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CMO50 2022 #26-50: Louise Ardagh

  • Name Louise Ardagh
  • Title General manager, marketing and engagement
  • Company HBF Health
  • Commenced role March 2019
  • Reporting Line EGM member experience
  • Member of the Executive Team No
  • Marketing Function 32 staff, 6 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Insurance
  • 2021 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    Quokka sh*t is not something usually associated with health insurance. However, general manager, marketing and engagement of HBF, Louise Ardagh, made the brave call to associate it when launching HBF into eastern Australia.

    “When we launched HBF into the eastern states, we adopted a challenger tone different from anything we had previously done as a brand. Speaking to our position as a not-for-profit which does best by members, we aimed to de-position the competition with the line: 'Don’t settle for a quokka sh**”. As an unknown brand in the east with nothing to lose, this wasn’t that risky for us,” she explains.

    “But then I had to make the very risky call around whether to bring quokkas and their attitude to our home market of WA, with legacy (and somewhat conservative) brand perceptions and expectations.

    “I wasn’t convinced our home state would respond to sassy quokkas having a crack at competitors, let alone swearing!

    “My solution was to leverage the parochialism WA is known for, with a campaign featuring footy-playing HBF marsupials - quokkas dressed as Dockers and Eagles supporters - and it worked a treat.”

    Not only did HBF start to cut through and gain increased consideration in WA, but thanks to its new-found sense of sass, HBF also started to attract a younger audience, who had previously not considered it. The stage was set for national quokka domination.

    Since launching the HBF Quokka’s in FY 20, unprompted brand awareness for HBF on the east coast has nearly doubled and prompted awareness has increased by over 50 per cent.

    Innovative marketing

    HBF needed to evolve after increasing competition and market share decline.

    In the eastern states, the brand launched in 2020 and was still relatively unknown. Not only did it have to find a way to play against the big(ger) guys in the east, but HBF also had to find a way to defend the west and make a statement with a compelling campaign.

    This led to the 'Pocket the Savings' campaign in March-June 2021. The objective was to stem market share decline in the west, while growing share in the east, to achieve sales targets. 

    “Under my leadership the team set out to develop HBF’s first-ever, national single-minded creative strategy,” Ardagh says.

    Research indicated affordability was the common driver of consideration in all states. As leaders in quality/premium cover, historically HBF hadn’t performed as well in this space, and had shied away from directly communicating on this topic.

    “Trying to communicate a message of ‘you can save money with HBF’ was no easy feat! In a highly regulated market like private health insurance, there’s many things you can’t say.

    “Fortunately, we had a unique creative asset at our disposal – quokkas. I gave our partners at Leo Burnett permission to push the message as hard as they could, and they nailed it. Cute little quokkas, kidding around, making it rain with the money they saved. This was so different to anything HBF had done before, and a first for the category.

    “The fully integrated media approach from OPEN IPG aligned to our two-way player strategy, dominating quality environments in the west (e.g., TV, radio, cinema) while disrupting in the east (e.g., through innovative instant experience social formats).”

    HBF had become a true two-way player. It achieved net policy growth for every month of the campaign. In WA, market share decline softened by 39 per cent during the two quarters the campaign was live, compared to the four quarters prior.

    In the east, market share grew 10 per cent over the two quarters the campaign was live. Average quarterly market share growth over this period was nearly four times higher than for the 12-months prior.

    Finally, sales targets for the campaign period were exceeded by 10 per cent.

    Business smarts

    HBF is undertaking a large-scale digital transformation program. The program is nearing completion and the output of the effort will see HBF embrace an agile cadence, introducing new ways of working to support data-fuelled, member and customer engagement.

    “As a sponsor of the marketing automation program, it has been important to develop an operating model which supports the integration of new data meaningfully into a member and customer journey,” Ardagh says.

    “To meet the current and future challenges, we have designed a hybrid marketing operations and chapter lead working together. This function will coordinate marketing strategy and planning through marketing BAU teams, while mapping the right skills and capabilities into delivery tribes.

    “Blending this role means marketing will stay engaged in proposition development and also delivery. The marketing chapter supplies the marketing experts to support the creation of new technical journeys, while the planning and operations function ensures a strong alignment to marketing strategy.

    “From research, and by experience, this seemed to be where several digital transformations have failed – the technical change is delivered – but with little thought to changing business processes to enable strong customer outcomes. By bringing these capabilities together, marketing has the end-to-end responsibility to create and own the member/ customer journey and iterate and build through agile tribes.”

