Insights on Innovative Marketing: Interview with Dora Hrkac
When one person embodies a unique combination of energy, experience, passion, and creativity, there is no doubt that success will come not only to that person but also to the teams they work with. We are therefore particularly pleased to welcome Dora Hrkac as a new World Future Awards board member. Her dedication and years of expertise in marketing and communications will ensure that the best of the best in the innovation sector will be honored. Enjoy the exclusive interview Dora gave us on the occasion of joining the WFA board.
World Future Awards: Dora, please accept our congratulations on your new status as a WFA board member. Our readers will be very interested to know more about you. Tell us a little about your professional path and your current field of endeavor.
Dora Hrkac: Thank you so much for the warm welcome and this wonderful introduction; I am truly excited to be a part of the World Future Awards board.
My professional journey has been quite a diverse and enriching one. After I graduated from Journalism at the Faculty of Political Science and pursued my master’s degree in public relations, I started my career as a Chief Editor at Superbrands Adriatic – the world’s largest independent arbiter for branding. I continued my professional growth within Atlas – the largest destination management company in Croatia, with over 95 years of experience, where I have spent an incredible eight years working in one of the most exciting industries.
A diverse Marcom portfolio with a proven track record eventually brought me to the UAE. In 2019, I continued my international experience within Hilton, where I was responsible for driving marketing and communication strategies for two hotel properties in Ras Al Khaimah. After facing the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to make the most significant change in my career, enhance my skills, and explore new possibilities in the Energy sector.
Tourism is part of my DNA, but I have decided to challenge myself and see how my expertise will contribute to business growth in an entirely different and quite demanding industry. At that time, I got the opportunity to join one of the most recognized brands in luxury hospitality, so choosing between a well-known territory and a very tight niche technology sector was the toughest decision I had to make in my entire career. But as we all know, life begins only when you step out of your comfort zone.
In March 2021, I joined Esyasoft Technologies in Dubai, DIFC, one of the IHC subsidiaries, as their Head of Marketing and communications. Over the last two and a half years, my focus was on increasing brand awareness about this software product company and its commitment to cutting-edge innovation and sustainable solutions, which was one of my main KPIs, resulting in the successful digital presence and opening of several new global markets.
I will never regret making a decision to accept the offer from my CEO, Dr Bipin Chandra, and join him on his incredible journey and mission of making energy efficient, sustainable, and affordable. Under his wings, I had the ability to reinvent myself, upgrade my knowledge, expand my network, and achieve two of the most significant achievements in my entire career.
This year, in March, I became an Official Member of the Forbes Communications Council – an invitation-only, professional organization for senior-level communications and public relations executives.
The other one was winning the Gold Stevie Award for The Most Innovative Communication Professional of the Year in MENA 2023, based on my showcase of how a creative communications approach can result in massive brand awareness through unique storytelling and Employer Branding initiatives.
My focus has always been on innovative marketing strategies and creative communications. I firmly believe that in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, it’s crucial to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to new trends and technologies. My passion for innovation has driven me to explore unconventional approaches to marketing that can make a lasting impact. I thrive on challenges, and now I can’t wait to conquer another one!
WFA: What attracts you to the field of marketing? Why did you choose it as your main specialization?
DH: Marketing and PR have always been my passion and a constant part of my life. I was creative from an early age and was actually raised in a family of many different talents related to design, photography, and art, so I would say marketing was my destiny. I even defended my master’s degree on the subject, “The Influence of Advertising in the Media,” so although I didn’t work as a journalist since my internship, my writing talent and knowledge about media played a crucial part in forming my career path.
WFA: You have extensive experience in different sectors and countries.
DH: Yes, I’ve been fortunate to work in various industries, countries, and regions, from Europe to UAE, India, and the US, which has broadened my perspective and allowed me to adapt to diverse market conditions.
I always considered myself a patriot who would never leave my homeland, but the moment I came to the UAE, I realized that there was a place where I could finally spread my wings and fly, reaching horizons I used to only see in the movies.
Back in Hilton, I used to work with over 40 different nationalities, which was a cultural shock despite my, as my former GM said – bubbly personality and being someone who always had respect for every single human being, never mind the color of their skin, passport, religious beliefs or social status.
India was another massive discovery for my persona. The moment I reached New Delhi, I felt literally like I finally saw the world. The real world. I was so proud that I had managed to build Esyasoft’s booth in the middle of that chaos and proved to myself once again there’s no challenge I can’t overcome.
