Ellae Branding Agency Limited is an energetic and talented creative firm that has taken centre stage in Lagos, blending intelligent creativity with a sincere collaborative approach as it consistently deliver powerful results to its clients with a team of creative and strategic professionals. Its Founder and Creative Director, Mrs. Noella Ekezie in this interview with Mary Ekah, explains how her company’s dedication to helping clients develop more meaningful relationships with their customers through brand, communication, creative and the digital channels, is of utmost importance
What would you describe as your greatest achievement as a branding company?
Ellae is an award-winning, full-service agency with demonstrated expertise and experience in brand, digital, web, communications, marketing and advertising services. We have been in the business of creating, growing, building and reviving both Nigerian and international brands and delivering mouth-watering marketing results. Ellae’s brand building and design expertise have seen us execute multimillion dollar projects for both Fortune 500 companies and challenger brands including organisations such as the USAID, BASF Germany, the Nike Foundation, Google Inc, Exxon Mobil, Citi Bank, Cognizant, and many others. Our excellence in rebranding and brand development has also been recognised on a global scale as we recently became the only Nigerian branding agency to concurrently win GOLD awards at the 2016 and 2017 editions of the annual Transform Awards MENA (Middle East and Africa) held yearly in Dubai, UAE. Established in 2009 in Europe, the Transform Awards is a celebration of the indispensable talent that exists within the branding sphere. Covering Asia-Paciﬁc, the Middle East, North America and Europe, the Transform brand itself is truly global, with no other outlet as committed to providing such comprehensive coverage of the brand environment.
Who are your potential clients?
Our potential clients are all companies who would like to deﬁne the beneﬁts and experiences that make their brands relevant, distinctive, and credible to customers, and develop strategies to differentiate their brands through superior positioning relative to their competitors.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing before Ellae?
I was born and raised in Lagos and obtained a B.SC degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Lagos before moving on to study Design at the prestigious Parsons School of Design, the New School, Manhattan, New York. Prior to founding Ellae Creative, I worked as an associate designer at a brand consultancy ﬁrm based in Lagos, Nigeria. I am also currently a Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Mentor in the Cherie Blair Mentoring Women in Business Programme, a charity organisation set up to develop sustainable solutions to the challenges women entrepreneurs face worldwide.
I am a married mother of four wonderful children and my hobbies include travelling and public speaking.
Why in the ﬁrst place did you decide to go into branding?
After embarking on my own journey as a designer, I had briefly worked for a brand consulting company which introduced me, for the ﬁrst time, to the world of branding and communications, which is when I realised that this was the line of work that interested me the most.
What was it like when you started compared to where you are today?
The industry is ever-evolving as consumers are now spending more time on mobiles, tablets and laptops. The challenge for brands today is to connect with these consumers through all these devices in real time and create campaigns that work across social media, display advertising and e-commerce. The real-time conversations brands have with people as they interact with websites and mobile apps has changed the nature of branding and communications. Today’s brand and communications department needs to combine the creative side of the discipline – using powerful narratives to tap into people’s wishes and aspirations – with the technical side of data, digital marketing and analytics.
How exactly is branding important to individuals and organisations?
The purpose of branding is to simply and easily help consumers understand what you offer and how you are different. It is the combination of all the ways you communicate what you stand for. The implementation, positioning and creativity of the corporate brand are becoming increasingly treasured business asset as the consumer’s ability to recognise or recall a brand is central to purchasing decision-making.
With the current economic situation, how has Ellae been able to ﬁnd leverage?
Working in Nigeria means we need to be brave and bold with our decision making. By ﬁnding new and innovative ways to serve our clients and keeping right on the curve with the latest brand, digital and communications methods, we have managed to develop an excellent reputation across the country.
Are there peculiar challenges you face as a woman entrepreneur?
I would say that being a mother of four kids all under the age of 10 while running a business is very challenging. I have dual responsibilities to my family and to my business, and ﬁnding ways to devote time to both is key to truly achieving that elusive work-life balance.
How do you stand ahead of your competitors?
Our focus is on our credibility as a company and our positioning as a world-class brand. Also, if you’re ready to grow your business, relationship building is the most logical-and proﬁtable-strategy to pursue. It is the one strategy that we have implemented that has clearly differentiated our ﬁrm from the competition, and overcome indifference.
What does it take to build a business like yours?
To be really successful in branding/brand management, you need to have a passion for the consumer. You need to want to understand them, what they want and how you can satisfy it. You must be interested in all facets of general management, as you’re involved in running all parts of a business.
What has your contribution been in encouraging young entrepreneurs to establish your kind of business?
We have established various initiatives as a company to provide SMEs and entrepreneurs with resources they require to build and grow their businesses. These include our SME Marketing Toolkit service; our free Ellae Brand Web Series on our Youtube channel which was launched to help SME’s achieve their brand marketing and communication goals. We also have a feature blog, the IdeaPress (www.ideapress.com) which was developed as a platform for sharing business development ideas, branding, marketing, communications, digital marketing and career-related tips with the thousands of entrepreneurs and owners of SMEs on our company’s mailing list. Finally, we also currently offer a Brand Building course on our Ellae Training platform, an arm of Ellae Creative Agency. The course is practical, intensive and targets young entrepreneurs and small business owners who require brand building coaching for their businesses.
Where do we hope to see your company in ﬁve years to come?
That’s a great question. I see Ellae established with ofﬁces all over the world. We are already shaking things up globally and our journey is far from over and we will continue to grow. We are now in the process of expansion with an aim to double in size in two years. The goal for five years is to create Africa’s largest brand consultancy servicing all aspects of the business world and acting as a partner for companies seeking branding and communications services.