CMO50 2020 #6: Sweta Mehra

  • Name Sweta Mehra
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company ANZ
  • Commenced role February 2019 (joined July 2017)
  • Reporting Line Chief digital and transformation leader and CEO, Australia Retail and Commercial
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 320 staff, 7 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Financial services
  • 2019 ranking 10
  • Related

    Brand Post

    The challenge marketers in many organisations continue to face is stakeholders who have very low expectations of them, says ANZ’s Sweta Mehra. The answer, she says, is to embrace the technology and tools that allow modern marketers to truly drive growth.

    “We need to be the ones at the cutting edge of the tools that give power back to us as a function,” she says. “For example, as we have set up and built out our personalisation capability, we have built things that deliver real numbers. Suddenly, there’s increased interest in why that’s sitting with marketing. And the question comes up: Why isn’t it sitting in the business?”

    As Mehra puts it, once you get deep into personalisation, the boundaries between marketing and customer experience go away. That’s powerful stuff. The danger for marketers, however, is failing to embrace and harness such significant, whole-of-business capabilities well, says Mehra.

    “If we don’t do them right, we as marketers will continue to be put into a smaller and smaller circle,” she says. “We can’t underestimate the need to educate on what modern marketing is, and we need to learn continuously so we can be using the tools successfully. Whoever is learning the most and can piece it together the most, wins.”

    Innovative marketing

    The brand purpose and strategic vision driving all of Mehra’s efforts, from campaigns to personalisation, is helping Australian consumers improve their financial wellbeing in order to thrive.

    “While many organisations talk consumer centricity, I was determined we would be recognised not for talk but for our actions,” she says.

    The work has seen her team pull together a six-step online Financial Wellbeing (FWB) program using existing proof points within the bank to start a long process of establishing financial wellbeing as a third pillar to wellbeing on top of physical and mental wellbeing.

    “This was a topic of growing interest in our industry and we needed take a distinctive approach to owning the space without having the support of market-leading proof points,” Mehra says.

    In January 2020, ANZ embarked on a fresh marketing initiative with the objective of encouraging Australians to understand their FWB and how to improve it. By way of example, she notes more than 30 per cent of Australians can’t find $500 in their moment of need - not because they don’t earn well but because they do not understand how to manage money well.

    To rally people behind the idea creatively, marketing created the tagline, ‘Financing is like Dancing’, and replaced ‘dance’ with ‘finance’ in several songs featured in its latest media and communication efforts. The ‘It feels gooooooood’ campaign was created in a series of chapters that highlighted FWB offerings such as knowing your FWB score, ANZ’s budget planner tool, and finding increasing savings through its mobile app.

    Knowing your FWB score for example was illustrated by Australian Paralympic tennis champion, Dylan Alcott, singing ‘I am financing like I have never financed before’ to the tune of Maniac, while budgeting using the ANZ Budget planner was used by a couple in their kitchen singing ‘I want to finance with somebody’. Saving on the ANZ App was showcased by creative featuring a couple with a baby needing to upsize to a bigger home singing ‘she makes me feel like financing, finance the night away’.

    The result included strong improvements in all brand fundamentals and the best results for Australian Open campaign in the last five years with only 75 per cent of 2019 budget. Mehra says the work has also created a strong halo across all products with big increases in product consideration despite no advertising support.

    What’s more, ANZ secured a jump in brand equity for ‘is trustworthy’ and ‘helps people get on top of their finances’ in tracking data for the first time.

    “Finance industry regulator, ASIC, has noticed our efforts and called us out as the only big four bank committed to improving Financial Wellbeing in the most systematic way in our conversations,” Mehra says. “This is a big asset for the senior management.”

    Thanks to COVID, Mehra says her team has been able to further accelerate how the business talks about FWB across all products. ANZ’s latest home loan campaign for example, is about checking in and encouraging consumers to have a conversation with the bank about the best ways to restructure their home loan to ultimately help improve their financial wellbeing.

    And as further proof of business buy-in, the ANZ board has for the first time agreed the executive committee next year will have improving customer financial wellbeing on their scorecards.

    Data-driven approach

    Supporting ANZ’s financial wellbeing efforts and more customer-oriented marketing approach are a commitment to actioning data-driven insights.

    Over recent years, marketing had launched its own Brand Academy focused on building core customer-centric capabilities and a common language across all marketing functions in ANZ globally. Brand Academy comprised two days of hands-on workshops incorporating the best internal and external thinking on proposition design, integrated marketing campaigns and media planning. More than 700 ANZers have gone through the program.

    This year, the widespread training has led to development of new propositions by the multi-functional squads rooted in the core strategy of improving the Financial Wellbeing of customers, Mehra says. One such example is the ‘SING’ proposition (Savings, Insights, Nudges and Goals) to deliver personalised insights based on data from each customer.

    “Our intention was to deepen engagement with our existing customers from transacting into early savings, in particular home savings, to build out our pipeline into home ownership,” she says.

    To design the proposition, a multi-disciplinary team was assembled across marketing, design, data and channel experts applying principles from proposition design workshops. Marketing drew on the latest behavioural change and economics principles to determine how to make it easier for customers to save, then designed the channel experience.

    “We ensured a nudge was in place to trigger the customer to set a goal as soon as they open their mobile banking app so that in a few quick steps they can set a ‘smart’ goal,” Mehra explains. “We then built out a supporting communications program based on where the customer was at in their savings journey to prompt action.”

