Nissan Marketing VP Says Nelson Mandela Was His Biggest Inspiration: “His Approach To Leadership…Just Blew Me Away”
Get To Know: Nissan Motor Company's Corporate Vice President & Global Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy Roel de Vries
As Nissan Motor Company’s corporate vice president, global head of marketing and brand strategy, Roel de Vries is focused on further strengthening the value of Nissan’s brands.
“I work with the marketing teams in our headquarters in Japan and in the regions to clearly position our brands Nissan, Infiniti and Datsun,” said de Vries, “I also spend a lot of my time with other departments in our organization to make sure the brand is clearly embedded in everything we do.”
During his 20-year tenure with Nissan, de Vries has worked in Amsterdam, South Africa, and now at Nissan’s corporate headquarters in Yokohama, Japan.
“I’m grateful of having had the opportunity to look at so many different aspects and geographies of the Nissan business during my time with the company,” said de Vries.
As a Dutch national, de Vries studied industrial engineering as well as business administration in the Netherlands. He first joined Nissan in 1994 in its Amsterdam office as part of his graduate MBA program.
When he’s not leading global marketing and brand strategy for Nissan, de Vries likes to spend as much time as possible enjoying travel, sports, good food and wine – all with family and friends.
According to de Vries, the automotive industry will remain resilient in the future, “A car will always be one of the most emotional purchases of your life.”
What mobile device can you not live without?
My phone, use it too much but never to make calls.
Which apps do you use most often for work?
The weather app so I can imagine what it’s like outside. More seriously, various news apps, but not a big user.
What social media network or website do you frequent most when you’re not working?
I mainly scan the news, not big on social media.
What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?
Take me through your typical workday.
When I’m in Japan, I normally start at 8:00 a.m., with calls while I drive into the office, and spend the majority of my day in meetings with my teams as well as in bigger meetings that involve various functions.
I try to leave the office between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.
What has been the most exciting work development during the past year?
Seeing many of the things we’ve planned for the last three years come to life. Most recently it was the start of our partnership with the UEFA Champions League.
What does your desk look like?
My desk will probably be rather messy, but not too bad. I don’t have too many personal things there other than a drawing from my son which I love.
Other than that, there are examples of advertisements we did, and some pictures of us climbing the ranks on the best global brands list which confirms we are doing the right thing!
How many miles have you traveled in the last 12 months?
I have no idea how many miles, but it must have been a few.
I love traveling and meeting people everywhere, but emerging markets like Indonesia, Brazil etc. always give me that extra motivation as people are so eager to grow, and their mindset and attitude is so positive.
What work challenge keeps you up at night?
Work doesn’t keep me awake, but I get most frustrated when I feel we aren’t making progress. There is so much to do, and there are always challenges, but daily positive steps are what will always get us there.
Can you tell us about a campaign or work project you’d like to do over?
Hindsight is 20-20 so I don’t spend too much time on whether I should have done this or that.
More important to me is to know why we did certain things. We should feel comfortable that we made the best decision we could have made with the knowledge we had at that time. I feel comfortable that I’ve always tried to take that approach.
Tell me about the people who have been most influential in your career.
At a young age, it was a neighbor who advised me to go and study engineering end introduced me to the world of business by arranging internships for me at a big Dutch company.
My biggest inspiration came later when I had a chance to meet Nelson Mandela a few times while I was in South Africa. His approach to leadership and getting things done despite circumstances just blew me away.
What traits does a person need to succeed in your position?
To be genuinely interested in people and cultures, to have a passion for the real deep discussion, not to be afraid of taking on difficult and sensitive topics, and to always stay positive.
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
I’m pretty open I think, they probably don’t know I can bake cakes!
Why did you go into marketing?
I love the impact marketing has on the organization and to try and figure out how we can influence the opinion of people.
What other career would you like to try and why?
I always wanted to be a production manager and make things. Still love doing “projects” in my garden or house.
Outside of your company’s efforts, what ad campaign or video caught your eye recently?
I really like how companies can create engagement or movements.
Red Bull does amazing stuff in this field, but also companies like Proctor & Gamble who are creating emotional binds around soap or detergents. Some very clever stuff there.