Meet Brian Yuyi, CEO of MASA
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I was born and raised in… Zambia’s tourist capital city, Livingstone, famous for the Victoria/Mosi-O-Tunya Falls. Quaint, small town back in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, where everyone knew everyone. My secondary school education up to 1990 was at the then Congregation of Christian Brothers -run St. Raphael’s Secondary School. Very formative years at this small yet one of the best schools in the country.
Growing up… my passion was for radio journalism. I applied to study Mass Communications and Economics at the University of Zambia. On receipt of my O-Level results, my dear mother decided there was no way I would waste such good results especially in mathematics and science on journalism. The universe further conspired to get me an Engineering scholarship from what was then Zambia’s biggest government-owned mining company, ZCCM. It didn’t go very well... Long story short, never confuse passion for intelligence, and vice versa! I could do calculus with my eyes closed but it did not mean I liked it!
I ended up back home in Livingstone working for a commercial bank and as a nightclub DJ on weekends, and then later got back into UNZA to study Mass Communications and Economics, dabbled in student politics (long story…), and was lucky to get a British Foreign Office Chevening Scholarship to do a Master’s Degree in the UK. Towards the end of that, I came across a lovely and compelling woman from Unilever named Gloria Wyse at a recruitment exhibition in London. I aced the interviews a few weeks later at the Unilever HQ at Blackfriars and started work at Lever Brothers immediately once I got off the plane in Zambia in late 1999.
The plan was to do the usual Management traineeship and thereafter settle on one career path but ultimately, ‘marketing’ made more sense as I got a complete view of the business (and I was promised it was the quickest route to become Unilever Chairman!😊) And here we are, twenty years later from Unilever to Airtel, back to Unilever to SABMiller to AB InBev and now the Marketing Association of South Africa (MASA).
When I look at the marketing industry today… one could go on, but I think one fundamental issue is the loss of common sense as far as consumer understanding is concerned! Gone are the good old days when it was a requirement to spend a day and sometimes more walking in the shoes of your key target consumer, be it via deliberate initiatives to spend time in homes, the retail trade, open air markets, and being in physical contact with customers and consumers. It now seems to come down to ‘likes’ and ‘reposts’ which is rather sad, but practitioners should realise that if they combined the power of consumer intimacy with ‘digital’, they could fundamentally change their brands and businesses!
If I could change one thing about the marketing industry in 2020, it would be… bring back common sense and consumer intimacy! Simple! Stop with the fallacy of marketing unto ourselves.
One thing Covid-19 has taught us… we can still get by on the basics. We do not actually need all the stuff we have or always thought we needed. This alone will bring about a fundamental shift in the way commerce and industry reshapes in the next five to 10 years. Those insightful and brave enough to get onto this new wave will reap the rewards.
One thing most people don’t know about me… I was quite the student activist in the mid-90’s in Zambia. Very few people know this about me in professional circles and outside my country of birth.
One fun fact most people don’t know about my country… occasionally, a war of words, largely banter, erupts between Zambians and Zimbabweans on where the famous Victoria/Mosi-O-Tunya Falls are located. My dear Zimbabwean friends largely claim the falls are in their country, with Zambians forever refuting this assertion but cooler heads like me will tell you that the falls straddle the border of both countries and it really doesn’t matter where you view them from: they are majestic from any angle! (There, border war averted!😊)
This is part of a series of monthly interviews with heads of national advertiser associations in WFA membership.