​CMO interview: Driving NBN’s rebranding strategy

The broadband network’s head of marketing reveals the importance of taking control of your brand in the digital age

NBN’s executive general manager of marketing and community affairs, Ken Heffernan discusses the significance of brands strategy and empowerment
NBN’s executive general manager of marketing and community affairs, Ken Heffernan discusses the significance of brands strategy and empowerment

Internet provisioning has gone through major shifts since the bygone days of dial-up, and NBN’s executive general manager of marketing and community affairs, Kent Heffernan, has seen it all.

Prior joining NBN in 2014, Heffernan held leading roles in sales, advertising and marketing roles in BT Financial Group, Qantas and Telstra. During his years at Telstra, Heffernan said one of the major things he saw was the migration from dial-up Internet to broadband in a market that still didn’t really know what broadband was or if they really needed it.

“There was no Facebook or Instagram, but at the time, Telstra had the vision that there would eventually be a need for a high speed solution,” he told CMO. “At Qantas, I was lucky to get some real global marketing experience, where we had to sell 60,000 seats every day, That’s been relevant to my role at NBN, which is about managing very high volume sales.”

Standing out from the telco crowd

Heffernan agreed that in an increasingly disrupted space, the challenge is ensuring your brand stands out from the crowd and provides that better, more competitive experience.

“One of the great things about NBN is that we believe our product is absolutely ground-breaking,” he claimed. “The speeds are unbelievable and the reliability is good. As a marketer, sometimes we have to take a product that no-one needs and somehow position it and provide that emotional connection. But at NBN, we can sell it on its merits.”

Despite these benefits, Heffernan said is still important to differentiate the brand from other telcos.

“We’re not like Telstra, Optus or iiNet,” he said. “We’re a wholesaler but at the same time, we still need to be consumer facing and take control of our brand, and the perception Australians have of that. So we need to be proactive to communicate the benefits of what we can for the economy, education, entertainment and business."

On top of this, Heffernan said service is at the heart of everything. NBN is working with all its customers to make sure they have the right processes in place, the right information and to have a seamless customer service experience.

“We ensure that with the technicians in the field as well as in our call centres our brand and service strategy is consistently driven,” he said.

NBN’s rebranding journey

In April last year, Heffernan led the rebranding journey of NBN in collaboration with marketing agency, BWM Dentsu, dropping the ‘Co’ from the company name and taking on the motto ‘nbn: bring it on,’ along with its new company logo.

“A brand strategy is a lot more than just a logo and visual identity,” he explained. “Once we agreed what the brand essence, positioning, strategy and values were, it was about looking at what it also meant for HR reward and recognition, KPI setting, development plans, uniforms for our several thousand technicians, our service philosophy and the branding of our trucks.”

As a result, NBN did a full audit on every internal and external touchpoint, which Heffernan said provided a great opportunity to really reframe the culture.

“To run a company like a Google, Intel or Apple, we knew from a staff perspective, we needed to attract the right people,” he added. “Having the right culture and brand strategy and then expressing that both internally and externally has helped us attract the right people, the right suppliers and also painted a vision for how amazing NBN was going to be.”

According to Heffernan, the rebranding also involved working very closely with other divisions and government stakeholders, with a view to empower the brand moving forward.

“We knew a new brand strategy wouldn’t necessarily fix all of the challenges we may have had in the past,” he said. “But our research indicated that we needed to have clear brand awareness, by communicating and educating Australia effectively with intent to connect, especially when the likes of iiNet or TPG were already advertising in a very warm market.”

Looking ahead, Heffernan saw the brand embracing more co-operative marketing and collaboration.

“Joint marketing with other telecommunications companies, potentially with other providers, manufacturers of 4K Ultra HD TV, tablets and PCs which can connect to NBN,” he said. “The retail space is also important, so you can see brands come to life with NBN and of course, the field of corporate social responsibility, where corporates look at what role we can play in the environment.”

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