Chatime CMO on the milestones as she heads for the exit

AR, new retail channels and team building are among the achievements for Joanna Robinson as she confirms her departure from the QSR after a two-year stint

Joanna Robinson
Joanna Robinson

Launching Chatime’s at-home formats into supermarkets and tapping immersive technology to build brand and acquisition are highlights for Joanna Robinson from her two-year tenure with the QSR.

The chief marketing officer has left Chatime after a stint that saw Robinson recognised on the 2022 edition of the CMO50 list of Australia’s most innovative and effective marketing leaders.

“I had a fantastic two years at the Chatime Group, where we particularly focused on brand building and extension of the brand’s footprint,” Robinson told CMO. “After 12 years in Australia, Chatime has been able to resonate across a wide audience from an original Asian demographic, given its origins in Taiwan, to a Western audience, which provides the brand with a strong competitive edge.”

Among standout moments for Robinson is the successful launch of Chatime in ‘at-home’ formats into supermarket channels. A range of DIY Bubble Tea kits, then ready-to-drink options, proved particularly relevant in staying connected with consumers during the Covid pandemic at home but also helped increase the customer base as well as lift broader tea category sales.

Another milestone has been developing and executing the augmented reality (AR) technology above-the-line campaign, ‘Satisfy Your Strange’, with The Special Group and Wired Co. The work drove significant gains in brand awareness and first-time purchase conversion. In her CMO50 submission, Robinson said AR scans peaked at 50,000 in a single day, social media engagement increased by 310 per cent, and more than 160,000 new users came to the Chatime website. Chatime had its biggest week in sales ever during the peak of the campaign, and one in three people who saw the outdoor campaign went on to purchase a Chatime. 

Robinson highlighted hiring, nurturing and developing a young marketing team as a further achievement close to her heart. In more recent years, she has been a sessional lecturer on marketing at the University of NSW as well as University of Sydney. This desire to help others fulfil their potential has given Robinson a strong commitment to team empowerment and empathetic leadership.

“A lesson I have taken from my time at Chatime is the further realisation that people are key to success,” she continued. “I believe hiring the right people, teaching and guiding them, as well as providing a supportive but empowering environment, is actually how you optimise commercial productivity. A positive culture drives positive outcomes.”

Robinson also tipped her hat to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Chatime business, and fast pace at which the business operated as a stark contrast from her former FMCG experiences.

“Coupled with the uncertainty that Covid through at all business, I feel that my skills have been further enhanced in the last two years, particularly in the areas of having an agile mindset and the ability to continually pivot,” she said.

While proud of the work the team has delivered, Robinson said it felt time to hand the baton to someone else now that the brand building platform has been solidified. Like many people, especially following Covid, she also noted personal challenges that have “made me very aware that life is fragile, and that you need to appreciate every moment”.

“I am grateful to Chatime and the execs for supporting my decision to move on from the company,” Robinson said. “I am excited to see the impressive plans for the future come to fruition.”

Robinson kicked off her marketing career with Procter & Gamble, before switching to Johnson & Johnson then Unilever. After a start in Australia, she relocated to the Middle East, overseeing marketing across the region for brands such as Rexona, Omo, Sunlight, Domestos and Signal Oral Care. The led into marketing roles across Estee Lauder and Tom Ford, before returning to Australia and working at Tyrell’s Wine, followed by L’Occitane then Chatime.

“For now, I am taking a short sabbatical to spend quality time with my family, with some teaching thrown in for the first semester of classes at University of Sydney,” Robinson said. “After that, I will be back in the market looking for the next exciting challenge with a purpose-led company and brand who inspire me. Life is good.”

Chatime is now restructuring the leadership team and is in the process of appointing a head of marketing.

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