#333: Building Customer-Centric Brands, Sustainability and Loyalty in the UAE

This interview of “Let’s Talk Loyalty” features a marketing thought leader based here in the UAE, sharing her perspectives on driving customer loyalty.

Maria Gedeon is a retail, destinations, and entertainment executive, with 20 years of experience building global brands here in the Middle East and North Africa.

Maria is also a Board Member of the Marketing Society, and she has worked on a number of high-profile loyalty programs here in the UAE.

Listen to hear Maria’s passion for brands and sustainability, as well as her belief in the importance of “Customer Performance Indicators” – a fascinating change of focus and an idea that is relevant for loyalty marketers worldwide.

Show Notes:

1) Maria Gedeon

2) Gedoen Mohr & Partners

3) Article: The Most Important Metrics You’re Not Tracking (Yet)

Audio Transcript

Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.

This show is sponsored by Comarch, a global provider of innovative software products and business services. Comarch’s platform is used by leading brands across all industries to drive their customer loyalty, powered by AI and machine learning, Comarch Technologies allow you to build, run, and manage personalized loyalty programs and product offers with ease.

For more information, please visit comarch.com.

Hello and welcome to episode 333 of Let’s Talk Loyalty. Today, we’re staying close to home and meeting a marketing thought leader based here in the UAE for her perspectives on driving customer loyalty. Maria Gedeon describes herself as a retail, destinations and entertainment executive with 20 years experience building global brands here in the Middle East and North Africa.

Maria is also a board member of The Marketing Society here in the UAE and she has worked on a number of high profile loyalty programs in this country. As well as her passion for brands and sustainability. My favorite insight was when Maria shared her belief in the importance of Customer Performance Indicators instead of the purely corporate focus, Key Performance Indicators or KPIs that many of us use.

I really loved this idea as something every loyalty marketeer listening today could be thinking about. I found the article Maria mentioned explaining this concept of CPIs, so you’ll find the link to that article and to Maria’s profile in our show notes for today’s episode. And as always, we include any relevant links in our emails.

So please make sure you’re signed up to our newsletters for the easiest way to find them. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Maria Gedeon, CEO of Gedeon Mohr and Partners.

Paula: So Maria Gedeon, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty.

Maria: Thank you, Paula. Thanks for having me on your show. I’m very excited.

Paula: I’m very excited to have you here, Maria. I think from my very first time actually when I joined The Marketing Society is when, uh, when we first met and, uh, you were so welcoming and introduced me to loads of people, certainly even within loyalty immediately, which I wasn’t even expecting.

So, um, so we have loads in common, including your entrepreneurial background, so a lot to talk about today. Uh, both in terms of, I guess, loyalty in the ua. Which is, uh, a topic that we’re both, uh, personally, I suppose interested in as consumers, as well as professionals. Um, but more interestingly, I think sustainability is definitely a key passion topic for you, Maria.

So want to see your thoughts on sustainability and its role in driving loyalty for consumers and brands. So before we get into all of those meaty topics, Maria, as you know, we always like to start our show asking our guests about their personal favorite loyalty program as marketing professionals. So let’s kick off with that question.

Tell us.

Maria: Sure. So look, as a marketing professional, I personally like a program that enables me to have a better experience, a program that understands a little bit about me, but also makes sure that some of the pain points in a journey are kind of. Eliminated and my overall experience is, is elevated in general.

I found that hotels and airlines do that very well. Uh, some of them are still a little bit more traditional, but you know, the fact that they understand. what a consumer or customer has to go through. And they always make sure that it’s elevated. Means that, you know, they kind of have me in their pocket, to a certain degree.

Yes. Um, and I think one that I particularly like or I, I like, I like. I like two. I like Sky Wars and it hot guests that do things very well. They both have their pros and cons, but having been a, having moved from Abu Dhabi a few years ago, I am a lot more, uh, accustomed with this, with Sky Wars. I think overall we’re very fortunate in the UAE to have a level of customer experience that we can’t find anywhere else, especially in hospitality and travel.

