CMO50 2022 #24: Jessica Richmond

  • Name Jessica Richmond
  • Title GM marketing and insights
  • Company Officeworks
  • Commenced role May 2019
  • Reporting Line Managing director
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 88 staff, 4 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Retail
  • 2021 ranking 16
  • Related

    Brand Post

    A 2020 research respondent described the Officeworks’ brand as ‘a middle-aged man called Brian, who likes model aeroplanes and warm cups of tea’ - pleasant enough, but not someone you’d choose to spend time with.


    General manager of marketing and insights at Officeworks, Jessica Richmond, realised marketing needed to change customer perceptions of the brand.

    Innovative marketing 

    In contrast to the 'Brian' comparison above, customers said they loved Officeworks' products, as they sparked creativity and inspired them to start something new.

    Since opening in 1994 as an office supplies store, Officeworks has become a major every-channel business with over 60 per cent of sales in technology, a leading school supplies provider, a destination for office and study furniture, and as an increasing player in art supplies. 

    As Richmond explains, facing intensifying competition, Officeworks needed customers to rethink the brand; with brand flexibility and modernity to assist this shift.

    “Working with principles, we established traits which led our brand refresh thinking: ‘Onto it’, the efficient experience customers already appreciated; ‘dynamic’, the increasing newness of range particularly in technology; and ‘joyful’, inspiring fun, play and creativity,” she says.

    “In July 2021, our evolution began with store-based teams embracing the new. Partnering with AJF, we refreshed advertising, devised a new brand framework, campaigns and templates covering product and supplier advertising, service and sustainability initiatives; while showcasing the breadth and modernity of an evolving Officeworks.”

    Since the refresh, the Officeworks brand has experienced strong momentum, with significant increases seen across all masterbrand measures including saliency, top of mind awareness, consideration and first choice. Emotional associations have improved in areas of inspiration, excitement and ‘makes me happy’.

    The first TVC in the new brand format, which highlighted Officeworks’ sustainability credentials, outperformed all previous campaigns.

    Officeworks’ brand refresh also won gold at the 2022 Melbourne Design Awards. Furthermore, in February 2022, the retailer was named Australia’s third strongest brand 2021, behind Bunnings and Woolworths, with brand value quoted at $473 million, +45 per cent versus last year, reflecting strong advertising salience, reputation and overall company performance.

    Business smarts

    A key challenge for Officeworks was identifying customers to understand behaviours and deliver personalised experiences. In 2019, only a very small number of in-store transactions could be linked to known customers, with just over half a million on its email database, modest given strong online penetration. Contacts captured from emailed receipts had no marketing permissions, so couldn’t be linked to a customer profile, nor used for marketing.

    Without data at scale, attempts to deliver more personalised experiences were greatly constrained, and insights were limited, affecting multiple areas of the business.

    Richmond says two focus areas emerged for the business in FY22: Growing the proportion of known customer sales and transactions to fuel the team with more data; and to better understand current customers to improve decision making.

    “To understand customers, anonymised transactions were analysed to define patterns of cross-channel behaviour. Seven customer personas emerged, then combined with recent research to enhance each with improved insight. Given memorable names and profiles, personas were launched and used to drive decision-making, including strategy development, business planning, and marketing decision-making,” she says.

    “To grow our known customer base, we sought assistance from a new partner, Flybuys. A speedy rollout plan requiring extensive cross-functional effort, Flybuys launched in stores and online in December 2021."

    Thanks to the subsequent launch of in-app digital receipts, plus quick customer adoption and store team focus, known customer transactions grew significantly to reach just under half of overall sales. This paved the way for future insights and personalisation at scale. At the end of FY22, Officeworks' marketable email database had more than doubled versus the previous year, delivering greater return on owned channels.

    “While as marketers we’re often keen to focus on building our own brands and properties, partnering with a powerhouse brand and partner like Flybuys has really paid dividends for us, helping us to quickly transform our ability to understand our customers and tailor our communications,” Richmond says.

    Data-driven maturity

    The internal build of a proprietary recommendation engine has allowed Officeworks to provide increasingly personalised recommendations to customers based on browsing and buying behaviours.

    “Initial tests showed modest improvements versus existing off-the-shelf software, prompting ongoing experimentation to drive further improvements over time," Richmond says. "This eventually led to the project significantly overdelivering versus business case, and providing opportunities for further experience improvements through deployment via other channels and ingesting new data sources."

    Other category-specific use cases driving attachment sales saw significant benefits per customer, and provided strong momentum for the team and business to invest in further scaling efforts.

