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Interview: Glenlivet Brand Manager Mandla Holomisa Inspires

June 28, 2013
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Having started out as a brand ambassador for one of Pernod Ricard’s other whisky brands, he made the move to Brand Manager on Glenlivet in 2011, and like the saying goes: rest is his-story.

CHEKA Digital: What did you want to be when you grow up?

Mandla Holomisa: At some very early stage I wanted to be a politician. That was clearly when I didn’t really know what that meant but knew it was something of worth. After that phase in High school I had a love hate relationship with accounting and thought I’d be an accountant. But I guess I find myself in marketing now so at this point I just want to be really good at what I do from here on out.

What do you think sets you apart from being the brand manager of Glenlivet as opposed to another brand manager of perhaps a competitor brand?

I’ve based my strategy on the most natural thing that a marketer can. Consumer Insight. I’ve identified the true essence of what human beings really want out of a brand and what really matters to them. Taken that and created a rewarding existence of The Glenlivet that is true to the brand and resonates with young South Africans. “To pass on inspiring legacies”

Referring to the “new black middle class” you target, what was your approach?

I asked myself what is most important to the black middle class… Family, friends, social acceptance, Success. The last point spoke volumes especially because I am marketing a premium consumer good. What about success is mirrored by the brand essence and brand heritage. It’s the legacy of George Smith, The Founder of The Glenlivet. The Black middle class aspire to leaving legacies and they look upon their mentors, elders fellow peers who are successful to pass on that inspiring legacy that they have achieved so that the cycle of empowering each other keeps flowing. Just the way The Legacy lives on in the product and whisky making of The Glenlivet since 1824

You positioned your work as “a work of art”, have you always been a creative?

I believe I always have, I never really knew it until I was asked to be creative and show it. Things like that don’t only come from self actualisation it also comes from people outside of your head appreciating something that you have given birth to from utilising your creative soul. It’s a constant battle with oneself to always better the previous Idea. It’s the creative struggle of purely being your biggest critic. So a simple answer is yes.

What was your vision when you stepped into the role as Glenlivet brand manager?

To move The Glenlivet away from being an old fashioned and stale whisky to bringing it into the ever cosmopolitan mind of young South Africans while staying true to the brand essence. I also wanted to take the brand into a conceptual territory that I know no other spirit brand is playing. There are too many alcohol brands doing the same thing, talking to the same people, in the same way. I’ve made a conscious decision to either be seen as arb, unusual, foolish or just plain genius. Either way, high risk = High return

How do you separate your work from your personal life, or are they fused together?

Not all the time. I can easily mix my social life and personal life. But I sometimes just prefer to be out with my people without having to play host. It’s much easier as a brand manager. It’s difficult when you are an ambassador. You can’t tell the difference after a while.

What personal attributes were aligned resulting in your success at 26?

Thinking Differently. Being Brave in my decisions. Swimming in the deep end. Taking my job seriously. Getting along with everyone. Being honest in your relationships with stakeholders and not losing sight of this busy industry. Not everyone you meet really wants to be your friend, know that and be about it.

Describe a typical day in the life of a brand manager…

My Job is primarily an office one. I spend days refining strategy, preparing presentations to show people the strategy, implementing the strategy with all the extended members of our teams and silo’s, dealing with agencies on the daily, dealing with people that want to propose things to you, ensuring your spend is in line, and doing a lot of travel locally and abroad.

What have been some of the highlights of the job?

Definitely getting promoted to The Glenlivet Brand Manager, and seeing my brain child Legacy Live come to life on radio, TV and the event itself.

Where to from here?



Compiled By: Myrna Burgess (@MsTaboo)

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