All these experiences have given me a more holistic understanding of marketing and the importance of tailoring strategies to specific markets and industries. It has also taught me the significance of cultural nuances in ineffective marketing, learning how communication is the most fragile yet the most powerful tool of any business, making it the most valuable asset in my career.
WFA: What is the role of high technology in modern marketing? And what is primary in your work for you – technology or creativity?
DH: High technology has revolutionized the way we reach and engage with our target audiences. It enables data-driven decision-making, personalization, and the ability to measure the impact of our marketing efforts. However, it’s the creative ideas and stories you tell that truly resonate with customers. Shifting to the digital era, marketers had to adapt many different tools to place their marketing strategies. It’s a never-ending learning process for all of us because technology plays a crucial part in every marketing agenda, and changes are happening practically on a daily basis.
A “360” approach can’t be done without technology. From many different software to the AI, which will only improve. Will it replace jobs? Never say never, but that premise was wrong from the start, in my humble opinion. Artificial Intelligence is here to support us and make our work more efficient, from basic daily tasks to more complex initiatives.
For me, creativity will always be the essence or, better say, the backbone of all my creations. Technology is here to help me achieve those goals faster, smarter, and with improved data results. Once you learn to combine many different talents, skills, and sources and then apply them to your business models, you will never have to worry about your KPIs and ROI.
WFA: Your high achievements prove that you are able to seek and find bold and unconventional solutions. Tell us about your most innovative projects or ideas.
DH: Glad you’ve mentioned bold and unconventional. Great choice of words and practically two main adjectives that perfectly describe me as a person but also my scope of work. I love working on campaigns that are slightly provoking but tasty. The imperative is always the target audience, purpose, and clear goal objectives.
I am pretty versatile and always thirsty for something NEW – projects, creations, initiatives, and my brain doesn’t rest even when I sleep, so no wonder when I wake up, I already have hundreds of new ideas on my mind.
I joined Esyasoft when I already had an established network on my LinkedIn channel, but my (target) audience was not coming only from the technology/energy/utility field, so I tried to find a way to produce content in a manner of wisdom I have learned back home – “Keep the wolf full, and all the sheeps alive.”
Let me explain. Of course, the main spotlight was reserved for the company I was representing, but I have continued to create content related to other industries and professionals in MENA, and everything and everyone I found inspiring. That’s how Adorata Emirata was born. It’s a blog based on building brand awareness through specific individuals in the UAE and showcasing what it truly means to be a company’s brand ambassador. My name comes from the Latin word Adorata, which means adorable, while Emirata represents me and everyone who adores their life in the Emirates.
So, through my two platforms, LinkedIn and my website – people have the opportunity to tell their stories and build their own network through my connections. Some address me as a LinkedIn influencer, but my scope of work is far way different from what other social media creators are doing. My focus is on promoting brands through their own advocates and professional individuals. When dealing with a highly competitive market such as MENA, it’s hard to stand out, and I am offering precisely that kind of opportunity – both corporate and individual.
Hard-sell advertising never worked for me, and people adore stories “behind the scenes”. That’s how they really bond with the brands, and now they have a chance to interact even more through their own brand ambassadors. Everyone has a story, but not everyone knows how to tell and spread it, and that’s where I come in.
WFA: In the current digital revolution, you need to be flexible and ready for change. But do you have any basic principles or credo that always remain relevant and help you move forward?
DH: Very true, indeed, the age we are living in requires our flexibility and easy adaptation more than ever before. Social, Economic, and many different outside circumstances dictate our pace, so I would say we should all accept the fact that only change is constant. I will be first in line seeking better solutions and positive outcomes and how to move things forward, but the COVID-19 pandemic taught me one of the biggest life lessons – never to plan anything ahead, or at least always have a plan B.
Don’t get me wrong; most strategies are based on plans and certain predictions and forecasts. However, we should all start focusing on the present and instead create short-term goals with a clear distinction between tangible and intangible parameters. That way, we can lower our high expectations but look forward to the best possible outcome.
However, customer-centricity remains a constant. Understanding and meeting customer needs is the core of any successful marketing strategy. Secondly, data-driven decision-making is critical. Harnessing the power of data allows us to make informed choices, and continuously optimize campaigns. Last but not least, and as I already mentioned, I believe in the power of storytelling. Humans are wired to connect with stories, and a compelling narrative can differentiate a brand and create lasting impressions.
