Pulse People: Caren Rotich, Head, Pulse Studio, Pulse Kenya.

The Third edition of Pulse People is here! This time, we’re talking to Caren Rotich. From intern to Head of Pulse Studio in Kenya, Caren Rotich shares her interesting career journey with us and gives us a peep into how she spends her free time, and what inspires her.

Tell us about your background:

I used to love journalism. I wanted to do it on campus (in university). I got into the campus for journalism and I found myself more interested in reporting, writing, and editing. 

So after school, where did you work?

Pulse actually is my first place of full employment, but I’ve interned at different media companies in Nairobi in different roles. My first internship was radio reporting and partly a bit of TV and news reporting, and also some video production (sometime around 2014). And then I went back to campus to do my Bachelors (around 2016) and got into Pulse straight after campus in 2019. 

Tell me about your role at Pulse.

At Pulse currently, my role is Head of Pulse Studio at Pulse Kenya. My job basically is to manage all our client projects from concept to screen, making sure that what we execute as a studio meets and exceeds the clients’ expectations. So basically managing all that, and also budgeting for Pulse Studio, whatever is needed for success in everything that we execute for our clients. I am also involved in the production of all Pulse studio client projects, making sure that my team; Pulse studio (A big shout out to them for the good work they do every day) have a good working environment and a good working relationship with other team members, coming up with video strategy recommendations (On this I have to work closely with operations, sales and even social) for what’s best for our client videos. This is much of what I do on a daily basis. I still do scripting for our client projects.

You have just launched a new studio building for Pulse Studio in Kenya. Can you tell me about that?

Oh yeah, it’s interesting. I’m very excited about it. Currently, I am in charge of it, but moving forward we hope to get someone who is going to help us manage the studio. It’s quite a big space, and we’re hopeful that we’re going to do so much more in that space. So far we’ve done two client executions in our studio. The first TVC (television commercial) has been completed there for Skygarden, an interesting shoot, and I can’t wait for you guys to see it. We also did the first social experiment there for a client (Diageo). It was quite interesting; we had the best cast, and I just can’t wait to see more client executions that are to be done in that space.

So what’s Nairobi like?

This (July) is one of the coldest months in Nairobi. It’s freezing! We even have heaters in the office. But actually, it’s a good place to live, an interesting place to be. You get to learn different things every day. 

I’m just from the countryside, and it’s so warm there. But coming into Nairobi, it’s different. It can also get warm sometimes. The weather is a bit unpredictable.

Tell me about your journey into Pulse.

My career journey into Pulse is interesting. I came in straight after campus in 2019. I just saw a vacancy online. I was one of the student leaders on campus, and we still had our WhatsApp group. One of our lecturers just posted about an internship at Pulse. So, having nothing to do after campus (I hadn’t figured out where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do), I was like, let me just make this application for this internship. If I get it, I can go do some interesting stuff there. So I made the application, and then visited Pulse’s pages on Facebook and Instagram, then I got more interested. It looked like a great place to work, and do great stuff. I had started noticing that digital media was the upcoming trend.

So I got really interested and started praying that I would get the opportunity to join. On January 6, I got an email and a call to join, and I started my internship on the 9th of January. I remember the date because it was a big moment for me. I joined to do video editing for Wochit videos (Wochit videos are a type of video format used in Pulse Kenya at that time) and scriptwriting for News and Lifestyle. I was then retasked with client scripts, so I was handling internal lifestyle and news scripts and at the same time working on client scripts. Slowly I also moved into client Wochits as well. 

After my internship was concluded, I was confirmed as the first scriptwriter at Pulse Kenya. I did more of the client scripting as well as more client Wochit videos and less internal script work. I did that all through till around October 2020 when I got promoted to Project Manager/scriptwriter, where, with the team, I managed to pull off one of the first TVCs (television commercial) that we did (for Golden Africa). I managed the project so well that I got nominated for the Employee of the Month once we completed the project. (All thanks to the team that was involved in the shoot)

In February this year, I got promoted to the role of Head, Pulse Studio. It has been a very interesting journey, and I’m just grateful to the team that saw my potential and much of what I can do and challenged me to take up the role. I remember when I was given the role. I spoke to Leonie (former MD, Pulse Kenya) and told her I was not sure I would be able to manage everything tasked to me, but she had so much faith in me, and she kept encouraging me, talking through every project with me.

What is your inspiration for work?

