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Abdul Sani Abdul Murad: Sharply Exhibiting Role of Business Marketing Leader

Marketing is vital for businesses to create a level of intimacy between the customer and the brand. Marketers are the one who ensure and decide marketing goals for the business and its accountability. One such marketer is Abdul Sani Abdul Murad, the Group Chief Marketing Officer at RHB Banking Group who is leading the company’s brand marketing and is responsible for its media strategy, consumer research, consumer management, and marketing strategy.
In an interview with Insights Success, Abdul Sani shares the insights about his RHB Banking Group and its services that create the fast and seamless customer experience. Considering his resilience and inspirational aspects, Insights Success recognizes Abdul Sani Abdul Murad, as one of the influential marketing leaders to watch in 2019.
Below are highlights from the interview conducted between Abdul Sani and Insights Success:
Give a brief overview of your background as an influential marketing leader. 
I am a true blue marketer who started at one of the world’s largest fast moving consumer goods company, Unilever, as their marketing scholar. I managed various business categories for 10 years and helped grow a number of them into market leaders before joining Malaysia’s largest foreign bank, HSBC in 2008, as their Marketing Chief, for 9 years. We were awarded by the HSBC Group Headquarters for being the best marketing team in the Asia Pacific in 2010 for producing the best marketing campaign in the HSBC world in 2009. Subsequently, I joined one of Malaysia’s largest banking group, RHB in 2017, as their Group Chief Marketing Officer.
It was truly humbling when I received the marketing distinction recognition in 2013 and was awarded the Malaysian CMO Award for being the Best Marketer in Influencer Marketing in 2018 by Marketing Magazine.
How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to appeal to the target audience? 
In a growing digital economy, our research provided insights into how people are using the digital tools at their disposal to run their lives. Through this, we saw an opportunity to build better trust and bolster relationships with our customers by diversifying our offerings into the digital channel.
One of the many digital banking initiatives we have rolled out is called ’banking by your doorstep’. It is an offering which enables customers to open their bank account online and have it delivered at the comfort of their home or office. The proposition of having the bank officer come to you to do the regulatory KYC verification and delivering your banking account serves time-pressed customers well. Customers do not need to set foot in the branch anymore when opening a bank account. This unique offering is one of its kind in the market we serve and has seen a strong adoption rate with over 75% of our total banking accounts being opened online.
What were the past experiences, achievements or lessons that have shaped your journey? 
In the early years, we often see shampoo advertisements showcasing beautiful models with beautiful hair to entice customers’ purchase intent. This is almost a must-have ritual when marketing a shampoo. However, we defied the marketing norm by producing shampoo advertising aimed at Muslim women who wear headscarves without showcasing hair. We took an emotional approach instead, by leveraging on strong consumer insight and stitched a well-crafted brand story to deliver the message, which won the hearts of many people and took market share leadership from another shampoo brand that has been a market leader for decades.
This experience taught me that people don’t buy products anymore because they buy into emotions and experiences instead. Brands need to connect with customers simply by being more human in how it engages them.
How do you strategize your game plans to tackle competition in the market? 
RHB has been around for more than 100 years and we want to be around for several hundred more. We believe we have been around for that long because we have been in tune with society by focusing on delivering our brand’s core purpose. We take the outside-in perspective by taking customers’ point of view and becoming an advocate for customers within the organization.
Where do you see yourself in the near future and what are your future goals? 
I do wish to see more marketing leaders taking on leadership roles in successful organizations. It will be a great fulfillment if I can play a part in providing a conducive training ground for young marketers who share the above inspiration. As they say, to be a good leader, you have to breed other leaders.
What is your advice for budding and emerging marketing leaders? 
We live in a technology world that’s changing at breakneck speed in a business environment that’s highly regulated and bound by commercial constraints. However, the marketing future still depends on how well marketers build strong emotional bonds with customers. Just be warm and human; do not allow yourself to be sucked into the technological quicksand that could cost you to lose your human touch. After all, your customers will never get tired of being romanced by the brand they love and this feeling will never run out of fashion. Remember that if you’re not romancing your customers, someone else will.