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Ayodotun Akinfenwa: Brand Lessons from “The Smart Money Woman” Series

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As I watched the Smart Money Woman Series on Netflix, I was positively triggered in several ways. The show touched me emotionally, psychologically, and mentally. It’s been many days since I watched the series, but all the brand lessons I learned from the series and from the Smart Money brand as a whole have stayed with me. Let me share some of them with you.

Brands Collaborations, Placements and Visibility

As the executive producer, Arese Ugwu clearly stated that she was going to have to bootstrap her way through this production, so they sought and secured brand sponsorships and collaborations. From the FBNQuest plug – after all, we are talking managing money, to the eye candy Adey Soile outfits, brands got their spotlight on this series. People may criticise the use of product placement, but I’m sure these brands have been imprinted in the minds of viewers. 

I’ve known about FBN Quest for many years, but I have not been able to get them off my mind ever since I watched the series. I’ve also read comments online of people visiting Circa, one of the restaurants featured, and that one of the fashion brands has been inundated with orders for some of the pieces on the show. That’s the power of branding.

I do believe brands need to welcome more opportunities to showcase themselves outside of their comfort zones and regular channels. It increases their chances of being noticed, and growing organically too.

The business of the brand

For everything you want to build, you need to figure out the money part. Whatever brand you build, no matter how much you love it, needs to be viable – this means there has to be a return on investment (ROI). For every brand owner or dreamer out there, there will always be the aspect of discussing with investors and sponsors. There are many business models one must consider as one builds and therein lies the least glamourous aspect of brand building.

Arese Ugwu spoke about how she considered her options, the struggles and how she pulled through. In the end, the “unique pairing of education and financial literacy delivered via product placements and AD slots won as the business model,” which takes us back to lesson 1.

The connection between your network and your personal brand

Look at how Arese flexed her personal brand to raise the funding for the project. She told the story of how she connected with a senior marketing executive of a multinational at an event after her sponsorship proposal had been rejected by the team at the same company. The executive recognised her as the author of this book and they got talking. To cut the long story short, she got the funding she needed. Needless to say, the show came together on the strength of her personal brand among other things. The producer acknowledged her huge number of associates, mentors and friends who opened countless doors and provided invaluable support, and I know for a fact that the support flowed especially due to the strength of her personal brand.

Brand building and content are two sides of a coin

The most plausible way that the world will experience your brand is through your content. It is the path to building any brand. From her article A Chanel Bag vs Stock Portfolio, to her two books, her Instagram page, podcast, and so on, this brand owner has continuously churned out free and paid content that have built not just her personal brand but The Smart Money brand. Think of all the great people you know, the various sectors – entertainment, business, leadership, sports, religion – content has been crucial to their brand building, and this is beyond content for social media. To paint the picture, Michelle Obama’s videos on Instagram may be free, but her book is not, speaking engagements are not, neither was the Netflix documentary, Becoming. In fact, the Obamas have a content production outfit but that’s a story for another day.

There are endless opportunities one can harness. Just look at the content created to support the show itself, #AfricanAmbition, a 6-part YouTube series to document the production journey. The books are going to be flying off the shelves and so will available dates off her calendar, all thanks to the content she created, distributed and monetised. If you are not massively creating content, you are not ready to build a brand.

Brands Evolve

What started as a personal brand in the financial space cascaded into a book brand. From there, it extended into the entertainment space, or should I say “edutainment.” Your brand will evolve based on the times, and based on the customers’ demands, so allow it to.  Nevertheless, be sure to protect your brand.

Never stop building, never stop growing. Stay abreast of prevailing trends, changes in customer behaviour and preferences, as well as global best practices. Be nimble and agile enough to evolve with trends and times so that your brand can stay top of mind. Congrats to the team on the series. We look forward to season 2.

Ayodotun Akinfenwa is a Brand/Marketing Consultant with about 14 years of industry experience. Before starting Lifestyle Hues Brand Consulting in 2016, she built her career working on international brands. Today, she consults for companies and trains SME owners on the subjects of Marketing, Brand building, DIY Design and Content Creation. Her firm has trained over 10,000 indivduals and served several businesses. She holds a Masters Degree in Marketing. She is an Associate member of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, (APCON) and Women in Business, Management & Public Service (WIMBIZ), a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK and is a Canva Certified Creative.

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