Sayed Hajamaideen

CMO spotlight

"Don't sacrifice clarity for the sake of fame": SMARTY's Sayed Hajamaideen

Jargon is a bugbear of the SMARTY head of marketing, who says that the discipline is an art

By Creative salon

Sayed Hajamaideen is head of marketing & propositions for SMARTY mobile at Three UK, which has just released a bold new brand platform and campaign delivered by MSQ.

We caught up with him to talk about his career to date, the rationale behind SMARTY's new platform and how to get the best out of your agency partner.

How and why did you get into marketing and what do you enjoy most about it?

I’ve always been interested in stories since I was a kid. Love hearing them, love telling them – and absolutely love the power and influence a great story has on us individuals, groups & in popular culture.

At college through Media Studies, I discovered that there was a whole discipline in Marketing dedicated to crafting stories, and that they’re not limited to feature length movies, or books so I curiously explored over the coming years and decided to follow the path not knowing where it will lead to.

Looking back, I think the fact that I didn’t know where it was going to lead to fascinated me the most. And I’d say it stands true to me today ; it helps me treat each piece of work be it a piece of content or a multi-million-pound campaign, which allows me to focus myself, my team and my agency partners on the task at hand. So, in that way, the bit I enjoy the most is approaching each project whatever it is as if it were my first which can be hard to do as you become more and more experienced.

Of course, seeing the work live out there for millions to see, gives you a feeling you cannot describe.

You’ve spent most of your career working in mobile communications marketing. Was this a deliberate career choice and what interests you most about the sector?

My other passion since an early age aside from stories has been technology. I started my career in a local phone shop in Portsmouth as a sales advisor after I finished university as a way of paying back my student loan. I was fascinated seeing, hearing and exploring how people were using phones to keep themselves connected to the people & things that matter to them and all the stories that it brought with it. I once again relied on my curiosity to explore a way to bring my passion points together to carve out a career in marketing communications in what I’d say is the most exciting sector on the planet. The most interesting part about the sector I believe is the fact its constantly changing; there is no standstill position, there are no two days that are the same, and the outcomes are genuinely driven by our basic human instinct around wanting to communicate with & between each other.

Your new campaign seeks to demystify and simplify a sector that is sometimes accused of being complex and opaque. How did you and MSQ come up with the idea for this campaign?

We spent a lot of time defining, sharpening and tapping into the DNA of the SMARTY brand. We discovered that our customers weren’t just joining a smaller player like us just because of the value we were offering, but more importantly we said what we did, and we did what we did which isn’t always the case across the market. We discovered they loved us for that simple, upfront honesty which we have bought to the forefront of our campaign. The key to this process being successful was to really harness on the strengths of bringing the client and agency talent together to focus & collaborate as one team to really unlock that creativity.

How prevalent and how much of a problem is such complexity in marketing in general and what advice would you have to other marketers trying to achieve the same as you?

Too many times, I think we as marketeers can operate in silos from the rest of the business & feel the need to ‘protect’ what we do which leads to a disengaged, muted response to your ta-da moment. My advice is bring people on the journey within your organisation; don’t make Marketing look like its something a bunch of clever people do in one corner of the organisation; keep it simple. Bring it to life internally across every part of the organisation just like you do for customers – without getting technical. Marketing is first and foremost an art – remember that. Spend quality time to think about how you can mobilise your colleagues, peers and your boardroom as genuine advocates for your campaign just as much as your customers and prospects.

You used MSQ as a one-stop shop for this campaign, other than media planning and buying. Was it deliberate to use a single entity for brand, direct response, customer engagement and PR and if so why? And how did it work in practice?

