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Creativity is Key to Overcoming Marketing Challenges

Adel Taalab tells us about the challenge of marketing cigarettes and how thinking outside the box has been essential to successfully connecting with consumers.

Where are you now?

I am an Area Manager on the AG "Arabian Gulf" Trade Marketing team at British American Tobacco. I currently live in Kuwait. My responsibilities and duties include managing trade reps, monitoring sales, executing campaigns in market, managing relationships with key accounts etc.

Give me an overview of what you did since the MSc in Marketing and Creativity?

After leaving Paris, I interned at Siegel + Gale (a brand consultancy headquartered in NYC) for six months in their Dubai office. I worked as a strategist and truly loved that job. I was then recruited to work at British American Tobacco. Despite not being a smoker and realizing I was getting into a controversial industry, I was excited about the challenge. I started my career there in June 2011 and here I am still at the company and fulfilled. I started in the Dubai office (which is the HQ for the Middle East region) and then a year and half later, was promoted and moved to Kuwait to manage a channel here. It has been nearly three years since my move to Kuwait (with a five month project based in Saudi Arabia) and I am supposed to be moving back to Dubai to a new role (a lateral move) soon.

Talk to me about how creativity has been key to your success.

As you can imagine, working in tobacco is not easy these days, given how controversial it has become. It's probably the most difficult product in fast consumer moving goods to market with all the legal and governmental restrictions attached to it. We are constantly having to think creatively and find new ways in order to reach our consumers who are adult smokers. In everything we do, we have to think out of the box and make sure it not only attracts our consumer base, but also appeals to new consumers (already existing adult tobacco smokers). Tobacco consumers are extremely loyal to their brands, probably more than most other consumer items, so that is also another hurdle we have to face. In addition, we also have to be able to transmit our brand values through our marketing campaigns and all forms of communication, whether tangible or intangible. So given all those reasons, creativity isessentialto success.

What was the best piece of advice you've ever received?

The best piece of advice I received in my professional career is to treat your job not simply as a 9 to 5, but rather as if you "owned the business". This advice stopped me from treating my job as just another routine where I put in just the amount of effort that felt necessary, but rather to look at my job as if I owned the company. This changed my attitude towards the job, as it made me fight for the results I wanted, and has helped me succeed.

Whom do you consider to be your influencers? What websites/blogs do you regularly check?

There isn't one person I can point to and say that he or she is my influencer. That said, I tend to find and emulate the best professional traits from different people I meet in my life, and apply them to my own career. Some of these professional traits are motivation, focus, drive, fighting for what you believe in, patience, consistency, attention to detail, and working towards your goals. I also check between four and six news websites on a daily basis.

What advice would you give to yourself just after graduating from the MSc in Marketing and Creativity?

Manage and balance who you are (with all one's traits and strengths) with what you learn and observe from others in the business world, in order to succeed and place your own personal stamp. 

How did the content of the programme help you for your job?

The content definitely helped me succeed in my job, because it helped me understand the theoretical aspects of marketing and how brands function in the real world. More importantly, however, with all its real business cases and exposure to different professor (and visiting professor) backgrounds, I was equipped with real life examples of how marketing is used to achieve business objectives, strategy and profit.

Impressed by how Adel tackles the challenge of selling a controversial product? Check out how ESCP Europe and its Marketing and Creativity programmes can equip you with the tools you need in any challenge!

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