CMO profile: Unlocking Jurlique's brand DNA

Jurlique chief brand officer talks to us about dleivering growth by balancing logic with magic
Andrew Martens

Andrew Martens

For more than 30 years, South Australian-based skincare brand, Jurlique, has been synonymous with natural, high-quality, botanical-based products. But three owners and a succession of leaders in recent years, along with six short-lived marketing chiefs and a few misguided assumptions about the brand’s strengths with a geographically disperse consumer base, led to inconsistencies in approach that impeded growth.

According to chief brand officer, Andrea Martens, that’s all starting to change, thanks to a company-wide commitment to consumer insight and data-driven marketing, strategic brand thinking, and a healthy dose of creativity.

The former Unilever marketer and products manager joined 12 months ago to run Jurlique’s 55-strong global marketing division and drive growth across the 23 markets it operates in. Prior to this, Martens spent 16 years with FMCG giant, Unilever, working across four business units, ending up in a dual marketing and divisional leadership role overseeing personal care products.

Her resume is a lesson in cross-industry marketing experience, including roles at GlaxoSmithKline and FH Faulding, and covering brands such as Children’s Panadol, Banana Boat, Neutrogena, Dove, Omo and Streets.

“After 16 years, I wanted a change,” she says. “For me, that represented not only a change out of FMCG, but also to a company in Australia where I would be able to lead a brand and drive global brand strategy.”

Jurlique was acquired by Japanese group, Pola Holdings, for $300 million in 2011 and sits alongside the H2O+ skincare brand. Being part of a $6.5 billion skincare business with “phenomenal” technical expertise presents huge opportunities, Martens says – provided the business can unlock its brand potential. “We need it to be a success on the global stage and really unlock the potential everyone knows is there,” she says. “Now is the time.”

The three or four key strands inherent to brand success originate from Jurlique founders, Dr Jurgen and Ulrike Klein, Martens says. These include its natural ingredients, origins in the fields of South Australia, consumer proposition around skin as well as emotional benefits, and the unique processes used to make the range.

“When we looked at the drivers for the consumer and we overlaid these, even we were surprised at how closely aligned they are,” Martens says. “It’s now down to the hard work of making that happen.”  

Understanding the consumer

The first task was investing in Jurlique’s consumer insights program to understand more about those using its products, and those that didn’t, across target markets in Australia, Europe and Asia. The company commissioned research around 2000 consumers in Australia and China including age, interest, income and brand perceptions. Martens also took members of her team to key markets to immerse themselves in the consumer.

“Bringing the consumer into the centre of decisions is critical and one of the first things we had to do. That was a complete change for the business and for the team,” she says.

The research program showed beauty rituals across geographic markets are quite extreme. “You have Australians that have a three-step process on a good day, then you have the Japanese who go between an eight and 13-step process, for whom the beauty ritual is a moment of mindfulness, and something they pass on to their daughters with honour,” Martens says.

It was vital to gauge the strategic challenges by market, so Martens initiated Jurlique’s first brand health index. “That gave us a good indication through the pyramids we built, but also through the Net Promoter Score, showed our detractors, and what’s stopping us from unlocking the potential,” she says.

“For the first time, not only were we working with quantitative numbers, we were also working with really clear, qualitative insights on what is the potential for the brand, what we need to tap into and where we focus our energies.

“That is where everything comes to light: The service experience our customers are having, the products and how they are being received, the right price points. When you see that for the first time as a business, it’s quite a challenge. But it’s been very well received because all of a sudden, everyone has something tangible to work with. You’re not working with ‘I think’ or ‘I feel’.”

To ensure insights are shared and actioned, Martens appointed a head of global insights and trends.

“Consumer insight impacts every single thing we do,” she says. “We use the insights from Japan, China and Australia and build around that. Then we talk around the different ranges, what exactly are consumers looking for, and the key claims. Then we come up with propositions. And everything is tested.”

But marketers still need to make a strategic call, Martens says. “It’s not as if the consumer will give you all the answers. But at least they inform your decisions and you can move forward from there.” 

Martens’ other priority has been the operational fundamentals of a business that grows the majority of what goes into its product range.

“What plants we need to be growing, at what point in time we make those decisions, and what does that actually deliver to our consumer in terms of efficacy, is important,” Martens continues, adding Jurlique is investing in a new factory with second R&D facility.

“What we’ve learnt about the consumer is that absolutely she wants natural, but not at the compromise of efficacy. Ensuring we have the technology and ingredients that do that in our unique way is going to be key to our success.”  

Strategy and storytelling

One of the biggest challenges as a marketer is you can easily get tactically distracted, Martens says. “You have to deliver results – that’s the reality,” she says. 

