CMO interview: How a portfolio brand strategy and consumer insights help CUB’s marketing chief deliver growth

Group marketing director for alcohol producer shares how he's worked to better align brands to distinct customer segments within a wider portfolio strategy

Richard Oppy
Richard Oppy

Linking marketing to innovation and product development

Innovation for Oppy starts from a powerful consumer insight. To do this, he has CUB’s insights team reporting into the marketing function.

“Too many people see the insights team looking backwards and being reactive and a service to the brand teams to facilitate research,” he comments. “That’s old-school thinking. You need to think of them as the catalysts for future growth.”

Oppy positions CUB’s insights team as the engine for building out macro trends, spying growth opportunities by understanding consumer needs and occasions and finding opportunities the marketing team can feed into its innovation strategy. The innovation team works closely with supply and new product development team to answer that brief.

“We have a number of brewers working daily on what will be those future opportunities, rather than people seeing it as just traditional beer, which it was once upon a time,” he continues. “We’re now going up against all the different alcohol categories, across beer, cider and wine. It means recruiting more females, next generation drinkers, and holding onto the older drinkers moving into wine. We’re changing our profiles a lot and it’s working well for us.”

Arguably, however, the biggest change has been uniting media buying under a group media head, who optimises total media spend across the portfolio, by state, channel and medium, and works with insights on tracking campaigns.

“With the campaigns that aren’t working, we can pull out or we address it if it’s a branding issue,” Oppy says. “For those working well, we’ll redeploy and make them work harder for us. So having a portfolio lens to marketing, rather than a single brand lens, has made a huge difference.”

Similarly, a group head of sponsorship and events ensures every sponsorship is “bang on brand”, Oppy says, while CUB’s digital marketing lead owns social platforms as well as CRM and its consumer database.

“Rather than just rely on agency, I wanted someone in-house, building capability among the brand teams as well as working with agencies in a partnership,” he adds.

All of CUB’s campaigns are tracked against brand recognition and contribution. “Everything gets graded and no one can hide,” Oppy says. “It has changed the way our marketers are thinking. Rather than just do a funny ad, they’re being held accountable in terms of cost per brand and recognition. Putting some data and science behind it has really helped that.”

Oppy is also investigating ways data insight can be tapped for better customer-facing engagement and conversion. One trial is a new CRM program allowing CUB brands to see who consumers are, where they live, and the beers they drink via a click program, much like a mobile app.

“If I know you drink Tooheys New in NSW, I’ll send you a voucher, linked to a point-of-sale system for a Carlton Draught,” Oppy explains. “Once we get the first beer in a consumer’s hand, we have a 56 per cent chance they will buy a second or third time. It’s also often the round they share with their friends.

“It’s direct to consumer and you can see if it’s working or not. Or if you’ve been away from the venue for more than a month, we can send you a message and incentivise you to come back in.”

Balancing mass media with new channels

Across the board, TV campaigns have the highest cut through in terms of brand and recognition, and remain the priority for CUB’s mainstream brands. But digital is definitely a part of the mix.

“It’s about how you complement that, and being clear on the connection moment with a consumer for that brand,” Oppy says. “You’ll never see outdoor on the way to work for VB for example, because of its brand position. It’ll be there on the way home, or you’ll hear it on radio at 3pm or 4pm.

“But Carlton Dry is our youth play, and those consumers are living on multiple devices. So we spend more money on content through digital, online, video on-demand and social.”

As an example of both working together, Oppy points to a campaign for Great Northern. TV ads were used to build awareness and desire and link the brand to outdoor activities such as fishing. CUB extended this content through to its Instagram presence, and also struck a partnership with digital music service, Shazam, allowing consumers to download music used in its ad campaigns and enter a competition to win an outdoor experience to share with mates.

“That went bananas and we got a huge amount of entries, but it was ultimately about people connecting with the Great Northern brand,” Oppy says. “It was mass media, with technology driven to your device to find out more about the Great Northern experience.”

Key attributes to being a successful CMO

Oppy’s first must-have attribute when it comes to being a marketing leader is strategic thinking. “It’s about that ability to understand a consumer insight, understand your consumer needs and motivations better than anyone else, and translate data into insight, into strategy and action,” he says.

Commercial acumen is another. “I’ve always been more of a commercial marketer, and believe building brands that are well positioned with the right media channels will drive top-line growth,” Oppy says. “If you can prove that to the executive team, you can change the conversation in your business.”

Thanks to the hard work done on the portfolio approach and proof of impact on growth, Oppy says funds previously directed into price are going into above-the-line marketing activity and building brands.

“It’s great for the business, because it’s no longer a race to the bottom purely on price,” he says. “You have the facts there, and it’s no longer a conversation about driving brand equity. We can show what we’ve done, the impact on the consumer and how it’s changing behaviour. You can’t argue with that.”

A third attribute CMOs need, Oppy concludes, is the confidence to be strong leaders.

“Too many marketers in the past have been pushed around by their agencies and been led astray, as opposed to having the confidence to own their strategy and brand positioning,” he says. “At the end of the day, when I present to the CEO, I’m accountable. I present brand health metrics every quarter and brand performance and the way we build our brands is so important.”

Richard Oppy joined this year's CMO50 list of Australia's most innovative marketers. You can find out more about what makes his marketing strategy tick here.

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