    “More and more, we’re using data to personalise and recommend in increasingly automated ways. This helps lighten the load on marketers’ everyday decision making, but it’s also important we retain our ability to read between the lines, and not always take the data too literally," Richmond says. "Data and research can provide us feedback on what’s currently within the bounds of the known and possible, and often as marketers our job is to intuit the things which are not yet on the page.”

    Customer-led value

    The refresh of the Officeworks' brand and communications program was a challenge to navigate, Richmond says. For a business heavily focused on growth through category optimisation and expansion, any effort or investment directed towards brand needed to demonstrate a clear return.

    “For internal stakeholders, alignment was key. Research provided an opportunity to share customers’ feelings about Officeworks and their impact on buying behaviours. Brand KPIs were set and measured by category, with quarterly monitoring to share progress," she says. “Cross-functional engagement was critical. A brand refresh steering committee of senior leaders, including the MD, was established to share progress and ensure sponsorship at the highest level.”

    The 2022 brand campaign, called ‘Start Something’, showed Officeworks in a new light, with the latest products used to start new creative, home-working and learning projects. A supporting ‘Create-a-thon’ in-store overnight event was livestreamed, hosted by influencer, Flex Mami, and showcasing the modernity of the new Officeworks brand and breadth of creative supplies available.

    A Chadstone store trial brand refresh saw an updated look including logos, signage and back of house. Research indicated despite the same range, the store felt more browsable and inspiring, delivering a significant sales uplift versus control stores.

    A year on, category measures have climbed. Across saliency, TOM awareness, consideration and first choice, all measures saw a significant boost, particularly in technology, education, furniture and art and craft," Richmond says. "Pleasingly, brand improvements correlate largely with sales growth, with technology, educational products, furniture and art and craft seeing strong year-on-year sales growth.”

    Commercial and growth acumen

    In FY19, Officeworks was in the top 20 Australian online retailers, yet digital marketing activities were not a major contributor to sales. Given a rapidly changing market and competitor set, there was a strong need to quickly build capability, investment and effectiveness for digital marketing activities to ensure the business could continue to scale.

    Given limited access to known customer data, effort was directed towards educating senior leaders of the importance of growing Officeworks’ known and marketable base, to ensure a broader business focus.

    "Structural change saw investments shift into digital areas of the team to increase capacity and velocity for the increased demand," Richmond continues. "This helped deliver not only an increasing volume of seasonal and supplier activity, but more effective audience selection, targeting and experimentation. Digital advertising became a stronger focus, needing to be set and scaled from the ground up, frequently with a small team of digital marketers, largely new to the business."

    Richmond is the first to suggest there is significant scope for improvement, but progress has been strong. As of end FY22, Officeworks’ digital marketing activities, including advertising, content and email, increased significantly in both investment and efficacy. This led to an increase in contribution to overall media-driven sales of +36 per cent year-on-year, and a two-year increase of +75 per cent.

    “While digital has certainly played an increasing role in driving Officeworks’ sales, overall return on marketing investment, including all paid and owned channels, has continued to rise, delivering an increase of 27 per cent in only two years," Richmond says. "This is supported by an ongoing focus on delivering effective communication through all channels, not just digital.”

    Leadership impact

    Then there's the engagement survey in 2021, which gave the marketing leadership team important feedback. 

    “The team was proud to work for Officeworks, motivated by our overall vision and enjoying the flexibility of hybrid working. But given the reactive nature of the previous Covid-affected year, we were not providing sufficient clarity on what longer-term success looked like and their individual roles in delivering it,” Richmond says.

    “With a mantra of ‘clarity and progress’, the marketing leadership team created a team scorecard, aligned to our five strategies, with measures agreed with the team and broader stakeholder group. To ensure accountability, scorecards were shared with the Officeworks leadership team in monthly meetings, with updates and showcases held in monthly marketing meetings to celebrate milestones and progress."

    One particular initiative, while small, yielded meaningful results. A fortnightly wrap-up email sent to the team and other senior stakeholders shared progress and updates aligned to the five strategies, highlighting shorter term successes and recognising relevant team members; as well as team changes, achievements and promotions.

    A year on, engagement across the team had seen great progress. "Overall engagement has increased significantly, with significant lifts in areas of ‘collaboration and communication’, ‘I know what I need to do to be successful in my role’, and ‘other departments collaborate with us well’; as well as ‘providing career opportunities’ and ‘would recommend OW as a great place to work’," Richmond says.

    Multiple team members cited regular communication of achievements, people updates and recognition, both from team meetings and regular email updates as key drivers of engagement, feeling more connected to both the strategy and the team.

    “Finally, getting the team together face-to-face was a major highlight. While we all love the flexibility of working from home, the office definitely plays a role in connecting us and providing those opportunities for more informal communications,” Richmond adds.

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