I think a good CMO can put themself in both the customer’s and the other chief executives’ shoes equally well and strike a good balance to deliver results that satisfy all partiesZara Abbey
Zara is a Ghana-born marketer and is the Chief Marketing Officer at SnooCODE. She is an embodiment of the phrase, work hard, play hard! When she is not executing a marketing strategy then you might catch her paragliding! Let’s learn more about her on this segment of Women In Marketing
LET’S GET PERSONAL
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
I was born in Accra, Ghana.
I was raised in this lovely colonial-style house close to the central business district with my mum and some of her family, and the first 8 years of my life, which I spent there, gave me some of my fondest memories… Like sitting outside with my mum and grandparents by our famous mango tree from dusk till evening, trying to count the stars and singing Ga folk songs of the moon…
Or our ylang-ylang tree, (I grew up knowing it as the “lavender tree”) which my grandma would cut flowers from every morning and lay in the bathrooms for that natural “lavender”… Like the rare occasions – my favourite – when my uncle, mum and aunts would lead the way up our scary steep stairs to get to the roof, where we could enjoy a magical birds’ eye view of the entire city…
SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS?
Haha! I wish I could play an instrument. If I could, it would most likely be drums first… Probably something to do with the boisterous Ga dancer in me… But let’s see – I’ve become quite taken with Origami lately… I was always good with craftwork from childhood, so I guess that’s one talent…
I’m also kind of building a name as quite the green thumb… And, yes, I love dancing, and I’m pretty good at it, so, Burna, if you’re reading this sometime and looking for dancers…
WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
A million is going straight into my travel fund, with solid plans for at least 3 months of sightseeing at the nearest opportunity… A million for a house, a car and at least a few years of comfortable living in the mountains for my parents… A million for my house, car and other personal needs… A million into SnooCODE for equity… A million for my own business and a couple of passion projects… A million in other investments… A million for charity, friends and close family… A million for my unborn children… The rest will be for my upkeep.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!
Fufu and goat meat light soup
WHAT MADE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD OF MARKETING? WHAT PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME PUSHED YOU TO PURSUE THIS CAREER? AFTER ALL, WE ALL WANTED TO BE DOCTORS GROWING UP, RIGHT?
Well, I wanted to be an inventor. Then, an author… I also wanted to be Princess Diana, but this was when I was much younger… And a figure skater, whenever I watched the Olympics… Lol. But I mostly wanted to be an inventor and a writer (as I grew older, “author” evolved into “writer”). A creator.
Which is something I currently do as the CMO of an engineering company. But before this, I worked as a copywriter and multimedia (TVCs, radio ads, digital) producer with a film and advertising production company, and I believe it was here that I truly fell in love with the world of Marketing. I began as a script supervisor at this place, and always found it fascinating how the director would lead us (the film crew) to ever so delicately but prominently place Vaseline containers and African wax prints in scenes as part of the sponsorship deal.
We got to fly Virgin Atlantic and shoot in their private hangar to incorporate them in the movie plot and help their market entry into Ghana. Seeing how creatively products and services could be endeared to the public made me fall in love with Marketing.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL IN THE WORLD, WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
I hate to sound cliché, but I would have to be an eagle. They’re mad powerful, largest of their kind, and they fly??
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE ALONE?
Hmm… This is a good one… Umm… I do business development on the side for my friend’s brilliant, visionary Virtual Reality content production business, dobiison.com… Also, my pictures from paragliding are not on my LinkedIn, obviously, but I do enjoy trying my hands at such adrenaline-pumping activities – if it gets me to defy gravity, I’m in.
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
Is it possible to be #TeamBoth? And also #TeamMilo? I don’t think I can be boxed into any team.
HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I am constantly in pursuit of this. Most friends accuse me of being a workaholic, but I think I’m able to find some sort of balance by doing 5 main things: Spending 30mins in the morning at least 4 days a week to exercise; Keeping track of both my relevant work and personal tasks or projects on 1 app on my phone – Google Keep.
You have a bunch of colour-coded notes and checklists all on 1 timeline you can scroll through, select and easily check off finished items; Bleisure – I just recently learnt this word – incorporating some leisure into business travel. And vice versa; Having a few personal or family routines, and sticking to them, e.g. I have a designated day each week for visiting my parents; And finally, keeping a small circle of close, reliable friends that have become like family.
JOB HOPPING IS A COMMON PHENOMENON ESPECIALLY IN THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF ADVERTISING AND MARKETING. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON JOB HOPPING? DOES IT HURT OR AID ONE’S CAREER?