I’m one person who is inspired by a variety of things. I think what inspires me at Pulse is the team spirit and the culture that we have. We have a culture whereby when you have a challenge or a concern, and you reach out to any colleague at Pulse, at no point will they turn you down. They’ll sit down with you and figure out a solution to what you want to achieve, and you’ll leave there satisfied. You won’t be shy to reach out to people, and you’ll not hold back your ideas, and it’s easier working in such an environment.

Also, Pulse gives you the freedom to be you, and they accept you as you are. That kind of spirit is what inspires me daily, and also being able to know that I am tasked with a team, and part of my responsibility is to manage them, to help them grow, and help them become better in their fields. This is also what keeps me going. (Shout out to the team for the great work that they do)

I am also inspired by different people whose passion I look to. An example of this is someone called Dr. Nancy Booker. She was my lecturer. She’s just done so much in the field of journalism and has now moved into digital media. I look up to her a lot. 

What do you do when you’re not on the clock?

I am one bad introvert (lol). When I’m not at work, I’m probably at my house reading. I do love reading a lot, and I read more novels. I’m not very interested in movies, but it’s something I’m trying to love. Most of the time I’m either reading something or cooking something new, trying out a new recipe. I love doing that. Also, I love going on road trips with my closest friends, outside Nairobi. So those are the three main things I love doing when I’m not at work. When I’m not working I try as much as possible to avoid social media and clear my head with other interesting stuff. 

Youth Consumer Behaviour in Africa: Our Learnings

In 2015, there were 226 million youth (people aged between 15 and 24) in Africa, making up 19% of youth globally. By 2030, 42% of young people worldwide will be from Africa [UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs]. This means that Africa will have about 500 million young people by 2030, not accounting for normal global population growth. Currently, 60% of Africa’s population is under 25, making it the youngest continent in the world in relation to its population [Quartz]. 

To ensure marketing campaigns targeting under 30 year olds are impactful, it is crucial to understand who the youth really are, what their thoughts are, and perhaps most importantly, what factors contribute to their buying decisions. 

With our focus on informing, engaging, and impacting the lives of young people both through our media and the marketing campaigns we execute for our clients, we are at the front seat when it comes to understanding and creating impactful content for young people. Here are some key insights we have gathered about their interests and behaviour.  

1. The internet and social media are their primary source of information and content consumption

While internet penetration across the continent is rapidly growing, the internet and specifically social media have become the main source of information and content consumption for young people who access it. A street survey across Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya with over 2,000 respondents of under 30 year olds, showed that social media is the main touchpoint for news and content consumption for a majority of them. This also fits with the social media consumption patterns reported by We Are Social & Hootsuite’s yearly State of Digital report with social media users from Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya spending over 3h daily on social media on average, compared to a global average of 2h25. 

Our findings also show that they want content that is quick to consume and gets straight to the point. Many users drop off watching or reading content as soon as they are less engaged. In terms of format, video is by far the preferred medium for young users. 

Here is what some young Lagosians had to say about social media:

2. A youth with ambition and aspirations

When it comes to saving and spending behaviour of young people, a notable trait is that they are aspiring to secure financial safety in an overall difficult economic context. Many young people dare to dream big and set ambitious financial goals for themselves. 

This means that while being cost-conscious, there is a rapidly growing market for products (and campaigns) that appeal to the aspirations and goals of the youth. Excluding South Africa, a growing middle class in Sub-Saharan Africa is spending over $400 million per day [Google]

But young people are also saving for the future. A survey run by our team in Ghana revealed that 80% of under 30 year olds have a saving goal they are working towards.

We asked Lagosians about their saving goals, here is what they had to say:

3. Marketing that resonates with young people

To capture this growing market, brands that have powerful storytelling and are capable of building communities around their products are in a strong position. Users having grown up with the rise of digital expect to be able to interact and associate with their favourite brands online.

When creating content strategies and campaigns, we craft them around three key storytelling principles that are crucial to engage young users: 

  • they should touch their emotions
  • users should be able identify with the stories told
  • the content created should add value by giving valuable information to users

Here are some marketing campaigns that stood out to the young people we asked in Lagos:

4. Online shopping is gaining traction

Young users are increasingly open to purchasing products online. These purchases are however for the most part limited to small ticket items, as trust is relatively low and users are not willing to risk large amounts on products they cannot test or see in person before buying. 

