In the timeless interview last Thursday, George Andah marketed his primary school Christ the King, marketed Achimota School by downplaying its 'too-known' tag, marketed KNUST as “fantastic”, Guinness Ghana, MTN, everything else - except himself.
He would deflect praise to his marketing team, he would parry off a shot of compliment to his wife, and insist that if he scored a goal, it was because the pass from mentors was perfect – not the finish.
That is because, you could sense during the time, the real George Andah is undergoing a sort of reconstruction himself – and until the road is finished, Bola Ray would have to steer his Joy FM Drive Time with Bola Ray very carefully – Road construction ahead.
George found himself in a family size close to three sets of constituency executives of a political party – 23 siblings- “fairly large” – he understated it.
And so how do you find your place in society when you probably would find it difficult to find a place on the dining table?
This was the opportunity presented to listeners to know the life of a roundly recognised marketing game-changer, a CEO who dyed his beard yellow to demonstrate his passion to make MTN, Ghana's number one telecommunication giant and who is credited for turning the life blood of the entertainment industry to cold, dark Guinness.
A life of trial and error?
George has tried being many things – he wanted to be a vet, studied biochemistry, tried playing policeman in Christ the King, tried to swim, tried hockey, tried tracks, – until he tasted marketing – and drank a whole bottle of it. And George said “ this is good”. You could call putting his finger in every pie, confusion but really, it is not. It is 'feeling' yourself, sizing up your strengths, getting to know this God-given machine called you and when you find the right gear, you drive it fast, feel the breezy pleasure of success.
Sorry, the true background of success is still hardwork
George Andah went to Christ the King International School – a posh school.
George Andah went to Achimota School – an even 'posher' school.
George Andah went to KNUST – much much posher school – if you scrap University of Ghana off the map.
And George was born at Ridge Hospital and lived in Roman Ridge.
So yeah, Mr. Andah really wasn’t a hustler as much as he tried to make his background look average.
He called his Roman Ridge residence, a government bungalow, but well – Roman Ridge is what is it - Roman Ridge, an elitist environment close to the Airport – so not really a wonder that George’s best holiday destination is ‘Dubai’.
He tried again – “ My mother used to prepare some kenkey, and I learnt how to mould balls’. But then again it was in 1983, a time of national famine. So selling 'kenkey' was probably like owning KFC or like biblical Joseph selling grains to hungry Egyptians.
So yeah maybe George might say he didn't really have a silver spoon in his mouth but it sure wasn't a copper one either. But make no mistake- the requirement for success is genderless, 'background-less', privilege-less.
The formula is still and has always been good old passion, diligence, mentorship and a never-ending strife to push yourself over the edge until you have an edge over many.
The biochemist became a marketer during his days at KNUST when as the entertainment chairman, he managed to get Kojo Antwi to do a concert for Republic hall. The SRC then wanted him to do one for the whole school. And so George pulled off a huge concert for the school – except that the tickets were largely unsold but the venue was full.
“The place was full but the account weren't balancing. So they called the internal auditor to sort of the ask what happened. I didn’t have a clue because I wasn't even the one collecting the money. Eventually the people who took the money were found out. That was a bitter experience”
George would move on to work at Guinness Ghana Limited and rose through the ranks Innovation manager, Marketing manager and finally Marketing Director. In his time, Michael Power would come to Ghana to shoot a scene in the movie that became the banner of the alcohol company.
Michael Power was an advertising character, the cornerstone of a large marketing campaign by the beer company Guinness to promote its products in Africa from 1999 to 2006. By 2003, it became one of the most well-known alcohol advertising campaigns in Africa.
George reminisced about the idea behind the Agoo Pool Party with Guinness -something that became an instant hit. In his time, Ghana ranked fifth in the world in the consumption of Guinness Stout, pegging it only behind Ireland, The Americas, Nigeria and the Cameroon.
"Most exciting period of my career"
In 2007, George would move to telecommunication giant MTN and successfully re-branded Areeba as it was then called into Ghana's number one telecommunication company in Ghana.
"As far as my career is concerned probably that was one of my most exciting period of my career. there was a decent budget, there was the freedom to succeed, there was trust in what we were doing, and I guess there was a team that was hungry to succeed, there was leadership that believed in you and of course there was a great brand we could work with..the chances of failing were very very slim".
In the branding of MTN, George Andah would dye his beard yellow- the company's corporate colour, he would get Bola Ray off stage to change his green trousers to yellow and cultivate a 'yellow' movement that captured the minds of consumers. There was an unprecedented "yellowing" of the streets of Ghana, and the launch of MTN Zone, which achieved 29 per cent increase in revenue.
George Andah was awarded the prestigious Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana (CIMG)Best Marketing Practitioner of the year award in 2008 .
"It said George Andah was also instrumental in the success of TV3 Music, Music and Bands Alive, Stars of the Future music reality show on GTV, Metro TV Sport Academy and Charterhouse's Ghana Music Awards and Night of a 1000 laughs, saying that his mark on the marketing industry in Ghana would remain indelible", a statement acknowledging his marketing prowess said.
George would again move on to MTN's rival Airtel in Nigeria and return after a year before landing another CEO job at Globacom. George has had a finger in three major telecommunications networks, moving from one rival to another.
To George, the enemy of my enemy is well, my next job move.
But today, George Andah has settled down in his own company Rudder Solutions, a consultancy firm he established in 2013 to provide Integrated Marketing Solutions to companies.
What is the most romantic move that you have made?
Bola Ray had struck a pact with George to steer off his questions that open cans of all sorts of worms if you like. Questions like "when was your first kiss?", "first girlfriend?" and the really juicy bit about the love lives of great personalities.
And just to make this private pact solid, George says he has funny pictures of Bola Ray's beginnings that could set off a Mutually Assured Destruction of the two, should Bola persist on this truly narrow path.
So after a couple of weak attempts, Bola Ray would move on to talk about his marital life. " How romantic are you?". George revealed he had asked his wife just a month ago," what is the most romantic thing I have done?". To which his wife replied, "if you can't remember, then it means you haven't done anything".
George pins his emotional stiffness to his Fante heritage, "it's not in the blood", he says, but he is trying massages these days - basically rebranding the wife's body in unadvertised details.
Today, Mr. Andah's giant-killing branding adrenaline has ebbed a little.
He came, he saw he conquered and after reaching that dizzy height of success, George says he prefers to spend more time with family.
Mr. George Andah has for most of his life now, branded the networks you call or receive calls from but there is no need to re-brand your family. You are accepted.
"Now I spend a bit more time with my family..unless am really motivated to go out there" and he has cut back on an exhausting night life. And he goes for a haircut with his kids too.
That is the reconstruction going on nowadays.
And you would think that after changing the 'face' of great companies, for being the face behind powerful brands, George Andah's stony countenance would be a lot easier to change.
"Some people think am arrogant, Some people think I always have a frown on my face. I tell people that listen, my face is hard. That's is how it is. It is in the family. We don't have hands-on faces. So please if you see and my face is hard, don't think that I have squeezed my face. that's the way it is".
For that, everybody within his circle would have to live with it.
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