Nicola Nell is a dedicated and experienced Marketing Professional with over 20 years of experience in the mobile telecommunications industry. She is committed and passionate about her work and defines herself as an incredibly strong team person. She believes that the workplace should be an enjoyable, yet results-driven environment focused on delivering our contribution to the company’s greater goals.
Q: How did you end up at your current company? Tell us about your journey to where you are today:
A: I was really part of the furniture at Cell C having been there since its launch in 2001. I held various positions, working in both Cape Town and Johannesburg.
I worked my way up in the company starting out in Field Marketing in Sales and Distribution, moving to the Commercial Department in 2006, fulfilling various Marketing positions.
When I left Cell C in June 2020, I was Senior Marketing Manager, managing the brand, sponsorships, CSI and postpaid marketing. I left in the midst of COVID restrictions and
Xiaomi contacted me via LinkedIn about the position in South Africa and I was very intrigued. The Xiaomi brand was not very well known in South Africa, despite it being in the country for six years. I liked the challenge of taking this brand to new heights in South Africa. It was (and still is) doing phenomenally well in other international markets, and definitely had the potential to take the South African market by storm with its competitive pricing strategy and innovative technology, particularly in the current climate.
Xiaomi Global also saw the opportunity for South Africa and the need for a dedicated South African team in the country, and so wanted to set up offices in South Africa to grow the brand and penetrate the market more aggressively. I accepted the position of Marketing Manager for South Africa and started on the 1st of September, becoming the first South African employee. It has been an exciting journey thus far and one that I am thoroughly enjoying as I am challenged on a daily basis and growing in heaps and bounds not only on a professional level but a personal level too.
Q: Describe your job: What do you do?
A: I absolutely love what I do; growing brands and marketing them. As Marketing Manager, I oversee everything for Xiaomi from a marketing perspective; TTL advertising, brand comms and advertising, retail comms and advertising, digital and social media and PR. I work closely with the global team, with all my local colleagues (we are a small but rapidly
growing team), as well as our distributors, channels, vendors and mobile network operators. My days are typically filled with online meetings with my agencies and various suppliers and partners. I work very closely with my agencies, particularly on the social media side as that is an ever-changing advertising medium and we often need to quickly update with global news. We are currently in the thick of planning the Xiaomi 11T Pro launch, so that is taking up most of my time. I really enjoy working with multiple departments and external partners/suppliers, as it helps me understand the business more intimately and grow my skill set.
Q: Who do you report to?
A: Being a Global brand, I have reporting lines locally and at Head Quarters in Beijing. I report to the Country Manager Charlie Guo locally, and Jingqi Chen and Jeff Tang at Head
Q: Tell us what constitutes a typical working day for you, pre-and-post the COVID/lockdown era?
A: Times have certainly changed since COVID 19 restrictions were put in place in March 2020. By the time I started at Xiaomi, C-19 restrictions were eased, so once new team members were onboarded, we were able to meet as a team whilst adhering to strict protocols. We have returned to the office three times a week to allow for more team collaboration and interaction.
Many of our suppliers, customers and vendors however are still adhering to strict online meetings only, so we have had to adapt to this new way of working.
As someone who thrives on interacting with people and feeding off other people’s energy, this has been quite an adjustment for me.
Q: What are the best parts of your job and least favourite parts?
A: The best parts of my job is working with my agencies and collaborating on creative ideas and launches for the brand and product. I also enjoy learning more about our incredible
products and technologies that Xiaomi has to offer – the company really is on the cutting edge of innovative technology!
My least favourite part is possibly the time difference between South Africa and Beijing. I have been able to adjust to this challenge, and it has taught me valuable lessons in
communication. Another aspect is that the Chinese market (as well as other international markets) varies greatly to that of South Africa, so we work hard to ensure that our marketing
strategies align to both global standards and the South African market.
Q: How do you define and measure success? Is AVE still a thing? If not, what other KPIs do you use to measure success and convey that success to clients?
A: With C-19 disrupting the world as we knew it, we’d had to rapidly adjust our marketing strategies as more and more people were staying at home and became a lot more active on social media. We also sadly saw that many magazines and publications were closing their doors, and the PR landscape as we know it has changed considerably. Having said that, we certainly still define and measure success by AVE.
Globally, Xiaomi is heavily invested in various social media platforms, and South Africa is aligned to this strategy, also working with many KOLs, or Key Opinion Leaders, to grow the
brand and showcase products to like-minded individuals, covering techies, lifestyle-focussed, gamers, fashionistas, fitness fundies and Xiaomi Fans. Xiaomi’s diverse and large range of products means that we have large segments to cover and we have stringent KPIs in place in order to ensure that we correctly and effectively tap into these
various market segments to market our products.
Q: What are your favourite technologies and platforms that you use to make yourself more productive and get more done?
A: Working in a global organisation with a significant time difference has had its challenges. Locally and globally we communicate on a daily basis via Whatsapp, WeChat and our own internal chat programme which allows us to communicate in many large groups of colleagues around the world, conduct and attend training sessions in real time and send
large files. I am also a regular user of WeTransfer to send large files to my customers, as well as TransferNow. GSuite and Google’s interactive documents also play a huge part of my daily life to allow for multiple users to update and work on one document easily and efficiently.
Q: What PR campaigns stand out for you and what brands produce the best campaigns locally in your opinion? A: It goes without saying that the campaign that stands out for me is the Redmi Note 10 launch that took place in June 2020. It was the first launch for the local team and was incredibly successful.
We secured 76 pieces of organic coverage (the majority of which came from SA’s top tech media), culminating in PR value of R36 172 848 and garnering 94 million impressions. ROI for the campaign was 1:196, which far surpassed the KPI set of 1:3. We also exceeded the KPI of 3.4 million impressions, garnering 94 million impressions through this campaign.
Some notable pieces of coverage:
One of my favourite campaigns I have seen was the #LightSAred campaign that happened in August 2020. This was a very emotive campaign with the aim to create awareness around the events and entertainment industry that was possibly hit the hardest in the wake of Covid-19. In an effort to really amplify their message, they lit up Table Mountain as well as over 500 buildings which I thought was awe-inspiring.
Q: Is there any upcoming news or developments around Xiaomi products that are you able to share with us?
A: Xiaomi recently launched the Xiaomi 11T Pro flagship device globally. This highly anticipated device is coming to SA later this month. Go to our social pages to get the latest news on the launch, and join in on the online launch. There are also pre-launch and launch competitions whereby the device can be won. Xiaomi also recently launched a store-in-store in Takealot, offering over 50 different products from mobile phones, to connected home, smart appliances, wearables, on-the-go devices and accessories. Check it out here: https://www.takealot.com/promotion/xiaomi_store There are currently amazing postpaid deals at participating Vodacom stores on the Redmi Note 10 range, and exciting upcoming deals at participating Vodacom stores on the Xiaomi 11T Pro. And soon, Xiaomi will be available at MTN and Telkom!