The shin­ing

In a ca­reer full of suc­cesses, lead­ing the trans­for­ma­tion project that brought to­gether the Na­tional Bank and ANZ was one of the sweet­est for Mike Cun­ning­ton.

New Zealand Marketing - - Contents -

Show­cas­ing New Zealand’s best mar­ket­ing ideas, strat­egy and ex­e­cu­tion with the win­ning en­tries from the TVNZ- NZ

Mar­ket­ing Awards.

They say the cus­tomer is al­ways right. And, as Griff in’s dis­cov­ered with the re­launch of Choco-ade bis­cuits, it pays to lis­ten to them.

It started as a Face­book page with a sim­ple re­quest: bring back Choco-ade bis­cuits, which were fa­mous in the ‘80s and deleted in the ‘90s. Grif­fin’s lis­tened and it cre­ated a mon­ster.

The re­launch of Choco-ade was the phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion of a big shift in Grif­fin’s mar­ket­ing strat­egy from “set and for­get” to “al­ways on”. And this strat­egy came about be­cause in 2010, the proudly Kiwi com­pany was un­der siege. A move to new pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties had re­sulted in in­con­sis­tent bis­cuit qual­ity, and the me­dia were hav­ing a field day with sto­ries of burnt Ginger­nuts and bro­ken Girl Guide bis­cuits, New Zealand con­sumers were start­ing to lose faith in the brand and sales were de­clin­ing.

Added to that, its Aus­tralian com­peti­tor Arnott’s, which was launch­ing more new prod­ucts at sharper prices and had a me­dia bud­get five times that of Grif­fin’s, was play­ing hard­ball. In con­trast, Grif­fin’s me­dia in­vest­ment and in­no­va­tion had been con­strained over the prior three years due to sup­ply and qual­ity is­sues dur­ing the com­mis­sion­ing of the new pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity.

The bis­cuit mar­ket in New Zealand is a ma­ture one, with 98 per­cent household pen­e­tra­tion and the sec­ond high­est per capita bis­cuit con­sump­tion in the

world. But con­sump­tion was de­clin­ing, con­sumers had been trained to buy on price and there was greater choice avail­able. As such, Grif­fin’s strat­egy is to drive value, rather than vol­ume, so it was time for a dif­fer­ent ap­proach that lever­aged its New Zealand brands, fos­tered in­no­va­tion and re­lied on best prac­tice mar­ket­ing.

Amongst all the pres­sure from con­sumers and the me­dia, Grif­fin’s mon­i­tor­ing of so­cial me­dia via the Ra­dian6 tool showed two key themes: 1) New Zealan­ders had an in­cred­i­bly strong at­tach­ment to Grif­fin’s bis­cuits and they cared enough about the brand to speak up about the is­sues. And 2) con­sumers were look­ing, ask­ing, and beg­ging for the re­turn of old favourites.

It also dis­cov­ered that so­cial dis­cov­ery had be­come a key in­flu­encer among its pri­mary mar­ket of fe­male household shop­pers. They were telling friends about what prod­ucts to try, buy, stay away from and where to get them. And there were over 660,000 fe­males aged 25-54 ac­tive on Face­book each week, mean­ing the plat­form was able to of­fer scale to achieve its busi­ness re­sults.

In­stead of us­ing tra­di­tional mar­ket re­search meth­ods to garner in­sights, Grif­fin’s in­stead used its own so­cial me­dia chan­nels, an ap­proach it be­lieves is emerg­ing best prac­tice and much more ef­fec­tive. These in­sights then drove the creation of the core brand idea: to recog­nise the power and in­flu­ence of con­sumers.

Rather than sim­ply telling sto­ries through tra­di­tional me­dia as it had in the past, it en­gaged, lis­tened and col­lab­o­rated with its cus­tomers and tried to give them a sense of own­er­ship. Cre­atively, this idea was ex­pressed by its agency As­sign­ment Group as ‘Dear Grif­fin’s’—and it was in­spired by the let­ters, phone calls and emails it reg­u­larly re­ceived from New Zealand bis­cuit lovers.

In 2011 ( with the qual­ity is­sues re­solved), it launched a TV cam­paign fea­tur­ing New Zealan­ders pos­ing ques­tions to Grif­fin’s. For ex­am­ple, “Dear Grif­fin’s — how many Choco­late Chips do you use in your Choco­late Chip­pies each year?” The query was al­ways re­sponded to ei­ther in the form of a new bis­cuit or a par­tic­u­lar fact that Grif­fin’s wanted to com­mu­ni­cate. Tele­vi­sion also played a vi­tal role in kick start­ing the con­ver­sa­tion be­tween bis­cuit lovers and Grif­fin’s on Face­book. And in year two of the cam­paign

Choco-ade was so pop­u­lar it achieved $1 mil­lion re­tail sales faster than any other prod­uct in New Zealand gro­cery his­tory, knock­ing the Avatar DVD off its perch.

it knew it needed to be more than a mar­ket­ing con­struct. It needed to de­liver on what New Zealan­ders were ask­ing for.

