Marketing Game Changers 2020: Fahad Osman

Fahad Osman

Regional director, global business marketing, MENAT, TikTok

Years in current position: 1

Years with company: 1

Size of department: 25

Previous jobs

2016-2020 Head of digital and brand, MEA, IBM

2015-2016 Head of brand strategy, MENA, Twitter

2012-2015 Business director, head of UAE, OgilvyOne

Career achievements

Sure, I was running an agency at this very young age, was the first person on the ground in this major platform in the region and made the first million-dollar sale, singlehandedly won a Dubai Quality award… but those have a shelf life and don’t mean anything to anyone but me.

I believe that my main achievements have been the people I have had the honour of mentoring over the last 10 years. Campaigns come and go (and become redundant). Awards get forgotten. But when you invest in people, they continue to grow and make a difference.

What is your objective in your current role?

To try to deliver on the same amount of revenue that our competitors delivered in eight years, in two. And to try and have some fun doing it.

Do you have a guiding principle?

I have two – and they are connected. Hyperfocus, and increasing the average from one day to the next. Make sure you know why things are being done before thinking about how (and it always has to tie back to profit). This means that the team will always focus on either efficiency or innovation. The average, whether it’s average revenue per month, activity, quarter or customer, should, if you have implemented correctly, rise from one day to the next (or at least from one month to the next).

How do you make agency relationships work?

Honesty and balance. They need to make us braver and we need to make sure that they don’t jump off a cliff. And we need to be able to give and receive feedback without ego. Having spent some time agency-side, I can tell you that there is nothing worse than a master-slave relationship; nobody wins.

What have you learned from a specific failure?

Measure twice, cut once. When I first came into the agency world, I had a project with one of the big FMCGs – and I assumed a technical spec. Long story short, the project took three times as long as it was supposed to.

What work do you wish you had done?

I love the Wendy’s social platform. I wish I was there when they decided to engage that guy for #NuggsForCarter and I will, one day, get a brand from this region to do something that random, yet on-brand.

Who inspires you professionally?

Not being facetious, my wife. She is the epitome of putting your mind to something and making it happen. She went from corporate to freelance to business owner to award-winning author. She pushes me to believe that nothing is unachievable with a little bit of thinking and a lot of elbow grease.

How has Covid-19 changed your business?

I think this story is well documented, but people changed their interests during the height of the pandemic response. When the world really needed a break from what was in the news and in their timelines, they turned to us.

What is the biggest challenge in marketing at the moment?

I say this as a very performance-focused marketer: The marketing world, with everything that is going on, is deprioritising creativity and brand-building. This is a very dangerous path to go down, for the industry and for brand continuity. Our customers want to hear from us beyond what we have to sell and how much it costs. Otherwise, they will forget about us.

What is the next big trend in marketing?

The current big thing is brands scrambling to integrate e-commerce where none existed – and the results are, well, mixed. I think, logically, the next big thing in marketing is marketers learning the hard way how to be nice to the e-commerce guys, or learning the even harder way what user journey planning actually means (not what we think it means).

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

More products, more capabilities, bigger audiences and even cooler campaigns on the platform. Off the platform, expect to see a lot more from us. More data, more community outreach. More partnerships and, if I have anything to do with it, a generous sprinkling of bad puns.

Agency reference

Fadi Khater, founder and managing partner of Netizency

Fahad is an extremely knowledgeable person in all topics (not only marketing). He is a bit of a nerd, which is an excellent trait in today’s digital marketing world. He has an assertive personality and does not shy away from making decisions contrary to many marketers in today’s world. He believes in trial and error, and is not afraid of failure, which are the ideal attributes for the person managing the marketing for TikTok in the region.

Rapid fire

What are you working on?
B2B brand love.

Who are you following?
On TikTok, too many to count. There is just so much great content on there, I double tap to like and then tap to follow almost in equal ratio.

What are you craving?
Carbs. And world domination.

What are you hiding from?
Doing my expenses and other admin. Admin sucks.

What are you playing?
Super Smash Bros Ultimate with my boys. Just finished unlocking all 74 characters. I now hear the theme music in my sleep.

What are you listening to?
Whatever Spotify tells me to. If left to my own devices, I would only listen to three songs on repeat.

What are you reading?
We’ve just started a ‘Business Book Club’ in the team. This time round it’s Radical Candor by Kim Scott. Otherwise, I am doom-scrolling Reddit

What are you watching?
My wife and I spend about 45 minutes a night trying to decide what to watch between OSN, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Then we go to bed.

Where are you isolating?
Same place as always. In my head.

What did you learn over lockdown?
How little you need to be in the office for most things. Also, how much you do need to be in the office for everything. Also, how long a four-year-old can be entertained by a piece of cardboard and a Sharpie.