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Meet Gillian Rusike, Founder & Executive Secretary of the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe (MAZ)
I was born in… a semi-urban community called Epworth which was under the Methodist Church. I went to a local school for my primary education and then enrolled at Cranborne Boys High School in Harare. I am the only man in a family of five and I am 42 years old.
I studied… marketing at the Institute of Marketing Management (IMM). Funnily enough, I grew up being very shy, maybe because I was a “Mama’s Boy”. But before I finished high school, I was sure that I wanted to study marketing after being inspired by a cousin-brother from my neighbourhood. I would read some of his books and magazines on marketing that got my attention.
After my studies, I felt the need to establish an organisation that would enhance the career advancement of marketing professionals, hence the establishment of the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe (MAZ) in 2005. It was not an easy task to get the marketing industry on board on the idea at first, with finance-oriented professionals dominating top positions in companies. At that time, marketing was not much regarded as a profession in my country as marketers were simply equated to advertisers and salespeople. After we gained a bit of ground and successfully set up the organisation, I completed two master’s degrees – one in Business Leadership and the other in Marketing Strategy – with a local university (BUSE). I am now looking forward to pursuing a law degree in 2020.
What changed since I started in the marketing industry… personally, was my personality. Growing up, I was a shy community boy and spent most of the time by myself. I suddenly became this cheerful, outspoken go-getter who can fit in any square. This change has made it easier for me, both as a business leader and a marketing professional.
There is more respect and recognition for the marketing profession, even at government level, compared to when I started in the industry. We are now seeing more marketers assuming leadership roles in big corporates. Our government has even gone to the extent of calling upon marketing professionals to become board members of public institutions and participate in policy formulation at national level, something that has never happened before.
My proudest personal and career achievement is… the establishment of the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe. The idea was so original in my mind that I didn’t Google anything (not even sure if Google existed yet at that time…). Being recognised by the industry and ultimately by the government has meant that I birthed something that brought about solutions to economic and social challenges in Zimbabwe.
I am also proud to have been elected the first Secretary General of the African Marketing Confederation, formed in 2014 by six African countries, namely Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya and Nigeria. This was not an easy function as my tasks included spearheading organisational growth and getting other African countries on board. The big challenge was that many African countries did not have a dedicated marketing organisation, so we had to assist in the formation of local organisations in different markets.
Our priorities are…
- Making marketing fully embraced by all stakeholders in Zimbabwe as we believe marketing is the engine towards business success. We have seen some brilliant companies failing dismally because they did not adopt marketing in their structures and systems.
- Ensuring our members are well-informed with current global marketing trends through our affiliation with international organisations like WFA and taking part in training courses on digital marketing.
- We have two major events coming up this year: the Annual Marketers Convention on October 30-November 2 and the Superbrand Awards Ceremony on November 29. I am proud to say that the Superbrand Awards has become our flagship event that attracts over 700 delegates every year. We also capitalise on our annual conference to invite a diverse line-up of experts from different countries to share their knowledge and experiences.
Challenges in the marketing industry in my country are… transforming companies into effective marketing organisations, as well as the lack of legal statutes or laws that govern the marketing profession, making industry self-regulation insufficient. Budget cuts within companies is also a big challenge because the first budgets being cut are often that of marketing.
If I could change one thing about the industry today, it would be… to institute a legal instrument to govern the marketing profession just like the engineers, lawyers and doctors in my country.
What most people don’t know about me is… that I am a staunch fan of wrestling. I enjoy the professionalism in the sport, and I am a big fan of American wrestler Roman Reigns.
Three things about my country…
- Zimbabwe has the best climate in the African continent.
- Zimbabweans have great personalities and are peace loving people, with the highest level of literacy in Africa.
- Lastly, we have some of the best tourist attractions in the continent. The Victoria Falls, which is one of the natural seven wonders of the world, is found in Zimbabwe. I welcome you all to my beautiful country if you’re considering Africa as your next destination!
This is part of a series of monthly interviews with heads of national advertiser associations in WFA membership.