Through the Grif­fin’s Face­book page New Zealan­ders re­vealed hun­dreds of sug­ges­tions for new prod­ucts, gave trib­utes to their most- loved bis­cuits and asked for the re­turn of older favourites. When Grif­fin’s dis­cov­ered a Face­book page set up by Up­per Hutt woman Am­ber John­son en­ti­tled ‘ Get Grif­fin’s to Bring Back Choco- ade’ it saw some po­ten­tial. So it watched from afar to see what sort of in­ter­est it gen­er­ated. At the same time it com­menced a fea­si­bil­ity project to see if it could bake the bis­cuit again to the same taste, tex­ture and de­sign stan­dards, which wasn’t an easy task given it had to be done in a new fa­cil­ity, with new tech­nol­ogy, at higher speeds, and with min­i­mal cap­i­tal.

The page grew steadily, the bis­cuits passed the test and, know­ing it was cru­cial to have John­son’s sup­port, Grif­fin’s con­tacted her to see if she would help with the ‘Great Kiwi Come­back’.

To con­firm there was de­mand for the bis­cuit, it ran a poll on its Face­book page ask­ing fans to vote on bring­ing back Choco-ade. Within seven days, 15,000 votes were clocked up, enough to give it con­fi­dence that the idea was worth pur­su­ing. And, as it was im­per­a­tive that John­son’s sup­port­ers and Grif­fin’s fans knew it was their ac­tions that in­spired the re­turn of Choco- ade, it gave them own­er­ship.

Grif­fin’s also re­cruited a group it called VIBs, or Very Im­por­tant Bis­cuit eaters, who were se­lected not only for their love for Grif­fin’s brands and the ‘ 80s clas­sic, but also for their so­cial me­dia in­flu­ence. The VIBs were on hand to try sam­ples, com­ment on pack­ag­ing and be­came a part of the team. They then posted up­dates, let­ting the wider com­mu­nity know what was go­ing on, so they be­came so­cial ad­vo­cates for Choco-ade and helped build an­tic­i­pa­tion.

The Face­book post an­nounc­ing the re­turn reached 80,000 peo­ple in the first three hours and one mil­lion peo­ple within four days. It set a New Zealand Face­book record for en­gage­ment with over 23,700 likes (the cam­paign’s suc­cess has prompted Face­book to use it as a global best prac­tice case study). And the me­dia went mad for it. The Do­min­ion Post had John­son and her hus­band on the front page, Camp­bell Live ran a cou­ple of long sto­ries on the re­turn of the bis­cuit and it was a topic of con­ver­sa­tion on sev­eral ra­dio shows and the com­edy panel show 7 Days.

Through the power of nos­tal­gia—and com­mu­nity en­gage­ment—the re­launch turned Choco-ade into the na­tion’s most talked about bis­cuit and, all up, the PR earned more than $1 mil­lion worth of me­dia cov­er­age on launch day alone. As part of the PR strat­egy, the first of­fi­cial pack­ets were auc­tioned on TradeMe, with all pro­ceeds go­ing to Plun­ket, John­son’s cho­sen charity. Free packs were then sent to celebri­ties, again cho­sen for their so­cial me­dia in­flu­ence, and a pro­gramme called the ‘Great Grif­fin’s Morn­ing Tea work­place shout’ was launched where Grif­fin’s Face­book fans could nom­i­nate their work­place to win Choco-ades for morn­ing tea.

All this primed the pumps for mas­sive sales, all be­fore any of the tra­di­tional me­dia had aired. In its first week on shelves Choco-ade be­came the coun­try’s num­ber one sell­ing bis­cuit, with over 300,000 pack­ets sold, al­most twice that of the num­ber two. Grif­fin’s re­tail cus­tomers said they had never seen de­mand like it and it was so pop­u­lar it achieved $1 mil­lion of re­tail sales faster than any other prod­uct in New Zealand gro­cery his­tory, knock­ing the Avatar DVD off its perch. Not sur­pris­ingly, vol­ume and profit tar­gets were well and truly smashed.

