Culture and generosity drive brand success, say Uber Eats, Mercedes-Benz and 4 Pillars Gin

Leaders from three iconic brands share the employee and customer principles guiding their efforts to build passionate brand followings

From left: Stuart Gregor, Diane Tarr, Jodie Auster and Didier Elzinga
From left: Stuart Gregor, Diane Tarr, Jodie Auster and Didier Elzinga

Building a passionate brand comes back to passionate people and a corporate culture that fosters generosity towards customers.

That’s the view of leaders from Uber Eats, Mercedes-Benz Vans, Four Pillars Gin and Culture Amp, who spoke at the Vivid Festival in Sydney this week about how they’re building inspiring brands that, in turn, build passionate fans.

Having built brand awareness equalling that of McDonalds and Woolworths in A/NZ in a little over three years, Uber Eats clearly has a strong customer base. According to Australian GM, Jodie Auster, fuelling engagement is brand accessibility and a company vision that’s relevant to pretty much everyone.

For Auster, this requires Uber to maintain passionate and inspired employees who believe in giving time and value back to consumers.

“Supporting this a strong a commitment to innovation, which really plays out in the people we hire; we specifically who don’t just tolerate, but like change, and want to challenge the status quo,” she said. “We follow that up in our processes – we expect fast cycles of testing and learning, and celebrating smart failures.”

This cultural belief also helps Uber Eats cultivate meaningful conversations with customers, Auster said. She outlined five principles guiding the marketing team’s programs of work. The first is to “be generous to the customer”.

“Many times brands just talk to themselves. Be generous to customer and they reward you,” she said.

The second principle is to “create joy in their day”, while the third is to “be noticed and get everyone talking”.

“It’s better we have 100 per cent of people talking about what we’re doing, even if not all like it,” Auster said. “We put stake a ground on how we want to show up.”

Uber Eats’ fourth principle is to “tell stories in interesting, fun and surprising ways”, while its fifth is linking to products, events and moments customers have an affinity with, such as sporting tournaments, celebrities and favourite restaurants.

By way of example, Auster pointed to the ‘Tonight I’ll be eating’ campaign, which is in its second year. In January, Uber Eats courted controversy with its Australian Open commercial advertising series, utilising real tennis stars, courts, umpires and event graphics in mock match situations where food was ordered on court.

“The result made a brand that would be normally lost in the clutter with other event sponsors completely stand out by perfectly blending in,” she said.

Another example is the ‘Shark Bait’ campaign in New Zealand. This saw Auckland’s iconic Shark-branded city to aquarium shuttle bus chasing a small ‘shark bait’ car shaped as a filet-of-fish. The experiential activity was complemented by a mobile game. All up, Uber Eats recorded 1.3 million social impressions, chalked up 60,000 sessions of its mobile game, and triggered a 128 per cent increase in fish-o-filet sales at McDonald’s.

“We could tell consumers 10 times that McDonald’s is now available on Uber Eats, but engaging in a game rewarded customers,” Auster said. “We brought joy to customers online and offline and we had the whole of New Zealand talking.

“We have passionate fans as we bring, surprise, fun and joy to customers.”

Mercedes-Benz: Passion starts from within  

At Mercedes-Benz Vans, managing director, Diane Tarr, also believes creating passion for the brand starts from within. The group has grown sales by 63 per cent in last five years.

“Success is about my team, with our dealer partners, connecting the best products to customers,” Tarr said. “That can be seen as typical values poster, but we worked to create our values directly with the team to encapsulate what the vibe is for this business, and what we’re passionate about it.

“We talk about ourselves as being ‘small but mighty’. So it was important to translate that into words as it defines behaviours and acts as a check-in point for our business.

“If we don’t’ have that, we don’t get that passion and we’re not able to do things differently.”   

The flip side of the coin is connecting to Mercedes-Benz’s diverse customer segments “with humanity”, Tarr said. One program that fostered stronger customer connections was ‘Hack my van’. This saw talented consumers given the opportunity to insert their own ideas into how the brand’s medium-sized vans could be revolutionised.

Another successful activity was a partnership with Airbnb to launch Mercedes-Benz’s first Marco Polo campervan. The execution allowed nine couples booking an overnight stay in the van via the online site on iconic Cockatoo Island.

A third campaign was the ‘Tough Conversations’ content series with musician and TV presenter, Henry Rollins, work aimed at shaking up Australia’s ute category. It resulted in $821,000 worth of media value, while the supporting podcast secured number one status on the Apple podcast charts.

Summing up the approach, Tarr said it’s firstly about people. “We are in the relationship business. It’s what makes you individually respond to products, messaging and our approach that’s important,” she said.  

“Then there’s results – as a business, you have to be successful. But we also want customers to be successful too. And that needs to be measured: You won’t always get the best results but it’s important to try, learn and move forward.”  

The third pillar is progression, Tarr said. “Without it, we’ll die as a business. We have to reinvent ourselves,” she added.  

For Didier Elzinga, founder of Culture Amp, a product solutions company focused on supporting culture-first organisations, brand is ultimately about people. He referred to a brand as a promise to a customer and what happens in someone’s brain when they hear your name.

“Culture is then how you deliver on that promise,” Elzinga said.  For Culture Amp, building a community of ‘people geeks’ passionate about customer centricity has been key to its success.

Today, the group has grown employees and revenues by 50x, raised US$75 million in funding, and counts more than 2000 brands as clients including Yelp, Airbnb, McDonalds and Etsy.

Over at 4 Pillars Gin, there’s also an emphasis on generosity, co-founder, Stuart Gregor, said.

“The lesson I’ve learnt is be generous and give more than your take, be in debit not credit and think about what you can give – to your community, and your customers,” he said.  

Gregor highlighted four principles guiding the successful six-year-old business: Passionate commitment to making a world-class gin, declaring love for modern Australia, building community, and embracing a cocktail culture.

“Drink better gin – that’s all we stand for,” he said. “We are makers, not marketers. We have passion for that we do; all we have is our people.

“For us, it’s about committing to your craft, pushing the boundaries, giving people experiences, and telling your stories well.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu 

 

 

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