CEO SE­RIES: Fadi Ghosn, CMO of Nissan Mid­dle East

Arabnet - The Quarterly - - Industry Stories - By Lynn El Bizri | @lnlne

CEO of Arab­net, Omar Chris­tidis, sat down with Fadi Ghosn, CMO of Nissan, to dis­cuss the fu­ture of trans­porta­tion, cars, and mar­ket­ing in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try.

Pur­su­ing a goal of zero emis­sion ve­hi­cles and zero fa­tal­i­ties on the road, Nissan an­nounced their ‘In­tel­li­gent Mo­bil­ity’ vi­sion early last year, a vi­sion that aims to move cus­tomers around the world to­wards a safer and more sus­tain­able fu­ture. To re­al­ize the vi­sion, Nissan launched a long-term strat­egy that en­abled the com­pany to in­tro­duce the world’s first mass pro­duc­tion Elec­tric Ve­hi­cles (EV), the LEAF, in 2010, and drove the de­vel­op­ment of cut­tingedge au­ton­o­mous driv­ing tech­nolo­gies. These steps have al­lowed Nissan to not only de­liver the ben­e­fits of EV and au­ton­o­mous driv­ing in­no­va­tions to as many cus­tomers as pos­si­ble, but also lead the way to­ward a new era of mo­bil­ity.

Dur­ing Arab­net Dig­i­tal Sum­mit 2017, CEO of Arab­net Omar Chris­tidis sat down with Fadi Ghosn, CMO of Nissan, to dis­cuss the fu­ture of trans­porta­tion, cars, and mar­ket­ing in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try.

With self-driv­ing cars and the spread of car­shar­ing ser­vices, what do you see as the fu­ture of trans­porta­tion? And what do changes in car own­er­ship be­hav­ior mean for a brand like Nissan? While au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, car­shar­ing, and on-de­mand car ser­vices like Uber are cur­rently dis­rupt­ing the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, they will even­tu­ally be part of ev­ery city’s busi­ness model. While it is dif­fi­cult to see how things will change and ex­pand in the fu­ture, at Nissan, we ob­vi­ously see our­selves build­ing difffff­fer­ent cars in the fu­ture that fit the re­quire­ments of car­shar­ing and other trends.

To­day, most car man­u­fac­tures clas­sify cars by A, B & C seg­ments, where A is a mini car, B is slightly big­ger and C is a medium-sized car. When it comes to car shar­ing, the ABC clas­si­fi­ca­tion loses im­por­tance, be­cause in­stead of a cus­tomer choos­ing an A car as their first car, they may de­cide to car­share in­stead. There­fore, all car man­u­fac­tur­ers are mak­ing huge in­vest­ments in the di­rec­tion of car­shar­ing. How are they go­ing to make their pur­chase de­ci­sions? I be­lieve if you look at ge­ogra­phies and de­mo­graph­ics, each has its own re­quire­ments. The com­mon un­der­stand­ing is peo­ple al­ways look for value, safety, re­li­a­bil­ity, com­fort, and in some cases lux­ury. In what­ever case, whether you want to take an Uber or you want to car­share, these things are fun­da­men­tals of the busi­ness. How­ever, an­other im­por­tant fea­ture I would like to add is dig­i­tal con­nec­tiv­ity.

The process of get­ting a car from the con­cep­tion phase to the mar­ket is a 6-7 year-long process. So for ex­am­ple, when a screen with some kind of tech­nol­ogy is de­vel­oped for a car, by the time the car gets to mar­ket, the tech­nol­ogy is old. To­day we see a lot of peo­ple not opt­ing for a nav­i­ga­tion screen but rather for some­thing we call mir­ror­ing, which al­lows car own­ers to mir­ror their phones to the screen.

The screen is no longer a nav­i­ga­tion screen, but a mul­ti­me­dia screen, which you can do so much more with. There­fore, although we are evolv­ing with tech­nol­ogy, tech­nol­ogy is also mov­ing at a pace that not all car man­u­fac­tur­ers can catch up with, and only a few are re­ally tak­ing a lead­ing po­si­tion in that sense.

