Why did I decide to do an internship at Interbrand Africa?
From its very inception, Live-Bio was more than offering a clean room with a wonderful view to the Aegean sea. Our vision is to offer an authentic holiday experience in Greece, and digital media and branding are an important component of our innovative offering.
With this in mind, a few months ago, I started studying for a Diploma in Professional Marketing via Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK. My first assignment was on “Brand Valuation”, which I applied to the Live-Bio brand. As I was working on my analysis, I quickly realised that Interbrand (a company where a friend of mine is working at in South Africa) is the organisation which first developed and copyrighted their methodology on brand valuation – an exercise that is rather complex and even today provokes much controversy.
As soon as my paper was finished, I thought of asking Interbrand Africa if they would accept me as an intern for a few weeks so that I could see the practical side of valuing and managing brands. After a few days I was happy to hear a positive response. I booked a flight from my current hometown in Greece to Johannesburg and a week later I was ready to begin this new experience.
Meeting the team and the learning process
As I only had two weeks to learn from the branding experts on the African continent, I tried to make the best use of my time. After meeting the team I immediately realised how lucky I was to be surrounded by highly intelligent, incredibly creative and well experienced individuals that worked at Interbrand in Johannesburg.
The “Strategy” team, headed up by Guido (who is originally from Holland), is where the ideas are conceived and born. I had a privilege to spend a few hours with Richard (a very open and cheerful Frenchman), strategy director, who basically took me through the thinking process of creating a brand strategy for one of their Nigerian clients. From re-thinking brand values and strengths, to creating brand’s tone of voice, visual language and the final brand proposition – the so called “sweet spot”. It was like watching an artist in his process of creation. Incredibly inspiring.
As soon as the “Strategy” team finalises their work, they meet with the “Design” team, headed up by Warrick – another grand person to look up to. The designers, through their creative thinking, bring the strategic ideas to life. It is a symbiotic relationship as “Strategy” cannot exist without “Design” and vice versa. There is a beautiful marriage between the two and witnessing the final product is almost as powerful as seeing a child being born to this world. Each time it is different, unique and with its own character. I managed to spend a few hours with Blake, design director at Interbrand Africa, who was kind enough to take me through his creation process from the beginning till the end. One particular project draw my attention – a local university. Blake was busy working on a new logo and the visual language that the university could make use of. It looked incredibly exciting and I hope to see the final effects in the near future.
Another critical team at Interbrand is the “Consultants”, who make sure the project is delivered in due time, clients’ needs are met and the relationship maintained in an open, collaborative atmosphere. I had a privilege to attend a client meeting, where the consultants together with the strategic team were delivering a final presentation on a Return on Marketing Investment tool they had developed for their client. After receiving positive feedback the team will now focus on delivering the implementation. It is certainly not the easiest of jobs as the consultant needs to be a diplomat most of the time and make sure the client is cooperating in the delivery of the project.
Every Friday morning everyone at Interbrand Africa gets together for a new dose of what they call “Knowledge Sharing”. It is an hour and a half session where anyone can share an insight, theory, interesting article, talk or presentation. Usually the topics touch on various aspects of branding and marketing, but the forum is open to any other subject that the presenter finds worthwhile sharing with the rest of the Interbrand team. I had an opportunity to take part in “Knowledge Sharing” sessions on “Visual language strategy” as well as “Life in the post-digital world”. The author of the latter one, Ahmed, was kind enough to take me through it after hours as I was unable to attend the morning session. I was extremely grateful as this topic, with focus on digital marketing, is very close to my heart. The “Visual language strategy” session on the other hand was quite a discovery for me. Guido and Warrick made us realise how important the visual expression of a brand is and how different organisations focus on different aspects of it. I had no idea for instance that one could have specific font or sound that were part of the brand (and could be registered as a trademark). Think about the sound of a Coca Cola can opening for example – they actually use it as a differentiation for their brand (alongside quite a few other aspects)!
An important part of my two week internship was my own contribution. Taken my knowledge and experience in online and Social Media marketing, I tried to spend some time with Shendl, who looks after Interbrand Africa’s own marketing activities. We discussed a few ideas for their website, Social Media and blog. I also suggested creating a video which would effectively be their company profile. It could then be used on their website and all Social Media platforms. The management quite liked the idea and we started shooting immediately. Even though I’m not a professional videographer, I do have some idea of video shooting and editing, having done it previously for my own business in Greece – Live-Bio. I thought it would be a great way for me to contribute and create something meaningful and timeless for Interbrand Africa. Everyone was on board. After we brainstormed the questions we would address in the video, we recorded some really good material. The video is currently at the editing stages and I’m very excited to see the end result. I hope Interbrand’s team will be pleased with it.
I was also asked by Kate, another senior strategist at Interbrand Africa, to assist in an interview discussing the effects the big, international brands had on South Africa – its market and consumers. We had a very interesting discussion and I hope my perspective as a European previously living in South Africa for a number of years will add value.
It’s always hard to say goodbye…
I know two weeks is not a long time, but I must say, I started feeling part of the Interbrand Africa family. I was fascinated by each individual and the set of skills they brought to the table. It is an incredibly inspiring and diverse environment to work in, where the people bring the best out of you.
I was blessed to spend 10 minutes chatting to Jeremy Sampson, the founder of Interbrand Africa and absolute branding guru in South Africa and beyond. I was amazed how someone like him, who achieved so much, who was recognised for it so many times, who I’m sure is very busy, found time to speak to a complete stranger like me. Jeremy’s humility makes you want to be a better person and his achievements are a motivation to always strive for more.
Thank you Interbrand Africa, thank you to each and everyone of you for making time and effort for me. Thank you for making me feel at home. I will cherish this experience for a long time to come.