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CMO50 2022 #26-50: Cath Brands

  • Name Cath Brands
  • Title Chief marketing and innovation officer
  • Company Flintfox International
  • Commenced role May 2021
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 10 staff, 5 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Information technology
  • 2021 ranking New to CMO50
  • Brand Post

    It was a radio jingle which got Cath Brands, chief marketing and innovation officer of Flintfox International, hooked on marketing.

    “My very first career fork happened at the age of 15 during work experience week. I had the choice of working at the local hairdresser or radio station. The thrill of hearing my first jingle broadcast on local radio was the memory which came flooding back when my second career fork occurred 20 years later,” Brands explains.

    “I was faced with the option of moving into the world of management consulting in Melbourne or going to work for Amazon in Seattle. It may seem like a no-brainer decision, but the deal breaker for me was the idea of not being directly involved in building brands and seeing people connect with content. The annoying jingle all those years ago got me hooked on marketing for life!”

    Innovative marketing

    When Brands joined Flintfox International, a global business in intelligent pricing software, in 2021, her remit was to transform the brand.

    By her own admission, Flintfox had fallen victim to the classic tech-marketing cliché - complex, jargon-heavy communication, which was not written in everyday language. 

    In short, the company was talking in a language it created, rather than communicating to the customers it wanted to delight.

    Brands explains, firstly, it had to deconstruct its own terminology. Vague words and phrases got the boot. 

    “We set out to reframe our brand narrative in an concise, compelling, and emotional way. The goal was to demystify and democratise the technology by distilling it down to the key problems the technology solves, therefore making the message accessible and digestible by anyone,” she says.

    “Secondly, we got down and dirty and into the weeds with our customers, partners, and brand stakeholders to uncover some key learnings about how our business was perceived and understood by our target audiences. This research changed our lens entirely and helped develop our vision for our new brand identity, tone of voice and value proposition - all of which launched in January 2022.”

    The team designed a new, contemporary visual identity, which was a significant departure from the old branding. It launched new websites and crafted website journeys to simplify the process for prospects and partners alike.

    “Everything apart from the name is new. The golden moment for me was when we played our new positioning video at a companywide meeting and a person who has worked for the company for 22 years said: “WOW! Now I know what we do”!" 

    Creating internal buy-in and pride for a brand or campaign should be every marketer’s first goal.

    “The results have exceeded expectations. Website volumes have quadrupled since the new brand went live. Leads grew five-fold in just four months. Our sales cycle shrank considerably from 12-18 months, to just 8-12 weeks.

    “Q1 of 2022 was the most successful quarter in the business’ 30-year history. We signed a record number of new clients, and the pipeline is the healthiest it has ever been, and we forecast to end the fiscal at +150 per cent versus last year.”

    Business smarts

    Brands says she joined Flintfox shortly after a private equity firm had acquired a majority share in the company.

    They believed in the growth potential for the business, but recognised the limitations of the old brand and marketing strategy. Early on in this process it became evident the challenge was much more than just fixing a brand, it was fixing a company which lacked an identity and defined culture.

    “It became clear our staff couldn’t explain the value proposition because it was too jargon-heavy, technical and difficult to understand. As no one was singing from the same song sheet, there was a lack of focus in the business," she says.

    “I set out to ensure the whole company came on the journey of the rebrand, seeking a diverse mix of opinions from inside the business. From the front desk staff to the finance team, who had been there since inception 30 years ago, to the global sales team, through to our strategic business partners and customers; we spoke to everybody asking them what they thought Flintfox’s secret sauce was.”

    These discussions helped shape the future of not just the brand identity and the story brought to market, but also the very culture of the organisation. 

    “We realised the value our technology gives our customers actually mirrors the culture of the organisation. We subsequently developed new company values: Innovate, customer, integrity, reflecting a shared vision of the company.”

    The rebrand fostered an organisational change process where people felt reinvigorated, excited about the possibility of where the company was heading and keen to get behind what Flintfox stands for. 

    This had an enormous strategic impact beyond just marketing; it re-established Flintfox’s identity and culture, drove employee engagement, boosted morale, and drove commercial outcomes.

    Data-driven maturity

    Digital transformation is an enormous, daunting and expensive undertaking for any business. 

