Awarded marketer Saad Samadi, with 19 years in the industry, has a notable track record at global MNCs like Philip Morris, Pepsi, and Sony Mobile, and was pivotal in branding Mai Dubai Water. Trained in FMCG, his innovative strategies have propelled growth in the MENA region and beyond. Saad is a happy father and husband, a comedy enthusiast, and a passionate NBA fan, bringing a unique blend of professional acumen and personal interests to his dynamic career. Fluent in Arabic, English, and French, his multicultural expertise is a key driver of his success.
Breaking Boundaries with Pep Guardiola
We started the interview by asking, “Can you describe a recent marketing campaign or project that you are particularly proud of, and what were the key elements that made it successful?”
Saad replied, “Working with Pep Guardiola on the brand ambassador campaign at CFI was amazing. As a sports enthusiast, it was a highlight of my career to meet and hang out with a sporting legend like him. This campaign resulted in a 100% increase in web traffic and a significant boost in customer leads, showcasing the power of leveraging high-profile figures in digital marketing.”
Overcoming Industry Saturation
The Worlds Times: Can you share a challenging situation or setback you’ve faced in your career and how you overcame it? What did you learn from that experience?
Saad replied, “Look, bottled water was saturated when we started at Mai Dubai Water. They said we couldn’t crack it to build a brand in a commodity market. But after four years, we had already ‘done it.’ Faced with industry stagnation, we launched an aggressive campaign to ‘steal share.’ The ‘Mai Happiness’ campaign was a natural progression to establish ourselves as a major player, leading us to a top 3 position in the UAE and accelerating our growth in the MENA region and beyond.”
The Worlds Times: In your career, you’ve worked in various industries. How do you adapt your marketing approach to suit the unique characteristics of each industry, from automotive to F&B?
Saad, (Starts answering with a big smile on his face) “Look, the basics are the same across industries – solid branding based on longevity, clear differentiation, and understanding your audience. It’s vital to keep up with industry trends and innovations. Whether it’s B2B or B2C, using buzzwords like ABM or discussing inbound and outbound strategies, the key is hard work in understanding your industry quickly to apply these fundamentals.”
Foundations of Marketing Excellence
The Worlds Times: What are the core values or principles that guide your approach to marketing, and how do you ensure your team embraces these values in their work?
Saad replied, “In addition to data-driven decision-making and a customer-centric approach, my marketing philosophy is shaped by creative excellence and challenging the norm. I’m inspired by thought leaders like Simon Sinek and Seth Godin, who advocate for innovative and storytelling-centric marketing approaches. It’s about crafting narratives that capture attention while ensuring the brand sometimes takes a back seat, allowing the story to drive the engagement. This philosophy has guided me through various campaigns, leading to significant market share growth and brand recognition.”
Risk and Reward
The Worlds Times: Marketing often involves risk-taking. What is the most significant marketing risk you’ve taken in your career, and what were the outcomes?
Saad replied, “The biggest marketing risk I ever took was joining Mai Dubai Water, a start-up in a commoditized industry dominated by billion-dollar players. Building a brand from scratch in this environment was the riskiest decision of my career, but it turned out to be the defining role that shaped my career trajectory.”
Inclusive Strategies for Cultural Connection
The Worlds Times: In a diverse and multicultural region like the GCC, how do you ensure that your marketing strategies are culturally sensitive and resonate with a wide range of audiences?
Saad replied, “In the GCC, successful marketing strategies involve deeply understanding and resonating with the region’s diverse cultures. This includes developing a marketing model that authentically engages with different cultural values, utilizing social media and ethnic influencers for meaningful community engagement, and conducting thorough cross-cultural consumer research. Aligning marketing content with the cultural nuances of the region, and employing inclusive imagery and creative assets, is also key. These strategies help create a more personalized and culturally sensitive approach, ensuring that different cultural groups feel represented and connected to the brand.”
The Worlds Times: Marketing often involves storytelling. Can you share a memorable marketing campaign or story that had a significant impact on your audience?
Saad replied, “The ‘Mai Happiness’ campaign was unique and personal. We traveled to the UK to shoot it, and it was widely recognized as a refreshing change in the industry. Working with a newly onboarded agency, both of us were eager to prove ourselves. The campaign’s success was rooted in well-researched insights and resonated deeply with our audiences.”
Championing Ethical Excellence
The Worlds Times: As a marketing leader, what are your thoughts on the role of ethics and transparency in marketing practices, and how do you incorporate these principles into your work?
Saad replied, “Personal and marketing values sometimes meet. Even though marketing often aims to change minds and opinions, I’ve always worked in companies where I believed in the product and always strived towards avoiding making a false promise in my marketing messages. One of my CEOs once advised me against pointing out unethical practices of competitors, emphasizing that customers will eventually see through their falsehoods – he was right because no matter what, there needs to be self-restraint and a focus on yourself before looking at others.”
Committing to Change
The Worlds Times: Can you share your perspective on the role of sustainability and corporate social responsibility in modern marketing? How does your company incorporate these values into its marketing efforts?
Saad replied, “Sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are not just global trends but essential aspects of modern marketing. When I think about the impact of events like COP 28, I see a shift in how multinational companies and regional businesses approach their ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) responsibilities. While some multinationals have been tracking their ESG impact for decades, it’s fascinating to observe the change in the UAE, with its aggressive sustainability agenda. This has inspired local companies to align with the leadership’s vision and take more proactive steps in their sustainability efforts. My approach has always been to integrate these values into marketing strategies, ensuring that we not only talk about sustainability but also actively contribute to it, aligning with both global trends and local leadership agendas.”
The Worlds Times: Looking ahead, what emerging marketing trends do you believe will have the most significant impact on the industry, and how do you plan to adapt to these changes?
Saad replied, “When considering emerging marketing trends, it’s crucial to discern which trends align with your brand’s core values and strategic goals. Trends in marketing come and go, but the key is to identify and invest in those that genuinely resonate with your brand identity and audience. It’s not just about chasing the latest fad; it’s about finding the right fit that can enhance your brand’s message and deepen your connection with customers.
Staying true to your brand while embracing innovation can create a powerful synergy. By carefully evaluating each trend’s potential impact and relevance to your brand, you can make informed decisions that bolster your marketing strategy and keep your brand ahead of the curve. This approach ensures that your marketing efforts remain authentic and effective, even as you adapt to the ever-evolving landscape of the industry.”
Words of Wisdom
Lastly we asked, “What advice would you give to marketers who are just starting their careers and aspire to achieve success in the industry?”
“To those starting in marketing, embrace continuous learning and adaptability. One lesson I’ve learned is to stick it out a little longer in some roles. While I have no regrets about my career path, endurance can be key. Don’t wait for training offers; educate yourself. The world is moving at a hyperloop speed, and access to high-quality courses from Ivy League institutions has never been more accessible or affordable. There was a time in my life when I was completing one Coursera course every month.” Saad concluded
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