One thing I learnt quite early in my career is that it only works, when it all works. Quite often I feel its only us marketeers that define the discipline of the communications, whereas to the customer especially in very saturated industries like ours doesn’t really care. And when you couple that with the fact that a brand like SMARTY doesn’t have access to huge budgets, time or resource you find that cohesiveness matters so much to the story you’re trying to tell. Why have multiple authors working on the same book? Of course you go through a process to find the right partnership that works for you; for a brand like SMARTY which has something genuinely special about the way it behaves in the market, the key was to partner with a multi-disciplined partner who can help articulate the story we wanted to tell with great cohesion and precision regardless of medium / discipline.

What advice would you have for marketers to get the best out of their agency partners?

In a true agency client partnership, I’ve learned that the client and agency is genuinely one team with clearly defined roles. My job as a client is to be absolutely brilliant at articulating the problem to be solved, and the agency’s job is to help me identify the very best ways to solve that problem. What we decide upon, how we bring it life & how we sharpen as we progress through the creative process is where excellent collaboration comes in. My advice is simple; break the wall down between Client and Agency; we are one team responsible for solving problems creatively. In my experience I’ve seen this work really well; to the point where you can’t really tell who the client & agency talent are, and I’ve also seen it done bad i.e. the client practically writes the campaign and engages with an agency to just execute. Its fine if that’s what you want, but the question here will be if you’re truly getting the most out of what your agency offers by using them as a studio.

Now that you’ve created this new brand platform, what’s next for SMARTY?

I’m really excited about launching this campaign. The campaign platform of Less Malarkey, More SMARTY is here to stay and the whole team is super excited to use this as a lens to shape, launch and drive our new propositions roadmap whether that be a shiny new customer proposition, or simplifying our customer experience to make it even better, simpler and one less thing for customers to think about. And the best thing is, millions of customers who have been used to overpaying, accepting complexity & a sub-standard level of service in return for a connectivity package have been woken up as a result of the pandemic and the current cost of living pressures. Customers are not willing to accept brands that are not on their side, and thanks to simpler, clearer & more customer focus brands like us the lethargy that once existed in the market when it came to switching is now becoming less of a barrier. We absolutely believe we can drive change in the industry and show people a simpler way.

And what’s next on your plate?

SMARTY is approaching its sixth year, and in those 6 years, we’ve managed to learn a great deal about our customer, the market and of course the brand at a campaign level – this has resulted in our strongest ever, cohesive & powerful story we’ve ever landed. What I’m really excited about now is kicking off a huge piece of work exploring the many layers of the brand that lies beyond the campaign. We’ll be looking at everything from our tone-of-voice, organic presence, cultural values right through to how it feels to be a member of staff here at SMARTY on a Monday morning when you’re in a meeting. The goal is to really bring the SMARTY vision to life beyond our advertising and fully embed the behaviours and inject that awesome personality into our day to day culture.

In 2020, you co-authored a book, Jargonary, with the comedian Guz Khan that called out the most annoying sayings and office jargon. What jargon from the worlds of marketing and advertising annoy you the most and why?

My current bugbear is when someone mentions ‘viral’. Apart from the fact the word outside of marketing is often associated with something negative, what annoys me is when you set out to create content with the intention to go viral. I often find that this leads to agencies and marketeers over emphasising the goal to go viral at the expense of shaping, creating a powerful story in their content which stands out on its own merit with a clear takeout. Don’t sacrifice clarity for the sake of fame in your work.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of getting a job in marketing?

I’d say take the time to study the different disciplines of marketing out there so you can appreciate the breadth and depth of what our awesome trade has to offer – but most of all, come & approach it with an attitude to learn & be curious. You can learn so much from all the great resources you have out there on successful marketing, and there are some great marketing minds out there who can teach you so much from their experience, but the greatest asset comes from within.

Our trade is to capture the mind, attention and hearts of people – and we are one of those people ourselves, so trust your instinct. We can apply plenty of science, experience, processes etc to what we do, but fundamentally our job is to tell fantastic, meaningful, and unique stories that reflect your brand whatever the medium, and its for that reason I’d always say it’s the greatest job in the world!


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