Interview: Katlego Mashishi On Combining Problem-Solving Engineering Skills With Innate Creativity 

Katlego Mashishi, Managing Director of Idea Engineers.

Katlego Mashishi, the new Managing Director of Idea Engineers, has had an unconventional entry into the marketing field – having begun her career as an Industrial Engineer. This background has given her the advantage of knowing that marketing begins on the product floor and that the people who work on the products are the biggest brand advocates. 

As an Industrial Engineer, Mashishi spent quite a lot of time on manufacturing and business processes. ‘Your focus is on the product and how to efficiently get that to the consumer. But my curiosity got the better of me when I thought about what happens after that. You get this demand, but what’s driving it, how are we selling the products and how are they consumed? That’s when my interest in marketing was sparked.’

This was further reinforced while Mashishi was on a bus ride – thinking about the future and that machines will be taking over in terms of processes becoming optimised automatically. ‘I thought: ‘what is that one industry that will be sustained for longer that I can enter into?’ Marketing was the answer.

‘Engineering, like marketing, is about problem solving, and I am fortunate to be qualified in both disciplines. Combining my problem-solving engineering skills with my innate creativity resulted in this perfect sweet spot for me,’ said Mashishi.

Top three favourite campaigns

Mashishi’s career highlight so far is leading the recent development and launch of the Plascon brand positioning and corporate identity. The Plascon #SouthAfricastrong campaign placed the brand back on the map after going dark for quite some time. ‘I loved this campaign for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the big campaign idea was well crafted to ensure resonance with the brand audience whilst providing product proof points. Secondly, this was the first truly digitally integrated campaign for the brand.’

Another favourite is the Polvin stakeholder campaign. Polvin was one of the top selling paint products within South Africa but started facing declines in sales volume due to being mimicked by competitors. ‘Our task was to return Polvin to its rightful place by reigniting the passion both internally and externally. We did this through highly engaging PR and sales initiatives that saw the largest brand growth ever experienced in decades.’

The team engaged with people across the value chain – from the person who mixed the paint in the plant to those who filled the paint canisters and transported them. Reigniting that passion motivated employees to ensure that the product quality is exceptional and that the service delivery surpassed what was promised.

‘Instead of typical marketing communications, we generated excitement amongst the salesforce through a strong sales incentive drive. In addition to this, as a brand manager I also personally accompanied sales representatives on key customer trade visits to engage with key retailers. This helped me understand that the often costly ‘big reach’ campaigns alone are not enough to turn brands around,’ she said. ‘You can market all you want to customers, but you need to remember the importance of internal marketing. Taking an inside out approach infuses a brand with a sustained positive energy that becomes evident externally. You need to truly understand the people who work on your product, because those are your biggest brand advocates.’

Lastly is the Modo launch, which was more of a project than it was a campaign. In 2012, Mashishi headed up the development and launch of the private label brand that is now one of the most successful paint brands in the country. ‘It was an extremely challenging project that required high levels of co-creation, innovation and excellence. Although it felt incredibly hard at the time, seeing its success still makes me really proud.’

To find out what Mashishi’s keys to success in this industry and creating successful campaigns are, as well as her top three marketing trends, watch the full interview below: