Though Irene Kakooza has been with Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and Sub-Sahara Africa for nearly 10 years, she is the newly-appointed Communications Manager at the business.
While her previous roles included Regional Business Manager, Franchise Manager and Experiential
Manager, in her new position she is responsible for the development of marketing strategies to build awareness, brand consideration, opinion and connection with prospects, fans and customers of the premium Jaguar and Land Rover brands.
How did you end up at your current company? Tell us about your journey to where you are today?
I started in the automotive industry as a Graduate Trainee at one of South Africa’s major local car manufacturers. I was fortunate to have a mentor who was very knowledgeable in the industry and who taught me the importance of business strategy, stakeholder management and importantly, attention to detail. This early education afforded a strong foundation for my career, and the wisdom shared with me early on has helped me transition between various roles over the past decade. I cannot stress enough how valuable strong mentors can be for anyone looking to break into an industry and kick off their careers.
I joined Jaguar Land Rover in 2012 and have held various posts in my time here. I look back on the many exciting projects I’ve been involved with over the years, and I look forward to those around the corner. I’m particularly proud of what I’ve learned doing business in Sub-Sahara Africa. Learning to appreciate different cultures, and how to successfully adapt approaches to suit each respectively has been personally rewarding.
Which level do you occupy within the business? Who do you report to?
I report to the recently appointed Marketing Director, Carmen Slade, who has an extensive history with Jaguar Land Rover and the automotive industry.
Tell us what constitutes a typical working day for you, pre-and-post the COVID/lockdown era?
That’s a funny question as there is no typical work day for me! One day I might be engaging with various agencies to develop exciting launch campaigns for new products, others I might be inundated with tedious behind the scenes admin work. Variety is the spice of life, or so they say.
Aside from adapting to work-from-home arrangements under Covid lockdowns, which I believe the Jaguar Land Rover head office has done quite well, the pandemic has forced us all to think very differently about how we conduct business. Sure, we live in a digital age where it’s possible to communicate and meet remotely, but for over a year we’ve had to reassess continuously changing business and customer behaviours. It’s a balancing act between ensuring maximum campaign impact under new conditions, while ensuring the ultimate safety of all stakeholders.
I’d like to give special praise for all those who are customer-facing and unable to work from home in South Africa and around the world – our Jaguar Land Rover dealer network included. Obviously our dealers are maintaining strict safety protocols, but these employees are our heroes on the ground who endure tough trading conditions in an extremely challenging environment.
What are the best parts of your job and least favourite parts?
As mentioned previously, my position comes with a variety of ups and downs. Not to sound cliché, but I love seeing a good plan come together. Whether it’s a short social media burst or a very detailed rollout of a new model launch, there are many facets from many departments which need to come together. These things are sometimes months in planning, so it’s thrilling to see everything align in execution.
What’s my least favourite thing? Communications within a global organisation is a tough task, especially with so many stakeholders, both local and abroad, working remotely. It’s easy for team members to focus only their immediate bubble without taking the bigger picture into account. It’s my job to ensure the big picture is visible to all so that various tasks are completed and objectives are met. It’s challenging at times.
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?
This is the million dollar question – sometimes quite literally. How we, and all brands, measure success is ever-evolving and I don’t know if there’s a silver bullet to solve all the hiccups that come with each way of reporting.
Using AVE to benchmark success in the media space is perhaps a little old-fashioned, as media platforms have evolved far from where they were when AVE was developed. It’s important to note the difference between attractive figures in a spreadsheet report, and what’s actually happening in regards to overall brand health. In an ideal world these two would align naturally, but we know they often do not.
A level of common sense must be applied to targets and how we attempt to meet and report on them. That said, there is no line item for common sense on any spreadsheets I’ve worked with! In general, we apply some basic logic to how we measure our successes locally.
What are your favourite technologies and platforms that you use to make yourself more productive and get more done?
One of my most valued tools is Waze. Though I’m not driving anywhere near the same amount as I was before the pandemic, handy navigation apps such as this still offer very helpful insights into traffic updates and detailed departure and arrival times. Knowing where traffic is blocked up can save hours on the road, especially in Gauteng.
I also love knowledge sharing platforms like Quora. A literal world of insights and advice, whether just on a random topic or something critical to business, is available with a just a few clicks. I have subscribed to some specialised groups in Quora and the information I have quick access to is invaluable.
An honourable mention must also go to Unsplash. Nobody likes death by PowerPoint, so making presentations visually attractive can be key when relaying messages. Unsplash is my little secret for accessing free-to-use imagery which can transform a presentation from zero to hero.
What PR campaigns stand out for you and what brands produce the best campaigns locally in your opinion?
I simply love the partnership between Jaguar South Africa and #GiveHerACrown, which is a campaign to promote female empowerment. The platform uses the power of storytelling and the arts to raise awareness and funds towards the fight against gender-based violence.
We launched #GiverHerACrown last year with 16 local artists all creating a unique crown in the style and material of their choice. These artistic creations were auctioned during 16 Days of Activism and all proceeds went toward developing a CAPS aligned Digital School Kit for educators to champion gender equality is schools. For this year’s campaign we’ve turned to six of our country’s most talented digital artists to make six one-of-a-kind artworks. Sales of these pieces will go directly to Crown Bursaries for young female creatives.
I believe creative expression can be used to communicate our individual and collective values, and this campaign fosters creativity in a very positive way. I encourage anyone interested to visit www.giveheracrown.co.za for more information or to donate.
As far as campaigns outside of Jaguar Land Rover go, I really admire the simple but wonderful “Pay it Forward” campaign recently set up by the small non-profit coffee shop in Johannesburg. The store has a dedicated wall tagged with handwritten notes of encouragement, including some vouchers for free food and drinks donated by customers to others who may need a pick-me-up in today’s tough environment.
Little projects like this prove that it’s possible to make a difference to many without need for huge marketing budgets.
What are the main differences between the strategic communications needs of a business operating within the automotive industry compared that of any other sector like FMCG or big tech?
Good question. The automotive industry and the tech that drives it are progressing at rapid rates – to the point that brands such as Jaguar Land Rover and its premium competitors can almost be considered tech purveyors.
Obviously the goods we deal in are expensive, relatively speaking, but I think there’s a lot we can learn from tech giants and the way they interpret changing consumer behaviour in order to apply specific comms strategies. Gone are the days when carmakers simply sold cars. We now sell connected devices that need to cater for an infinite variety of customers and their respective lifestyles. It’s often the tech in our cars which allows us to speak the varied languages of many different customer profiles – be it clever apps within infotainment systems, safety-related automated emergency call systems, features that enhance off-road capability, and everything in between. We’re constantly looking at ways to highlight the products we offer to tap specific audiences and communicate appropriately.