“Knowledge is power,” former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan observed. “Information is liberating, education is the premise of progress in every society.”
In today’s society, these words are not entirely accurate. Each day we are bombarded with an avalanche of information. The widespread adoption of social media platforms and the growth of smart applications have generated an unprecedented amount of data that has not been previously witnessed in the history of humanity.
Often, we are buried under a mountain of information, which ultimately enslaves human aspiration and potential.
One of the biggest challenges facing many companies is how to distinguish themselves amid the clutter and the deafening cacophony. Correspondingly, consumers have found it increasingly difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff in an era where communication and broadcasting has been decentralised and democratised, and where reputations can be built and ruined by the click of a button.
The excessive glut of information coupled with the fragility of reputation is one of the reasons why effective reputation management and brand marketing services have become more pronounced.
“It is precisely for these reasons that The Allure Group (TAG) was founded on the premise of being deliberate in building equity value for our clients. TAG is a purpose-driven group of companies that strategically leverages the building blocks of corporate communication to build brands, ensure that its clients can differentiate themselves in the crowded marketplace and enhance their reputation,” says Bonnke Shipalana, co-Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer of TAG.
Shipalana co-founded TAG with Caroline Dube, a seasoned events management consultant who has provided services to leading entities such as IBM and the South African Revenue Services (SARS).
“We fully understand that strong brands are founded and grown on purpose, marketed on emotions or functionality, and sold on fulfilment. It’s our speciality, crafting innovative and engaging communication platforms which enable a deeper connection with the targeted audience.
“We take pride in designing communication tools that deliver our clients message in a memorable, meaningful, and effective manner,” says Shipalana.
His passion for reputation management is different: he believes that the founding principles of TAG should mirror and be anchored by the founder’s life purpose. These values are not only superficial platitudes, Shipalana explains.
The reputation management company and its predecessor, The Communications Firm, have gained an unassailable reputation as an agency that spawned the successful building of local brands and services, both in the public and private sector.
“Our philosophy that human understanding is the true and real power in engaging with customers is what we eat, sleep, and breathe. Our profound desire to learn about human needs and wants, is the main differentiator that sets us apart and unlocks the potential of our organisation, resulting in enriched and unique solutions for our clients,” says Shipalana.
Many people may be inclined to dismiss this approach as bumper-sticker philosophy that does not have practical everyday application.
However, Shipalana disagrees. He points out that carving a niche in the public relations and event management sector over the last 16 years can be attributed to successfully growing brands equity, underpinned by TAG’s brand ethos.
“It is the same raison d’etre that has enabled us to work as project leaders with some of the leading private and public sector brands such as MTN, South African Police Services (SAPS), South African Reserve Bank (SARB), SARS, African Bank, Barloworld, Development Bank of Southern Africa, Engen, Shoprite, Department of Education, Republic of Ivory Coast, and Ithuba to name a few.
“It's the same ‘why’ that has opened doors for us to work in multi-cultural teams beyond the country’s borders by successfully hosting several conferences outside the African continent. Our purpose-driven ethos has always been our brand promise to clients,” says Shipalana.
A qualified economist from the Nelson Mandela University (formally known as the University of Port Elizabeth), he believes that there is still exponential space for communicators to discover the emotional connectors between brands and their audience.
He notes that the quest to be influential while compromising on the impact of the message, has derailed the growth of communication sector.
“Our goal as an agency is to support brands in designing messaging and methods on how to effectively communicate with potential audiences. Brand awareness can easily be achieved if a brand has unlimited budget, but creating relevance requires immersing yourself in a brand, understanding what makes it tick, developing an intimate understanding of its emotional equity in the market and developing tailored solutions that advance its strategic objectives.
“The discernment to sift through mountains of information, compartmentalise and process it to be available to the right people at the right time for informed decision making, is what will set effective agencies apart from the rest in this information age. Information that is there for the sake of it is a burden and not a blessing,” says Shipalana.
There is no doubt that TAG’s purpose driven approach is not only limited to growing brands, but also in changing people’s lives. Through Olimoflo, a subsidiary of TAG, the company has launched a bursary scheme that covers commuting expenses of students facing financial hardship from their rural homesteads to university campuses.
The financial assistance is provided based on the merits of each case and each application for financial assistance will be assessed on a needs basis.
This initiative, which is known as Standing the Gap, is only open to students who are based in Limpopo and Mpumalanga who are studying at accredited institutions of higher learning anywhere in South Africa. This is borne out by the fact that there are little to no institutions of higher education in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
True to his pastime of motivational speaking, Shipalana challenges readers to ask themselves what the world would have missed out on if they were not born. “An honest answer to that question will go a long way to define your life purpose.
“At TAG, the founders have been deliberate in infusing their life purpose into the DNA of the group: to create a companies that incubates future leaders, that are passionate about their work, that are a catalyst of positive change and that will contribute meaningfully to the growth of their clients and the industry,” Shipalana adds.