WOW: Women Only Wednesdays Ft Marketing Guru Sadaf Zarrar

WOW is an acronym for Women Only Wednesdays. The idea is to cover famous and lesser known women who belong to a diverse variety of professional backgrounds. From fashion, marketing, blogging, and engineering, to designing, cooking, science, and photography. What binds them are their stories of struggle and success.

Featuring Wonder Woman Sadaf Zarrar

Sadaf Zarrar is a marketing wizard who has worked relentlessly to hit one career milestone after the other, not just achieving personal goals, but creating a resounding impact in her field with every home run. Whether it’s her full time, extremely demanding corporate job at Coca Cola, or running her successful fashion and lifestyle blog Siddy Says, she knows how to keep herself busy. She’s built both personal success for herself as well as a niche audience for her content. Besides being a serial branding expert, she still manages to get her voice across in a quintessentially opinionated and confident manner — the kind of distinctive opinions that have come to define her, and are reflected in her work.

Sadaf heads integrated marketing communications at Coca-Cola Pakistan, looking after the communication touch points for the Coke portfolio. From campaigns to promotions and packaging, or meeting with local stakeholders as well as the global team, no two work days are the same for her. She is rightfully considered a strong and powerful professional in the marketing fraternity not merely because of the responsibility of the projects she has to undertake, but also because of the amount of time she dedicates nurturing a community of like minded people. We spoke with her and learned a lot of valuable insight and knowledge about marketing, personal development, and how to turn your dreams into a reality. 

How did you get started in your career?

Working was never a choice for me. My parents always encouraged me to study hard and find my way in the world. A career in communication became an evident choice as my interests evolved over the years. I had the luxury to experiment and dabble with subjects and internships, with full support from my home. I would credit my mother more than anyone else, who always encouraged me to find my calling and make something of myself. It is so important for parents to allow their children, especially their daughters, the freedom to experiment and explore. I joined advertising 18 years ago when advertising was still an under established territory. I’m lucky that instead of pushing me to opt for a more familiar industry my parents supported my choices. 

What makes you passionate about this work? What motivates you to succeed at what you do?

I love interacting with people. I find human connection inspiring and fascinating, and therefore my job continues to keep me engaged everyday. Whether It is my role as the Head of IMC at Coca Cola or SiddySays, I made a career out of something I love and there is never a dull day. 

Having done this for nearly two decades though, I have to admit that motivations evolve and adapt all the time. Lately, capability building and women empowerment have been two strong influences that have shaped my choices. I’m much more involved in coaching and mentoring which motivates me today more than anything else to succeed, and then be able to pass the learnings on. 

How has your skill set grown over the last two decades?

Experience is everything, more than theory, more than education. In the past two decades I have found more purpose in life, which is beyond just prioritising myself. My journey has evolved from establishing myself to helping and supporting others do the same. On a personal front, I have always been extremely emotionally vested in what I do. With age and experience I have learnt to channel and manage my responses to situations better. 

What are your core strengths?

Integrity and empathy. Both keep me real and grounded, and have truly helped me to become the person I am today.

What publications and blogs do you read regularly?

Well, SiddySays of course! I think social media is finally experiencing a meaningful boom in this country and content creators are having their day. While there are a plethora of voices out there, there are a few that really manage to create their niche, without sacrificing on quality. There’s a list of talented micro bloggers and YouTubers who I regularly follow including The Style Journal, Momina’s Mixed Plate, Anoushey Shahid, UrduMom, and Desi WonderWoman. As a marketer, more than a blogger I can appreciate anyone who takes the time to present a consistent point of view. I think these ladies have their beats so in sync with their personalities that they are truly influencers in their own right. 

Who’s your favourite marketer and why?

I think the inspiration for my career today came more from an advertising man… David Ogily. Also, another person within the Ogilvy Network who’s work directly inspired my career was Mike King, now a retired Ogilvy executive, but truly an inspiration at the time he worked for Ogilvy UK. Though my inspiration does not solely come from marketing and the marketing fraternity. Some of the people I have tried to emulate and learn from over the years are Muneeza Hashmi, Garance Dore, Wendy Clarke and the women at home like my Dadi and Nani who were both extremely independent, very opinionated and strong women. Of course, my mother as well, who in her own right has perhaps had the most influence on me being the person that I am today. 

In your own words, what’s the goal of marketing and branding?

I think the beauty of marketing and branding is how art meets science. At the end of the day, the sole purpose of marketing and branding is to create a connection – be it between a brand and its customers, two companies, or with people. I think branding exists in how humans function. We are constantly gushing about, judging, and labelling things, people or situations. I think marketing just pivots the narrative in your favour, putting you in the drivers seat to control how you are perceived. 

Describe SiddySays as a brand.

SiddySays is a personal reflection of me and my partner Amna. We’re both independent, career minded, multitasking moms who settle for anything. We love fashion, beauty, travel and more. I guess it’s a written manifestation of just that. 

How important is digital marketing as a skill today and what sites do you recommend as a starter guide to beginners?

Honestly, the answer to this question would vary depending on the scale and reach of your business. For companies such as Coca-Cola, it’s a key element in their marketing mix. However for a brand like SiddySays, it is the entire universe. 

I do think that with the advent of digital marketing and the evolution from a monologue to a dialogue, we see companies and brands put more effort into the created content, since viewers aren’t bound to watch or consume anything anymore unless they’re genuinely engaged. It’s an advertisers greatest challenge today. 

What’s the strangest myth you have heard about the marketing industry?

I think the strangest myth about marketing is that everyone assumes they can do it! I think to be a marketer who truly creates a differentiated impact, not only to you need to be severely perceptive, a keen observer and empathetic, you also need to understand the science of efficient messaging and media management to be able to create a truly impactful dialogue. I think that’s the difference between people who think they can market, and those that do. 

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