Yeah. Uh, so yeah, in general, I, I like these two programs and it had, I think, is. Investing a little bit more, uh, in E S G and sustainability as well. And I think, yeah. You know, even in their program they, they use this line that they encourage customers to fly high with a lower carbon footprint, for example.

So I think. That also plays very well with me because it somehow protects the planet .

Paula: Totally, totally. There’s a lot to be said, Maria. You’re absolutely right. First of all, we are spoiled rotten in the uae, so to have such, um, I suppose such luxury experiences, um, even without the loyalty programs, dare I say it like Emirates and Eddie Hat are both world class airlines, so their core product, I think is, except.

And I think as marketing professionals, the important thing is no loyalty program as we know can ever compensate if the core product is not already a good experience. So I know that’s something you’re very passionate about as well. What I tend to feel is you’re absolutely right. We’ve had both of the, the airlines on the show here from a loyalty perspective specifically.

And Eddie Hat definitely has their conscious choices program. So sustainability is, is front and center. And I think we’ll get into a, a conversation about exactly why that is obviously being seen as a differentiator. And I think sometimes the fact that they’re a smaller airline. Makes them a little bit more agile actually, so they can execute on something like that.

So, but you know, at the same time, Emes does such an exceptional job in terms of delighting us and uh, I’ve often said on this show, skywards is my favorite program. So it’s, um, yeah, it’s exciting times and I think UA e in fact, particularly, we’re quite lucky in how much is going on, in fact, in the loyalty space.

So, You’ve been involved, um, in various different roles, Maria, as a chief marketing officer, for example, for some of the biggest retail groups. So why don’t you start by giving us a bit of background of your maybe career in general, and then I know there’s four specific UA Eloy programs that I’d love to give our listeners just a little bit of insight on today.

Maria: Yeah, of course. So I started my career as an entrepreneur. I, I started by building a small experiential company and events company when I was 18. Uh, and, um, I did that for a few years and then I moved to Abu Dhabi. Mm-hmm. , uh, in 2006 to work on the World Future Energy Summit. Uh, and I was fortunate to work with.

Global leaders, president offices, and we had Al Gore at the conference, prince Charles there by hologram and I think, wow. It was really the start of this entire sustainability and renewable energy, uh, agenda. I think it was a couple of months later. Abu Dhabi launched ire and, you know, the movement towards a more sustainable future.

Yeah. Really kicked off in, in the UAE and this part of the world. Um, after, after that, I actually moved to a Mubadala subsidiary to manage a, an asset that is very close to my heart and it’s called Z Sports City. , they have 1.2 million square meters of sports facilities. Uh, they’re very strong at building the community, bringing people together to lead a and have a healthier lifestyle.

Mm-hmm. , uh, I did that for a few years. We had a very, very boutique loyalty program called Alan was Helen to drive a better experience and to drive engagement and frequency. And I think that, It’s very particular to sports, but when you’re a fan of a sport and you like your community and you like your club, then you know it’s easier on the club to be driving that loyalty than it would be for Yeah.

Entertainment, for example. Totally. So after doing seven years with Mubadala and Z Sports City, I joined, uh, maj Del Fu. Mm-hmm. , uh, I was the marketing director for the, uh, entertainment arm. So, uh, we had a, a program called Vox Rewards for Cinemas Alone. It was a fairly traditional, uh, loyalty program where, you know, the more.

Come to the cinema and the more you purchase cinema tickets, uh, then the, the, the more you can buy. I think with your points that would maybe equal every nine trips to the cinema. You could get like a free ticket Cool. Uh, for you. Um, and then. Fu as a whole, uh, especially holding, decided that with the amount of brands that they have as and their golden customer record of over 10 million customers, wow.

It made sense to create a loyalty program that combined the different brands in the Ma del Fu portfolio. And this is where Cher was actually born. It’s, it’s also a, a. A program that’s very, very close to my heart. Yeah. Um, I supported the shared team, uh, at holding that is led by Kashmir, who also worked on Skywards.

Yes. Um, who did a phenomenal job at bringing all of the best practice, all of the learnings, the absolute best technology, the absolute best people to really, truly build probably one of the most complex loyalty programs I’ve seen. Yeah. Given the sheer. Difference between the brands and the industries. So, and that goes from retail to home, to beauty, to entertainment, to leisure, cinemas, groceries, and obviously your C D P has to be different across the different brands.

