Marketing Game Changers 2020: Maria Gedeon

Maria Gedeon

Marketing director, Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment and Cinemas

Board Member,  Marketing Society Middle East

Years in current position: 4

Years with current company: 4

Size of department: 65+

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Previous jobs

2002: Founder of TACT

2005: Founder of Select, one of the most established events and staffing
companies in the region

2006: Marketing manager, Turret Media

2009: Director of marketing and ­communications at Zayed Sports City

Recent campaigns

#ThankYou Campaign showing ­appreciation for healthcare workers and frontliners during the global pandemic

#WeMissYou Campaign for guests ­during the closures

Recent achievements

Developed Majid Al Futtaim LEC data strategy and first-ever customer marketing models using advanced analytics

Created an in-house creative and production agency as well as a social media centre of excellence

Led all communications during Covid-19 including crisis communications, consumer sentiment research, reopening plans and social content

Designed F&B home delivery marketing strategy to continue serving customers during the lockdown

Conceptualised and launched the VOX Cinemas Drive-In during Covid-19

Won several awards, including:

Best Cinema Experience at 2020 MENALAC Awards (VOX Cinemas)

ComScore’s Highest Grossing Exhibitor of the Year in the Middle East at the META Cinema Forum (VOX Cinemas)

World’s Best Indoor Ski Resort at the 2020 World Ski Awards (Ski Dubai)

What is your objective in your current role?

To instil a data-driven, customer-obsessed culture, lead with empathy and find my true purpose.

Do you have a guiding principle?

I firmly believe that if you persevere, are curious and are passionate that anything is possible. Also, be kind to people.

How do you make agency relationships work?

Collaboration is key to maintaining a successful relationship, and any agency you work with should be considered an extension of your wider team. It is also essential to have mutual trust and a common north star.

What have you learned from a specific failure?

That I should not be afraid of failing and that failing doesn’t make me a failure as long as I continuously learn and improve.

Who inspires you professionally?

Richard Hease, chairman and founder of Turret Media, a successful serial entrepreneur and my first employer.

How has Covid-19 changed your business?

We’ve had to adapt to the new normal in a lot of different ways – from operations down to the way that we engage with our valued guests through a reinvented customer journey. Majid Al Futtaim is a customer-centric company and it was essential that we monitored and understood how habits were changing. Throughout the pandemic, we have been conducting waves of extensive guest research to better understand our guests, and have adapted accordingly.

What is the biggest challenge in marketing at the moment?

Marketing as a function has undergone a massive transformation over the last two decades, requiring new capabilities and skills. It is imperative to be able to adapt to these changes and evolve in order to succeed and stay relevant.

What is the next big trend in marketing?

Automation, data analytics, personalisation and hyper-personalisation, as well as AI, will remain hugely important. AR and VR will also significantly improve and marketers will change.

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

We are currently in the process of planning for the year ahead. Building on the success of this year, we have really creative, innovative and exciting campaigns coming up that I’m sure you will be seeing and hearing a lot about in 2021. As always, we will continue to push the boundaries, be bold and keep our guests at the centre of everything that we do, creating great moments for everyone everyday

Agency reference

Peter Bellini, head of PR and influence, Memac Ogilvy

This year has seen Maria and the team at VOX and Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment and Cinemas rise to the challenge of Covid. They have managed the impact of the pandemic across the region, adapting to it and working tirelessly to see the business thrive again. With her team, Maria has driven the introduction of a host of great innovations including: VOX Cinemas Drive-In, Contactless and In-Seat Delivery, Friends and Family Screenings and Distraction-Free Cinema. And it isn’t just great because I am saying so; there are a wide range of awards to prove it. From Best Innovation in Health & Safety and Best Cinema Experience to winning the World’s Best Indoor Ski Resort at the prestigious World Ski Awards for the fifth consecutive year.

The work our teams did together on the launch of VOX Cinemas Drive-In at Mall of the Emirates was innovative, grounded in deep insight of the customer, relevant, and fun. A great idea, at the right time, based on deep customer insight that became more than just the talk of this town. Maria is definitely the right person for Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment and Cinemas to have at the fore of communications as we move beyond the pandemic to bring people back to the memory-making experiences that we were all so fond of and have missed out on in 2020.

Rapid fire

What are you working on?
2021 annual operations plans, gaming, the future of entertainment, F&B expansion plans and Christmas at Ski Dubai.

Who are you following?
Joe Biden, Richard Branson, Kamala Harris, HE Noura Al Kaabi, Elon Musk, Satya Nadella, Jeff Bezos, Jacinda Ardern, Roger Federer, Bill Gates, Nadine Labaki.

What are you craving?
French fries, all day every day.

Who are you hiding from?
My kids.

What are you playing?

What are you listening to?
Nina Simone.

What are you reading? 
The Ride of a Lifetime, Robert Iger.

What are you watching?
The Morning Show.

Where are you isolating?
On my terrace.

What did you learn over lockdown?
To be grateful for the small things.