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  • Marwa Kaabour

Empowerment in Every Byte!

I am excited to share with you all a snapshot of my journey in the world of marketing so far. My recent interview in Enterprise Channel magazine’s women’s edition does a great job of telling my story that began as a young girl in war-torn Beirut, leading to finding her rhythm in the fast-paced marketing world of the UAE.

 

This journey has taught me more than I ever imagined possible, and I hope it inspires the young women of today to follow their passion and believe in their potential for leadership. 🌟




 

1.      Can you share your personal journey into the field of marketing and how you discovered your passion for it?

 

Growing up in a war-torn Beirut, I remember the fleeting joy I felt watching TV commercials amidst the horrific news of the war. They were my window to the outside world. Once my family moved to the UAE to escape the war and have a chance at a new life, the luxury of having continuous electricity meant binge-watching TV. That’s when I fell in love with the production of TV commercials and the promotional sampling activities I saw in markets and malls.

 

Even in my own household, watching my mother, a journalist and translator, and my father, although a banker, writing a weekly column in the leading Arabic newspaper, I knew I wanted to become a content creator of some sort. Long story short, I ended up enrolling in a Marketing and Management degree program at the University of Sharjah.

 

I still remember my very first marketing class. The professor began by asking us a question: “If you were given a choice to market a specific product or service, what would you choose?” Naturally, the answers ranged from sports teams to ice cream shops, cat cafes, and NGOs. The professor responded: “A good marketer can market anything! Just like a great salesperson can sell anything, a great marketer can market just about anything too!”

 

I promised myself that day that I would be a curious marketer – one who can market anything. That’s where this journey began for me.

 

2.      What inspired you to pursue a career in marketing, and how did your journey unfold?

 

My life’s trajectory ended up with me studying marketing and soon enough, falling in love with the idea of being a curious marketer. It was almost a challenge for me – I wanted to prove that done right, anything can be marketed well.

 

I got my first real experience in the marketing world as an intern at one of the world’s best advertising agencies. I worked there for a year – gaining skills and experience in advertising design and video production. I was then offered a full-time job at the agency in the media planning department. While that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, I realized how much it widened my understanding of the industry.

 

Since then, I’ve dipped my toes in all the marketing waters – from helping to building an advertising agency from scratch and leading it to international success, all the way to finally moving to the client-side for in-house marketing. After years of service in the creative and glamorous field of advertising, with the longest hours I’ve ever worked, my curiosity kicked in – what do marketers do on the client-side? A long job search and several interviews later, I ended up at a job on the client side. After years of experience establishing and running marcomms departments from scratch, I have now been at Al Masaood Group for more than 6 years now. 

 

3.      From your perspective, how have you witnessed the marketing landscape evolve over the years, and what trends do you find most impactful today?

 

The marketing landscape, particularly in the Middle East, has seen significant evolution driven by digital platforms, changing consumer behaviors, and technological advancements. The rise of e-commerce has been a game-changer, transforming the retail landscape and becoming a key driver of economic growth in the region.

 

Naturally, the digital transformation has been significant in transforming behaviors. Countries like the UAE are leading in internet penetration and the use of mobile apps, presenting unique opportunities for business to develop creative, tailored marketing and communications strategies. I’ve seen firsthand the shift from magazines and newspapers to first digital ads and news outlets, to now platforms like TikTok and Instagram being the primary media through which advertising and information are consumed. To me, this era of content creation, particularly influencer and user-generated content is something we haven’t seen much of before, and definitely has the potential to change the way we operate.

 

It can be unnerving to zoom out and look at how drastically the industry has changed since I first started my career, but I know that if there’s one thing a good marketer knows how to do, is adapt, so I’m not too worried.

 

 

4.      What do you believe are the key challenges and opportunities in contemporary marketing?

 

Just as the evolving landscape has presented so many opportunities, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. With endless media to consume content through, and companies and individuals creating scores of content on the daily, comes the information overload. As a consumer, being continuously bombarded with messages from endless channels makes it difficult for brands to cut through the noise. They are faced with the daunting task of creating content that both represents the brand’s image, message, and goal, but also resonates with their audiences and creates the desired impact.

