Marketing Game Changers 2020: Banali Malhotra

Banali Malhotra

Director of marketing, RAKBANK


Years in current position: 5+

Years with company: 15+

Size of department: 25+

Previous jobs

Head of partnerships, American
Express (India)

Recent campaigns

RAKfoodie Campaign

Launch of RAKBANK Emirates Skywards World Elite Mastercard Credit Cards

Launch of SwatchPAY! Contactless

Rebranding of RAKBANK Elite and
RAKBANK Business

Skiply App for school payments

Recent achievements

RAKfoodie campaign swept the 2019 MMA MENA Awards, winning five Golds, one Silver and two Industry awards.

Spearheaded in-house data-management strategy through the successful implementation of DMP & CDP platforms to collect first-party data and prepare for the cookie-less future.

Memotraits (memory + portrait), a social experiment, involved capturing the fond memories of watching an FC Barcelona match live. Postgame, the fans’ memories were captured using an EEG headset and converted to art.

What is your objective in your current role?

To evolve the RAKBANK brand image by continuously tweaking the brand narrative that is relevant to the current market situation and customer sentiment. Whilst doing the brand job, I am also responsible for supporting the bottom line through acquisition across the product portfolio, utilising the latest data-driven performance marketing tools and platforms.

Do you have a guiding principle?

To punch above your weight. When I was brought on board, RAKBANK was a lesser-known local retail bank. Over the years, I worked closely with the management and the agency in leading the brand’s journey from a local challenger brand to a dominant retail brand in the UAE. While we couldn’t match the huge media spends of leading banks, we increased our share of voice by developing a brand personality that cuts through the clutter. All RAKBANK communication had to tick four boxes: Cheeky, Combative, Confident, Clear. The communication was very ‘un-bank’ and hence became the talk of the town. So our communication style was fresh and unique, which meant the consumers and the competition could love us or hate us, but definitely not ignore us. 

How has Covid-19 changed your business? 

The pandemic has expedited digital adoption across various aspects of business and personal life. This has also led to new consumer habits, which will influence the buying process in the near future. Due to the financial impact of the pandemic, consumers have become price-sensitive and spend only on necessities. With this background, creativity and innovation have become crucial in every aspect of our communication strategy.

We continuously evolved our communication strategy through the pandemic. Phase 1: Emphasizing safety through a social campaign. Phase 2: Empathetic communication. Phase 3: Relevant product communication.

What is the next big trend in marketing? 

Martech and adtech will be at the core of the communication strategy. Technology platforms will have to adapt to the increasing ethical and legal challenges related to user privacy, tracking and intrusive targeting. We are already witnessing a transition to a cookie-less approach by the leading browsers. Brands will have to build tech stacks to collect and mine the first- and second-party data. At the same time, maintain a fine balance between hyper-personalisation and privacy. I see an increased shift towards data-driven prediction models built using AI and ML. These will empower marketers to make smarter decisions in real-time. Brands will have to continue to stay relevant and play a meaningful role in the consumer’s life by creating authentic experiences at every consumer touchpoint.

What can we expect to see from you and your brand in the next year?

In line with the digital-first strategy, we will be soon launching innovative digital platforms across multiple categories. These will bring drastic changes to the status quo and disrupt the way business is done. Focus on data is crucial. We have created dashboards and KPIs as a part of data governance and usage. Moreover, our focus has shifted from ROI to ROD (return on data).

Agency reference

Jad Daou, business lead, UM MENAT

How long have you worked together?

You almost lose track of time when you enjoy working with your business partner, but if I recall it’s about one and a half years of growing stronger together.

What collaboration are you most proud of?

First and foremost, the collaboration between RAKBANK and UM as partners working together to achieve the same objective is by the far the one I am most proud of. A partnership built on trust, transparency and value. As for specific RAKBANK comms, I am most proud of our RAKfoodie campaign and the impact it created among consumers. Lastly, I am also proud in advance for our continuous fruitful partnership.

How would you describe Banali as a professional?

Inspirational, collaborative, assertive and most notably a person with high integrity. She continues to push us and the team to think larger than life and push the boundaries to punch above our weight, which is Banali’s guiding principle.

What are you working on next?

In line with our digital-first strategy, we will work a lot closer on martech solutions in the coming year to move upwards along the digital maturity curve, which will allow us to bring drastic changes to the current status quo and disrupt how business is done within this sector, while keeping customer relevancy and data-centricity at the heart of everything we do.

Rapid fire

What are you working on?
Data-driven and insights-based story-telling; evolving the RAKBANK brand narrative to reflect empathy and care.

Who are you following?
Jacinda Ardern.

What are you craving?
Green tea.

What are you hiding from?

What are you playing?

What are you listening to?
Jazz, alternative rock, Sufi.

What are you watching?
Downton Abbey; Emily in Paris.

Where are you isolating?
Home, sweet home.

What did you learn over lockdown?
Life is unpredictable, hence it should be lived to the fullest