CMO50 2020 #22: Chris Taylor

  • Name Chris Taylor
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company National Heart Foundation
  • Commenced role March 2018
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 65 staff, 6 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Not-for-profit
  • 2019 ranking 11
  • Related

    Brand Post

    “Never forget that consumers are not rational and never will be - connecting with them on an emotional and rational level is the key to success,” says National Heart Foundation CMO, Chris Taylor. And it’s a commitment to the dualities of rational and emotional, creative and data-driven, commercial and inspiring that Taylor is committed to as he progresses through a transformation of the not-for-profit.

    As the Heart Foundation’s first chief marketing officer, Taylor was tasked with developing a high-performance marketing team and leading overall national commercialisation so the organisation could continue saving lives for another 60 years. He immediately identified several hurdles.

    One was that heart disease was perceived as a problem of the past. What’s more, while the charity sector had become more sophisticated, the Heart Foundation had failed to invest in brand impacting awareness of the dangers of heart disease. As a result, vital donation revenue was in steep decline.

    In response, Taylor crafted a three-year brand strategy with three pillars: Re-establishing awareness of heart disease as the number one killer of Australians; educating Australians on the work the Heart Foundation does in prevention, education and support and care; and developing a platform for increasing donation revenue.

    Innovative marketing

    In the first year, the aim was to deliver something impactful to put heart disease back on the agenda of Australians and the national health industry while also proving the power of marketing internally to generate further investment in brand, data and IP.

    The ‘Australia’s biggest serial killer’ campaign was born, the most successful in the organisation's 60-year history. Within seven days of the campaign, Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, had announced a significant policy change the Heart Foundation had been trying to push for 10 years – putting Heart Health Checks on the Medicare system.

    Estimates suggested this would save the economy more than $1.5 billion in health costs, prevent 76,500 heart events, and save over 9100 lives over five years. To date, more than 100,000 Australians have had that vital check, Taylor says.

    With marketing firmly established as a growth driver, in year two Taylor has led further investment into best practice marketing techniques to become a more commercial, customer-focused organisation. A key win is commencement of the Foundation’s digital transformation, which Taylor convinced the board to invest more than $1 million in. The program of work is being guided by an agile project rhythm and Human-Centered Design product approach, new ways of working for the Foundation. Early Web content changes have already resulted in a 33 per cent increase in website donations and 24 per cent reduction in bounce rates.

    Investment in marketing insights also brings best-in-class practices in market research, insights and data analytics, capability which led to overachieving revenue targets under challenging conditions this year, Taylor says.

    Business smarts

    Another big step forward is commercialisation of the Foundation’s Food & Nutrition program. This aims to cement a commercially sustainable position as the leading authority on healthy eating.

    In 2015, the Heart Foundation retired its successful and long-standing Tick program. “As a result, we faced diminishing engagement with consumers who were becoming less concerned with heart-healthy eating,” Taylor explains.

    “Consumers still wanted guidance on which foods to choose for a healthy diet from a source they can trust. Eighty per cent agreed there needed to be a symbol to help identify foods while shopping with questions surrounding the validity of the existing Health Star Rating program.”

    With his team's support, Taylor identified the opportunity to engage a major supermarket and work with food manufacturers to demystify the confusion around healthy eating. Taylor then led development of the comprehensive Heart Foundation Food & Nutrition Commercial Framework to provide consumers with the tools and skills to make food choices aligned with the Heart Foundation's Heart Healthy Eating Principles.

    “The recommended Framework I took to the Board draws on two key action areas designed to optimise the program's scale and reach and provide the commercial sustainability required to ensure long-term behaviour change,” Taylor explains. “The Food & Nutrition Commercial Framework has been fully endorsed by the executive group and board and has commenced market rollout. This Framework is the most comprehensive commercial roadmap in Heart Foundation history and will govern our food and nutrition strategy over the next 10+ years.”

    Data-driven approach

    A shorter-term innovation win is The Heart Age Calculator. This online consumer tool utilises clinic health data to help Australians self-assess their risk levels of heart attack and stroke.

    “As marketers, we know our primary role is to change consumers behaviour to drive growth or in our case – a positive societal outcome. We also know the behaviours that are hardest to change are entrenched lifestyle choices,” Taylor comments.

    The tool, the first of its kind, educates users on the impact of blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, smoking and exercise has on their overall heart health and encourages them to seek medical assistance if required. Once completed, users can receive a detailed report via email offering their heart age results. Further evolution of the experience was introduced in late 2019 to enable users to better understand long-term impacts.

    Users were automatically enrolled in a 10-week motivational journey consisting of email and SMS messaging prompting eligible patients to see their GP for a heart health check and providing general advice on healthy eating, exercise and heart conditions. Surveys were also sent to users to assess the motivational impact and outcomes.

