CMO interview: Southern Cross Austereo's Nikki Clarkson on fostering creative initiative

Brand saliency, creative initiative and partnership are just a few of the big lessons for this chief marketing officer out of the COVID-19 pandemic

Nikki Clarkson
Nikki Clarkson

Brand saliency

What’s also been reinforced for Clarkson in recent months is the importance of a well-defined, well-targeted brand. She describes this as “being clear not only on the role you play for consumers in their lives, but the tone of voice that will bring the brand to life, and also resonate with them”.

Hit, for example, is all about great shows and entertainment, while Triple M is rock, sport and comedy.

“That gives you a brand landscape that allows you to adjust to suit a moment in time but in a way that’s consistent and how consumers expect you to act,” she says. “This is so you’re not incongruous as a brand and you’re contributing throughout a crisis to overall brand saliency and recognition longer-term, so you come through with a level of consistency and strength.

“That’s the theory of great branding – you have to keep evolving a brand, resonating and pivoting messaging, but in a way that’s true to what your brand is.”

SCA’s brand evolution continues with new-look branding and strategy for the Hit Network announced in July. SCA has brought back two local brands, SAFM in Adelaide and B105 in Brisbane, rebranded Hit96.1 Mount Gambier to SAFM, and introduced what Clarkson says is more complementary and sophisticated branding including consistent iconography and design assets across the portfolio.

2Day FM in Sydney and FOX FM in Melbourne remain the key metro brands, but further changes are expected to be announced across Hit92.9 in Perth in coming months.

The brand repositioning is being supported by a new positioning line, ‘Get that feeling’, designed to reflect the mood-oriented approach being taken to music formats across the network nationally. A couple of new programs have also been introduced. The ambition is to help Hit broaden its relevancy and appeal to a bigger target audience of people aged 30-54 years old, with a female skew.

Data is also a focus and SCA announced this week its research and insights and strategy and insights divisions were joining forces under the SCA iQ banner. The new unit will look to offer first-party data solutions for SCA’s sales and content teams and advertising partners by tapping into the group’s 300,000-member insights community across the country. The team is also using Nielsen’s Commspoint Journey, Commspoint Influence and Consumer & Media View tools.

In the midst of crisis, Clarkson says she’s been impressed by how content teams have continued to innovate during the crisis. She noted the Hit network’s weekly virtual trivia led by Dave Hughes and Ed Cavalee, and extension of the ‘No talk day’ implemented last year in partnership with Beyond Blue to the full Triple M footprint including all 43 stations this year as big examples.

“There are so many examples of creativity rising to the challenge in every industry we’ve observed during this time. It’s inspiring, to say the least,” she says.   

Lasting trends from the crisis

For Clarkson, it’s this kind of creativity and initiative she hopes will be retained well after the crisis has ebbed.

“I’m acutely aware of what we have been able to achieve as a business in total during this time,” she says. “I hope we hang on to that passion, creativity and belief in ourselves we can do great work. What would have taken months has taken weeks or even days in some instances. That has been invigorating and the results across the board have been beneficial to the business.”  

Meanwhile, specific initiatives, such as Boomtown, also have a clear future for Clarkson. She notes the resurgence in domestic travel and visiting regional Australia as drivers for the program. A new education piece with the MFA will include a lens around increased travel to regional markets as a result.

Growth in digital audio during the COVID period is also something Clarkson will be maximising momentum around longer-term.

“That behaviour has accelerated during this time and we look forward to leveraging that to ensure consumers have great digital audio they can access easily across all devices both with live streaming as well as on-demand in a way and a time that suits them,” she says.  

“A lot has happened, and a lot has been challenging, but a lot has been inspiring too.”

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