    This tailored program includes celebrating key milestones, recognising when customers are ahead of targets and helping them when they fall behind. Extensive testing and experimentation helped pinpoint what is most effective in changing customer behaviour. An extensible cloud-based platform was also developed to support multiple use cases across divisions where messages and 'nudges' could be inserted into the customer experience depending on their stage in the customer journey. ANZ partnered with fintech, Moneythor, on its application analysing customer behaviour data to trigger a nudge.

    “The experience of developing this proposition has helped us identify capabilities we are good at today and what we need to develop more of in the future,” Mehra says.

    These have been pulled together in a broader ‘Marketing Masters’ program comprising 18 capabilities across four competency levels. Every role in marketing has been graded on the required capabilities and competencies. More than 90 per cent of ANZ marketers have completed their personal assessment and developed an action plan to improve at least one of their competencies.

    “The combination of Brand Academy and Marketing Masters and strong results from our SING proposition gives us confidence ANZ will be well set to deliver even more distinctive and meaningful insight rich propositions for its customers in years to come,” Mehra says. “The impact has been marked with all metrics ahead in terms of customers as well as the deposits saved on goals.”  

    Commercial acumen

    Meanwhile, ANZ’s home loan business, a significant profit contributor, has been on an aggressive growth task with marketing’s help. Post-Royal Commission, and thanks to some significant missteps, Mehra says ANZ had lost momentum and needed to turn the business around.

    “In the last 12 months we have done just that. First through bold moves and creative communication, and secondly thanks to strong collaboration with business partners on influencing pricing strategy, often anticipating category moves,” she says.

    For example, the team decided it needed promotional weight to jumpstart the business. An industry-first Qantas Frequent Flyer offer was created in August 2019 and reflected in the campaign idea, ‘An offer so good, you don't need a celebrity’. This was executed with the inimitable David Hasselhoff and ANZ aptly named the offer, ‘Hoffer’.

    In February 2020, in anticipation of a low rate environment, ANZ launched a fixed rate special brought to life with another ‘offer so good’ execution. “We displayed significant agility on the go as unexpected RSA cuts mid-campaign and COVID-19 saw us needing to adjust both the content and tone of voice,” Mehra says.

    This suite of activity has seen the business break home loan application records and driven significant balance sheet and market share growth, she says.


    Another area marketing has flexed is agility muscles in has been for small business owners. One of the hardest hit sectors by COVID 19, ANZ quickly rolled out a payments proposition, again anchored in its FWB mission.

    “With the ongoing lockdowns, we needed to shift our focus to address the immediate needs of our business customers and help improve their financial wellbeing - not just now but in the long term when relief packages have stopped,” Mehra says. “We also needed to prepare our business bankers deal with the range of business situations and train them in providing the relevant information.”

    A collaborative approach defined the needs of business owners, internal staff, accountants and brokers. Mehra’s team then created a unifying proposition with a suite of relevant tools, content and support assets.

    Within six weeks, the ANZ Business Planner proposition was developed, built and launched. The Planner is a digital survey allowing business owners to assess their business health and possible next actions to take. Based on results, customers were served a personalised experience on via 81 different journeys.

    Proposition development leveraging data and insights to identify priority business owner segments, as well as a needs and gap analysis to inform the design, for not only customers, but for ANZ bankers and broker audiences as well, Mehra explains.

    More than 15 stakeholder groups were engaged and multiple customer, banker and accountant interviews were conducted. Insight were also drawn from analytics and desktop research. And it all happened during lockdown.

    As a result, ANZ has a new business ecosystem comprising of an online business assessment tool as well a comprehensive business content hub. Early results are positive, with key engagement measures of complete surveys, time onsite and tools downloads all well above benchmarks, Mehra says.

    Cross-functional collaboration

    “In a large organisation like ANZ, there is almost nothing that you can achieve without cross-functional collaboration,” says the bank’s chief marketing officer. “While this is true at all times and almost all the examples above required the same, coming together and meeting the needs of our customers during COVID-19 required extraordinary efforts.”

    As it became obvious Australia was heading into lockdown, Mehra pulled together an approach and priorities list based on support customers would need in terms of information and product policy changes, which products would still be in demand, and where the group could expect to see slowdown. This also stated what marketing’s role as a function would be.

    With the alignment of senior leaders, ANZ organised for success using three levels. Level one across various marketing teams spread across products and channels focused on ensuring communication was in sync and consistent across products and channels, keeping customers and bankers in mind. It was also focused on sharing and reapplying templates, communication and content from one product to the other.

    Level two saw Mehra’s team pulling together traditional partners in media, creative and PR as well as digital partners such as Google and Facebook to ensure it could operate and make decisions at high speed while sharing information seamlessly. Level three was about creating a customer taskforce across the Australia division comprising all functional leaders and focused on bringing the customer perspective into decision making.

    “This has ensured we are all operating in sync on what, when and how gets communicated to the customers across all our channels and there is consistency in the tone of voice,” Mehra says.

    “As a result of these interventions, I’m proud to say not only are we more integrated and united as a marketing team and multi-functional lead team, our business is doing extremely well on almost all our product categories with growing shares and brand reputation continues to stay at number one versus our big four peers.”  

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