An area we are seeing strong growth in is social media shopping. The number of products being sold on platforms such as Instagram and the number of sellers on these platforms is rapidly increasing. We have identified the following three reasons for this emergence:

  • Setting up a social media page and starting to sell is incredibly easy: platforms are making it easy to set up an account, run very targeted ads for low amounts of money, and services such as Flutterwave store and Paystack storefront enable businesses to create an online shop with payment integration in minutes
  • Social media’s community aspect ensures that good products get trusted recommendations and reviews that other buyers can rely on. Every person recommending a product becomes a micro-influencer for the brand it supports.  
  • Social media platforms make it incredibly easy and cheap to create visually appealing and relatable content that gives a good idea about the products and sellers – from videos showing product use cases to pictures of the business and team behind the product.

Here is what our respondents in Lagos had to say about buying products on Instagram:

To conclude, we believe that the consumption preferences and interests young people display across Africa are not only an indicator of what is to come but are also key insights to already take into account when planning campaigns that should speak to a large audience. With our channels, we have a direct touchpoint with millions of young people every day across Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Sénégal. We use this to draw insights and recommendations that inform the marketing campaigns we run for our partners. If you are looking for a partner to support your next marketing campaign, reach out to us here.

Pulse People: Eben Nana Yaw Berima Kwao, Head, Commercial Video, Pulse Ghana.

Welcome to another edition of Pulse People, where we talk to Pulse team members in all our markets, highlighting their career journey to Pulse, their growth within the company, and other interesting bits about them, when they’re not on the clock. 

Today, we’re speaking to Nana, Head of Commercial Video at Pulse Ghana. From fine art in secondary school to graphic design, motion graphics design, and a full career in video production and cinematography, Nana’s journey paints the picture of a creative person whose curiosity has brought him closer and closer to the camera. 

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’ve always been a creative person. I started my media career as a graphic designer actually. But I often got frustrated when I would hand off designs and the animators would translate my designs and mockups differently from how I had envisioned it. I would do a mockup or a storyboard for a project and by the time it was presented, it would be different from what I originally had in mind. So I got curious about the process, and I moved from still graphic design into motion design. And then in motion design, I ran into the same frustrations with cinematographers and directors. So my journey has really been fuelled by my curiosity, and with each step I was looking for more control of the final result, eventually coming closer and closer to the capturing of content in video. 

And before graphic design?

I did fine art (or what you would call graphic art) in secondary school and won a scholarship to study a diploma in design, and from this diploma, I went on to film school. 

You’ve worked at Pulse before. Tell us about that

Yes. I joined Pulse in early 2014 when it was actually not yet Pulse. It was AllSports at the time. We had AllSports and then we also had Tissu.com.gh, an eCommerce brand, both businesses under Ringier at the time. So that was when I joined. And then in 2015, we transitioned into Pulse. I was actually part of the core setup team for Pulse. I actually came in as a camera person for AllSports, and by the time I was leaving, I was Head of Pulse TV. I was responsible for everything video (at this time social video and commercial video were not yet separated). I left in November 2016. 

Tell us about your current role at Pulse.

Honestly, I like to think that not a lot has changed. To put it plainly, I am still producing videos. That’s still my core task at Pulse. The business’s structure has changed a little, and there is more specialization now. We’re producing our own video content now, and also serving clients with their video needs. 

I’m also looking forward to doing a lot of partnerships. Because of my diverse experience with different industries, I kind of have ideas around some of the problems these industries have, and how Pulse can come in to solve these problems. I would not have been able to approach some of the companies and businesses with these solutions as a freelancer for instance, but we can have these conversations now, and it is much easier for these partnerships to be signed. 

An advantage of having worked here before is that the conversations I need to have internally are much more fluid since I’m already quite familiar with most of the leaders. 

What do you do on a typical day?

Typically, as you would expect, a lot of us creatives find it difficult to conform to norms and so forth. I missed a lot of meetings in my first few days, and I had to figure out a way to stay ahead of that. I now have an NFC sticker on my table such that as soon as I get in, and drop my mobile on it, my calendar for the day pops up. This is typically how the day begins for me, a way to ensure I do not miss any other meetings. I use this to plan my to-do and schedule my activities around those meeting times. I do a lot of ideating, of course, and shooting happens almost every day. I came in as we were about to sign a big client, and immediately got to work on that. Initially, I had to also be the project manager for most of the work the video team was doing, but now we have a Project Manager, and because of her, I have some free time now. 

I also keep an open-door policy.

Tell us about the decision to come back to Pulse?