    The business needed to have data to help it prove value and demonstrate the difference ROI Flintfox can bring to organisations' bottom line. As part of the rebrand process, Brands commissioned research through Forrester Consulting to provide quantitative data on the impact of intelligent pricing for retailer/FMCG/manufacturing organisations. 

    The research uncovered data-driven insights on customer needs, pricing pain points, and what success looked like for those who had already adopted intelligent pricing software. This helped the team learn about customer behaviour and identify the best customers to target, as well as inform messaging.

    “We discovered organisations with an intelligent pricing solution saved 39 hours a day or the equivalent of $988,788 a year. This was incorporated into our new brand narrative and sales conversations, and also became part of our thought leadership messaging and lead generation strategy,” Brands explains.

    “As part of our external comms ambition to position Flintfox as a pricing 'influencer”, we published the research as eBooks and hosted webinars, generating over 250 leads in just three months.

    “We also embarked on a 12-month project to implement a new marketing automation platform to track leads at every stage of our lifecycle model. This enables us to create efficiencies in our media spend and optimise content, but also communicate ROI to the business and our investors. 

    “We are successfully using the data to identify best customer attributes and retarget similar attributed prospects, which is driving down our CPA on a monthly basis.”

    Customer-led value

    Brands says digital transformation is top of mind for most industries and businesses across the globe. But demystifying technology and enabling a company to fully benefit from digital transformation is something only a few organisations around the world truly understand. 

    “One of those is Microsoft. Flintfox has been a Microsoft partner for years but using my background in Microsoft and knowledge of how the company works, I’ve been able to take this relationship to the next level.

    “Our partnership with Microsoft is multi-tiered. It starts with a joint go-to-market strategy which involves co-marketing across a number of key thought leadership initiatives. We’ve deepened our relationship with relevant sales teams so they fully understand and believe in the Flintfox proposition, we’ve created a group of advocates in our key vertical markets who are able to sell Flintfox as part of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution and we’ve secured Microsoft funding for much of our marketing activity.”

    Commercial and growth acumen

    As Brands sought to explain its offering through new messaging, she realised it had two distinct services and audiences - one of which was the Flintfox pricing engine and another of which was the Microsoft systems integration and digital transformation services. 

    “By having the two offerings living under the same brand and under the same website, we weren’t maximising the value both of these businesses could deliver. We realised we needed to create two separate brands to minimise confusion and maximise conversion.”

    Flintfox was retained as the brand for the pricing solution and Flintech became the new systems integrator brand. This process made the brand stories and value propositions much clearer. 

    “We were able to minimise customers bouncing from our website or dropping out of sales conversations. We were able to become a lot more targeted in our marketing, delivering a personalised experience.

    “We now have two businesses which solve two different problems, both of which have a clear path and distinct marketing strategy. As a result, the pipeline has never been healthier, and we’ve landed several six-digit deals since launch. The sales cycle is the shortest it’s ever been. We’ve seen an increase in product comprehension, increase in traffic to our websites, and an increase in repeat visits to the websites.

    “We have built a scaled marketing engine to drive lead generation and grow the business, incorporating the pricing influencer strategy, PR, content, digital and more. A key part of this is digitising manual processes and creating sticky content our customers will love. For example, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with the sales team to create video product demos to engage customers, while saving the sales team from having to do live demos.”

    Leadership impact

    As part of her remit, Brands was tasked with building a high-performing marketing team from the ground up, a challenge she found exciting.

    “Having built marketing teams during my tenure at several Fortune 500 companies, including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Amazon and Microsoft, I’ve realised the model for building a high-performance culture is the same – no matter whether a company is big or small,” she explains.

    “It starts with recruitment. Aptitude can be developed, attitude is much harder to influence. I’ve recruited people all over the globe to join the Flintfox marketing team, which is made possible through our virtual working model. At the same time, I travel regularly to ensure face-to-face time with the team. I also prioritise mentoring and development.

    “I believe performance thrives when your people feel safe, supported and that you’ve got their back. You get the best out of your people when you don’t add undue stress or pressure. We have a high-performance, fast-paced culture combined with authenticity, humour, openness and a down-to-earth approach.

    “No one shows up to work and intentionally wants to do a bad job. As a leader, I’m open and honest about things I have done which haven’t gone to plan, which helps to create an environment of trust for my team to do the same and take risks. If you’re not continually testing and learning, then your brand and business isn’t growing. You can’t win the lottery without a ticket!”

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