So with this con­text, where do you see Nissan in the next fi­fi­five years? It’s tough to de­scribe but what we are try­ing to do is com­bine all our tech­nolo­gies un­der one main um­brella which is Nissan In­tel­li­gent Mo­bil­ity and three main pil­lars which are: • In­tel­li­gent Driv­ing • In­tel­li­gent Power • In­tel­li­gent In­te­gra­tion

There­fore, sev­eral of the tech­no­log­i­cal trends that we are em­brac­ing such as EVS, au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, and self­driv­ing ve­hi­cles fall un­der those pil­lars

What about self-driv­ing cars? What are Nissan’s plans? When will we see self­driv­ing cars? So let’s talk about the difffff­fer­ence be­tween au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, and self-driv­ing cars. With au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, whilst the car can act on be­half of the driver, the driver is still in con­trol of the car. Dubai specif­i­cally is ex­ten­sively test­ing au­ton­o­mous driv­ing and will soon be pi­o­neers in au­to­mo­tive tech­nolo­gies. As for self-driv­ing, I be­lieve it will be a long time be­fore we see self-driv­ing cars on the roads, since it will re­quire more tech­nol­ogy and a lot of reg­u­la­tions to be­come com­mer­cially avail­able. More­over, we have also seen in test­ing, that hu­man in­ter­ac­tion is still needed to direct self-driv­ing cars.

Self-driv­ing cars do not come with­out some chal­lenges for govern­ments and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. For ex­am­ple, self-driv­ing cars mean lower in­sur­ance, which means less in­come for in­sur­ance com­pa­nies. Self-driv­ing cars will also afffff­fect cities where the in­come of traf­fic is in the mil­lions, like in New York City. How­ever, I still think we are in the early stages of discovery and all we can do is un­der­stand and cope with the changes.

Let’s talk about mar­ket­ing. How are you go­ing to com­mu­ni­cate around the chan­nels that you’re us­ing and the strate­gies that you are us­ing? Where are you ex­pect­ing to spend more money, and what kind of new chan­nels or strate­gies are you pur­su­ing within the dig­i­tal me­dia do­main? While there is def­i­nitely a move into dig­i­tal, tra­di­tional me­dia still plays an im­por­tant role when tar­get­ing spe­cific au­di­ences, ge­ogra­phies and de­mo­graph­ics. More­over, the chal­lenge is not in iden­ti­fy­ing which chan­nels to use, but rather defin­ing the cus­tomer, as most agen­cies to­day still de­fine the cus­tomer by ‘Age 20-40, Male, etc.’ which will not work mov­ing for­ward.

So how would you de­fine the cus­tomer? I think you need to be­lieve in the data and you need to be ok with mak­ing mis­takes. As a com­pany, we have been in­vest­ing heav­ily in mar­ket­ing mix mod­el­ing where we are us­ing data to re­ally an­a­lyze and op­ti­mize. I also think we are one of the few man­u­fac­tur­ers that talk about in­te­gra­tion and we have even cre­ated an agency called Nissan United, which is the ded­i­cated Om­ni­com unit that han­dles Nissan’s mar­ket­ing busi­ness within the United States.

What about the cus­tomer jour­ney? How do you see tech­nol­ogy trans­form­ing the cus­tomer jour­ney and how do you see the pur­chas­ing process chang­ing as a re­sult of new tech­nolo­gies? Are you look­ing at new touch points in the cus­tomer jour­ney? How do you see that be­ing re­shaped? Of course, we are us­ing so many tech­niques and we’re mak­ing mis­takes and learn­ing. There is no magic for­mula, and we’re go­ing through a dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion with a ‘dig­i­tize or die’ at­ti­tude. To­day, there is sud­denly a lot of data, but the prob­lem is we are in a re­gion where there once was no data, and and a lot of peo­ple are strug­gling with what to do with it.

If you look at the pur­chas­ing cy­cle of an au­to­mo­tive, peo­ple are con­duct­ing a lot of re­search on­line, so the cus­tomer is well-in­formed, but still needs to go to the show­room. Car pur­chase is the sec­ond big­gest in­vest­ment af­ter a home, so you wouldn’t ex­pect a cus­tomer to buy a car that costs any­where be­tween $15K to $100K by just go­ing on­line or ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it via vir­tual re­al­ity. The cus­tomer needs to go and test drive the car, feel it, touch it, etc. Cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence is very im­por­tant and we are re­defin­ing the whole cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence by im­ple­ment­ing a fric­tion­less cus­tomer jour­ney.

Do you think e-com­merce is a vi­able strat­egy for au­to­mo­tive? Ig­nor­ing it would be a mis­take and I def­i­nitely think we need to keep learn­ing. Car shop­ping won’t hap­pen on­line be­cause the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence is dif­fer­ent from the own­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence. So you can shop around on­line, but you also need to in­ter­act with the car. A cus­tomer may spend $500 on an item on­line, but when buy­ing some­thing that costs $20K, cus­tomers need to go be­yond their screen. More­over, apart from touch­ing and feel­ing the car, there are a lot of emo­tions that goes into pur­chas­ing a car, and we can­not sim­ply ig­nore those.

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