as much detail as we see today. In a sense, I’ve encouraged the movement by raising the bar. With my activations, I ensure there’s an element for consumer engagement beyond just a photo wall. We can see much more of this in the market now, in general. I started the brunch movement with the first-day brunch that I did for Moet Grand Day in 2018. Furthermore, I see a lot more Nigerians abroad as well as African-Americans venturing to the country to be part of the events that they’re seeing trending online. I’ve shown a side of the lifestyle in Nigeria that isn’t usually publicised abroad in a large way.
How do you cope with challenges?
Every career has its own challenges and I definitely have had more than my fair share. With every challenge, however, comes opportunity. The fact that I’m still here is a testament that I’ve been able to overcome these challenges despite how tough they seemed when I was in them.
Some women say mentoring is overrated; do you think otherwise?
Mentorship is critical for success. How will you know what lies ahead if you can’t rely on support from someone who has been there to help you? Also, it’s good to have someone to hold you to your goals, ensuring that you’re checking the boxes to get to your dreams. I have several mentors that I confide in both here and in the US and I’m grateful to these mentors for all of the time they take out of their very busy schedules to support my development and growth.
…so how are you helping to develop younger women?
I often host a group of young women, whom I mentor, to an evening of dinner and conversation. There are a number of strong platforms already that cater to women. What I find missing sometimes is the intimate environment that allows us to hear one-on-one specific situations and help with insights from my own experiences. That’s the touch that I add.
How can we get more women into top management positions?
We need to couple conversations with actions by having women at the top mentor women in entry-level and middle management. Only then will we help open the doors for women in leadership positions.
What must women know about leadership?
You must be bold, trust your voice and let it be heard. The fact of the matter is you have what it takes to succeed, so just trust yourself and use the God-given talent that you have been blessed with.
What would you want changed about Nigerian women?
If I could change anything about Nigerian women, it would be recognising our talents early and developing the confidence to execute the power that we have. We are so powerful, our voices are powerful, our talents are powerful yet because of our upbringing or certain things that were expected of us early on, we’re scared to speak up. This is something that I would change.
…and your passion?
Storytelling is my passion. Showing different perspectives and bringing out the best that a brand has to offer; whether the brand is an object or person.