And the complexity of making a consumer understand the relationship between these brands. Yeah. Um, was, was fairly challenging. They did such a good job that it ensured that, you know, the, the lifetime value of a matter FU customer Yeah. Increased quite substantially. And they, they used the data to make informed decisions and they’re very, very good at listening to their, their customers.

Yes. Which also meant that they were always continuous improvements on the programs. Yeah. That also meant that, you know, They were releasing a lot of upgrades on the app and their platforms, uh, with time. Um, and I think, you know, they, they did a phenomenal job. And, and after my journey with Mash Fu, which was extremely fulfilling and probably, uh, you know, a phenomen fantastic job.

I’ve had, I moved to the Shalu group, the largest luxury retail group in, in this part of the. . Yeah. And they also have had a challenging journey with loyalty in general because I mean, they sell luxury, right? Yeah. And the benefits are luxury are really intangible. Right? And often loyalty programs could be associated with promotions or discounts, and they wanted to offer a world class lifestyle program that was more about.

The surprise and the delight and the value that you get that isn’t necessarily a financial value. Yeah. Uh, and I think, um, I, I think the, the program from a, a, a look and feel from a launch, from a positioning point of view is truly unique. Especially for the region. Uh, we’ve seen so many luxury retail programs, uh, uh, rise and fall in the last few years because they didn’t really manage to Yeah.

Give you that incrementality from a value perspective as a consumer. Yeah. And a lot of them were treating. everybody the same. And no two humans are the same. Right? So I think, yeah, that was the beauty of the Muse program is that they were really looking at Yeah, their segmentation at, uh, individualized marketing and personalization to make sure that.

every customer was treated differently. Yeah. Within the MUS ecosystem. And they have over 40 luxury brands, uh, some of which, uh, you know, were a bit reluctant to come on board at the beginning. Yes. And I think, you know, these type of programs take time to truly build themselves and become Yeah. Truly profitable.

So I think, uh, I think they, they’ve done, they’ve had a really. Really, really interesting journey and kickoff and they have a new team now and I’m really confident that they will truly stand out and differentiate themselves from other programs in the future. For

Paula: sure. Thank you for that background, Maria.

Um, I didn’t know about Side Sports City. So I’ll definitely go and explore that. I tend to feel in fact that sports is an up and coming vertical where loyalty programs are becoming, uh, more mainstream, um, which is quite, I think, surprising to a lot of loyalty professionals who listen to this show because as you already said, Sometimes there’s the assumption that the sport itself and my fandom, for example, like just being a fan or being passionate about doing a sport might be enough already.

But I do think loyalty is a differentiator, so I’m delighted to hear that they were already seeing that quite early. Yeah, and

Maria: I think in general, Paula, Clubs did it very well with their DI venture programs, especially on the football side. Yeah. Um, and I think they start to build their fandom and their fan base at a very young age.

Yeah. So you’re a diehard fan of a football club since you’re born and you’re probably follow your father’s favorite club and who follows their grandfather or their town or their city. But yeah, like you said, you know, There’s a lot more now and perhaps in different types of sports, whether battles or a very, very up and coming Yes.

Sport and I, we, we’ve seen there, it’s incremental growth in this part of the world started in Spain, obviously, and the fact that, you know, people could also be. going after price and Yeah. Uh, and experience as well. So if somebody else can offer them a better rate on their court, higher or on something else, you know, they’re switchers when it comes to that.

So it also depends on the type of sports and how long you’ve been a fan Yeah. Of a place. Um, but you, you’re absolutely right. I think what a great differentiator and it. To nail how they structure the program. I think it could truly become Yeah, uh, uh, a real reason. Yeah. To actually stick to a place or, uh, or uh, or a team.

Paula: Yeah. And you mentioned the word profitability as well, Maria, so I’ll get onto that one in a second because, you know, everybody, I’ve think listening to this show again, is like, Oh my God. How do we measure it? How do we prove it? How do we really do that justification piece? So, and I know that applies to all forms of marketing, but what I like about your experience is that you’ve had it at the C m O level.

