How I Rebranded Cross Rivers State – Charles Otudor | Independent Newspapers Limited
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How I Rebranded Cross Rivers State – Charles Otudor

Posted: Apr 30, 2016 at 7:00 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

My Father’s Death When I Was 13 Aided My Maturity

Hazeez Balogun – Lagos


Charles Otudor is a popular face in the business world, but there is always something mysterious about him. He used to spot long dreads which are usually a ‘no no’ in his line of work, and later he cut the whole thing off.  He invited Hazeez Balogun to his Lagos home recently. From stepping into his living room, one can instantly tell what his number one passion is, Art!

The place is filled with paintings of his image and other pictures. This reveals a little about him. He showed off his numerous artworks one of which is a priceless elephant’s hide, carrying bag that is over 150 years old. The bag is not as surprising as its content – A huge break-away antique riffle gun.

But in the course of the interview, he was more on his work and his biggest achievement which was rebranding a whole State: turning Cross Rivers from a civil servant state to a tourism driven state.


 charles 2


Why did you keep a long hair and later cut it off?

Growing and keeping my hair was a covenant between me and my maker. It had to be cut at the right time to fulfill the prophesy. It would grow again. Soon.

Away from your work, where did you grow up?

I grew up in Lagos but I was born in Port Harcourt. My father was a soldier, a fantastic man. He was quiet and was also with his books. I have taken after him. I also invest in books myself. He was so much in love with my mum. They never fought for once. He never shouted at you, he’ll simply beat you.

Were you a stubborn child? You look like someone who would be stubborn as a kid.

To disappoint you, I was not, but I had a brother who was stubborn. I was my father’s friend. We went everywhere together. He died when I was thirteen so I had to grow up fast. I had a fantastic youth. I went to military schools. I went to University of Jos.

Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur?

I had always wanted to work for myself. I got a job to work with an airline part-time. I see opportunities in every situation. There is never impossibility for me. Believe it or not, I started ADSTRAT with N32,000 that I saved up. Today see where we are.

What is the 02genated you are promoting these days?

It simply means Oxygenated and it is our method of branding. It has been on for the past 15 years. If we want to add life to an existing brand we call it re-oxygenation, if it is a new brand we call it oxygenation. It is our own methodology. It is registered and trademarked.

When a brand comes to us and they say they have a problem, it could be a market penetration issue, it could be a market perception issue, it could be a distribution issue, it could be the brand identity, or anything the brief says – as a multifaceted consulting firm and we add value beyond what others offer.

You have Adstrat; Is 02genation a branch of your agency?

No, we have three companies in one. We have Adstrat Brand Management Consultant; we have Adstrat Media for advert buying and strategy and we have Adstrat image and event. We have not changed our names, Oxygenated is just our process. Like I said, it is registered.


You also have something called the Ideas Banc, what is it all about?


We ask people who have new ideas that have never been used before to come forward. If they are having problems exposing those ideas they should send us an email. Our work has been based on strategy and innovation. There are companies and agencies that are going through ideas stagnation.


You see a bank initiating a new idea; you see the rest doing the same thing. People don’t seat and go deeper. There are many ideas we get from young people that can solve many problems but there is nobody to help them. These ideas just do not see the light of the day. So we created the Ideas Banc. When you send us an email and we see it is a fantastic idea, we invite you for a meeting and we will sign an MOU with you.

This MOU protect both parties. We then take the idea, chisel it, put it into place. If we are able to sell the idea to a client we will invite you again; let you know how that idea will be utilised. We are also using this to alleviate the poverty issue. We have so many young people out there with ideas and talents and they do not know how to make use of them. Even in our churches and our neighborhood, we see these young people. But nobody is there to help them. This is an opportunity for them to sell what they have.


So which brands have you oxygenated in recent times?

Ah, plenty. We have different clients. Some of the jobs we do for them are not for the media. We also have non-disclosure agreements with clients which do not allow us to just mention their names. There are a few of them that do not mind. In the next few months, I will be at liberty to reveal some names. We have four new projects as well that we will be unveiling.

One of the big highlights in your career is your work in rebranding Cross Rivers State. Tell us about your escapade.

I did not lobby for any job in Cross Rivers; it came to me. Let me tell you the story from the beginning. I was working for Leather World here in Lagos at the time. Based on my work with leather work, we got called by Bevista/Revista, who said they wanted me to work for them as well. One of the Directors of the place was Edem Duke and that was when I met him.

Edem Duke told me that he was the chairman of Calabar Festival Committee and he said he wanted me to add value in terms of sponsorship and branding. While working on that, a friend of mine, Zanube called me. He was the special adviser in charge of the new projects. He said that the governor wants to meet me to handle the branding of the whole Cross Rivers State.

So what values did you add to the state?

Professionalism has only one name, professionalism. We found a state that was perceived as a civil service state for too long. The IGR was very low. We had to create content for the state in terms of identity and also found a strategy that will drive the economy of the state itself. We helped to refocus based on strategies and focus on tourism. We had the strategic modules. We made sure that every ministry was on the same page with us and the focus is not on government funding.

When you go to Jamaica for example, from the airport you will know that you are in a tourist country. Even from the aircraft you will know. So we worked on sensitising the people and the ministries.

We saw opportunities as well in other sectors. We looked at how to brand for example agriculture and make it more sellable and lucrative, how do we brand social welfare? How do we brand public transportation? What platforms do we use to drive these brandings? Those were the things we looked at.

You must have made a lot of money doing these.

I will say we worked.

Some will believe such extensive work is only done to siphon the state’s money. Were you used to siphon state’s funds?

That is wrong. I have never ever been involved in any situation where I was asked to carry money by anybody. You can’t do that with me. I am not that kind of person. Even when I work with people in the private sector, I don’t discuss such. When you start telling me things like that I will walk you out of my office. That is the kind of person I am. I don’t do it.

There are principles. Nobody in this industry will tell you that I gave them a bribe or I received one. When we win a business, we can say thank you on our own terms. Except you are bringing a business. If it is your business, we will sign an MOU and at the end you take your percentage and we take ours.

Is it true that you made so much money that some people close to the government were jealous that you were driving a Hummer around town?

All these are mere rumours. Firstly I have never driven a Hummer in my life. I like American cars but I have never bought a Hummer. Jealousy comes when lazy people seat when there are opportunities. When Donald Duke was there he only used foreigners for projects. But when Liyel Imoke came in, he was serious about using Nigerians. He knows that Nigerians can do these jobs.

The governor never knew me before I was hired to do the job. It was based on our antecedents that we were called. Even the special adviser that called us, called us based on what we have done, our pedigree. When we go above and beyond what the client wants is getting more than what he asked for; he will be happy. I did not earn anything from Cross Rivers than my consulting fees. I focused on my projects and that was all.

What and what did you strategise for Cross Rivers?

We did brand strategies, consulting, creating new ideas, content development for the state and also driving the machinery that drove traffic to the state. The other one was creating Cross Rivers State Signage and Advertising Agency (CRISA) from scratch. It was our idea, we bid for it, we won it and we are still managing it. We were busy working and people were busy talking.

You worked for eight years with Cross Rivers State government. Any regrets? What did you learn in the process?

I grew personally on how to operate with government. I learnt to manage resources better and how to manage multiple streams of income. I manage human resource better now.


Comments (1)

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