I think it depends on the person and their goal.
If he/she is interested in gathering broad experience from numerous companies to start their own thing or just enjoy stints at different places, then that’s ok. Otherwise, I don’t think having a portfolio of 10 companies in 10 years will give many potential employers confidence to hire for a permanent role.
FOR OUR INTERVIEW WITH YAEL TAMAR FROM SOLIDBLOCK, SHE REMARKED THAT WOMEN ARE MOST LIKELY TO OCCUPY THE CMO ROLE AS COMPARED TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS. WITH WOMEN CONTROLLING OVER $20 TRILLION IN GLOBAL SPENDING, WHY HAS IT BECOME INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT TO HAVE FEMALE CMOS IN YOUR OPINION?
More women, I believe, are more empathetic than men. I think a good CMO can put themself in both the customer’s and the other chief executives’ shoes equally well and strike a good balance to deliver results that satisfy all parties.
SYSTEMS AROUND REMOTE WORK AND VIDEO CONFERENCING ARE INCREASINGLY BECOMING STAPLE IN MOST ORGANISATIONS. ACCORDING TO VISUAL CAPITALIST, ZOOM IS NOW WORTH MORE THAN THE 7 BIGGEST AIRLINES IN THE WORLD AT A WHOPPING MARKET CAPITALIZATION OF JUST OVER $40BN. SUFFICE TO SAY, REMOTE WORKING IS AN ASPECT OF MODERN-DAY WORK THAT HAS BEEN LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE MOST ORGANISATIONS STRUGGLED TO CONVERT TO THIS WAY OF WORK?
I can say the biggest reason is trust.
How do you trust that your creative hire is not playing video games, or handling personal errands for hours wherever they are, and devoting less time to current work? Also, the obvious logistics of it – Internet connectivity in many areas around the world is still not very reliable, you may have to spend a lot on security and communications…
REMOTE WORK HAS COME WITH ITS OWN SET OF CHALLENGES, PARAMOUNT TO THIS IS THE FACT THAT EMPLOYEES ARE NOW ‘ALWAYS ON’ WITH WORK CARRYING OVER EVEN BEYOND WORKING HOURS. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS MANAGE THIS BETTER TO PROTECT THE WELLBEING OF THEIR EMPLOYEES?
To be honest, I don’t think work “carrying over” is inevitable.
The nature of certain businesses just naturally requires it sometimes, and some of us have learnt to live with that. It’s all in the understanding between the 2 parties – my old employer, for instance, would be considerate of us when we came in at 10:30 am because we had to work till 10 pm the day before… Employers will need to be more emotionally intelligent to establish reasonable boundaries and make concessions where necessary, and employees will also need to be disciplined enough to fulfil their responsibilities and goals within reasonable boundaries.
STORYTELLING SEEMS TO BE THE NEXT RISING BUZZWORD. WHAT’S THE SnooCODE STORY? HOW ARE YOU TELLING IT IN AN INTERESTING WAY?
Yes, I love a good story.
And the SnooCODE story is one that has the markings – an engineering student who returned home from the UK, experienced a frustrating problem while working in his Motherland (finding where people were by finding the small blue kiosk), and decided to fix it… A partnership with the ambulance service to save more lives… An endorsement from a WHO body, plus a UN award… A founder that was relieved of his post as CEO at a point, then later made an impressive comeback…
It’s a real-life David and Goliath story, which is interesting, because the name and ethos of our parent company, tinyDAVID, were inspired exactly by that. How am I telling it interestingly? Simple. By sharing my experiences and lessons from the product and the brand. Like my blog post on the fascinating company in my first couple of months of work… And this LinkedIn article on how SnooCODE helped me navigate the humongous Korle bu Teaching Hospital in a family emergency…
If you believe in your brand, telling its story at any good opportunity should come naturally.
BCG PUBLISHED ITS INNOVATION REPORT FOR 2020 AND AT THE CORE OF ITS SELECTION CRITERIA ARE COMPANIES THAT HAVE SUCCESSFULLY MARRIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN THEIR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES. ACCORDING TO YOU, WHAT MAKES SOMETHING INNOVATIVE? HOW DO YOU DEFINE INNOVATION AT SnooCODE ?
Something is innovative when it offers a new solution or offers a solution in a new way.
The genesis of SnooCODE was the question of how do we solve this frustrating problem of hand-drawing one’s neighbourhood map to be able to open a simple bank account, and directing people by citing the 3rd mango tree after the blue kiosk? The answer was not to simply give everybody an address and make it digital, but to invent a whole new way of communicating one’s location.