 

Another key challenge that we are constantly having to navigate is that of privacy, ethics, and integrity. The more a brand puts itself out there, the more content it creates, and the more people it engages with, the more it faces the responsibility of being ethical, dealing with customer data responsibly, and ensuring it is honest and accurate.

 

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, is the rapid and continuous technological advancement taking the world by storm. New digital tools and platforms are constantly emerging, and of course, Artificial Intelligence is creating more and more tools to both make our lives easier and harder on the regular. Staying familiar with these advancements, tools, and how they’re used is key to ensuring marketing and communications strategies are up to date and most effective.

 

5.      As a leader in marketing, what advice do you have for aspiring women looking to make their mark in this dynamic industry?

 

Stay curious, keep your eye on the ball, and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it. Keep learning and growing, and don’t let change intimidate you – embrace it. I believe there are three key qualities that are crucial for success – confidence, resilience, and adaptability. Regardless of how skilled, qualified, or experienced you are, if you possess these three, and are willing to put in the work, there’s little you won’t be able to achieve.

 

I say this from experience – I’ve done it all, the agency career while balancing having kids, moving to unchartered territory on the client side, writing a book, you name it. It’s definitely not an easy journey, but it is a fulfilling and rewarding one.

 

 

6.      How do you approach leadership in a field that demands both creativity and strategic thinking?

 

Especially in the dynamic environment of the Middle East, leadership is about finding a delicate balance between creative intuition and strategic planning. The goal is to create unique, engaging narratives that stand out in a saturated market and thinking outside of the box while aiming to resonate with the target audience. However, creativity alone isn’t enough until it is paired with strategic thinking to ensure that a brand is meeting its broader goals and reaching the intended market segment.

 

Creativity is definitely the lifeblood of campaigns, but strategy is what grounds it. Each campaign needs to be just as effective as it is innovative. Understanding the market, the audience, and competitors is key in ensuring targeted and impactful creativity. I’m fortunate enough to have had exposure to both the creative and strategic aspects of the business, and I find that open communication, well-established synergy, and constant feedback and measuring are key in driving creative yet effective campaigns.

 

 

7.      Can you highlight a particularly memorable marketing campaign you've been involved in, and what lessons did it teach you?

 

One campaign that really sticks with me was back in 2019 when Al Masaood had the privilege of sponsoring the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. It was a landmark event, not just for the city but for the whole Middle East, being hosted here for the first time. What’s more, we were the only private company to sponsor this monumental event.

 

What made this campaign so special wasn't just the scale or the visibility, but the opportunity it gave us to work closely with people of determination and special athletes. It was eye-opening and incredibly humbling to be part of their journey, to help raise awareness about these amazing individuals and their incredible talents and needs.

 

But it wasn't just about the athletes. This campaign was a chance to weave ourselves into the "Abu Dhabi story," showcasing our capital as a prime spot for global competitions and sporting events. It was about community, bringing people together for a cause that was so much bigger than any one brand or company.

 

We got our entire team involved, from volunteering initiatives to engaging activities at our stand in ADNEC throughout the games. It was amazing to see our employees and the wider Abu Dhabi community come together, supporting and cheering on these athletes.

 

This campaign taught me a lot, but if I had to pick one lesson, it would be the power of unity and community. When we come together for a cause that touches hearts, the impact goes beyond marketing metrics or brand visibility. It's about creating moments that resonate on a human level, and that's what truly memorable marketing is all about.

 

 

8.      How do you ensure that your marketing campaigns resonate with diverse audiences?

 

First off, diversity and inclusivity aren’t just about ticking boxes. They’re about understanding who is drawn to your brand and making sure those groups feel seen and included in your marketing efforts. You don’t have to cater to every single demographic – in fact, you will never be able to. But as long as brands are catering to the groups that are part of their community, they’re winning.

 

How do you do that? First and foremost – active listening. This means conducting research and listening to what the people you are targeting are doing and saying. What are their needs, preferences, and values? These insights then need to be incorporated into a brand’s messaging, visuals, and campaigns – ensuring that they are speaking with the audience, not just to them.

 



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