The internal transformation that led to Camp Australia's rebrand

Chief marketing and sales officer talks through the cultural and staff changes needed to make its latest rebrand impactful

A rebrand is often one of the first things a chief marketing officer will look to do when they arrive in a new business. And it’s certainly something Camp Australia chief marketing and sales officer, Tom Dusseldorp, weighed up when he joined the 30-year-old provider of outside school hours care for children.

But as Dusseldorp told CMO, any change to the way a business looks visually or what it says had to be supported by fundamental changes internally to live up to that vision.

“I immediately identified this was a 30-year brand, and yes our brand was a bit tired and could use an upgrade. But I was more interested in the services we provide and what we could do to do that better,” he said.

The catalysts for change were there. In 2017, Camp Australia was acquired by Bain Capital, which set the vision to improve services and grow off the back of a quality business. Dusseldorp joined on the back of new ownership. A new CEO, Warren Jacobsen, was brought on in 2019.

“Before we could rebrand, the businesses needed to go through quite a transformation as an executive team, marketing team and at a structural level,” Dusseldorp said. “We aligned the business across a strategic plan, and our mission changed, as well as the focus and pillars. We started the journey 18 months out on this significant shift, down to the coordinators providing that service every day.”  

Then of course COVID hit, significantly disrupting the outside school hours care (OSHC) category. Instead of 2020 being a time to reap the benefits from all the changes at Camp Australia, it became a time of holding true and tight in the face of rapidly changing demand and market conditions.

“Instead of shrinking back, which a lot of organisations had to do, we have a national business and could rely on our scale to maintain operations and keep the doors open for as many services as we could while continuing the quality change journey,” Dusseldorp explained.

This saw Camp Australia asses more of its services than any provider in the market last year. It found 94 per cent were meeting or above the independent benchmarks for quality ratings, the largest change in quality of any provider in the country. Camp Australia works across more than 570 partner schools and focuses on children aged 6-12.

“That was a very clear indication that now is the time to say and talk about all the things we have done and about the significant shift in services that were perhaps underperforming. We can use this as a springboard in the new year, push through change in brand and look forward,” Dusseldorp said.

“So it was about fundamental change first; we then decided brand no longer reflected who we are and could embark on that change.”

The rebrand proposition

The rebrand official debuted in market in February. While the masterbrand has been retained, Camp Australia has changed its moniker from ‘making kid’s smile’ to ‘guiding children’s growth’.

“‘Guiding children’s growth’ is a promise we make and says everything about who we are,” Dusseldorp said.

There’s also the deliberate shift from ‘kids’ to ‘children’. “Kids is something you use when you’re talking to mates and it’s colloquial; children is what’s used in schools, institutions. The latter is more respectful, gives them more agency and status,” he continued.  

“Guiding children’s growth is what we do – with growth as the North Star. That’s powerful for us. Every educator I spoke to said it felt like that reflected what they do every day and had real resonance.”

The other big visual change is change of colour palette, with a switch from primary blue to mint green, a step Dusseldorp admitted was challenging for many people used to wearing blue uniforms. Yet it was vital staff as the most important cohort looked and felt that change.

“When we did a category revision with design agency, Universal Favourite, having established OSHC with the blue colour, we realised it has become the primary colour of the entire category. This was a good opportunity to differentiate and move forward,” he said, adding the colour palette sets a tone between professionalism and playfulness.

This balance of professional and play was also a guiding light for how Camp Australia has re-oriented its products internally.

“We are a very highly regulated service and compliance is a not insubstantial burden. The organisation had pushed very hard and been very rigorous on this compliance,” Dusseldorp said. “Services for children really need to be a combination of compliance and engagement to ensure children get that quality time and are listened to.

“Camp did swing too far one way in terms of taking messaging away from what quality means – it’s a combination of compliance, safety, engagement, games, fun, play, programming and human connection. That was a key messaging shift for the field.”

This change in narrative has given staff permission to explore broader ideas around engagement and activities, Dusseldorp said. What’s more, a stint in the field also convinced this CMO more needed to be done to share ideas across its 600-strong coordinators.

The organisation has now adopted Yammer to facilitate cross-sharing service and program ideas. “We created lots of forums to foster idea pollination and share if one thing worked over here, what can we do to scale and support those ideas in another area,” Dusseldorp said.

“That was especially important with our holiday product. If there was any product that needed to overdeliver on child experience it’s our holiday product. We want the kids to come home and say they’ve had a cracking day. We have seen that side of the business performing a lot better since we implemented this cross-sharing of ideas between coordinators sharing their expertise.”

As to the products themselves, Camp Australia has rebranded its core OSHC product to ‘Your OSHC’, while its holiday club offer is called ‘Rocketeers’.

“We need to excite families on what holidays are about and reflect what we actually do,” Dusseldorp said. “We are still Camp Australia, but what we are now is more sympathetic about the services we provide. Your OSHC and Rocketeers gives us that specific brand identity, so parents and schools can see CA, a professional childcare organisation, delivers these quality services.”  

Marketing plan

As a B2C marketing engine mainly to families who use its services through their chosen schools, Camp Australia has an established CRM platform, and regularly communicates with staff, customers and stakeholders, including school partners.

“We’re communicating the more substantial changes, with a note on the changes in our look and feel to the wider market. We’re communicating them together deliberately,” Dusseldorp said. “People can be sceptical a brand change is just window dressing. Because of that, we proactively communicated the shift in our services, then just noted the different look.”

With the ‘Rocketeers’ rebrand, Camp Australia is executing digital media activity and creating video and static content explaining the shift. It’s also worked with media partners, such as Mamamia.

“Our Rocketeers program means any family in Australia can attend a site. If you think of it that way, it makes us the largest holiday venue in the country,” Dusseldorp said. “We can do more exciting things for that service. But OSHC is anchored to that individual school.”  

In terms of monitoring success, quality objectives remain key. By mid-2021, Dusseldorp said the business wants to be at the top of all providers on quality.

Camp Australia also conducts regular NPS scoring with partners and families, which has been progressively increasing – something Dusseldorp saw helping drive greater advocacy and connection. In addition, employee NPS helps with measuring engagement with people across the organisation.

“They are the ones living the brand… become a key mantra for us across all parts of the business,” he said.  “We provide care for children – there’s nothing more personal than what we do.”

COVID fallout

These ambitions contrast against struggles to rebound from the impact of COVID and shutdown of the outside school hours care sector as a result of the global pandemic. Media reports suggest Camp Australia has more than $200 million in debt off the back of the shutdowns, and Bain is in the process of working to refinance the organisation to ensure its long-term success.

https://www.afr.com/street-talk/bain-capital-ready-to-ignite-camp-australia-2h-refi-20210303-p577ar

During the lockdowns, Camp Australia made a commitment to keep as many doors open as it possibly could. “It’s not always the right commercial call, but the CEO was adamant we have a role to play to support families in need and front-line workers as it was the right thing to do,” Dusseldorp said.

“We lost a lot of staff, families and momentum. We’re trying to rebuild our base business once more. It’s been comforting to see a large number of families in the states less affected by lockdowns, coming back and numbers growing. But we won’t really know until the true CBD states of NSW and Victoria settle.”

But while retention and attendance haven’t yet recovered to normal levels, upcoming school holidays are showing a resurgence and increases, Dusseldorp said.

“We have done surveys and families have told us the kids loved it and are coming back. So another base measure is that sustainable growth we’re still trying to recover,” he added.    

“The good news is we’re ready for those families that do come back… we leant in rather than shut everything down and that’s going to pay dividends in the long term.”

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