So a lot of people listening to this show, for example, are, you know, probably operating at the program level, maybe have to justify spend to, uh, CMOs and CFOs of course. So the more justification we can kind of support them with, um, the. Um, but before we move on, what I wanted to just, um, first of all say is of course Mag Alpha Tame and the Shaub Group.

You know, for our listeners, for example, in the United States, in the uk, in Australia, you know, I guess there’s very, um, different market dynamics in the UAE particularly, um, and in fact across the whole Gulf region where there are these incredible. Enormous holding groups, um, where there are, as you said, perhaps 40 brands, and how do you create a loyalty proposition when you don’t even have an existing brand that you can leverage to educate people?

So I want to, I suppose, acknowledge that, uh, mag Fu and the Share Program have done an exceptional job and Kashmir has promised to come on this show, so we’ll definitely. Some point, maybe this episode will give her another, uh, reminder that we’re very excited to hear the, the share program a few years in.

But they’ve definitely nailed something that, as you said, um, plenty of of retail brands in this market have not succeeded at and with the Muse program, as you said from the Shalu Group, another beautiful proposition. And we did have Muse on the show, uh, in their early days. Uh, so we hope to have them back on in the future to hear about how they’re evolv.

So I think that’s our kind of masterclass in loyalty in the UAE through the, the lens of Maria Gideon. So thank you for that. Um, little bit of an oversight. So tell us about what you’re doing now, Maria, because I think it’s a fascinating proposition. Um, hot off the presses, I’m going to say in terms of the new company that you’re focusing on for, uh, marketing requirements, again, across this whole region.

So tell us a bit about your, your latest.

Maria: So, uh, in December, I, I launched a non-traditional consultancy company. We are a collective of former C-level executives that come together to support clients solve. Problems or, or challenges in their journey? So we primarily focus on design, uh, growth and transformation, uh, and design sustainable, uh, strategies, capabilities and brands in, in five key industries we wanna focus on.

And, and these are retail entertainment destinations, uh, hospitality and, uh, food. As a whole and, and, and these are primarily where our capabilities lie. And it can go all the way from building a new brand or a new store to acquiring a another player. So we can do anything from Yeah, design to m and a to transactions, to fit spot of your growth agenda wide infusing sustainability and E S G and kind of protecting the, the planet.

And, and our proposition is that we aim to attract. And retain really the, the most exceptional, uh, advisors globally, uh, with the, with flexible work and, you know, the opportunity to be able to work from anywhere. You are not required to be in this part of the world to serve clients from this part of the world.

So we’re pretty much. Global, uh, amazing. 50% of our advisors are a little bit everywhere in the world. We have advisors in Australia, in New York, uh, in London, in Paris, in Spain, in Turkey, so in Lebanon. So we’re, we’re a, a very, um, Diverse, uh, diverse team. Mm-hmm. . And, uh, so we were born in Dubai. We have an office in Denmark, and, uh, and we use really data and customers.

Mm-hmm. at the heart of everything. So, uh, design thinking, uh, is used across all of our frameworks. Mm-hmm. . And we use a very human-centric, uh, approach to deliver our informed, uh, our informed, uh, Basically. So this is it in a nutshell. Amazing. Uh, we’re very passionate about sustainability, like you’ve said.

Yeah. And E S G and in a survey that we ran, uh, during our launch, 85% of c e o in the uae and Saudi said that sustainability tops the board agenda. Yes. But very few actually had a plan. Uh, okay. And only 1% thought. It was a, it was actually a catalyst for growth. Wow. So I feel like there’s a lot of education that we need to, uh, do in this part of the world proving why a sustainable brand could drive real loyalty, uh, amongst audiences.

Uh, Not just in the future, but from now. I think the future is now, so,

Paula: yeah. Yeah. And we’ll definitely get into exactly exploring that now. But before we do, what I really like about your collective is this idea of C-Suite on demand. And I think you described to me last time, it’s almost like the the fiver.com, but of, um, yeah.