I’ll say it’s a lot of sweet-talking from Katharina (MD Pulse Ghana). What the structure is right now, is actually something I had pushed for before. Now, we have social video separate from commercial video and handled by separate teams. I was attracted by the clarity and separation of work. It’s exactly how I’ve always wanted the structure to be. I was excited about coming back to the video team that I helped build. It’s a great feeling. I was also motivated by the new direction I’ve seen, and the new business focus. I’m hoping it stays like that.

How has working at Pulse impacted you?

Pulse has helped me build a strong portfolio in this one medium (video). Pulse has helped me focus on that and build it. Now I have a solid career path in video. If I did not work at Pulse, I may not have focused exclusively on it for the length of time that I have. 

What’s your personal inspiration for work?

It’s just the idea of creating something. It sounds cliche, but it actually is the truth. I love creating something that is tangible and can be appreciated by others. I take that client’s idea, and then make it tangible, and offer it back to the client. If I was not doing video, I would be creating something else. It’s just the idea of creating, regardless of the medium. And of course, the need to make a living. 🙂

How do you spend your free time?

Omo, I still create anyway. 😀

I like to help people, to fix things. Any problem I can solve creatively, I would do that. I’m also very very handy, working with wood, making furniture and so on. It could be me using my power tools or sketching an app idea or something. I also have a hydroponic farm. I’ll just always be found building and making things.

Pulse People: Kelechi Odoemelam, Communications Manager

Welcome to the very first installment of our blog series “Pulse People”. On Pulse People, we will share real stories from Pulse team members in all our markets in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Senegal (with Côte d’Ivoire and Uganda coming up soon), highlighting their career journey to Pulse, their growth within the company, and other interesting bits about them, when they’re not on the clock. 

Today’s post is about Kelechi Odoemelam, Communications Manager at Pulse. Read on!

What is your role at Pulse?

I work as Communications Manager at Pulse. It is my job to showcase and highlight the work that Pulse does internationally to an audience of potential partners. This involves some content creation, social media management, press releases, newsletters, website content design, and some internal communications as well.

What does your typical day look like right now?

On a typical day, I’m creating and sharing content on our corporate platforms and reaching out to colleagues to send in content for the internal bulletin. If I’m on a project at the time, I’m also talking to collaborators and preparing updates. It’s also important to touch base with my colleagues from graphic design and web design to probably share an update or a brief. There’s almost always something I need these guys for. I also sit down with the account management team once in a while to discuss a successful and recently completed project, to get the gist of it so that I can write a compelling case study. By the time this is published, it will be our first edition of Pulse People, and I’m also responsible for that. 

How did you get here? What was your path to your current role?

Well, my background is in Engineering. But I’ve always found myself writing something right from uni. I got into an assistant editor role right after youth service at a small tabloid in Port Harcourt. From there to an advertising agency, an investment banking group, and now Pulse, Africa’s leading innovative media company. 

How did you get into Pulse?

I was looking for other opportunities at the time, and then I got word of the vacancy at Pulse. I sent in my application and then went through two anxious interviews with the decision-makers lol. I really just kept my mind open, and when I got the offer, it was a mix of fear and excitement. You never really know a company is a good fit until you get a taste of the culture.

What inspires you to work every day?

I’m driven by gratitude. I’m grateful to be on a team like Pulse. The one thing that stands out for me is how willing people are to offer help, how flexible the system is, and the fact that it is not a super strict formal environment. Coming from a financial background, it’s easy to understand why I appreciate these things. So I wake up every morning knowing that the team trusts me to deliver on my tasks and that they also support me. In return, I want to put in good work and drive a greater corporate image for the company, a stronger sense of belonging for the teams, and creating conversations with potential partners.

When you’re not working, what are you doing?

My favourite pastime is reading. I’m either reading a novel or a business book or a bunch of articles. Recently, I’ve found that I also enjoy learning new stuff from YouTube.

Pulse Studio showreel – Get in touch for creative/video services for your company!

Check out our new, dedicated Pulse Studio showreel – and get in touch for creative/video services for your company!

Pulse Studio is our brand and content studio: our expert team at Pulse is providing creative strategy, brand development and visual production to clients across Africa.

Pulse has led innovation in the field of video for years: through a strong focus on storytelling and a deep understanding of the target audience, we connect & engage every time. For clients, we produce with international expertise and a large team that is distributed across Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, and Côte d’Ivoire – and we have partners across many other markets. If you need cutting-edge video services in Africa, think no further than Pulse Studio!