    Since launch, over 1.6 million Australians, aged between 35-75, have completed the HAC. Half of users state they lost weight and more than 60 per cent increased their exercise and improved their diet in the 10-week period. Almost 50 per cent of people who took the test reported later visiting their doctor, and nearly one-third reported having a Heart Health Check in the 10 weeks after they received their HAC result and follow-up information.

    In addition, 65 per cent had their blood pressure checked and more than 50 per cent had a cholesterol or diabetes check, while four in 10 said they felt very motivated to reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke.

    The findings, published in the International Journal of Medical Internet Research, provided a first-of-its-kind insight into Australians’ heart health profiles and the impact of the Heart Foundation’s HAC on health and lifestyle behaviours.

    “The findings proved the HAC evokes a memorable and emotional response from people,” Taylor says, a nod to his point about bringing the rational and emotional together. “Most importantly, it delivers on the goal of Australians changing their behaviours and making better lifestyle choices reducing the number of heart-related deaths - the overall vision of the Heart Foundation.”


    Like most brands, Taylor’s team had to completely tear down the marketing plan and start again two months into the new year thanks to the pandemic.

    “Like an episode of MASH, we had to be mobile, that meant packing up, shifting our teams’ locations and regroup to work remotely and still deliver our business outcomes,” he says. “After an initial time settling into the new ways of working, the team were energised by the novel disruption to their routines. However, as time and COVID 2.0 lockdown in Victoria hit, it has become harder.

    “We have to work around a two-speed team - those in Melbourne still locked down WFH versus everyone else spending more time back in the office.”  

    In the early stages, teams immediately pivoted from a pre-planned Health prevention campaign to refocus on immediate care.

    “Being true to our brand purpose – Fighting to Save Australian Hearts – we needed to focus our attention and support our most at-risk of being impacted by COVID-19, which are those Australians suffering from cardiovascular disease,” Taylor says.

    The resulting empathetic and humble campaign in a ‘Community Service Announcement’ style featured Cardiologist, Garry Jennings, to give credibility and reassure the public.

    “We delivered the campaign in only seven days with a clear message: If you have heart disease, you are more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 complications,” Taylor says. “We needed to advise people to maintain their current treatment and medication plan and immediately seek medical help if their heart condition worsens. This was vital as Australians were reluctant to seek the usual medical treatments, resulting in emergency heart conditions going untreated. We encouraged people to visit the Heart Foundation website or call our Helpline and extended hours to seven days a week.”

    The six-week campaign execution rolled out across print in regional and metro mastheads, FTA and STV, radio and digital and social channels. On top of this, the Foundation knew it needed to help healthcare professionals who knew very little about COVID-19 and its impacts on patients with heart disease. So it worked with partner professional bodies to provide video and digital content to their members and hosted webinars and online forums to educate and support health professionals.

    Commercial acumen

    Another big area of business that has benefitted from the Foundation’s adaptive commercial marketing-led approach has been fundraising management. In 2019, the full direct fundraising portfolio was moved into the marketing team.  

    Not long after, the bushfires struck, having an immediate and devastating impact on fundraising as Australians turned their attention to supporting environmental and animal welfare charities. Then, in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and looming economic decline further impacted consumer sentiment ability to give.

    It was the licence marketing needed to rethink the Foundation’s approach to fundraising. “I encouraged my team to develop a new set of donor-centric 'principles' to form a strategic foundation upon which all campaigns and communications could be built,” Taylor explains.

    “This brought our focus to insights-driven audience selection, leveraging first and third-party co-ops, and specialist agencies with AI modelling techniques, to unearth opportunities within our donor database and find look-a-likes to grow our audience.

    “The team immediately began a 'donor care' outreach campaign, an outbound telecall, with the single goal of checking in and ensuring donors felt the Foundation’s concern for their health and wellbeing. This provided a critical platform of relevancy and connection for upcoming appeals.”

    Both the Autumn and Tax appeals demonstrated the complete rethink of the previous approach, adopting the new framework and data planning, and introducing a donor-centric creative.

    “Stepping away from the role of the protagonist within the narrative, we emotionally connected the donor with real impact stories and powerfully matched them with a clinical researcher to demonstrate how every donation delivers a tangible solution,” Taylor continues.

    The channel mix was also rethought with digital channels playing a vital role through the various stages of phasing, particularly in priming and urge and conversion stages. By mid-2020, this fresh fundraising approach had seen the Autumn appeal achieve 142 per cent of target, outperforming 2019 appeal by 16 per cent – a remarkable feat given the environmental issues, Taylor says.

    More broadly, monthly regular giving cancellation rates have halved, with a significant drop in delinquency/default payments, and upgrades to monthly payments is over double targeted figures.

    It’s a wide variety of programs and work that provides the foundations for the long-term benefits to keep coming, Taylor says. “All of this helps ensure the Heart Foundations can continue to deliver its vision of an Australia free of heart disease,” he adds.

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