Elizabeth Oputa speaks on becoming the Manager of Champagne and wine brand, LVMH, Moët Hennessy
Being a woman in a corporate world can be daunting, not because of efficiency, but because being a woman comes with a series of subtle activities undermining her abilities.
With over 15 years building brands, skillfully handling these gender-based challenges and growing in the PR profession, Elizabeth Oputa takes us through her journey of becoming the Manager of Champagne and wine brand, LVMH, Moët Hennessy.
She also talks about breaking through corporate and societal expectations and the importance of not just dreaming but surrounding yourself with enablers that can help you see your dream to reality.
What stirred your interest in brands?
It started with a career day in high school, where people of various professions came to the school and talked to us about their careers. A woman that worked in advertising spoke to my group and gave us all just one assignment. She had clippings from a magazine, and each cutting had a particular product on it. She distributed them to the class, and we all had to come up with a slogan for the product. When I presented to the class the slogan I came up with, it was the best one. The course went crazy. I remember having this good feeling. I enjoyed the process and the level of creativity it took, and I knew from that point that marketing was what I wanted to pursue.
What has working for Moet been like for you?
Overall, working on this brand has been amazing. Naturally, every great opportunity will come with its challenges. My first challenge was getting to know the landscape. I don’t have the advantage of being born and raised here in Nigeria, so, when I moved here, I had to act quickly to understand the market and consumers. Being able to generate buzz around brands in new and fresh ways is a massive win for me. My most significant success, however, is the opportunity to serve as a role model for a group of people who are looking to grow professionally. Women sometimes feel like there are some jobs and opportunities that are entirely out of their reach, mainly because they are female. For them, not only do they see me in a predominantly male-dominated industry, but also I have been able to come in and use my expertise and strengths to make a difference. A lot of women have reached out to me, expressing what my progress meant to them. For me, it’s a huge win for anyone that’s coming up after me to know what I’m doing and be inspired to do much more.
As a woman, how does it feel like working for a perceived masculine brand like Moet?
I think the beauty of what I’ve done; what I studied is that I can pretty much work for a brand, whether its male or female-perceived. The exciting thing for me is always diving into the mindset of the consumer. It has been exciting tapping into the minds of the male consumer, and understanding what happens in there; in fact, I’ve learned a lot about our male counterparts.
Have you ever been in a situation where people undermine you because of your gender?
All the time! And I would be surprised to find a woman in business for which that is not the case. It bothered me at first, but now I’ve learned to take two approaches to the matter. First one is, don’t focus on the negative side of this because it can be derailing, but then it’s easier said than done. The second approach is to think of a bigger picture. ‘Stand out in ways that are unique to you only.’ There’s strength in being a woman, and it gives us an advantage. And no, I’m not referring to sex. I’m referring to specific soft skills and other things that make me, who I am.
As a PR professional with years in the industry local and international, what do you think about the practice here in Nigeria, and how can it be improved?
There are differences between what I know to be the structure here versus abroad, but I wouldn’t say one needs to improve over the other. Generally, I can see a “right now” mentality in the structure of some companies in Nigeria. The inclination to solve problems present now and not plan for those that may arise months or years down the line. Future planning is essential, and when building a PR strategy, it’s vital to draw up a plan for the next 3 – 5 years. It allows you to have an approach that’s more deep-rooted in the brand as opposed to one that veers every time something comes up, even if it’s not on strategy.
As a young woman winning in her career, have you ever felt the need to conform to some societal expectations?
Conformity leads to complacency, which clouds my creativity; thus, making me unsuccessful in my job. We do not live in a society where a woman can have it all and do it all, unfortunately. That said, I strive to rise above what others expect of me.
What’s your greatest fear as a woman?
My greatest fear is not living my life to my highest potential; not fulfilling my destiny. I don’t want to look back one day and realize I settled for mediocrity because I was too afraid to go after my passion.
What is your passion?
I’m passionate about creativity and anything surrounding that which can include, but not limited to production and styling. I love ideating and executing ideas and adding a little touch of magic to what people would typically expect.
What would you tell young girls looking to follow your path but confused on how to start?
Figure out what it is that you’re passionate about, then start building your network of people who can help to guide you in making your talent in that area. It will include people in the industry who have been successful in doing what you’re looking to do. If it’s in your heart, don’t neglect it. It’ there for a reason. Also, pay it forward. You will eventually get there and, when you do, don’t forget those coming up after you; be kind and encouraging always. We have enough against us, so, as women, it’s important to stick together.