Shongolo reaches for the stars in marketing

By Philani Nkomo
October 2015
Women in Business

Following the footsteps of the renowned African women leaders like Dr Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma, Joyce Banda and Namibia’s own Monica Geingos, Panduleni Shongolo does not look back in taking Namibia to greater heights through marketing and branding.

Born and bred in Orangemund, she did her tertiary education at the University of Cape Penisula in South Africa. She holds a National Diploma and a Bachelors Degree in Marketing. Currently, she is pursuing her Masters Degree in Digital Marketing and African Markets.

As a Marketing and Brand Practitioner at Bank Windhoek, Shongolo says Africa has been perceived as the Dark Continent in the world throughout history, but this is not how she perceives it.

“Africa is open for business. Tt is the future, and it is where the heart of business is starting to grow within the world. We have so many resources and skills but the problem with the African community is doing the hard work and just proving oneself,” Shongolo says.

Bringing the subject home, Shongolo explains Namibian products are at the same standard with other African products, and sometimes at an even higher standard. Unfortunately, it is just the market that is weak. A lot of work has to be put into Namibian brands because there is so much potential in them.

“There is so much value in the products themselves. For example my favourite brand Oshikandela, a product of Nammilk: It has so much potential to be exported in other markets. However, there is so much work to be done because most Namibian brands still need to prove their competitive advantage,” she says.

She adds that Namibia and most African countries still need to use traditional marketing as it is a foundation of making sure businesses are getting necessary exposure.

“In terms of the IT infrastructure in Africa, we are not at par within the Western world. So, we also need to consider the fact of our normal marketing where we are still reading newspapers, listening to radio and reading print material, like bill boards, so that will still be a foundation in the African market,” she says.

During her university days she worked for many companies in Cape Town which helped her get market exposure to understand various brands and consumers. She has a passion for creating marketing strategies that connect the consumer to the brand.

“I love to know what is happening in other countries and I love networking. I helped a few companies like Pure design, Absa bank, Chicken Licken and also Pick n Pay (all Cape Rown) companies. I did quite a few quite prominent projects for those companies to help them increase their exposure,” she says.

However, she faced challenges during that time because there are rules and laws in different countries regarding marketing and branding.

“You have to follow and be guided by regulations. You just cannot slip a colour as you want in terms of regulations of different countries, and Namibia is starting to get very stringent on their laws looking at what you can do and what you cannot do to advertise. That is the major challenge that I had to face even though I wanted to play around with the branding strategies I still needed to fall within the laws that were stipulated,” she says.

One of her biggest achievements in the 12 months that she has been with Bank Windhoek has been being able to surpass that challenge. She says for the Trade Fairs, Ongwediva and Windhoek Show, she decided to do something different and fresh. She came up with an idea of creating a coffee shop which eventually turned into a coffee house.

“Basically the idea came about with me trying to connect customers to the brand. I wanted to create an atmosphere of inviting the clients, making them feel at home and more relaxed when discussing the products that they are interested in,” she says.

She further says that, “It might sound like a strange concept, but it is something that really struck a lot of people’s attention because I wanted to also create curiosity among visitors for them to wonder if it is a coffee shop or it is a bank, just to entice them about who Bank Windhoek is.”

Shongolo says the bank has had great feedback from the Ongwediva fair as it passed the target it had set.