C-Suite executive,

Maria: so exactly like C-Suite as a service, . . I love that. Exactly. So I think the way it works is, uh, clients come to us with their case or their challenge and then, uh, you know, using some filters and the data that we have, uh, on our current advisors as well as what if achieved in their lifetime.

Yeah. We put together the most efficient and effective team for our clients, making sure that we’re delivering on, you know, on their requirements, uh, in the most efficient but also creative way, cuz often. , you know, some transferable skills. Lost in translation or people with creative skills don’t necessarily get included in strategic decision making.

Yeah. Uh, and we found that often when you have a creative director or a CX O on, uh, on one of the projects, even if it’s not necessarily a creative challenge or a creative brief, They always have a different way of seeing things and, and that’s why, you know, we kind of try to inject a little bit more creativity, experience, and all things customer in our problem

Paula: solving approach.

amazing. And, and what I like about your approach as well, Maria, is it’s not, um, pure consultants coming from a consulting background. You know, this practitioner, c-suite practitioner expertise is actually to me, the game changer because there are plenty of consulting firms in the world. But to have somebody who’s actually been there, done that, and we’ve often said it about loyalty, particularly because we’re so specialized, and I know you’re bringing some, um, loyalty expertise into the collective as well.

So that as, and when clients come to you with requirements globally, which I think is super exciting, you’ll be able to bring, I suppose the, the relevant loyalty expert, you know, to come in and maybe give an external perspective for these cases.

Maria: That’s absolutely correct, and I think, uh, you know, the, the council is informed and we will always use data, but our experience hands-on in an operation in corporate also means that what all of the advice that we’re giving to our clients has been tried and tested.

And that, you know, we have a, a different approach that is a little bit more simplified because we don’t necessarily want to. Complicate the, the message or our decks or our, our council, and we make sure. , everything that we recommend is achievable. Mm-hmm. in a short amount of time. And our longer term goal is to make our clients autonomous and stay in their lives as advisors and just have quick checkpoints.

Yeah. So we don’t have to hold their hands. Longer term because if we haven’t given them the right strategy, the right capabilities, and the capabilities and the right training, it means that we kind of failed somewhere. So we, we don’t wanna be a drug . We kind of wanna be, oh, that’s, we wanna empower them to kind of have all of the right tools to make their own informed decisions in the future.


Paula: Yeah. And sometimes you just need that feeling, I suppose, that somebody’s got your back, that you can almost kind of go. Got the strategy, now I’m ready to execute. You know, almost sense checking back as well to an external perspective to make sure, first of all, I suppose that you’ve got global best practice in mind and make sure you haven’t missed anything from conceptualizing the strategy through to actually operationalizing and pressing go.

So I think that’s super useful and I like that you’ve described it as, you don’t wanna be the.

Maria: Exactly. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that, but No, totally.

Paula: It’s a global podcast. We, we say pretty much anything that we believe in, let’s say, rather than anything at all. Great , love it. So tell me more about the research, Maria.

Um, I guess, you know, my perspective on sustainability is, it, it, it, it was high profile and then the pandemic, I think unfortunately probably damaged a lot of, um, the attention that brands were paying to their sustainability agenda. So I definitely feel like, um, it’s something that has been, uh, something that we’re all aware of for a very long time, both as individual consumers with our own kind of lifestyle in mind, and of course, as business.

But I feel like it’s dropped off the, the, the priority list and, and is slowly recovering its perspective and the fact that you are hearing it from your clients in this piece of research as something that they’re very much focused on as a C-Suite agenda, but it almost sounds like they don’t know why is that?

Uh, am I, am I hearing that correctly from you? Uh,

Maria: I, I wouldn’t necessarily say they, they don’t know why. I think everybody understands that that’s gonna substantially, you know, improve the way we live on this planet in, in the longer, in the longer term, I think. The bigger issue is that in they’re not sure how, they’re not sure how they can make an impact and what they need to put in place in order for them to get there.

And there’s so much greenwashing and so much outsourcing of sustainability, uh, sustainability, uh, uh, initiatives that I think brands need to be a lot more conscious with the way that. talk about these programs and I think transparency is, is surely key in the success of, of their programs. And there’s no harm in saying we’re at the beginning of our journey and we have a vision.

