Marketing Game Changers 2021: Mai Youssef, Canon

Corporate communications and marketing services director – Middle East, Turkey and Central and North Africa, Canon

Years in current position: 13

Years with current company: 13

Size of department: 13

Previous jobs

Vice-president marketing and corporate
communications, Islamic Finance Co Marketing communications specialist, Xerox Egypt

Credit and marketing specialist, Orix Leasing

recent campaigns

Women who Empower’: a programme to support women-owned creative brands.

Trailblazers’: Canon’s video series featured a local singer, adventurer and chef.

Aktashif’: Canon Middle East launched its second season of Aktashif to empower the next generation of creatives across
the region.

What is your objective in your current role? 

To build and retain talent and bring in new skills that will enable us to achieve our future communication goals, supported by a network of highly skilled partner agencies.

Do you have a guiding principle?

Always do the right thing, accept new challenges and risks, and be accountable.

How do you make agency relationships work?

By working as partners. To me, our agencies are our consultants, and we work very closely and collaboratively to ensure we achieve the company’s goals

Who inspires you professionally?

Women leaders who were and are able to break through and achieve success through creating a positive impact on society.

What is the biggest challenge in marketing at the moment?

Marketers are under more pressure than ever to demonstrate a return on investment for their campaigns, and there is a rapid change in the communications landscape, with a rise of new tools and technology, every day. Campaign tactics have to be creative, build brand loyalty, cut through and deliver measurable results, fast. There are a lot of elements to consider while keeping up with the challenges of a rapidly and constantly evolving communications landscape.

What is the next big opportunity in marketing?

Gaming is the next big opportunity, in my opinion. The pandemic has accelerated the digital shift with streaming services and gaming both soaring in awareness and participation. However, gaming is still in its infancy stage, and lacks a proven track record of its effectiveness as a communication tool, to add to the marketing mix.

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

We are launching a brand campaign to coincide with our participation in Expo 2020. The campaign aims to bring Canon’s brand purpose, ‘Imaging to transform our world’ and our brand characters of ‘Visionary’, ‘Innovative’ and ‘Bold’ to life by creating stories to amplify our onsite activity and message to a wider audience. The campaign will also help increase audiences’ understanding of Canon’s vision for the future and the breadth of the Canon Group portfolio, to help people reimagine and push the boundaries of what is possible through imaging.

Recent achievements

Canon partnered with Dubai Expo 2020 as the official printing and imaging provider. It is the first time a world Expo has one provider for both printing and imaging together. Canon also launched a major brand campaign aligned with Expo themes and campaign pillars.

Rapid fire

Who are you working on?
Transforming communications, in line with the changing landscape

Who are you following?
I follow specific topics that interest me, not necessarily certain people.

What are you craving?
More sleep.

What are you hiding from?

What are you playing?
Starting golf.

What are you listening to?

What are you reading?
AI and metaverse marketing articles and blogs.

What are you watching?
At the moment, Expo 2020 TV.

What is your good habit?
Yoga practice.

What is your bad habit?
Skipping breakfast.

Agency reference

Zaib Shadani, managing director, Shadani Consulting

Mai is someone who loves to challenge convention and push the boundaries of creativity. The last 12 months are a testament to that, with the launch of so many diverse and unique campaigns, including the ‘Trailblazers’ series, where we interview iconic and pioneering individuals from the Middle East and give them a platform to shine; the ‘Women Who Empower’ campaign, which supports women in the creative fields; and most recently Canon’s participation at Dubai Expo 2020. For the first time in Expo history, Canon is the single provider for printing and imaging solutions, and it is no small feat to oversee the PR and marketing around Canon’s presence at Expo 2020.

The Shadani Consulting team and I have been working with Mai and Canon for more than a year, and it’s been an incredible experience from the start. Mai is open to ideas and creative discourse, and always encouraging us to push boundaries.

The Trailblazers series has to be top of my list of things I’m proud of. It’s a project that we conceptualised with Canon as a way to promote visual storytelling and offer insight into the incredible talent that can be found in the Middle East. To be part of a project from initial ideation to final execution is very exciting; we shot, directed and edited the interviews with in-house capabilities and I couldn’t be prouder of the final series.

Mai is both fearless and creative. She is very knowledgeable about marketing and her industry, but it’s her willingness to take chances on new ideas that really sets her apart. She’s got a strong vision and a clear road map on how to get there. It’s very motivating to work with someone who is so passionate and committed to ensuring a superior level of communication and storytelling.

From her I’ve learned how to offer a 360-degree solution that covers all touchpoints – and Mai also reminds us to elevate every Canon campaign by offering something new or that’s never been done before. Mai is someone who encourages disruption and makes people sit up and take notice, so in all our campaigns we strive to be unique and always have multiple layers of opportunity for further engagement, be it via digital outreach, experiential marketing or something else.

We are currently working on the next instalment of the Trailblazers series and are interviewing and filming inspirational individuals from the Middle East. This campaign offers an opportunity to highlight change-makers who have challenged stereotypes and altered the face of their industries and it’s Canon’s way of perpetuating a culture that celebrates the importance of being visionary, innovative and bold. I cannot wait for you to see the incredible line-up of interviewees that we have coming up.