“Standing back and saying we had to do this strategic piece first was a bit like holding back the weir of water.”

Different organisations are comfortable with different levels of risk, and when you’re taking a brand on a journey such as the one instigated at Jurlique, storytelling and explaining ‘why’ is really important, Marten stresses.

“You have to take the team along, and build a team around you that is able to do that,” she says. “I have a belief that success is not up to me, it’s going to be having the right people around me.”

Martens is particularly keen to foster diversity of thought. “We need to generate a different perspective to ensure there’s great debate and we can learn from each other,” she says. 

To help, Martens is compiling a development program incorporating internal and external training and insight. She’s partnered with several leaders in their field, including Mark Ritson for brand expertise, and Paul Mitchell for leadership, and ran a one-week program for marketing and market leads that incorporated brand building based on brand health data.

“Staff had to build their own pyramid with 250 Excel spreadsheets, and really analyse what’s going on in their market,” she explains, adding marketers now base every decision and brief, including its 14 rolling campaigns, on consumer insights.  

Up next: Jurlique's personalisation play, plus bolstering perceptions of marketing

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Personalisation play

Martens is also looking at how Jurlique can respond to growing consumer expectations of personalisation and targeted communications. One way is by building data mining capabilities using predictive analytics to determine what consumer behaviour will be and act on it. Investments include new CRM and social listening tools.

Martens says a key focus has been gauging at which point the opportunity for cross-sell or further engagement might be. “If you look at consumers in China, is the opportunity around the period of time between when they make their first and second sale, or is it whether they come back at all?” she asks. “What is it they’re buying from the first time they come in-store versus the second time? For instance, if a consumer buys a hand cream, will they ever come back and buy face cream from us? And is that different to if they buy a face cream first?

“We can mine a lot of data from our ecommerce business, but also in-store we’re working to collect more data and striving to understand more about consumers so we can build a relationship with them. We’ll then be able to target them with more appropriate messaging. Systems have to be set up first, and that’s now somewhat in place; the next step is around doing the analytics.”

Where Martens spies a gap is the physical store experience. “They’re paying a premium for our product and want an incredible experience,” she says. “The ones that know the brand see the appeal, but we also need it to translate into advocacy. Having those elements translate into our retail experience is fundamental to the next stage of our journey.”

Digital and data play are vital. “The ability to bring to life the farm environment and really show what happens there in terms of the process all botanicals go through, and in a way that’s really engaging for the consumer, is where technology also plays a role.”

Personalisation could even extend down to product. “Some companies are playing with fragrance by allowing consumers to actually tailor their own fragrance. That informs where we need to go in the longer term,” Martens says. 

Perceptions of marketing

For Martens, the role of marketing has always been one of driving growth. “I don’t think that fundamental has changed, but the business’ expectations of our function have definitely stepped up,” she says. “The need for marketing to become more analytical and fact-based has evolved consistently over the years.”

Having said that, balancing fact with creativity is still a critical part of success. “Putting my business lens on product costs and operational capacity is just as important as what the next campaign will deliver to us globally,” she says. 

In the case of Jurlique, Martens sees herself on a 3-5 year journey to turn the brand around, which means senior executive support is vital.

“I’ve been really transparent to the parent company, to say the brand has so much potential, but the reality is we have a lot of hard work to do and this is going to take time,” she says. “It won’t be a linear journey – there will be steps forward, steps back. The importance of senior support is fundamental – without that, there’s no way we could do this.”

In dealing with such big, strategic discussions, it was important to bring every staff member along as well.

“The changes we’re making can’t be made by the marketing team alone. Yes, we can most likely execute campaigns, but leading a business and driving for results is so much more,” Martens says. “Working cross-functionally, particularly with our operations partners, people and culture and commercial teams, is fundamentally critical to our success.”

Martens’ longer-term focus is to drive collaboration. “As marketers, we do have a responsibility to be as engaged in cross-functional discussion as we are in our own discussions around the brand,” she claims.

“We need to seek and understand the challenges the operations team, commercial teams and markets are facing. That also gives us further credibility.”

Grabbing the horns of growth and being a brand leader requires CMOs to have resilience, agility and the ability to juggle many things at once, Martens says. They also need commercial acumen – something that’s arguably still lacking across the wider marketing leadership spectrum globally. 

It’s vital to invest in learning too. Martens recently completed an Institute of Company Directors course to improve her financial and board-level clout to support her growing number of board roles.

Balancing the needs of shareholders with what can be achieved over a certain period of time is certainly one thing that can keep Martens awake at night. The second is her team.

“Ensuring they are being developed, engaged and supported as much as they need to be, is why I’m here in the morning and it’s one of the biggest parts of my role,” she concludes.