Yeah, we have a North Star, we have an ambition and then slowly, you know, putting a plan in place. But I think, you know, 12 months from now is too late. You know, cop 28 is is gonna be here in the uae and you can see how much exci excitement there is and how. Organizations are willing to put into their sustainable agendas.

But you have a point, you know, with the global recession, supply chain disruptions, uh, with, with, you know, the way the world is going economically. Yeah. It’s always easy to say. Sustainability is not a priority on my agenda today, my top and bottom line is, and I think hence why only 1% of people survey.

thought sustainability was actually a catalyst for growth.

Paula: That’s super worrying and I’m guessing, um, well first of all, I’m, I’m assuming that research was kind of gulf, uh, so this region, uh, focus, cuz I know that’s your, your geographical area of focus, but my sense is that that is also a global concern that.

You know that, that the e s G intentions, I believe, are well-intentioned. So I’m not saying that that, that there’s no, uh, business leaders that don’t feel and understand the need. But as we’ve said, you know, there’s so many other things. They’re under pressure from shareholders to drive the growth agenda.

And you know, with the PR benefits of course of E S G, that’s one kind of, um, reason to invest and focus. However, there may be other things that they believe are, are more crucial, more urgent, more demanding of their time and attention. So, um, my sense is that everybody, um, yes, appreciates, uh, everybody wants to, but as you said, maybe then it’s the how is the problem to, to bring the solutions to market.

And it’s actually, again, one of the reasons I wanted you on the show, Maria, because I feel that the loyalty professionals who listen to this show can absolutely be those drivers. Because we’ve got the data, we can, first of all, perhaps, you know, you know, go and source the research to prove that the consumer expectations are aligned with this as a business objective.

But then also a bit like Etti had guest, as we talked about earlier, they can identify lever. And drive behavior change that is aligned with sustainability. Would that be, would that be fair to.

Maria: Absolutely. So Paula, 80% of consumers are changing their habits based on ESG and social and responsibility and inclusiveness.

And I think, wow, I, I, if I remember correctly, over 66% of consumers are ready to pay more. Yeah. For sustainable brand. Yeah. So that to me alone means so much when it comes to brand loyalty because this is how you can become, uh, or build your differentiator, your POD or your points of differentiation.

Yeah. Uh, there’s also this feeling of content. So when you do purchase something that is a bit more sustainable and then you’re less harmful to the environment and the planet. Yeah. You know that emotional feeling that you get while connecting to a brand amplifies, because a lot of people make decisions based on emotions.

Right. And I think, yeah, 64% of consumers feel happier buying a sustainable product. Yeah. Which means a lot for loyalty. And the way I position it often is that sustainability or E S G, just like. Customer experience or omnichannel is not a department. Yeah. It really needs to be cascaded down across the organization.

Yeah. Infused through an operating model. It’s okay to have a transformation office or a chief sustainability officer to drive the agenda and be the voice of sustainability, but it’s ultimately the responsibility of the entire organization to own it. Mm-hmm. , and if there are no KPIs in. At a corporate level that ensure that these leaders are delivering on the sustainability agenda mm-hmm.

And then I feel like it’s gonna, not gonna move, uh, at a pace that is gonna be Yeah. Uh, fast enough to make an impact quickly enough.

Paula: Yeah, yeah. No, you’re right. And Cop 28. Um, and I don’t know the timing. Forgive me, Maria, but it is coming to Dubai. It’s extremely high profile. I guess it’s, it’s focusing this region’s attention very much on the agenda in a way that’s never happened before.

W would you agree? .

Maria: Absolutely. It’s uh, at the end of November. So from the you 30th of November to the 12th of December.

Paula: Okay. Incredible. And you mentioned KPIs as well, Maria. Um, and I remember last time we spoke, you did make a distinction I really liked between those corporate KPIs. And again, I know you’ve got the corporate background and understand that that’s the language that we have to talk, but also I think coming from your passion, C m o, uh, positioning within those organizations.

