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  • Marwa Kaabour

Economies All Over The World Are Driven By Smes And Small Businesses

You have spent over two decades working with agencies and corporates. Tell us about your journey - the challenges you overcame and the lessons you have learned along the way.

I started my career with such award-winning international agencies as Leo Burnett and Impact BBDO. I then moved to the client side, bringing agency-level expertise into my work in marketing and corporate communication. Along the way, I gained experience across multiple industries, including energy, manufacturing, automotive, airlines, banking, FMCGs, F&B, construction, and retail. This versatile background led me to become a nimble marketer; someone who can quickly assess the status quo and project a vision of an achievable future.

The journey has had its peaks and troughs, with a lot of lessons learned. The challenge you face in this field is coming to terms with the accelerated change in customer sentiment and behavior. The COVID pandemic accelerated digital transformation for most industries which meant marketers found themselves in an urgent need to digitise and revisit their entire journey mapping.

From the media standpoint, India is a progressive market, and our understanding is that the UAE is still a controlled market. What have been your learning and/or experiences there?

It’s not a question of progressive versus controlled but rather a question of cultural diversity and differing values. And contrary to what is believed, the UAE is a liberal market when it comes to customer communications. The UAE is home to over 200 nationalities, all which come with their own unique shopping behavior, languages and cultural nuances. Of course, this is in addition to the UAE’s own nationals. We are free to communicate and market to all these groups, provided that our communications are honest, not misleading, and respects all the cultural differences and the overall UAE culture. This ends up with us communicating our campaigns more tactically to the different groups - while ensuring that our message is the same – in order to appeal to the different demographics.

And this approach works. The UAE is currently hosts the most winning agencies in the Middle East – a testament of how we, as marketers, are able to adapt to market subtleties.

What inspired you to write ‘Marketing and Communications on the Job’?

There are numerous books on marketing in every library and bookstore in the world, and they all have one thing in common – they are filled with theories that sound good on paper but cannot be implemented by everyone. Many of these books are authored by university professors or chief marketing officers of the world's largest and most prestigious brands. They derive insights from best-in-class companies in an admirable manner, but their points may not be applicable to the remaining 90 per cent of businesses, which lack the resources and time to create case studies on award-winning work. This book is not a work of literature; rather, it is a practical guide with tried-and-true frameworks and checklists that can assist any business in conducting marketing on a holistic scale.

Let's acknowledge a universal truth – economies all over the world are driven by SMEs and small businesses, the majority of which lack sophisticated marketing departments and rely heavily on market knowledge to decipher their own disciplines. This book makes marketing and corporate communications accessible to these small business owners, CEOs and other executives transitioning into marketing from sales or another field.

You are an advocate of health and financial literacy. What steps have you taken to support these social causes?

I believe that these are more than social causes; but rather, personal imperatives. The world around us is fluid and quickly changing, and that changing world will not change for us, but rather, we have to adapt for the change. That is why I’ve been a strong proponent of both physical and mental health – something I strongly advocate within my own peer groups – as only through building these strengths can we adapt – and address – real-world dynamism. It is similar with financial literacy. As a single mother, the oneness of taking care of my children has fallen solely on me. With economic uncertainty, is crucial that we take it upon ourselves to understand the markets and wealth-creating opportunities. The average financial literacy rate in the UAE hovers around 30 per cent, according to recent reports; women in the country fall lower. This proved to be a driver for me to understand the financial world – a topic, that again, I advocate within my professional and personal peer groups.

Tell us about your participation at the IPRCCC.

During my participation at the IPRCCC, I had a chance to speak about the indivisible forces that shape the journey of a marketer. For me, it was curiosity and owning your own script. It is high time for marketers to be free to explore all fields on the spectrum of marcomms. I also touched upon the liberty to grow in many disciplines at once, for example, you can excel at the comms game while you build great skills in lead generation. It is okay to experiment with multiple industries and learn new segments. With every new experience, you open up to a collective of possibilities.

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