    This alignment not only connects marketing deeply into the agile change delivery but ensures a continuity of member and customer engagement across the entire HBF ecosystem.

    Data-driven maturity

    In the past 12 months, HBF has focused on delivering an integrated content strategy, making the most of the abundant health content and insights it has to affect real change for members’ health.

    Marketing’s responsibility for content stretches across the organisation through the HBF blog, Instagram, Facebook, You Tube, TikTok and an owned advocacy website, DAD (Direct Advice for Dad). 

    “Additionally, we support an influencer strategy for health initiatives and partnerships such as our annual HBF Run for a Reason, a community running event where each participant raises money for their designated reason,” she says.

    “Data and insights are the starting point for all content development and whether it is claim data, SEO data, online user journeys of past learning and social media likes, all the content is ingested into a feedback loop to challenge our existing assumptions or confirm trials.

    “Most recently, the success of this integration strategy was seen in the support of health programming. Curated content was showcased throughout all HBF’s social channels. The components of the content piece included video assets, blog posts, promotional tiles on the website and a coordination of social spend to optimise reach.

    “Enrolments in Health Support programs doubled month-on-month providing support and focused advice for our members.

    “The optimum mix for marketing leadership is having enough good and bad experiences to have great gut instinct for the right path, backed up by data. In my career, I have seen examples with all the data in the world, ignoring the simple human truths of attraction and attention. 

    “Data can sometimes give confidence on what direction to head but as creatives will attest, it’s the spark of the idea and the communication of it which is where the magic can happen.”

    Commercial and growth acumen

    Ardagh subscribes to the view when you streamline processes and challenge outdated practices, you can create more time to think and be creative, often challenging the status quo.

    Team interviews surfaced common pain points in marketing, including repetitive updating of planning documents, manual campaign planning and reporting and coordinating multiple tools to collaborate with agencies. 

    “We thought there had to be a better way, so we investigated some options that could help us work better. We considered several marketing resource management (MRM) tools to help," she explains.

    “We wanted help to track, manage, and report on marketing operations, to streamline creative production processes, optimise resources, and manage creative content assets. We also had the additional scope of wanting to manage our marketing approval process in a more compliant manner.

    “After significant vendor, cyber, legal and procurement reviews, we decided to onboard This intuitive, marketing-specific MRM has delivered incredible efficiency. 

    “A recent report has shown the team saved more than 20 hours per month, per team member over the last six months. Not only are the team saving up to one day per month, but the collaboration and transparency across the business is creating better outcomes.

    “Pleasingly, 25 per cent of all users of the platform are agency partners, which has been beneficial to working better together.”

    Historically, HBF sales incentives programs had focused on give-away items and cash back offers unconnected to products.

    To keep pace with national competitors, marketing worked closely with product, actuary, finance, analytics, technology, and customer channels to develop and deliver a sustainable and meaningful incentive for switchers and new to markets, which aligned with HBF’s member-focused strategy.

    Over time the incentive program yielded positive impact. For the period 1 Mar – 25 April 2021, HBF exceeded national sales targets by 10 per cent, and on the East coast, performance was 34 per cent ahead of target.

    “Since launching incentives FY20, HBF has enjoyed 27 months of net-policy growth and has arrested the rate of market share decline on the west coast. The incentives are now part of our acquisition strategy, used primarily in the east where they yield greatest impact,” Ardagh says.

    Leadership impact

    Ardagh explains leading a team is the most satisfying part of her job, and a role she takes seriously. 

    “I also believe, as the HBF head office is in WA, I have the responsibility to ensure the team is exposed to the best thinking, creative ideas, and challenges from around the country.

    “In the past 12 months we have recruited 13 people across three states. Every hire has come from a different industry (from finance, to manufacturing and cosmetics) and we are encouraging teams to recruit people who can think creatively, outside the PHI category.

    “In readiness for our migration to new martech soon, I have created several innovative new roles in the team. One of these, our journey planning role, will focus across member journeys to improve our delivery of personalised, automated marketing programs, while our strategic marketing lead embedded in our operations team, ensures we are insight-driven and outcome-focused across all activity.

    “As a team we were beyond delighted recently to have been recognised as a finalist in the 2022 Mumbrella Marketing team of the year.

    “I strongly believe leadership is about role modelling behaviours and walking the talk. I try to be as transparent as I can, providing clear feedback in the moment, and encourage different views and debate. I know I wear my heart on my sleeve, so I also try to ensure my team has an open, supportive environment where they can feel safe to do their best work.”

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