Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Towards the end of 2016, Michelle Combrinck, CEO and founder of the Zinto Marketing Group, launched the Zenzele Educational Doorway, a Seta-accredited brand ambassador training & incubation centre for future brand ambassadors and client service professionals.

Zenzele means “do it for yourself” in isiXhosa. It is a is fitting name when one considers the growing need for SA’s youth to seek job opportunities actively as unemployment reaches crisis proportions, particularly within this market.

Combrinck, who has long been passionate about creating employment opportunities for the youth market, believes initiatives such as Zenzele are increasingly valuable. SA’s education system is failing much of our youth, she believes, and most learners leave school with a subpar education and none of the skills, tools or abilities needed to compete for the few jobs available. Added to this is the high rate of unemployment, and while government is working to create projects that will address the problem, Zenzele and other similar initiatives work to bridge the gap by providing alternative training and education for underresourced youth who would not otherwise have the means to further their education. 

It’s a win for the industry too – Combrinck points out that experiential communication is a powerful way of engaging consumers. Young people working as promoters and brand ambassadors glean significant insight into the world of consumers, not to mention acquiring sales skills that will serve them in years to come.

“Over the years, we have identified a gap in the market for professional marketers we can recruit in the townships. These areas are full of talented individuals hoping to earn an income but without the theoretical and practical applications of sales and marketing. This is where Zenzele comes in, training them to become good brand ambassadors and marketing professionals.”

Combrinck’s idea of what makes a good brand ambassador goes back to the definition what a brand ambassador is. “In the SA market place, this term is used very loosely and can describe anything from an in-store promoter to a brand advocate. Using the term in this way dilutes what it stands for, however. Any web search will define what the essence of a brand ambassador is – being someone who is passionate about the brand he or she represents,” she says.

As to whether an in-store promoter is a brand ambassador or not, Combrinck believes that to become a true brand ambassador one must know everything there is to know about the brand, subscribing to its values and being passionate enough to continue to talk about that brand long after a promotion is over. Passion is the primary ingredient, but a good brand ambassador also has a combination of sound understanding of the brand as well as insight into marketing and sales. The most important ability is connecting with the brand audience and creating and maintaining an ongoing relationship with the consumer – which is what will ideally translate into ongoing sales.

Consumers, she says, don’t want to hear about how great a brand is from a faceless corporate marketing department, but if the brand’s story filters down from a person they like and trust, it becomes a different story.

This year, Zenzele will open its doors to new learners, offering a Seta-accredited course that will be available free of charge to students accepted for the 2017 programme.

The big take-out: Zinto’s Michelle Combrinck has launched Zenzele, a Seta-accredited training course for brand ambassadors and client service professionals.

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