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CMO50 2016 #26-50: Richard Oppy, Carlton & United Brewery

  • Name Richard Oppy
  • Title Marketing director
  • Company Carlton & United Brewery
  • Commenced role August 2014 (been with CUB since 2001)
  • Reporting Line Chief operations officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 82 staff, 10 direct reports
  • Industry Sector FMCG
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    Richard Oppy’s proudest moment over the past 12 months has been seeing CUB’s Pure Blonde brand, which had been in decline for almost five years, turn around and chalk up significant growth.

    The relaunch of the Pure Blonde brand is just one pillar in an ambitious 18-month strategy spearheaded by Oppy to rebalance CUB’s portfolio of products and realign teams towards growth categories and innovation in white spaces.

    “At CUB, we’re very lucky to have a portfolio of market leading brands. While this certainly has its benefits, it can also present challenges,” he says. “Which brands do we focus on? Where will our growth come from, now and in the future?”

    The problem was that for many years, CUB focused on big classic brands that were in decline. At the same time, teams operated in siloes competing for the same consumer, on the same occasion with the same sensory profile.

    The new-look portfolio strategy saw investment realigned behind classic brands such as Victoria Bitter and Carlton Draught to reinforce distinctive assets and memory structures with consumers. Simultaneously, funds were redeployed towards brands and innovation in the easy drinking, contemporary growth segments like Carlton Dry, the relaunch of Pure Blonde, and the debut of Great Northern Super Crisp, the most successful new product launch across alcohol category in the past 10 years.

    Oppy says it’s also focused on improving the premium mix with brands like Peroni, Crown Golden Ale, Fat Yak and the launch of Lazy Yak, which has quickly become the third-largest craft brand within the last 10 months. Key to success was ensuring each brand had a clear role, consumer target and occasion and that a portfolio consumer connection plan was in place.

    “This was done by going back and rebuilding its foundations, reclaiming its functional point of difference, refreshing its distinctive iconography and recapturing the innovative drive that made it famous in the first place,” he says.

    As a result, marketing also has a portfolio consumer connection plan covering media, sponsorship, experiential and digital.

    From the CMO50 submission

    Empowered business thinking

    While the front-end work was significant, Oppy says the biggest change has been ensuring teams embrace decisions that are best for the total portfolio. That has led to making some tough calls on how CUB invests its resources.

    Oppy admits he’s had to be careful not to pull the rug out too quickly, and maintain discipline. Showing results along the way has also been vital.

    “These choices have allowed us to double down on the growth areas of our business and in football terms, ‘kick with the wind’, and I think the results speak for themselves,” Oppy says.

    “In F16, and in a market that has been slowly but steadily contracting for many years, we grew volume and share for the first time in over a decade while realising twice as much price as our competitors. We now have a healthy brand portfolio in a winning position.”

    Innovative marketing

    The most successful marketing initiative undertaken in the last 12 months was the relaunch of Pure Blonde Premium Lager. “When we launched Pure Blonde back in 2004 it was a real innovation, first to market low carb full flavoured premium lager and it did very well for us,” Oppy explains.

    Competitors followed, and slowly but surely, the premium low carb positioning became a cluttered space and the brand began to decline. “At a time when healthy lifestyles, ‘better for you’ and moderation are so important to our consumers, we realised that the most important thing we could do for the brand was to re-establish that functional benefit and differentiate it from competitors.”

    CUB reformulated the product, made it even lower carb (80 per cent lower than a regular beer), and lowered the gluten and alcohol content while maintaining the full flavour. This new formula, coupled with new premium packaging and communications campaign, has proven to be a hit, with significant growth in the past 12 months.

    Data- and technology-led approach

    Oppy says the underlying principle of acquiring, integrating and analysing data to generate insights that lead to commercial actions is really important at CUB.

    The integrated communications team has developed a data-driven marketing strategy guiding how it brings together data sources like CRM, shopper and customer data with media consumption data in order to better target and reach consumers with the right messages, at the right time, in the right place.

    Oppy says it’s also focused on integrating traditional market research-based insights methodologies with new data sources available, such as social listening platforms, Facebook insights and Google analytics. In order to do, the team built a digital reporting platform that pulls in data from all paid, earned and owned channels into a dashboard style visualisation tool. This gives marketers a real-time view on what’s happening in the market and enables them to make quick adjustments to optimise plans.

    Customer-led approach

    CUB’s customer base includes consumers and shoppers, then trade partners customers including pubs, clubs and liquor stores.

    Oppy says it’s developed a consumer connection framework that ensures brands put their consumers at the heart of their thinking every day. This is supported by a consumer insights team.

    Significant change is also afoot around how CUB works with trade partners such as Coles, Dan Murphy’s, IBA and pubs. The FMCG giant has redesigned its commercial model around two dimensions: How brands best connect with consumers; and how the business delivers mutually beneficial joint business plans with customers.

    For Oppy, that means partnering more closely, sharing data and insights, bringing them into planning cycles earlier and building joint business plans that deliver both businesses’ objectives while at the same time keeping the consumer or shopper need front and centre.

    Fostering capability

    When CUB recruits individuals, Oppy says it puts a lot of time and rigour into making sure they’re the right fit for the role and for the team, using internal psychological testing by trained psychologists to help.

    To keep marketers up to speed on trends and skills, CUB runs an annual offsite marketing boot camp, involving partners such as Clemenger, Facebook and YouTube to inspire the team with best practices from around the world. Importantly, these are then put into practice with case studies and exercises that stretch the thinking beyond the day-to-day, Oppy says. This is supported by monthly lunch-and-learn sessions.

    Another significant step has been to build a team of subject matter experts in key marketing disciplines including insights, innovation, digital marketing, sponsorship, experiential and media. This provides a wealth of knowledge for brand teams to tap into.

    On the agility front, Oppy says he’s worked hard to clarify and document accountabilities and decision making rights throughout the planning and execution process with a view to pushing decision rights down the organisation. “For the major campaigns and investments we still have layers of approval, which is necessary in the alcohol category, but our team know when they make the call and when they escalate, which leads to quicker decisions.”

    And rather than having a lead creative agency controlling all aspects of content, brand teams are now able to source content from anywhere.

    “We have strategic and trusted partners who will work on all the biggest problems for us, but that doesn’t preclude us from partnering with other agencies, influencers, or even crowd sourcing platforms to generate branded content,” Oppy says.


    Oppy agrees creativity can get lost in all the talk about data, technology and impressions.

    “This is why we make sure all of our brands have a creative platform, based on a compelling consumer insight that is the basis for all of our brand activity,” he says. “As much as possible, these are set in stone, locked down for three years at a time, which allows for consistency of message year on year, done in a fresh and engaging way each time.”

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