The emotional edge: NTT’s global CMO rates global rebrand efforts 6 months on

ICT services giant's global marketing chief gives us her scorecard and shares the surprising elements to global rebranding


Emotional B2B

It’s the cultural and emotional change that has taken the most time so far.

“As well as getting the energy going and change happening and leading the business into the future, we [as marketers] listen to who is saying what – whether it’s clients, employees or partners. And I’ve been surprised at the amount of emotion that comes out,” Rowan said.  

“A lot of changing brand, purpose and values has been led by our people and culture team. But as marketers we’re communicating a lot, and you get confronted with good and bad emotion. There’s a lot of anxiety. You just have to be patient with that emotion.

“One of my learnings is to not necessarily try and control that.”

Instead, Rowan is running sessions across local marketing teams in each country with no set agenda. The aim is to talk about what is and isn’t working, how staff feel post-rebrand, and help make change real.

“Really good teams are built on trust, and trust doesn’t happen on day one,” she continued. “It takes time to build those relationships, and for someone to pick you up off the floor or correct something you’ve done wrong without it becoming a massive or political issue.

“We’re not all magically going to do the right thing within this new way of working - you don’t necessarily know what the right thing is.”

Fostering resilience also comes back to empowering people to do the right thing most of the time and not getting too upset when things aren’t quite right, Rowan said. “Then you get near perfection everywhere and that’s how you make impact,” she said.

It’s for this reason one 2020 priority for Rowan is working through the detail of NTT’s new business context.

“We see a massive mountain to climb, which is landing this [rebrand] properly by helping people understand what the new company means, getting it right and empowering at the edge to do the right thing,” she said. “Just because you said something, doesn’t mean everyone heard it. That repetition, keeping the message consistent and moving is important.”

Connectivity plays a big part in NTT’s value proposition, and building awareness of NTT’s might, purpose-led approach and reliability across partners and clients is vital.

“That could through a digital journey, our social channels and websites, or through the opportunity to talk to us,” Rowan said. “That level of personalisation is important this year to make it easy for people to understand us and what it means for them, and hopefully create opportunity for everybody.

“Then it’s making sure the 40,000 people we have are comfortable to have that conversation: What does it mean for us, and how does it make us stronger or easier to work with and for.”   

Through it all, Rowan has also had to navigate the emotional attachment to NTT’s older brands, not least of which include Dimension Data in the Australian market.

“We knew this could go horribly wrong, as we’re bringing in a brand that doesn’t necessarily have emotion attached to it or awareness. And we’ve been ripping the plaster off,” she said. Marketing has even asked people to give back old DiData t-shirts to recycle the brand out of market.

“But I think we did a pretty good job in the build-up, explaining the why behind NTT. As soon as we talked about the heritage of the NTT brand, and what our dynamic loop logo stands for, everyone was buying into it. So you land that sense of purpose.”  

Rowan is also well aware emotional connection is far from secure. “We’ve done the superficial bit - the dynamic loop [of NTT’s logo] is everywhere,” she said. “Now, we need to build meaning and make it real in our sector. There’s a great opportunity and in any B2B company of bringing purpose to life.”  

NTT’s purpose is defined as enabling the connected future, and a belief that when things are connected by technology, the world becomes a better place. These are the stories Rowan’s team will be building upon and sharing.

“Over Christmas, for instance, we had employees involved in the volunteer fire fighting during this bushfire season. They’re great stories. It doesn’t mean they’re unique to us – I’m sure many companies have volunteers in their employee base – but what great stories to tell. And they resonate globally,” she said.  

“We have stories of how technology is helping Rhino conservation, helps cycling teams perform better, and is helping scientists in Southern American research the southern skies. The biggest trend we see globally, whether it’s political or social or business, is the need to be more accountable for the planet we live on. It’s a singular big trend. So we’re looking at how our brand can align to what we’re all interested in as employees, consumers and technology service providers.”  

2020 expectations

What’s more, 2020 is an extraordinary year for NTT. Not only are Japan and Japanese-based companies in the spotlight because of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, NTT is a local Olympic partner.

“Brand Japan is hugely positive in terms of quality, trust, reliability – all traits our technology partners and clients look for us to have,” Rowan said. “You don’t want fast moving, fly-by-night companies delivering your cybersecurity. You want innovation but ultimately trust and resilience. That’s at the heart of our corporate brand.”

She also noted a family of sports partnerships this year NTT will leverage such as the Tour de France, Major League Baseball and Indy Car in the US, and the British Open.

Meanwhile, with 31 companies coming together, Rowan is working to integrate 31 marketing scorecards and identify hero measures for combined teams to work towards. Her team has also written the first global marketing strategy and how it cascades into 2020 plans.  

“Normally we’d measure digital reach, impact, things around eyeballs and clickthrough rates, how well we nurture, marketing through to sales qualified leads, value of pipeline through to how much business we close. We’re not quite able to do all that yet, because of tech integration, to have a really accurate view of that in our new world. But everyone understands and leans into that process,” she said.   

There is nevertheless a current emphasis on brand awareness, client and employee satisfaction scores.

“We’re changing how easy it is to find information about us, processes and so on, so we need to understand are going well or not going well,” Rowan concluded. “Right now, I’m more worried that we understand it and action the insights we’re getting. But the business still needs to perform and we need to protect profitability, so we also have those metrics.”

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