From a quick peek at his Linkedin profile, Hussein Dajani is a diverse and decorated marketer, with experience spanning agencies and major brands like Virgin Mobile, Red Bull and now, Nissan Motor Co. But what conversation with Hussein reveals is something more – something that gives him a unique edge as a marketer. Raised between Lebanon, Cypress and France, followed by an 18-year career across so many Arab world countries, Hussein uses his on-the-ground experience to mine and apply first-hand consumer insights… and it’s working. His perspectives on true customer-centric marketing and what it takes to drive real transformation are refreshingly inspiring. Read on to hear his story and how he’s helping to change the conversation and build women's confidence with the #SheDrives campaign, not only in the Middle East, but globally.
What current developments in marketing are most exciting to you?
“Oftentimes good ideas are readily available internally, but not always heard or listened to.”
Data, data, and data. It has always existed, yet the use of it has been scarce. Every business generates a huge amount of data. The trick is identifying what to do with this data to better understand customers and to come up with personalized products, services, and solutions. Also, customer experience. Many think this only lies with the marketing department, but it is cross-departmental. So with transformation, it’s breaking the silos in your organization and actually owning the customer experience (CX) across every channel, be it marketing to sales to after-sales to IT and so on. Lastly, internal hackathons to generate ideas. Organizations still rely solely on their agencies to come up with ideas when oftentimes good ideas are readily available internally, but not always heard or listened to. Organizations ought to drive hackathons at least once a year. The ideas which will be generated are priceless.
Why did you choose to join Nissan Motor Company and what makes your job exciting?
The automotive industry is witnessing a revolution, which I needed to be part of. I was put in charge of taking Nissan and Datsun brands on a digital transformation challenge in a huge region which comprised of 83 markets. What better company to join than one whose slogan is “Innovation that Excites”?
“Owning CX across all departments gives me a 360-degree view about what we are doing, where we are heading, and how we’re going to get there.”
I started my mission by devising a holistic customer experience journey across all departments in the organization: Marketing, Sales, Customer Quality, etc. This helped us identify what components and solutions we need to develop and what enablers we need to have in place in order to turn customer pain points into strength factors. Innovation is key, especially in a region where 60% of the population is under age 30 and lives digitally. Buying a car is the second biggest investment a person engages in, so how do we go about convincing that person to buy the car online before or without even test driving it? How do you create enough trust in people to convince them to share their data with you and make them actually benefit from that? Every aspect of my job is exciting. From managing the online platforms for all the brands to the CRM ecosystem to e-commerce, the opportunities are enormous for us to change user behavior and to create seamless experiences. Owning CX in the organization across all departments gives me a 360-degree view about what we are doing, where we are heading, and how we’re going to get there.
What are you working on now that is innovative?
In 2018, for the first time ever, women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to drive. Women always owned cars in the Kingdom, but they were always in the backseat. Now they are behind the wheel. What do we do? How do we make them choose us as their preferred brand? We were the first to react to the Royal Decree announcement, 49 minutes after the announcement via Twitter and we are the only brand that remained consistent and dedicated to supporting females in Saudi by engaging in relevant, meaningful and personalized communication with them. The positioning of our campaign, even though steered by a decision in Saudi Arabia, it was more about empowering women and boosting their confidence anywhere in the world, hence the reason all Nissan companies worldwide pushed our campaign on their channels.
2019 will be the year when #SheDrives takes its full shape and gets translated into products, services, and solutions. Stay tuned for a lot of innovation in the works where "personalization" is the name of the game. We will be positioned as the brand that understands females in the Kingdom, cares about them, and ensures that they are safe on the road and behind the wheel.
Have you had any notable mentors throughout your life and career?
So far, I have had three. My father who taught me to always be humble. He used to always say “no matter how high you reach, no matter how much money you make, remember to stay humble and to protect your most important asset which can’t be bought with all the money in the world, your reputation.” The second one was one of my CEOs who believed in me and made the sky the limit in terms of exposure and learning. The third one was the person who got me into the world of digital when I had no clue what it was and hired me to lead Virgin Mobile’s digital channels. To those three people, I say hats off, I bow to you.
What one thing do you need from your CMO to help you be successful?
The things I value most about a leader are open communication, clarity, trust, honesty, space, and someone who will “teach me how to fish.”
What’s the best advice you’ve received that has helped you in your career?
A previous boss once wrote down a phrase and asked me to meditate on it: “Maturity is the ability to manage uncertainty.” I find myself coming back to those words of wisdom again and again, and using them as a rudder to navigate my life, which I hope can be characterized by this complex definition of maturity.
What book would you most recommend to fellow marketers?
Rework (by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried). “ASAP is poison. Meetings are toxic. Fire the workaholics. Planning is guessing. Inspiration is perishable.”