3 CMOs on how to successfully switch categories

Marketing chiefs from ANZ, Tennis Australia and Swinburne University share how they're reapplying lessons learnt in one sector to their latest CMO roles

The diversity of different category experience is something many of today's marketing leaders boast of.
So in our latest food for thought, we asked three iconic marketers who have switched industry sectors to share how the learnings they've taken from one category and brought into their latest role.

Our question to all was this: How marketers who have switched categories, and probably audiences too, re-use their experience in very different categories?

Carolyn Bendall

Chief marketing officer, Swinburne University of Technology

Having moved from marketing banking at ANZ to tertiary education, I believe switching categories is a wonderful opportunity for growth for any marketer, including CMOs.

The number one asset I believe you bring to your new category is fresh eyes.  Unencumbered by accepted norms and constraints around ‘how things are done around here’, you can question everything, probe deeply and challenge the conventions in your new category.  This is especially so in your first 90 days. However, I’d advise any marketer to stay curious and remain a student of your new market for as long as you possibly can.

Credit: Carolyn Bendall

There are two very different dimensions to be mindful of when applying experience and strategies from other categories of products and services. On the one hand, there are the fundamental disciplines of good marketing strategy and management, that remain true and your new category will benefit from experience you bring. Fundamentals such as brand strategy, customer insight and understanding, customer value proposition development and experience design, marketing planning and, of course, effective team engagement and leadership are all true to successful marketing leadership in any category.

On the other hand, switching categories bring different drivers - of brand choice, differences in market positioning and brand health, and different products and services themselves.  It’s important to be data-led and understand your new category, end to end.  This can be particularly tricky if your audiences are the same or similar - because that’s where the risk of misapplying previous experience is heightened.

For example, I have recently switched from the banking and finance sector to the higher education sector.  Two very different categories, and yet the experience I brought to this new market has held me in good stead. I was able to apply fresh eyes and 12 months’ worth of insatiable curiosity to understand the market and its various segments, uncover the accepted conventions and, perhaps most importantly, articulate the key rational and emotional drivers of brand choice. These were all skills I’d crafted during my 20-plus years in banking.

Yet it was important to side-step any notion that I knew the key undergraduate segment deeply just because I had led a similar demographic segment of ‘young money’ in my previous category. Aside from the obvious differences in product propositions, the choice drivers and path to purchase were fundamentally different, as were key influencers, and of course media consumption doesn’t stand still for a moment these days.

Whatever the category, my philosophy is to always be learning, and that data is your best and most reliable friend.

Kjetil Undhjem

Head of marketing and brand strategy, ANZ

I’ve had a sweet tooth for a while. Ten or 11 years prior to joining ANZ, I spent working with chocolate across Nordic countries, western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Working for Mondelez International, Kraft, and Nordic Foods, my products included chocolate, drinks, cheese, salad dressings, pasta - almost anything you can imagine. I could be in one of eight different European countries every day.

Credit: ANZ

I’ve been lucky to work in so many industries and different countries and cultures as I tried to reframe categories. It’s good experience because you’re used to things being different. I can reframe myself as well as reframe products and marketing – I think you have to do that, to fit in.

One of the beauties of marketing is that it goes back to basic human behaviour: The rules are clear, around how you strategise, position and segment. Working in oil and gas I had different segments - Statoil was owned by the government and it’s a knowledge industry with completely different audiences to consumer. But you segment, work out what makes people tick and what you can offer them to win business.

When I worked with Cadbury, my portfolio started with Freddo, the entry product for kids, and the end of the lifecycle was Old Gold. For every life-stage, there’s a product that fits your needs.

In banking, customers can stay with us literally for their lifetime, they join at 14 with their first job and you can take them into retirement planning… the thinking, the approach is exactly the same, although you plan for different needs. 

At Cadbury we moved away from talking product and price and moved to the glass-and-a-half attitude: what it means to care, to give and share chocolate. The glass-and-a-half campaign used to be product-related, about milk. Now it’s about a glass-and-a-half in everyone and their behaviour.  

We are doing that in banking too - dialling up the emotional territory. Everyone’s offering loans and rates but we have a financial wellbeing proposition - about the feeling of control you have towards your finances. Usually, we talk product and price but now we’re amplifying the emotional territory with our Financial Wellbeing Program, launched about 18 months ago. More than a quarter of a million people have used it to get their financial situation assessed, scored and get some ideas on how to improve it. We were first to market with this check-in and it helps people make the most of their money, feel in control and have confidence financially.

It’s the classic building a benefits ladder. And if you get emotional attributes right, they’ll beat product attributes every day. They’re more ownable for a brand and more ‘sticky’- customers get it. Whereas with rates people think ‘what did they say?’… they’re very fluid. Financial wellbeing is coming up as an important driver for how customers choose their financial institution. Taking ownership of drivers is a huge opportunity for financial institutions to step into.

Josie Brown

Chief marketing and insights officer, Tennis Australia

Immediately prior to joining Tennis Australia, I was working agency-side in Asia, so it was a shift from working on multiple categories to immersing myself in the world of sports and entertainment. Luckily, the steps involved in building a brand plan do not change. So in now my role at Tennis Australia I often draw on agency experiences and observations of previous marketing strategies and tactics.

Josie BrownCredit: Tennis Australia
Josie Brown

Working in Asia, my particular area of interest was how technology and the Internet enable brands to connect with audiences, whether seeking to harness the utility and sociability of WeChat in China or opening new distribution channels through ecommerce. The need to observe the constant shifting of the tactical landscape applies no matter which category you work in.

The Australian Open has a global audience, so observing and analysing how audiences engage with content and the platforms they choose, remains core to my role. How channel choice impacts executional requirements to support brand building and product promotion is also something that is common across any category. Being informed on trends and techniques to create distinctive assets that get your brand noticed - whether on TikTok or Ticketmaster - is an ongoing practice and draws on my experiences from my time working in the agency.

My move from an agency environment to client-side marketing has also informed my views on ways of working too. Linking brand-building principles with customer experience (CX) strategy and design is something I see as critical to planning and executing the way customers build an image of a brand. The marketing function at Tennis Australia brings together brand management, CX as well as content strategy to create a brand voice with impact, a brand that makes it easy for consumers to access and enjoy our products.

Human-centred design underpins the shape of the Australian Open as well as turning our tennis marketing programs outward to lead with customer needs.  The aim is always to link delivery to our brand DNA to create memorable brand experiences.

Don’t miss out on the wealth of insight and content provided by CMO A/NZ and sign up to our weekly CMO Digest newsletters and information services here. 

You can also follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page






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