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CMO of Al Safi Danone
Mustafa Moussa is the Chief Marketing Officer of Al Safi Danone in the Middle East, responsible for creating and accelerating the company’s marketing innovation agenda across twelve markets and a diverse portfolio of industry-leading brands – including Activia, Danette, Actimel, Danao and AlSafi. Mustafa has been instrumental in deploying digital-first marketing strategies through models that effectively leverage the science of data with the art of storytelling to drive category growth, consumer accessibility and loyalty.
CMO COUNCIL: Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are now.
MOUSSA: I am the chief marketing officer of Al Safi Danone in the Middle East, responsible for creating and accelerating the company’s marketing innovation agenda across twelve markets and a diverse portfolio of industry-leading brands – including Activia, Danette, Actimel, Danao and AlSafi. I have been in the FMCG industry for over 20 years, with experience spearheading global brands across the Middle East and Asia.
My diverse tenure overseeing both mature and emerging markets has given me a deep perspective and nuanced view of the art and science of brand building. Over the last decade, I have led multiple digital transformation remits through models that effectively leverage the science of data with the art of storytelling to drive category growth, consumer accessibility and loyalty.
CMO COUNCIL: Where do you focus most of your time, attention, and brainpower on a day-to-day basis?
MOUSSA: I am a great believer in balancing short-term marketing strategies or quick wins with longer-term goals.
Short-term marketing encompasses the efforts you apply on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis – a tactical approach to meet objectives that are just on the horizon. Rather than being a cost center, marketing centers around value. In order to really get that revenue machine moving and meet stakeholder expectations, it is important to work on short-term marketing initiatives, which primarily focus on campaigns, lead generation and – ultimately – sales.
However, you must always be very aware of the fact that limited, short-term thinking is what leads brands to a race-to-the-bottom pricing and commoditization scenarios. Your short-term business goals build into your long-term marketing strategy, helping you accomplish those big picture, pivotal brand achievements that align with the corporate mission and vision of the organization.
It is equally as crucial to have an eye on future, long-term growth by defining and building your brand, and creating a consistent brand awareness rhythm that is not oblivious to consumer needs.
CMO COUNCIL: Marketing is undergoing a transformation with an emphasis on the digital channel, empowered buyer, fragmented customer journey, etc. How are you adapting?
MOUSSA: My approach embodies an incubator model focused on test and learn, particularly when it comes to new digital approaches. As a CMO in today’s business climate, I value insights on how customers behave to help drive marketing at scale and achieve systematic improvements. Getting to the heart of how customers behave through data and analytical insights has become a pre-requisite for CMOs.
Steering clear from one-off, unsustainable gains, I seek new ways to innovate to increase revenue. My priority has become to build technology know-how, as well as teams and operational capabilities to keep ahead of disruptive competitors, in addition to continually evolving customer expectations.
The changing face of marketing has meant a need to test and learn as brands adapted to the plethora of digital channels out there. I’ve had to become more familiar with emerging trends as we moved business forward.
At Al Safi Danone, we use technology to listen, map and understand consumer dynamics—piloting on a smaller scale first, then refining and adapting as needed, ultimately learning from experience.
Marketing as a practice starts from a core premise: Understanding the consumer and building the product – and targeted customer engagement through digital is key to this.
CMO COUNCIL: What are your priorities when it comes to organizational change, operational shifts, and staff development?
MOUSSA: In my experience, innovation arises from an ‘incubator’ approach i.e., small incremental shifts and changes - each step yields either success or learnings, helping us refine and build our approach as we learn. At Al Safi Danone, it is our priority to break down barriers, promoting a culture of innovation and creativity at the workplace. Empowering employees to make decisions, we consistently refresh employee skillsets while remaining objective and loyal to the organization’s objectives, key focus areas, core capabilities, and commitments to stakeholders.
From the very early stages of recruitment, it is important to recognize the need for bringing in people from across different business backgrounds into your core marketing unit, especially those with a digital-first education and training. Augmenting what they do and inserting the industry-specific element then follows, making things faster, easier, and smarter, while utilizing the most advanced – and simplest – of technologies to deliver results and measure effectiveness.
CMO COUNCIL: What factors contribute the most to your success?
MOUSSA: Never regimented by traditional marketing, we implement a “working backwards” method that is defined by a focus on customer need. Instead of leading with technology, we begin with its benefits for customers instead – and the problem it will solve in their lives.
Adding to the lives of customers centers around an understanding of a diverse consumer base. No matter what industry or space your company is in, it’s likely that your customers are a diverse bunch of people with a mix of race, religion, social status, and a number of other characteristics.
In a survey by Forbes Insights, 65% of senior executives said recruitment of diverse employees was their top priority. The more diverse your marketing team is, the more likely they will be able to comprehend the depths of what the consumer really needs. To put it simply, a diverse marketing team is better equipped to connect your customers to your brand.
To win in a diverse market such as the Middle East, you need to be able to get on the same level as your customers in terms of values and culture, connecting with them on a human level to build a strong brand – and a strong brand always wins.