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CMO50 2016 #26-50: Ric Navarro, Norman Disney & Young

  • Name Ric Navarro
  • Title Global director, marketing and communications
  • Company Norman Disney & Young
  • Commenced role 2011
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team No
  • Marketing Function 16 staff, 8 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Professional services
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    There’s been a steady, significant change in the way marketing is perceived at engineering firm, Norman Disney & Young. And over the past 12 months, its global marketing and communications director, Ric Navarro, said the firm’s brand, reputation, customer engagement and financial performance have all benefitted from his team’s strategic efforts.

    The need to transform how the group went to market became evident in a 2014 Beaton Customer Research report, where clients had the firm lagging behind many of its competitors across key metrics such as reliability, easy of doing business and understanding the business. One of the challenges was that teams focused on technical detail rather than delighting the clients.

    Navarro set out to undertaken intensive client research interviews, in partnership with Ernst & Young, and from that, gained approval to work on an updated strategy to address the misalignment.

    “A significant body of work was undertaken to develop our strategic go-to market direction between February and June this year,” he says. “Importantly, we challenged ourselves throughout the process to question pre-existing assumptions.”

    From this, the 2020 Aspiration was born. This sees Norman Disney & Young focusing on three areas: Putting people first; ensuring creative value for clients as the central focus of activities; and investing in new opportunities aligned with its vision and aspiration that provide growth for its people and the business.

    “As head of the marketing function, I have been empowered to play a key role in this initiative and implementation, ensuring our clients’ consistently receive the best care, and the best of NDY: Our people, our knowledge and our expertise,” Navarro says.

    “I am ensuring we deliver on this by adopting client-centric structures and processes that make certain our clients receive the best service and outcomes, have access to the right people, and provide us valuable feedback to allow us to improve.”

    From the CMO50 submission

    Innovative marketing

    As a firm, Navarro says Norman Disney & Young was guilty of glossing over the important step of assessing strategy and goals against customer objectives. To overcome this, Navarro posed two questions to the executive team: What are the three most important things we want our clients to know about our company? And what are the three most important things clients want to know about us?

    The responses highlighted the lack of alignment and paved the way for a deep-dive client survey with Ernst & Young in July 2015. This was the first time the group had engaged an external research team to collaborate on client research.

    “The ensuing data revealed a clear pathway for addressing what we need to be saying to our clients, and importantly, what they want to hear and the channels by which they want to be informed,” Navarro says.

    The outcome was to position people as approachable engineers, as thought leaders in their relevant field of expertise, who, while providing commercial advice, truly connect with clients’ aspirations while also making a difference to cities and the built environment.

    Navarro says the work involved significant internal stakeholder consulting and involvement. In terms of tactical implementation, multiple channels are being utilised to reach clients including video, EDMs, social media, webinars, speaking engagements, third-party media, podcasts and its own digital and printed magazine.

    Results have been immediate and dramatic, with global profit for the 2016 financial year up by 4 per cent.

    “Just as significantly within an engineering professional services firm, I was able to connect the dots and show the very direct – and provable – correlation between marketing, a client-centric focus and organisational performance,” Navarro says.

    Empowered business thinking

    Client research had revealed current and prospective clients had a narrow and traditional pre-conception about Norman Disney & Young’s engineering services offering, so a major focus over the past 12 months for Navarro has been to change that. The key was to drive the firm in telling the brand story through the lens of its people.

    The first step was internal engagement so people believed in what the group did and had an understanding of why they did it. “Despite 50-plus years of continuous operation, never had a purpose been articulated for our firm,” he comments.

    Navarro collaborated with the CEO, shareholders and head of HR on several staff feedback sessions, town hall meetings and workshops. Marketing also led an extensive industry and competitor analysis study to identify gaps and create opportunities for brand articulation and differentiation, and devices a clear brand purpose: ‘Making spaces work’. The purpose was launched across 30 service-line teams in six countries in a live fashion.

    As a result, staff engagement improved in all offices by an average of 7 per cent, applications for upcoming graduate intakes increased by 25 per cent, social media followers increased by more than 400 per cent, and group profits were up.

    Navarro says it’s embodying the purpose through regular ‘how I’m making spaces work’ contributions from staff in its monthly internal magazine, adopting the #makingspaceswork hashtag in all social media, the CEO highlighting instances of individuals highlighting this purpose in his monthly vlog, and organic reach through the content marketing program. The purpose is also behind the new-look website.

    Data- and technology-led approach

    Data from Norman Disney & Young’s extensive client and stakeholder study was the basis for a new EDM strategy as well as wider long-term customer journey mapping project. Navarro says it’s now utilising a new CRM system to trigger emails for diverse cohorts of client groups across four brands, 30 service lines and six countries. He claims average open rates are now up to 50 per cent and average clickthrough rates are 25 per cent.

    “We were able to use in-depth analytics from each campaign over this period for ongoing refinement in our approach, including audience segmentation, optimal posting times, device and platform rates and geographic/cultural preferences,” Navarro says.

    “We have also identify brand advocates and targeted these clients with tactical and bespoke approaches.”

    The work is generating significantly improved customer engagement year-on-year, as measured by Beaton Consulting Research, and translated into deeper and more sophisticated client knowledge of the group’s offering.

    Fostering capability

    With a team stretched across multiple international locations, Navarro says it’s a challenge to engage, inform and upskill marketing and communications staff in a consistent manner. To help, he’s working to tailored his development of each staff members to their requirements and skillsets, not just as marketing professionals but also individuals. They each undergo a ‘Hogan Assessment’, based on a series of in-depth questions around competencies, derailers, values, reasoning skills and leadership characteristics.

    The entire team has also participate in centralised training programs focused on client centricity and acquiring knowledge across cross-functional teams including HR, finance, business development and IT.

    “Providing my team with a deeper understanding of other c-suite operations is an important step in their personal and professional career development,” Navarro continues. “Each team member’s KPIs include a commitment to undertake two out-of-office courses per year.”

    Agility is also vital, and Navarro points to the tactical delivery of the firm’s content marketing strategy as an example. This is being achieved through an overarching focus on people, projects and places, and a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength and endurance. Norman Disney & Young’s content strategy includes its own lifecycle magazine, TV channel, social media channels, new website, NDY Insights brand and channel, and driving the corporate social responsibility strategy.


    Navarro is a firm believer in thinking strategically, and executing creatively. And it’s the approach he’s instilling as marketing increasingly works as a strategic partner to the thought leaders across the organisation.

    “Creativity is core to my marketing strategy and programs; I can have access to all the data and analytics offered by the Internet of Things, but without creative execution, and creative people in my team, such data is meaningless,” he says.

    From blogs to infographics, presentations and 3D visualisations, video, podcasts, CEO Vlogs and EDMs, creative impetus fuels the strategy, he adds.

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