Personal Brand awareness leads to Professional Brand SuccessBrand Professional, Tanita Sandhu, stresses the importance of constant self evaluation, accepting change as a constant and a commitment to making the world a better place – as her measure of professional and personal success
It could have been very different … Tanita Sandhu’s childhood dream was to own a pet shop at home in California, and later consideration was given to a career in law.
But, assessing her strengths, it was apparent to the Singapore-born, US raised teenager that people and cultures were her passion, leading her to opt for a degree course in communications and journalism.
A true citizen of the world, Tanita initially worked in Singapore after being spotted when organising an event for Edelman, a Public Relations Agency, and she later moved across to the communications sector to become director of public relations, with clients ranging from Four Seasons to HP, Visa International and Kia Motors.
The corporate world then beckoned and she moved from the agency world to join a then upcoming French based technology company. The company then called Gemplus, now called Gemalto allowed Tanita to truly learn the art of marketing and branding from a global perspective, as she first worked with them in Singapore, then France and was relocated to San Francisco as VP of global public relations and corporate marketing. This role ignited a keen interest in branding and eventually led her to Dubai where she was executive director at The Brand Union with clients including Mubadala, the Saudi Monetary Authority, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, Emaar and Al Hili Bank to name a few.
Spearheading the rebranding of the Majid Al Futtaim group has been among her recent achievements, followed by a spell as executive director of marketing with the Dubai Design District(d3), where she oversaw the initial branding, marketing and communications with the formal opening of the d3 brand to the wider community to underpin the free zone’s role as the heart of the region’s design scene.
Married with two children herself, she credits her mother as her greatest inspiration: “Although I did not live with her, I got to know her during my formative years and realised that she is an incredibly strong woman, overcoming incredible odds which included losing her oldest son to a tragic accident at 17, all the while raising five other children and always taking things in her stride with humour and compassion.”
Fluent in English, Malay and Indonesian, Tanita’s background and education has helped develop a strong multi cultural vision that sits well with the 21st century move to globalisation as well as the increased spotlight on branding in the corporate world.
“With more than 20 years’ experience in global marketing and PR in the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, my key strength is mapping growth strategies for brands in emerging markets,” she said. “For instance, for the Dubai Design District – known as d3 – this meant introducing the brand to the world as a creative home for design, luxury and fashion brands as well as a community dedicated to the nurture of emerging local talent,” she explains.
“Dubai truly works as a melting pot of culture and ideas and the city infused my overarching brand and marketing strategy there, which aimed to position d3 as a hub for creativity and design in the Middle East.”
With experience in rebranding for icons – including a brand repositioning exercise for Emaar’s Burj Khalifa – Tanita brings more than her own considerable talent for communications to the mix, firmly believing in the power of collaborative and consensus building to flesh out ideas.
“Working with a team to galvanise everyone to execute and to influence across all levels and functions of an organisation is key – and living in the Middle East has honed and nurtured these skills,” she says.
”I particularly value immersion in brand development as a core strength as everyone has to become a brand ambassador to some degree – and the sooner this immersion happens, the easier it is for brand talk to become the brand walk.”
Reverting to that early passion for pets, Tanita also firmly believes in the value of community service – the latterly tagged CSR – as a vital tool in corporate practice, adding in this element to any brand where she can.
And her words of wisdom for those entering the corporate world today? Make use of friends and contacts, but keep them at arm’s length.
“It was on the recommendation of a friend that I first made the move in to communications through work on a product launch, so my advice would be to work your networks as you will find that people are nearly always ready to help.”
Informality, brand engagement and reaching out to every member of a team are her benchmarks, while in her spare time, Tanita is a social activist working with the UN Women, an entity for gender equality and empowerment of women, is an avid reader and hiker, as well as enjoying fusion cookery, world music.
When asked what is the biggest challenge for being a professional woman, she answered, “The biggest challenge for me to being a professional woman is to be measured by my achievement, not gender.”