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Andy Rigg welcomed an expectant audience to The Venue in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg for the second Inspired Leaders Network session in South Africa. We are very grateful to Mortimer Harvey, one of South Africa’s leading branding and marketing agencies for their inspired sponsorship of this event. They also brought along 15 of their clients who helped make this a memorable evening.

Andy told us the story of Mont Blanc, who having established a reputation for making the finest pens on the planet, their CEO decided to run a strategic review of their business. Having looked at their current sales and projected these out over the next 10 years they have realised that in the future they will sell more watches than they will sell pens. They now know they are a luxury goods brand not just a maker of fine pens!

So, what does your organisation stand for today? And what might it stand for tomorrow? Are you prepared and equipped to think the unthinkable? Andy then told us about a fashion business formed in Johannesburg in 1999 by Wandi Nzimande and Sechaba Mogale, Loxion Kulca (street slang for “Location Culture”). This has become a fast growing and iconic business in South Africa. Loxion Kulca started off with a few young men selling anything they could at the roadside ranging from mobile phone chargers to books to calculators etc. Whilst they sold well, the fastest selling items were the home crocheted skull caps and beanies all the team members wore! Many drivers on impulse made offers for these unique hats and before you knew it they had formed a business that has built a reputation for innovation and cutting edge fashion! It is really important to understand what you are great at because invariably this will underpin your brand and if you really don’t know, ask your customers because they definitely will.


Happy was dynamic, challenging but most of all inspiring. He gave us some simple but compelling rules about brands:

  • "you don’t own the brand – the customer does"
  • "the day you stop listening is the day you start to lose touch with your brand"

Happy went on to share with us that perhaps some of his best learning has come from the mistakes he has made, his humility shone brightly throughout his inspired talk. One particular story really stood out in all of our minds. Prior to joining Absa Happy was involved in a large marketing campaign which used a word that a particular Kwazulu Chief and his followers in Durban found derogatory. Whenever the word was uttered, they had to stand up. So whenever this advertising campaign appeared on TV or radio this poor chief and his followers had to stop whatever they were doing and stand up.

When this was brought to Happy’s attention he was sorely embarrassed and met up with the Chief in person, apologised most profusely and changed the campaign. Another huge lesson learned. Remember to always listen to feedback and to fail as fast as you can.


Yvonne believes she has the best job in South Africa; it is her responsibility to re-brand her homeland. Yvonne has had an impressive career with outstanding credentials in the advertising and marketing industry. She always believed there was a significant and essential piece of work to be done in communicating what the new South Africa really stands for.

Whilst lobbying hard for this role to be created she dreamed of being appointed CEO but realistically she never believed it could happen. Amazingly she was approached and interviewed by a panel but then heard nothing for six months. Well, at least she had tried. Out of the blue she was called and told that she’d got the job and believe you me she and South Africa have never looked back.

Yvonne went on to share some of the highlights of the work that IMC have achieved in recent time. There were some unforgettable video clips and a most moving story of Justice Bekebeke along with the footage of his story. There is no way we could even attempt to abridge it or edit it so please to read the full story, please read it all, it will inspire you forever.

With the 2010 World Cup getting closer by the day Yvonne and her team have a tremendous challenge in educating a sadly ignorant world on the beauties of this wonderful country. With her passion and energy we have no doubts that she will achieve this.

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It was very clear that both Yvonne and Happy are in love with their jobs and it became increasingly clear that without that love they could not deliver the necessary passion for their chosen brands.

Here is a flavour of a few of the questions and answers from a brilliant evening:

Andy: “Is there a link between the behaviour of the leader and the brand?”

Happy: “At Coca-cola the leader is never the essential ingredient – the brand is.”

Yvonne: “At Virgin the opposite is true Branson IS bigger than the brand!

Andy: “How have you handled getting it wrong?”

Happy: “We have got it wrong on numerous occasions – as a leader you must keep looking forward as the moment you look behind you will find that your ‘back’s to the future’”.

Yvonne: “You have to be prepared to make mistakes – and treat each one as your biggest learning opportunity”.

Andy: “As brand thought leaders, what leadership ingredients are essential?”

Happy and Yvonne:

“Courage” “Keep listening” “Don’t get too clever” “Don’t lose your audience!”

Andy left us with the straightforward challenge of being absolutely clear on what we stand for, because if we do not know – why should anyone want to connect with us?

"Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life" – Confucius

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