You did, uh, I suppose adopt your own, um, acronym, let’s say about customer KPIs, or pardon me, consumer PIs, is that what you call them? CPIs,

Maria: uh, customer performance indicators. So cs, yeah. I think this was a term that was first used by Accenture. Okay. Uh, in an H B R review. And it’s not rocket science, it’s just measuring things.

when it comes to the actual customer and not necessarily when it comes to the organization. So when you look at performance SLAs, bottom line, top line, retention frequency, this is the impact that a program has on the company. It’s not exactly measuring the value that it adds to the customer, whether it’s how much time they save, whether it’s how much money they save, whether it’s.

Much better their experiences. So instead of measuring things in the perspective of a company, wow, we need to start measuring things in the perspective of a customer. Wow. And I think this truly means that companies are embracing a customer-centric, uh, mindset across the org. Uh, when these. when these become, uh, measures of success in a boardroom and, you know, your president or your c e o asks you questions about how much, how many more customers have we pleased, or how many more customers you know, have enjoyed their experience shopping with us or have enjoyed.

Using our product. So I think it’s a bit more about Yeah. How you make your customers feel versus how your company is performing. Yeah. And it’s, it’s, it’s fair to keep both, obviously. It doesn’t mean that it’s one or the other, but, you know, ignoring, ignoring how you treat a customer and what that means for them Yeah.

Is not necessarily mean that, you know, you’re actually measuring the right.

Paula: But like, I, like, I’m, I’m, I’m really impressed with that. Now I have to say there’s very few acronyms, , first of all, that actually make instant sense. Um, but given that, again, I suppose we are entirely here to talk about creating that emotion of loyalty.

Like we, we don’t come on this show and say we have to talk about points and, and discounts and prizes and all of the things that loyalty programs do. For me, if I was sitting listening to this show and listening to what you’re saying, I would actually be reframing my KPIs to CS and, and, and I think that’s almost maybe the, the bottom up, um, approach.

Or maybe it is top down perspective where, as you said, it’s one thing to have the perspective of what’s working for the organization, but coming from a place of integrity, which I know is super valuable and, and it’s it’s core value to you, it’s also my top value. To actually have CPIs to me, would be transformational for any company if they actually made that

Maria: shift.

Exactly. And I, I, I hope that this encourages people to look at things with a different lens and a different perspective. Yeah. Uh, again, there, it’s not a one size fits all approach. It depends on. what they’re trying to achieve. It could be that they just, you know, want people to wait a, a smaller amount of time on the phone with call center or whether their, yeah, deliveries should be a lot faster, or not necessarily faster, but you know, their last mile deliveries should be maybe be adapted to what they want.

Cuz often, yeah, what companies end up doing is a blanket approach. and they think that a 90 minute delivery within Dubai is gonna be suited to me when I’m working full-time and there’s nobody to accept my package if it arrives within 90 minutes. So I think, yeah, it’s a matter of really understanding your customers intrinsically well.

And yeah, I think it’s one thing that I say all the time is just, is ask your customers e explicitly know them intimately and truly put them. , you know, the center of every decision that you make because Yeah, you know, often we think about the tech first, or we think about a process first, and these come at the expense of a good customer experience, which in turn drive.

Are supposed to drive loyalty, but have the opposite effect. And we’ve seen that with a lot of, a few giants in this part of the world where, you know, they’ve lost a significant amount of customers because Yeah. You know, they couldn’t, they couldn’t do things in a, in a good enough way. That was, yeah, suited.

For customers.

Paula: Absolutely. And every customer is different, as you’ve said before, many times. So yeah, sometimes we say our region is different, our company is different. Our, our culture is different, but, but every person is different. So I like that word intrinsically. I think what it shows is that you are a marketeer through and through Maria.

Um, so, um, Final bit I wanted to just touch on briefly was, I suppose to go back to the beginning, uh, the marketing society that I joined recently. And, uh, definitely feel I am remiss in having waited so long because the UAE chapter of the Marketing Society has done some extraordinary work even in the few months that I’ve been involved.

So maybe just for people listening, I know there are, um, chapters in various cities around the world, so maybe we just touch on, um, your history, I suppose, with the marketing.

Maria: So I, I’ve been with, I think I was member number within, within the first 10. I, I must say amazing. I’ve attended the, the first event was at the Khalifa.

