From 1969 to 2023: Hisense's Fazalur Rahman reflects on the brand's success

Abha Garyali Peer |

In this exclusive interview, Fazalur Rahman, Marketing Director of Hisense Middle East & Africa, provides insights into Hisense's evolution since its inception in 1969, major milestones, and the brand's remarkable growth in the Middle East. He discusses the changing dynamics of the marketing industry, successful strategies, and the brand's expansion into new avenues, including AI adoption and B2B air-conditioning marketing plans. Excerpts:

As Marketing Director of Hisense, Middle East, can you please share as to how the company has evolved since its inception in 1969? Kindly mention a few major milestones that the organization has achieved.

Since the company’s inception in 1969, Hisense has been pushing the boundaries of innovation and investing heavily in the research and development to bring to life wide range of electronic products and solution to ever demanding consumers and changing lifestyle. Hisense now has over 90,000 employees worldwide, 29 industrials parks, and as of H1 2023 22 research and development centers across the world that service specific key markets for the brand.

Since establishing ourselves in the UAE in 2012, Hisense Middle East has experienced remarkable and steady growth, evolving into a multi-million-dollar enterprise. We now have a strong presence across the region, witnessing substantial expansion across diverse product categories. Our business is thriving through a combination of online and offline channels, earning recognition as one of the top electronic brands in physical retail stores, including both organised and independent outlets, as well as major e-commerce platforms.

The company’s solid MEA performance closes a successful 12-month period that has also seen us secure a number of high-profile product awards, including the prestigious CES 2023 Innovation Award and EISA Award for ‘Best Product of the Year’ for our premium 4K Mini-LED ULED TV 65U8HQ, and the Tom's Guide Award 2023 for our 4K UST Triple-Laser Trichroma Projector 100L9H.

Hisense is one of the largest consumer electronics companies. What are your responsibilities in running such a big organization flawlessly?

As the regional marketing director for Hisense Middle East & North Africa, it is my responsibility to design and reshape strategies to improve brand awareness and equity, execute GTM plans, enhance consumer engagement, and optimise retail/shopper marketing. My primary focus in this role is on driving brand equity, influencing consumer behaviour, and accelerating business growth across the Middle East region.

While retail expansion remains key to us, we are also elevating our presence through e-commerce and online platforms. Comprehensive marketing plans that drive traffic and conversions through various social and digital platforms, have supported the brand to increase its brand equity.

Another key part of our marketing efforts is supporting the brand through collaboration with global sporting events, which has helped us position Hisense as one of the top consumer electronic brands in the region. Participations included the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and 2022, as well as the UEFA European Championships in both 2016 and 2020 and football club PSG, and previously the Australian Open, NASCAR Xfinity Series, Red Bull Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Germany’s FC Schalke 04.

Being a Marketing Director, how have you seen the marketing segment evolving over the years? What are your views on the changing dynamics of the marketing industry?

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in marketing. Today, If the brand wishes to stay ahead of competition and thrive in an ever-changing environment, then it must prioritize providing relevant, personalised customer experiences and meaningful engagements.

The pandemic has changed how marketers build brands, and marketing’s role has been redefined. Today’s consumer is more concerned with value than with product, and other factors such as the environment and brand activism are equally important when making a purchasing decision.

Customers’ expectations for Online/digital experiences have climbed sharply. These experiences must not only be seamless, but they must also span the whole consumer journey. Be it social, mobile, digital, web, brands must meet the needs of their customers wherever they are.

On the execution front, there have been great developments too, like Marketing Automation, Artificial Intelligence and 360 degree experiential marketing, which has changed the marketing landscape.

What campaigns and strategies have you devised for Hisense over the years? Have they all worked for the brand? According to you, which would you like to re-work on?

Hisense has witnessed a big surge in its brand equity over the years. In the last 5 years Hisense brand equity increased by over 154%, in a highly competitive and challenging business environment. This is a result of our strategies and various activations. Our global brand building platform is Soccer marketing, which has worked very well for us, as it is a highly passionate, engaging and mass appeal touch point. Sponsorships like FIFA World cup 2018 and 2022, Euro ups 206, 2021 and now 2024, PSG had all contributed a lot, creating a strong brand awareness with high engagements. We would be pursuing this strategy for years to come.

Apart from that, our strategic approach focuses on engaging and influencing consumer behavior at each touch point of the customer journey, be it online or offline. Also we are focusing a lot on experiential marketing, by enhancing our retail marketing, experiential zones as well as consumer activation for real life interaction with our products and solutions.

Our strategy rests on three key drivers i.e. Brand marketing, Product marketing and Retail marketing, these play an important role in driving and brand and business growth. Our strategy is delivering the results and we plan to continue pursing it in future too.

Hisense as a brand is best known for its consumer electronics division. Is the brand planning to diverge into different avenues? What would be the forthcoming plans of the brand?

Hisense is leading in the space of home appliance and consumer electronics globally. Our business covers multimedia products with a focus on Smart TVs, home appliances, and IT intelligent information. We have grown rapidly in the past few years and have expanded to different avenues.

One being Intelligent Transport Systems, providing overall solutions like traffic operation monitoring and emergency central system, ordinary public transportation intelligent system, taxi service management information system, road electromechanical system, intelligent road management system to name a few.

We have also diversified into the Medical and Healthcare Industry. Last year we introduced imaging platforms that provide medical practitioners with more accuracy using 4k ultra high-definition resolution and state of the art connectivity in endoscope or surgery monitors. Its diagnostic monitors are currently in the final stages of testing at Ahalia Hospital in Abu Dhabi, UAE, while its ultrasound devices are being tested at Medicano Hospital in Erbil, Iraq.

In a recent development, Hisense has opened its flagship stores in GCC, LEVANT and North Africa region. What can you share on this?

Hisense’s regional growth has been elevated by the expansion of local offices in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, and Algeria, improving regionwide operations and a more robust partner network and relations strategy. This advancement has also brought the brand closer to its key markets, allowing us to better cater for our end users and network partners. We also look forward to catering to local requirements in terms of products, lifestyle, environment and social that influence the customers consumption patterns and habits with a global R&D centre based in Dubai, that will be an innovation centre for Hisense to introduce new products and technology.

AI is taking the centre stage worldwide. What is your take on this? How far has Hisense adopted AI in the marketing domain and other related areas?

Artificial intelligence is a great technology that can make human-like decisions, and there are many ways to utilize this power in the world of marketing. What makes artificial intelligence so powerful is that it comes in many different forms. Machine learning and artificial intelligence has come together to optimize ad campaigns across multiple ad platforms. We are utilizing AI tools for various marketing activities like Social listening, which helps us collect and analyze data related to our brand, audience and competitors across various social media platforms. We also use it for integrating customer-facing channels to collect every single interaction for in-depth analysis and insights. It helps in right content development, based on VOC data to find out content which the target audience is interested in and responds to it. AI is also used for identifying the right audience segmentation for programmatic campaigns, which helps us to improve digital ads ROI.

Hisense is also making huge inroads into the region’s B2B air-conditioner market with a growing reputation for product efficiency. What are the marketing plans for this?

B2B air-conditioning is quite different in approach compared to B2C products. The business characteristics are quite different in terms of the entire decision-making process and stakeholder profile, which are our primary target audience. Our marketing strategy is based on creating the right awareness and engagement to the stakeholders through knowledge sharing initiatives as well as B2B communication events to elaborate Hisense technology, solutions and service back-up for their projects. B2B Exhibition, technical seminars, focus groups from specific industry verticals as well as industry online & offline publication are great ways for us to create demand for our products and solutions.