Marketing Game Changers 2021: Marwa Kaabour, Al Masaood Group

Group head of marketing and corporate communication at Al Masaood Group of Companies (Nissan, Infiniti, Renault, MTU, Volvo Penta, Leroy-Somyer, Bridgestone and B2B brands in power, logistics and construction)

Previous jobs:

Director of marketing and communication at Al Hilal Bank

Regional account director at Impact BBDO

years in current position: 4

years in company: 4

Do you have a guiding principle?

The future belongs to the curious and those who are not afraid to explore. Do not limit yourself to one field in the world of marcomms. Be courageous enough to go out there and experiment with new thoughts and ideas. 

How do you make agency relationships work?

Both parties need to take ownership of their roles. Clients must learn to brief comprehensively and ahead of time. Team members on the client side have to adopt a collaborative approach and provide timely feedback. On the other side, the agency needs to continue delivering fresh and unique ideas that work within the client’s business model. 

What work do you wish you had done? 

Cheetos ‘Cant Touch This’ Superbowl ad in 2020 with MC Hammer, as well as Dunkin’ Donuts’ IPO listing day branding stunt, when the logo of the NASDAQ was changed to ‘NASDDAQ’, with the DD representing Dunkin’ Donuts.

Who inspires you professionally?

I am inspired by marketing and leadership professionals who produce literature in the field, such as Seth Godin, Simon Sinek, Jessica Gioglio, Alex Singleton and Marlyee Sachs.

What is the biggest challenge in marketing at the moment?

In the automotive sector, the lines have been completely blurred between marketing and communication practices. With data being abundant, the challenge remains on how to best utilise the data you have across both functions. Additionally, the pandemic awoke the B2B marketers in the industrial sector (such as power and construction) to the risk of being heavily dependent on roadshows and exhibitions.

What is the next big opportunity in marketing?

Business transformation. The role of marketers is becoming increasingly complex and given added responsibilities. The mandate today for marketers is nothing less than fundamental business transformation as B2B businesses become solution providers, B2C businesses become more digital and many SMEs go public. The field has become more intertwined with other functions and is critical to any transformation.

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

On the family-brand side, Al Masaood is launching a massive campaign that celebrates its 50th anniversary with the UAE’s 50th. The campaign will be holistic and will have an activation extension to it. Apart from the content and media side, the campaign will carry multiple CSR initiatives.

On the automotive side, we are soon celebrating the Nissan Patrol’s 70th anniversary in Abu Dhabi. Al Masaood will be launching a suite of new leading international brands from Asia in the logistics, tyres and commercial vehicle segments. The Group’s construction arm has gone through a complete revamp and will launch the region’s largest modular construction facility offering prefab building solutions such as ready-made plug-and-play units that are completely sustainable and 3D printed.

On the personal side, I am publishing a book dedicated to all marketers in the region. It serves as a guide to navigate your way through the multiple disciplines of marketing and communications. The book is an accumulation of my more than 20 years in the field.

Key achievements

Developed Al Masaood’s brand strategy and first communication department.

Introduced marketing and communication service-level agreements, policies and process structures customised for a matrix organisation.

Created an in-house creative and production arm as well as internal CSR cross-functional team for the Group.

Launched Project Wiqaya, Al Masaood’s response to Covid-19. Led all communications during Covid-19 including crisis communications, consumer communication, quarantine communication, reopening plans and digital initiatives.   

Designed a holistic internal comms strategy to continue motivating a population of 2,400 employees during the long and strict lockdown months.   

Won several awards, including: Best Automotive Brand in UAE, Best Corporate Blog, Best Employer Brand and internally Best Leader and Best Support team Awards.

Rapid fire

What are you working on?
2022 annual marketing plans and budgets for 18 global brands.

Who are you following?
HH Mohammed Bin Zayed, Warren Buffet, Joe Dispenza, Vishin Lakhiani and Oprah Winfrey.

What are you craving?
Debate nights and mountain hikes.

What are you hiding from?
Unnecessary meetings.

What are you playing?
Jigsaw puzzles with my kids.

What are you listening to?
This Jungian Life podcast.

What are you reading?
I’ve just re-read Anna Karenina and The 48 Laws of Power.

What are you watching?
I’ve been off TV for 18 months, I’ve consumed more than 50 Audible titles and read 24 books instead.   

What is your good habit?
I am member of the 5am club.

What is your bad habit?
Failing to quit sugar, carbs and caramel popcorn.

Agency reference

Simon Ashwin, chief digital & client officer, Middle East & Africa, Cheil

Marwa is a trailblazer and has taken it upon herself to change the course of corporate communications and elevate the practice to a level where it appeals to both segments: B2B and B2C. This approach has resulted in achieving efficiencies and synergies in communications. What personally appeals to me is her collaborative spirit and cutting across agency-client silos to make each member working on the brand feel like a part of the same team. 

I have worked with Marwa for 18 months, and I’m most proud of Al Masaood’s 50-year anniversary film, which also coincides with the UAE’s 50 years. It tells the story of the company’s progress in a documentary style, very smartly including all the business units and a story of progress narrated by an Emirati protagonist. 

Marwa is resilient with a twinge of tenacity, which is much needed to make things happen within a large entity such as Al Masaood. We witnessed this first-hand during a three-day shoot. I learned from her that one should know when to drop the brush. Marwa chose to reduce the number of shots in the film to ensure that the end product isn’t too complex for the end consumer to understand, although we had the budget and the time to shoot more.