I lived in Abu Dhabi at the time. Yeah, it was called The Uncomfortable Breakfast, and it was at. eight o’clock in the morning. So I had to drive from Abu Dhabi at six 30 in the morning to attend my first event. Yeah. And I was a very vocal member. . Uh, and it was also, uh, you know, a board that was, was still storming and forming and, um, it was a, a very, uh, male dominated board because there weren’t a lot of, uh, women, uh, in this marketing C-suite.

So, uh, very quickly, um, we, we, we. Joint forces and I, I actually became a, a board member of this phenomenal, uh, organization and institution, and the UAE is one of the fastest growing markets. Uh, we have phenomenal stories. We have over 300 members and, uh, we now have a couple of full-time people based here.

Mm-hmm. , uh, which is fantastic. And I think, uh, yeah, I mean Sophie, uh, the new c e o is extremely inspirational. She’s a published author and she is also a brand builder and a marketer Yeah. Who went through at heart. Uh, and I think we aim to kind of bring together, uh, the senior marketing community. Yeah.

build, you know, bolder and braver leaders and, uh, also kind of make sure that the, the younger generation is, is ready for the challenges of, of, you know, yeah. Becoming CMOs. And I know, uh, a few young, uh, budding marketers who have been, uh, accepted to our youth pro or, or our development program, which is truly phenomenal.

And I think, yeah, there’s an agenda of, there’s almost one, at least one event a month. The entire year culminates in an annual conference that has global speakers that is truly outstanding. Yeah. And I’m very, very passionate about our cause and, and why we exist. Yeah. And. . You know, I encourage, uh, anyone listening to check it out.

We have chapters in, uh, New York, in India, in, you know, several places in Asia, in, uh, London. Yes. Uh, London being the biggest, and, uh, we soon have our awards in March. Mm-hmm. . So if you. , you haven’t entered the awards yet. I encourage you to do that because this is one of the few places where great work can be celebrated.

So I encourage people to Yeah. You know, submit all of the amazing work that they’ve had, uh, in the last year. Yeah. To truly like, celebrate all of the great things that they’ve done.

Paula: Absolutely. And I think you’re right to emphasize both ends of the spectrum. I suppose, in terms of expertise, Maria, because I’m thrilled that two of my team for Let’s Talk Loyalty is junior Marketeers are, uh, part of the upcoming Marketing Society chapter, uh, the UAE scholarship.

So we are thrilled to bits. Uh, but I guess the reason I joined was I wanted to have those senior conversations so, you know, Dearly hope to be able to do is spend more time both with the UAE chapter, but also the uk and there has been some extraordinary insights and research and all these kind of things published, which, um, certainly valuable to me.

So, um, yeah, definitely encourage everybody to make sure that they do Check out the marketing society. Um, so listen, Maria, that is all I wanted to ask you today. Um, really enjoyed your perspectives on loyalty, um, your very exciting career and, um, definitely will be super excited to see how this collective of C-suite executives grows over time.

So, do you have any other kind of parting words of wisdom that you wanna leave our audience?

Maria: I think I, I’ve said enough throughout, but you know, except for just really understanding who your customers are and infusing as much sustainability in what you do and experimenting to make sure that you’re driving the innovation agenda.

I think these are my three. Biggest takeaways from my, from my roles, uh, uh, as a marketer. Uh, and yeah, I absolutely love this podcast. Uh, thank you for, for creating it and for being so innovative in the way you actually talk and, and bring loyalty to the table. I feel like it has the right mix of education, but also, you know, a few, uh, a lot of in inspiring leaders in that space.

So, uh, thank you for yeah, being one of the first to drive that and, uh, bringing us together. So just thank you very much.

You’re very welcome. So, Maria Gedeon, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Gedeon Mohr and Partners. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty.

This show was sponsored by The Wise Marketer, the world’s most popular source of loyalty marketing news, insights, and research. The Wise Marketer also offers loyalty marketing training through its Loyalty Academy, which is already certified over 500 executives in 38 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals. For more information, check out thewisemarketer.com and loyaltyacademy.org.

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