When Asmaa Quorrich assumed the role of Regional Marketing Manager for Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia at PepsiCo, she found herself up against a serious challenge. Quorrich was tasked with selling Pepsi in a market where Coca-Cola had an 80 percent share. She had to convince three countries of Coke-lovers to convert to Pepsi. Not easy.
Quorrich recognized that Pepsi could never conquer Coke, but she also didn’t think that meant she had to raise the white flag.
“I did not fight the competition with the same weapons, but rather, I changed the rules of the game,” Quorrich said. Instead of trying to dethrone the soft drink giant and take over the world, Quorrich decided to claim one sector of the market for Pepsi.
“Most of the nation loves Coke; I did not dispute that, but I focused on creating an emotional link with the youngsters whose taste buds are not corrupt yet and who are more willing to try something new,” Quorrich said. In fewer than 18 months, Pepsi doubled the Morocco market share (from 5.6 to 11 percent), and Quorrich went on to become director of innovation at PepsiCo.
In this Q&A, Quorrich shares her own definition of innovation and offers advice for connecting with consumers.
What did you find satisfying about being director of innovation?
This role was a very appealing opportunity and promotion for the following reasons: It encompasses a much wider geography than my previous marketing role in Middle East and Africa. I additionally handled the entire Asian market and gained an amazing perspective from the very diverse geographies. (China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, India, and the Philippines are not alike at all.)
It allowed me to look ahead and think of strategic plans and initiatives that could grow PepsiCo’s Beverage portfolio in the Asia, Middle East and Africa sector. It is purely thinking outside of the box and embracing areas outside of my comfort zone. It brought me closer to corporate leadership and gave me a clear idea on where the company was heading. It allowed me to impact different countries by either opening their eyes to obvious opportunities already existing in PepsiCo...or presenting them brand new ideas.
I moved from being a marketing expert to a total business specialist. Marketing was a small part of my job.
How do you define innovation?
Innovation is a tricky word, but I will define it as I see it. It is bringing to consumers new experiences that enhance their consumption pattern and life.
An innovative brand is one that thinks and acts ahead of the curve. One that translates life trends into brand-relevant ideas/executions. Innovative brands should not be predictable; they should create “a-ha” moments and generate statements like “This is cool. How come we didn’t think about it before?” Catch the consumer by surprise and have him or her embrace the innovation as if they couldn’t live without it.
What are some of the trends you’ve seen during your experience?
The biggest trends other than new product categories (Energy, Sport, Isotonics, etc.) are actually consumption habits and ways to reach consumers. The classical marketing approach is important but not sufficient nowadays. Connecting with consumers is no longer a one-way street with TV ads. It is now a dialogue, a continuous flow of information. We don’t only produce ads to consumers; we create content. We co-create with them. We let them choose what they want to see on TV and online.
The brand needs to know what its lynchpin is, i.e., the most important attribute consumers attribute to it. If a brand wants to be loved more, we need to act in a way that enhances the emotional link with that brand.
What has been key to your success?
My success is attributed to two things: (1) A very strong desire to learn new things and embracing change and (2) careful choice of where to work to get the right experience, not the right salary.
At what point in your career did you decide to pursue an MBA?
I decided to go for an MBA for two main reasons: (1) I wanted to have higher education to boost my career. (2) I chose to specialize in marketing in my first job, and I wanted to get some academic training on the subject given that I graduated in finance.
I chose the U.S. because I got my bachelor’s from an American University in Morocco, and my dream was to be in the center of where it all happens.
After graduating from Suffolk’s MBA program, you were hired by Procter & Gamble Morocco. Why was this an important stepping stone in your career?
The P&G job was my choice. I graduated from Suffolk with the determination to join either P&G or Unilever to get the right marketing training. I had to wait a few months for the P&G opportunity and offer to come along, and it was worth it. The three years I spent in Procter & Gamble were MBA 2.0. It was a real-life case study with proper training and coaching. Those three years were indeed the stepping stone that allowed me to get big career opportunities in other multinational companies. The Pepsi role was in sync with my aspirations at the time, and I decided to leave P&G for it.
What is the value of an MBA in today’s job market? Would you advise aspiring professionals to pursue an MBA?
I would advise pursuing an MBA after a few years of experience. The bachelor’s degree teaches you basics, but the MBA takes you to a level above—especially when you do it after a first job experience. I find it extremely worthwhile and very useful.
What’s next for you and your career?
I recently changed roles, and my new title is commercial director, international juice & dairy for the Middle East and Africa Region. As you can see, I have now expanded to commercial versus pure marketing, which is a great move.
I am now leading the commercial agenda of our Juice & Dairy Joint Venture in the MEA region. I am expanding my category knowledge (total beverage) and my skillset (commercial versus marketing). I am very optimistic about the future and will take opportunities as they come.