Lately, I have been working on myself, not only in a professional way but also in a spiritual sense. I have discovered many inspirational podcasts, books, and articles that are helping me to become truly the best version of myself. It’s a long road that doesn’t have a finish line, but I will surely do my best to make my path worth walking, not only for myself but for the people who are part of it. Especially those who were always there to land me their hand when I fell and who clapped every time I picked myself up.
I adore quotes and have probably thousands of screenshots in my phone from many different genius minds out there that are lifting our spirits, but here’s the one from Steven Cliff Bartlett that caught my attention. It resonates with me on many levels and could be described as my current personal philosophy:
“Your life, career, and relationships will rise or fall to the level of the standards you defend, enforce, and accept. It’s time to raise your bar!”
WFA: What are the most significant trends and changes in the marketing and communications industry that have you observed over the years?
DH: I’ve seen several significant trends emerge. Personalization is a major one, as customers expect tailored experiences and content. Social media’s influence on marketing has grown substantially, making it a vital channel for engagement. I am thrilled to see that LinkedIn is overtaking that arena and me being a part of it. It’s undoubtedly one of the best platforms for emphasizing your brand’s personality and describing your company culture. If you start using it right, it will become an active marketing channel to grow your network and business opportunities.
Additionally, the rise of influencer marketing and the integration of sustainability and purpose-driven initiatives into brand strategies have been notable shifts. The increasing importance of video content and the continued growth of e-commerce have also reshaped the marketing landscape. AI is at the top of today’s trends, followed by storytelling, which has been finally recognized as the top advertising tool.
On the other hand, what I am always surprised to see is that many companies still have a lack of understanding of the actual value and importance of quality PR. That’s when I always refer to Bill Gates and his perfect statement, “If I were down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.”
WFA: In your opinion, what will be the main difference between the marketing industry today and five years from now?
DH: Huge. As I already mentioned, Artificial Intelligence will play a key role, especially five years from now, while enabling highly personalized, real-time client interactions. We’ll surely witness even greater integration of technology in marketing. The industries will continue to evolve rapidly, primarily focusing on sustainability and ethical practices becoming a standard rather than an exception. The importance of data privacy and security will also continue to shape communications strategies, and the boundary between online and offline experiences will blur further.
WFA: What is the key to a successful marketing campaign?
DH: Budget! Big budget! (laughing) Jokes aside, the success of any campaign depends on a combination of many different factors but with a clear main objective. It is always important to define what you wish to achieve and set a roadmap for the desired ROI.
First and foremost, define your target audience and address their needs. Define which tone of voice you will use to make them listen, and eventually, if you’ve done your part right, they will even start to “sing.”
The approach is quite different, depending on whether you are trying to build brand awareness, upsell, launch a new product or specific service, trying to generate more leads, or anything else you wish to advertise.
The question is very similar to those journalists are required to tell the news. It’s based on 5W rule – Who (is your target audience), Where (will you reach your target audience – social media, events, webinars, etc.), When (use the momentum and schedule accordingly), What (are you promoting), Why (have a purpose).
Once you define those parameters and set the main objectives, you will know how and where to place your budget. It’s an excellent opportunity to test and deliver even better results in the second phase, if necessary.
But one thing should be a constant vertical, despite the goal you are trying to achieve, and that is creativity. A unique approach to delivering a compelling message is essential, and once you set up your tone of voice, it should be consistent across all channels. Consider it as your own brand’s signature!
WFA: What advice do you have for World Future Awards nominees to improve their chances of being recognized for innovative initiatives?
DH: If I had to summarise it in only a few words, my only advice to World Future Awards nominees would be: Be Unique. Be Bold. Be Innovative. Be a Game-changer.
I am sure all of us have had an experience of going to the cinema, theatre, or concert, where the show we watched left us with a portion of great food for thought, and we would talk about its “taste” for days after.
Let that be your lead, not only in this race but in all your campaigns and initiatives that would make a difference while creating a more profound meaning and an impact in society.
Stay curious and continuously seek out opportunities for innovation. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks, and even though it sounds like platitude, always tend to think outside the box. Dance on it! Embrace change and technology, as they can become powerful partners of your innovation. Always prioritize the customer’s perspective and strive to create real value for them.
Finally, be resilient, as the path to innovation may involve setbacks, but persistence often leads to breakthroughs. And since I told you I love quotes, let me wrap it up and inspire your readers with such great wisdom from Morgan Richard Olivier:
“If you knew the extent of what a person had to endure to have the impact, empathy, and outlook they have today, you wouldn’t be intimidated.
You would be empowered.”
To learn more about Dora, visit her LinkedIn profile.
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