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CMO50 2022 #26-50: Sarah Myers

  • Name Sarah Myers
  • Title General manager, audience and marketing
  • Company REA Group
  • Commenced role 2022
  • Reporting Line Chief product and audience officer
  • Member of the Executive Team No
  • Marketing Function 60 staff, 5 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Media and entertainment
  • 2021 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    When REA Group acquired Mortgage Choice in July 2021, Sarah Myers was tasked with developing a new brand strategy for the 30-year-old business. It’s proven a compelling opportunity and golden marketing moment for this recently promoted marketing chief. As general manager of audience and marketing, Myers’ remit includes brand, performance, lifecycle and engagement, audience and personalisation, data science and brand analytics.

    “We identified the Mortgage Choice brand had strong history and prompted awareness, but consideration was low, especially among younger Australians,” she explains.

    Mortgage Choice has a significant national footprint including 940 brokers, more than 720 franchises, 40 lending partners and a loan book with $84 billion at time of acquisition. The deal, worth about $244 million and complementary to REA’s existing Smartline business, positioned the group as the second largest retail mortgage broking business in Australia.

    “There was an exciting opportunity to redefine the Mortgage Choice brand to make it more contemporary and relevant to connect with even more Australians,” Myers says.

    Business smarts

    Underpinning the rebrand effort was a significant research project. This highlighted Mortgage Choice’s strong history and prompted awareness, but low consideration among younger Australians.

    “Central to the success of the acquisition was a new brand strategy for Mortgage Choice that all brokers and employees could proudly line up behind,” Myers says. “A refreshed look for the brand was defined and positioning, ‘You’re never a loan’, placed the brokers at the heart of the campaign.”

    Having devised the way forward, REA launched a national campaign with a content-led partnership with News Corp which included outdoor, transit, radio, digital audio and TV.

    “With new organisational structures in place, coupled with a successful new brand strategy, we have been able to firmly embed Mortgage Choice within the REA business and set it up to play a key part in the Group’s future growth,” Myers says.

    Innovative marketing

     Myers has also been finetuning the brand strategy. New positioning and messaging was again informed by consumer research, focus groups and quantifying learnings to ensure it would resonate against key drivers of preference.

    Key propositions for REA include, ‘More properties for sale than anywhere else’, ‘Property search made easier’ and ‘Personalise your property search’. As a result of focus groups, an opportunity to humanise the brand to increase differentiation within the category was also identified.

    For Myers, the resulting creative takes an emotive approach to humanise the brand by exploring the different houses Australians spend their lives in. The stretch from renting a terrace with housemates, to renovating the ‘worst house on the best street’ and upgrading to ‘that special house to house your fleet’.

    “We wanted to showcase how is there for every stage, to guide Australians on their property journey,” she says. “Using insights from our cross-media studies with Kantar, we devised a multichannel approach focused on the strength of each channel and format. Understanding the role of each channel ensured we delivered an awareness or a preference message.”

    The campaign included TV, BVOD, digital, online video, radio, social, digital audio and high impact outdoor. It delivered an uplift of +6.3 per cent on brand metrics over previous levels. Top-of-mind awareness (+3 per cent) and brand preference (+5.6 per cent) also hit record levels. What’s more, brand equity increased to 64 per cent.

    “We achieved record audiences and direct traffic delivered 32 million visits in May with an increase of 2 million direct visits YoY,” Myers says. REA also reached 96 per cent of its target audience, with 85 per cent delivered by two or more channels in synergy.

    More broadly, REA has had an exceptional FY2022, with revenue of $1.17bn, up 26 per cent, and EBITDA of $674m, up 19 per cent. A high of 12.7 million Australians, or 62 per cent of the adult population, now visit each month to start their property search journey, which is 3.36x more visits than the nearest competitor.

    “In FY22, we saw break record after record in audience growth and engagement to become the seventh largest online brand in the country,” Myers says. “Importantly, we prioritise workplace values equally to commercial outcomes and have established ways of working in FY22 that emphasises knowledge sharing and career growth.”

    Data-driven maturity

    What’s also helping deliver result is the team’s ability to mobilise technology, strategy and people to develop a new breed of marketing team.

    “Our team is one that doesn’t require engineering or product support to deliver consistent consumer campaigns via email, app or Web,” Myers comments. Foundational for this transformation was integrating a new customer data platform from Tealium and customer engagement platform from Braze. These have allowed real-time, always-on, reusable audiences and events.

    “Engaging with our audience during ‘peaks’ – property transaction events such as buying, selling and renting – we do well. However, with the average home ownership increasing from seven years to 11 years, we realised there was an opportunity to engage with users during the ‘valleys’ also,” Myers says. “Property owners are more likely to stay engaged on outside of key transaction periods, but predominately just to monitor the market.”

