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Sithembile Ntombela: Brand South Africa, Marketing Head - A Nation’s brand reflects on the beholder

The journey that prepared me for building a nation’s brand


The head of marketing at Brand South Africa, Sithembile Ntombela took us on a captivating journey, through her life which illustrated the groundwork that prepared her for the task of building a compelling image of South Africa to the world, through marketing.


Sithembile realised her love for marketing at an early age as she revealed her interest in unpacking messaging in advertising. She was also curious about who was responsible for telling brands what to say to consumers. Her curiosity led her to pursuing a Diploma in Marketing which she did exceptionally well in.





In an enlightening conversation with Thinkerneur’s Founder and Strategy Director Bogosi Motshegwa, she shared the principles which have carried her through the many jobs which she has done, and the many roles that she has occupied.


These principles served as her success formula under most circumstances in her marketing life:


1. An understanding of your target audience is imperative.


This is Sithembile’s first principle, and although to the everyday marketer this statement comes as no surprise; she held that people often think that marketing is a one blanket approach. She made a stern recommendation that understanding how the consumer thinks and what their motives are is truly key to great marketing.

Tasked with talking a diverse and complex nation such as South Africa, nobody understands this principle more, than Sithembile.


2. You must have passion.


Sithembile Ntombela is proof that discovering one’s passion and following it, can truly lead toward inconceivable opportunities and incredible work. This is the second principle, and she added that she believes without passion for your work, you are setting yourself up for failure. She further stated that, “It’s not about applying for the job, but rather it’s about figuring out if you can fall in love with the brands that you work on.”

With the long days and nights required in the industry, there’s certainly no brand of energy drink that get you through the most challenging and difficult times, either than pure passion for what you do.


3. Stakeholder inclusion can take you far.


According to S'thembile, the third principle is not only about building relationships, equally imperative, it’s about letting people know in a meaningful way that you are willing to go down the treacherous paths with them. Immersing yourself in the entire process with the people at every level is imperative to driving stakeholder understanding, which is crucial for achieving progress.

She mentions that as a marketer for Brand SA, it’s critical to have an understanding of South Africans as individuals, even though it is an ideal yet impossible task. She has found stakeholder inclusion to be an important part of the process of understanding people. This creates shared value, belief and brings everyone closer.


4. You have to be a visionary


The final but equally important principle is that one needs to be a visionary, because those who dream inspire innovation which impacts the future. She further stated;


“…marketing divisions are often the first to be subjected to budget cuts, but this can be prevented if the corporate leaders buy into the marketer’s vision.”

She concluded the session with Bogosi by sharing her personal vision for South Africa, which is “for South Africans to fall in love with the country so much so that they become the doers. To have a country that has citizens who play their part in making it a beautiful place for themselves and tourists, in order to make it the most attractive destination.”


Click here to watch Sithembile’s Thinkerneur Strategy Session webinar.


About us:


Thinkerneur is a strategy consultancy firm that believes that strategy is everything and that everything strategy. We believe that all of life’s challenges and problems suddenly look easier to solve when looked at through the lens of strategy.

Our mission is to provide clarity, simplify, make life and decision making easier.


This article was brought to you by Thinkerneur Strategy Session 2020.



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