Get in touch with us directly to chat about your needs here

What we learned from using TikTok for brand campaigns in Africa

TikTok, the video streaming social network, was already gaining traction around the world before the Covid pandemic. The aftermath of the global lockdown, for this platform, was quite literally an explosion in adoption around the world, including Africa. 

In January 2018, TikTok had about 54 million monthly active users. By January 2021, there were about 689 million TikTok users [Source]. Also, TikTok users spend an average of 850+ minutes per month on the app [Source]. 

When one of our leading clients in Ghana was looking to connect with the Gen-Z demographic, we had been thinking about TikTok for a while already, but now we were sure. 

One major rule of inbound marketing is distribution, and for a Gen Z-focused brand, being where the audience was, meant making a move to TikTok. 

And oh, what a move it was. 

TikTok is new grounds – new in the sense that there was no way of predicting how the response would be, how to hyper-target as we would on Facebook and the likes, or even generally, how to go about it.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube will use words like ‘connect’, ‘community’, ‘communicate’, ‘listen’, ‘share’ which is an idealistic vision for most social media platforms. But with TikTok, their mission statement is clear – to exploit an unadulterated and shameless goal to entertain.

So, what did we learn?

1. No amount of research will prepare you for it

You can read all the articles that tout “how to do TikTok” for brands, but you can’t be ready for how to do TikTok for brands in the West African context. You have to take a deep dive and apply everything you know.

And as I would put it, it’s “either you drink deep or you taste not” on TikTok – a half-baked approach will surely mean wasted efforts and investments.

2. Use the “Creators”, not the supposed “Influencers”

The massive Gen Z demographic on TikTok, grew up being exposed to hundreds of ads a day (and influencer marketing) and therefore are almost immune to them. This is a generation that will engage with content that aligns with their personal interests, and their personal interests alone. The new generation cannot be wooed by fancy videos or sales-y displays. They have a strong radar for almost immediately knowing when they’re being sold to. And if they think they are, they’ll leave.

We learned this the hard way. Our initial foray in the space saw us using “verified” influencers, but the impact was not as strong as it was when we decided to use a “loved creator” to tell our brand story.

3. Be entertaining and let your be brand subtle

On TikTok, users are going to do things differently with your brand. Things you didn’t know could be done with your brand. If you’re a condom brand, your content using the condom as balloons might be your best-performing, if you’re a rice brand, putting a phone in rice might be the break to go viral.

We’ve found that brand-sponsored content typically performs worse, even on popular creators’ profiles, because this particular audience is more aware and unfazed by ads. The aim here would be to create content that is very relatable to your target audience, and somehow find a way to communicate in the story the usefulness of your brand, while entertaining the audience. If you create a TikTok video, collaborating with a creator, and slap your logo at the end, you will get some views. Just don’t expect massive engagement and/or conversion.

4. Focus on your (or a) niche community

Find your little pockets of highly engaged people on TikTok. This is the way to go on a platform that doesn’t promote the mass-communication that you’d see on other popular platforms. 

Normally, one would expect this to mean less reach but a higher engagement rate, but the reach and impression statistics of niche content are phenomenal on TikTok compared to any other platform.

~

TikTok is the place where Gen Z goes to play (right now), so if you have a brand or product focused on this group, that’s a hot tip for you. But remember it’s not easy to keep the attention of the group of people with the shortest attention spans (the average Gen-Z attention span is eight seconds, four seconds less than Millennials. – Sparks & Honey). They are interested in multicultural and diverse subject areas more than any other generation. You have to dig deep. But they are also the most important target group for most brands to engage today. Gen Z is always changing their consumer habits. They soak up the latest and greatest apps, trends, and social platforms making it a consistent race for brands to keep up and innovate first.

As a business in Africa getting into the world of TikTok, understand that it’s not business as usual. On TikTok, you’re not a C-suite marketing executive. You’re a niche creator, deeply passionate about using media to change the world. TikTok says of its platform: 

“Our user-generated content environment creates an atmosphere of authentic discovery. The constantly refreshed For your feed is algorithmically tailored to personal preference, allowing users to spontaneously discover new products – so a new favourite brand or a beloved purchase is only a swipe away.” You can find more insights into how to navigate TikTok as a business in this newly released business guide by TikTok.

Want to find out how TikTok could work for your brand? Let’s get talking here.