Whizz with purpose, by Mashreq Bank’s Aimee Peters

Mashreq Bank’s Aimee Peters says that while technology can help marketers do amazing things, they need to build on strong foundations.

By Aimee Peters, senior executive vice-president, group head of marketing & corporate communications, Mashreq Bank.

As we hit the midpoint of the year and start tentatively putting dates in diaries for 2022 planning, which gets terrifyingly earlier every year, it is a good time to reflect. Whether or not my ponderings shed any light on ‘New Marketing’ or sounds old and tired (it’s how we all feel after a year of Covid) remains to be seen. Answers on a digital postcard please (is that a WhatsApp? A DM?). 

In the last year, we have all pivoted so much we are dizzy, and have gone through transformations that have affected our workplaces, shopping habits, social interactions and holiday plans. So how on earth do you draft a marketing plan that can cope?

For me, the answer has been relatively simple. In order to do the whizz-bang well, the fundamentals need to be solid. If we don’t know our customer inside out, we can have all the tech in the world and we still won’t land our message with them. If we don’t understand what they think of our company, services, offering or quality of experience, we will get the marketing wrong. No matter how whizzy it is.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about the whizzy bits. Digital transformation – and the capabilities it offers us as marketers – is mind-bogglingly exciting. The energy and passion and level of understanding my CIO and his team have for topics I used to have to shout from the rooftops is hugely encouraging (though he is brilliant, and quite an unusual CIO, if I’m honest). There is so much we can do to build really sophisticated marketing operations capabilities, return on marketing investments (ROMI) modelling, and martech stacks, which will properly accelerate what we can do for our customers and our business stakeholders. Naturally, this is taking a larger chunk of our budget as a result, much of which is unplanned spend and having to be funded by slimming down projects that we had hoped to roll out in the optimistic days of October 2020, but that is the reality of planning.

The biggest challenge we face is existential, and is a trend that we need to keep striving to understand, keep pace with and transform accordingly. That is simply: What will our customers need from a bank in the future? 

As a brand, and an institution, we do believe that banks will have a role, but we’re not naive enough to think it looks like the bank of our childhoods. We know that open banking is changing the face of banking globally, and how people perceive money has already changed – the speed of acceptance of digital currencies and wallets has astonished many.

This does change how we engage and changes what marketing channels feel right to both our customers and our teams within the business. Will we all go back to big ballroom events on a regular basis? Sadly for the hospitality sector, I don’t think so. I’m not convinced anyone ever really loved them, they’re not cheap, and they’re hard to measure. Is it the end of in-person engagements? Definitely not. But I think quality over quantity, I think integrated physical/digital comms is key, and I think that there are now many more ways for brands to meaningfully engage with customers than simply throwing a party.

The other key point that continues to accelerate in importance is the criticality of data, and individuals’ ownership of our data. What we choose to do with this, how we allow brands access and start to monetise our personal information on a micro-level, is a significant shift that I think we are all grappling with in real-time and will need to take a position on to succeed.

What I do know – in the face of rapid change – is that our role in championing the voice and needs of the customer continues to be our most important contribution to the organisation we represent. We’ve got a great roster of agencies that agrees with me on this and a young and dynamic team across multiple markets that’s going to help Mashreq deliver on our promise to our customer. I’m always up for listening to anyone with a view on Mashreq; please find me on Linkedin and send me your thoughts.