    To better identify these property owners and unlock value for REA customers, the data science team built a ‘Track Ready’ propensity model. The model was validated against broader audience targeting and led to discovery of a high-performing subset, then fed back into the model. It’s allowed REA to accelerate growth in a highly engaged property owner audience by personalising messaging and nurturing them towards taking the next step in their property journey. This could be to sell, refinance or lease out.

    In all, the team built out more than 50 audience segments and leveraged these off-platform to drive acquisition efficiencies.

    “We then extended the model from the 90th percentile to the 80th percentile to increase volume,” Myers explains. “This data-driven approach delivered an astounding 733 per cent uplift in ‘track’ conversion for this audience when compared to previous targeting.”

    To further boost performance, 32 different creative and message variants were tested, driving a 72 per cent increase in conversion with in-app message and a 273 per cent increase in email conversion. Overall, 100 personalised campaigns and 57 journeys through REA’s behavioural communications platform delivered.

    “The optimised email drove additional owner tracks that wouldn't have been achieved if we didn’t follow this approach,” Myers says. “In the last 12 months, we’ve significantly increased owner prospect leads. Our ability to organically generate these leads reduces the reliance on paid channels to drive commercial outcomes.”

    Myers also attributes 25 per cent year-on-year growth in monthly active members, including a 35 per cent increase in new member registrations, to these efforts. In addition, property owner tracks increased 50 per cent over the year, while owner prospect leads rose 40 per cent.

    “This was an innovative personalisation approach that is leading the way in Australia, allowing us to reduce reliance on paid channels by organically generating revenue,” Myers adds.

    Customer-led thinking

    Elsewhere, attention over the past year turned to building a ‘centre of excellence’ approach across lifestyle and engagement marketing teams to drive consistent interconnected consumer journeys.

    “This mirrored the product model of groups, tribes, squads, and communities, and has enabled teams with little or no resource to leverage the capabilities of the more mature team expertise by coming together,” Myers says.

    The new structure has allowed REA to scale the technical and specialist knowledge into customer,, and Mortgage Choice teams. “This has created richer conversations from like-minded specialists, career progression opportunities, and supports an enterprise mindset allowing teams to flex across other areas,” Myers says.

    “With our recent Mortgage Choice acquisition, we followed this same approach, which has increased media negotiating efficiencies and has also driven engagement across a high performing team. Bringing performance marketing in-house has seen CPLs drop 18 per cent year-on-year, while achieving record lead volumes.”

    Performance marketing team and social teams have also come together this year in a ‘digital marketing centre of excellence’ structure. Myers says it’s encouraged career progression and fluid movement of budgets across channels, enabling the teams to optimise for performance.

    “The benefits have exceeded the standard consumer experience narrative. The establishment of the centre of excellence has improved experiences externally and internally across nearly all key brands and products within REA,” she says. “Never has marketing been working as closely or as smoothly with as many different functions as we have now. Conversations day-to-day between teams now have a constant buzz of innovative excitement, shared possibilities and empathetic support.

    “All these deliberate connections and iterative changes have resulted in a new breed of marketing team at REA – one that represents how truly cross-functional ways of working result in standout experiences for our customers.”

    Commercial acumen

    It’s plainly paying off commercially. An example Myers points to is ‘Premiere Plus’, a new digital advertising solution to increase REA’s value proposition beyond high-quality buyer enquiries and high-quality seller leads.

    “The team worked collaboratively to launch a new feature that triggers notifications to our property seeker audience when a property is being prepared for sale that matches their search criteria. Once a property is marked as sold, an eDM is sent to owners in the local area,” she says by way of example. “This helps property owners understand local market activity relevant to their property and features agent branding. The result of this was, a compelling digital advertising solution across the whole property transaction, which when taken to market exceeded sales targets by 217 per cent.”

    The new structures, ways of working and data-led approach also helped while launching new brand activity for Mortgage Choice across both consumer and franchise recruitment marketing channels.

    “We made the strategic decision to bring digital marketing in-house. On the consumer side, we leveraged insights from across the group, which enabled us to grow consumer leads from paid marketing channels by 22 per cent for Q4, to record levels, while reducing CPLs by 18 per cent,” Myers says.

    Across recruitment marketing, the implementation of a new bid strategy for SEM and a new audience approach for social reduced CPL by 33 per cent and grew new franchisee leads by 50 per cent for Q4.

    “We have a strong and values orientated culture, and a talented and diverse team who work across brand, performance, lifecycle and engagement, audience and personalisation, data science and analytics,” Myers sums up. “We take pride in creating best-in-class, meaningful and relevant campaigns, delivering value for consumers and the business.”


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