Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

A race against time

Published in Jul-Aug 2019

A day in the life of Sarah Ahmed, Marketing Manager, Hygiene Home.

I joined Reckitt Benckiser (RB) Pakistan about six years ago and in my early days, I worked on brands such as Dettol. Today, as Category Marketing Manager, Hygiene Home, I manage the entire portfolio which includes Air Wick, Cherry Blossom, Easy-on, Finish, Harpic, Mortein, Robin and Vanish. I have worked on all these brands at different points of their life stages and this has provided me with invaluable experience and made me the professional I am today. 

At RB, marketing not only mean advertising and brand strategy; it requires us to be involved in everything that has to do with the brand, be it supply chain management or sales. This means that I have to interact and coordinate with many people every single day, and this is where I derive my energy from as I love working with people.

Interacting with various departments requires different ways of thinking; one day I am talking about cleaning toilets and bathrooms and how we can create a cleaner world; the next day I am discussing pest control and how we can equip our consumers with solutions to protect them against diseases such as dengue and malaria. Our brands are an integral part of our consumers’ lives and being at the heart of the decision-making process for these brands, engaging with different people and charting the course we believe in is exciting.

My day usually begins early, at about seven in the morning. I hate to admit it but the fact is that the first thing I do once I wake up is grab my phone; it’s a force of habit! After five minutes or so of browsing through ‘what’s going on in the world’ I am up and about. Although I am not a caffeine person, I have to have breakfast in the morning; I cannot leave home without it.

Once I reach work at around 9:30 a.m., I am on a tight schedule; I have to attend one meeting after another with colleagues from our finance, sales and supply chain departments. I also work closely with our media managers, activation managers and creative teams from our agencies as well because at the end of the day, they are the experts who execute our campaigns.

I always tell my team to think less like brand managers and more as consumers and to do this, we stay engaged with consumers to formulate ideation strategies or test new campaigns. In the process, we also get our hands on secondary data which allows us to gauge our progress. Based on the information we gather, we identify different consumer needs and this leads us to launching new products, such as Harpic Bathroom Cleaner, which we introduced last year.

Although I have worked on numerous campaigns over the years, one that is close to my heart is the one we created for Cherry Blossom last year. It was a passion project for me. I didn’t have a team working with me on it, so with the help of an intern, and of course our agency, we put together the campaign within just eight weeks. The whole experience of bringing a brand that consumers love back to life was extremely rewarding and we received a very positive feedback.

I also spend a substantial amount of time engaging with new talent; I take this responsibility very seriously because they are the leaders of the future. It is also extremely interesting as it gives me the chance to meet a new crop of professionals and discover what they think about our brands, how their minds work, and the conversations they have that shape their way of thinking.

A lot of people say that when you are really passionate about your work, it doesn’t matter how much time you spend doing it. This holds true for me, and the fact that I have the opportunity to engage with different individuals and spend my time strategising on a diverse portfolio on a daily basis drives me. Staying abreast in the current environment also motivates me as we seek opportunities and continue to find new ways to engage with our consumers.

Once my day ends, I look forward to having dinner with my parents and sister; we exchange stories of how we spent our days. Whatever time I have after that is dedicated to either watching sports (especially cricket and tennis) or reading. When I was younger, I used to prefer reading fiction but over the years, after spending time in the professional world, I feel I am more drawn to non-fiction, especially biographies. Currently I am reading Becoming – Michelle Obama’s autobiography. Learning from people who have made an impact in one way or another or have managed to re-shape conversations on a global scale is fascinating, and I think Michelle Obama is one woman who has done that with charm and dignity.

Apart from reading, I love swimming; I have been swimming since I was a child and it is second nature to me; I find it very relaxing. It refreshes me and helps provide balance amidst my busy daily routine.

As the day comes to a close, I think of how I have spent it, and about the day that is about to arrive. The days are no less than a race against time. But at the end of the day, I sleep well thinking that I am able to make a difference through my work and my passion to improve our consumers’ lives every day. This thought helps me navigate through the demanding nature of every day.

As told to Anusha Zahid by Sarah Ahmed, Category Marketing Manager, Hygiene Home, RB Pakistan.