Today, in an emergency, with every second counting towards life or death, the slum resident can call out to an ambulance operator in one breath, “COF-K8D,” and that will lead relief exactly to the door, within the shortest possible time. This is what we understand by innovation.
AT THE TIME OF PUBLISHING, THE DIGITAL MARKETING INSTITUTE ESTIMATED THAT THE INFLUENCER MARKETING INDUSTRY WILL HIT THE $10BN MARK BY 2020. WHETHER B2B OR B2C, IT’S EVIDENT THAT BRANDS AND ORGANISATIONS HAVE HAD THEIR SUCCESS WITH THIS MODEL OF MARKETING. HOW WILL THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AFFECT THIS INDUSTRY GOING FORWARD AND DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS STILL A PLACE FOR INFLUENCER MARKETING?
I believe there will be a place for influencer marketing for a long time.
People always like to look at or listen to someone they relate with to show them their experience of a particular product or service, and today, as traditional advertising continues to decline, I think influencer marketing will flourish even more. COVID will probably actually help boost popularity because quarantines and reduced outings present people with more time for engagement.
The smartest influencers will capitalise on this to find more creative ways to draw in their audience.
HOW DO YOU LEVERAGE DATA TO INFORM YOUR DECISION-MAKING?
We conduct lots of product trials.
We also make use of surveys quite a bit… And we employ a lot of Math and Statistics in our work, so we utilise measurements like averages and probabilities, and strategies like game theory to make decisions from the trial or survey data, like what products to release in which sequence to users…
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
monday.com. A highly useful Project Management app (Web, desktop and mobile). It has such handy features like time tracking, document attachments and word cloud view – as in, it can show you your entire recorded month’s work in a colourful cloud of keywords!
But more seriously, monday.com feels to me like everything you need in a project management tool. I’m able to track every relevant thing happening at work and be super productive.
If you happen to check it out and you like it, please let them know where you heard it from ☺
2020 AND BEYOND
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
‘Twelve Rules for Life’, by Jordan Peterson. I do both paperback and e-reader. I find so little time for it lately that as someone who used to read at least 3 books a month for some years, I feel really bad. But I’m learning to be more patient with myself. I read anything interesting.
I do still read quite a bit – just from the Web. Haha. From Wikipedia to long Medium pieces 😉
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
The Umbrella Academy, Rick and Morty, BoJack Horseman, FRIENDS, Community, Russian Doll, Stranger Things, Dirty Money…
AS WE LEARN TO LIVE WITH COVID19 IF YOU COULD REPLACE THE HANDSHAKE AS A FORM OF GREETING, WHAT INTERESTING NEW GREETING WOULD YOU INTRODUCE?
Sorry, it’s not new, it’s not interesting, but it works. A nod and a smile that shows in the eyes.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
Maria. My German exchange student friend from uni. I hope she’s enjoying the family life.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Show the world how your product or brand improves your own life. Find interesting (but organic) ways to talk about it once in a while on your social media and in other non-work settings. Why should other people love your product if you don’t?
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Life is harder than you can imagine, but you’re also stronger than you can imagine.
WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PAIN POINTS YOU ARE TRYING TO OVERCOME IN YOUR LIFE WHETHER PROFESSIONALLY, PERSONALLY OR BOTH?
The dilemma of a multipotentialite… I want to do a million things, and sometimes, I grab a seat for a minute and try to just breathe, overwhelmed by all there is to learn, see, experience, do… It can be crippling sometimes, the possibilities… My challenge is finding ways to do as much as I possibly can to feel satisfied and happy with my efforts. Sometimes, I overcome this by saying no to everything and taking a good hour to do nothing but stare into space.
Other times, I find the way to interconnect 2 or more pursuits and multitask essentially, because, time no dey…
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AWESOME WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO INTERVIEW IN FUTURE?
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
I’d like to keep them private, but I can say that they’re mostly stuff to do with travelling to beautiful places and seeing beautiful things, taking the businesses I pursue global, learning at least one other language to an advanced level, and defying gravity.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE HEROES?
Rebecca Enonchong, my African tech female role model. She’s so cool!
Princess Diana (RIP), for her elegance, sharp wit and big heart. Charlize Theron, for her incredible talent and poise… Heddy Lamarr, Austrian-American actress from the 40s who invented frequency-hopping spread spectrum… Rihanna, for her incredibly bad-ass business sense, fashion sense and persona… My mother, for her resilience and beautiful, loving nature.