Three weeks af­ter the launch, a ‘Dear Grif­fin’s’ TVC fea­tur­ing John­son was launched to tell the story of her per­sonal mis­sion to bring back the bis­cuit. Af­ter three months, Choco-ade was still the num­ber one sell­ing bis­cuit ($2.7m RSV), ex­ceed­ing Tof­feePops at $1.4m, and it had gained 11 per­cent value share of choco­late bis­cuits (vs. a tar­get of 2.1 per­cent).

Af­ter ten months it was still ranked in the top

five sell­ing bis­cuits. But in a world where pro­mo­tions rule, it was a trib­ute to the power of the cam­paign that the bis­cuits were sell­ing at full price, re­sult­ing in 140 per­cent price pre­mium to the to­tal sweet bis­cuits cat­e­gory. And, added to that, 24 per­cent of to­tal sales were in­cre­men­tal to the cat­e­gory.

By en­gag­ing with con­sumers di­rectly, Grif­fin’s gained richer in­sights and de­vel­oped a new prod­uct that Ki­wis not only wanted, but were pre­pared to pay a pre­mium for. So­cial me­dia al­lowed it to have more con­ver­sa­tions, about more of its prod­ucts, with more of its con­sumers, ev­ery sin­gle day, and at scale.

But Grif­fin’s showed it’s not just about lis­ten­ing, it’s about do­ing. And given the suc­cess of the Choco-ade re­launch, you can bet your bis­cuits it will con­tinue this very fruit­ful di­a­logue with the coun­try.


Mike Cun­ning­ton’s ca­reer in mar­ket­ing spans over 20 years, two con­ti­nents and both sides of the client agency di­vide. But de­spite plenty of suc­cess in his pre­vi­ous roles, 2012 still ranks as one of his bet­ter years.

He was head of mar­ket­ing in the UK Labour Party for nine years, and his ten­ure cul­mi­nated in the elec­tion of Tony Blair in 1997, the party’s first win in 23 years. Fol­low­ing this he moved agency side, help­ing Prox­im­ity Lon­don grow into one of the UK’s lead­ing multi-dis­ci­plinary agen­cies and, af­ter em­i­grat­ing to New Zealand around ten years ago, he con­tin­ued this role in the Auck­land of­fice, be­fore join­ing ANZ as head of mar­ket­ing in 2007.

An un­der­stand­ing of data and what drives peo­ple has been at the heart of all his big­gest suc­cesses. And this was clearly ev­i­dent in what was ar­guably his big­gest and most com­plex chal­lenge: the merger of the well-loved Na­tional Bank brand with the less well-loved ANZ brand.

He says the process be­gan around two years be­fore the merger. The dis­cus­sions evolved, a date was set and a four- pronged strat­egy— pre­pare, an­nounce, re­as­sure, ex­cite— was de­vised by the mar­ket­ing team and even­tu­ally taken up by the rest of the busi­ness.

Banks are good at analysing risk. It’s their bread and but­ter. And a cen­tral com­po­nent of Cun­ning­ton’s ap­proach was to es­tab­lish a team ded­i­cated to help­ing him man­age the merger project and see what the re­sponse was likely to be—from cus­tomers and com­peti­tors—so it could plan ac­cord­ingly. This re­quired a metic­u­lous pro­gramme of re­search, draft­ing ad­ver­tis­ing con­cepts, more re­search, ad­vanced me­dia plan­ning and yet more re­search.

It was clear that Na­tional Bank cus­tomers par­tic­u­larly would not like the merger and the per­cep­tion was that this de­ci­sion would lead to job losses,

You’ll get sick of what you’re say­ing be­fore the cus­tomers even no­tice you’re say­ing any­thing.

branch clo­sures and an even­tual de­crease in ser­vice. And to make things even more dif­fi­cult, leg­is­la­tion re­stricted ANZ from let­ting its two mil­lion cus­tomers and 9,000 staff know about the im­pend­ing change be­fore it went pub­lic. This meant the first 72 hours were crit­i­cal and a lot of time and effort went into get­ting the right mes­sages out across as many touch­points as pos­si­ble.

“The first thing we needed to do was tell cus­tomers why it wasn’t go­ing to be worse be­fore we could tell them it was go­ing to be bet­ter.”

The mar­ket­ing strat­egy was set up in a way that al­layed the func­tional con­cerns of cus­tomers but also ad­dressed the emo­tional side of things with mes­sages that showed how the new and im­proved ANZ would bring to­gether the ‘Power of Two’.

Cun­ning­ton also had to lead one of the largest be­low- the- line com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­grammes ever un­der­taken in New Zealand. One mil­lion ANZ cus­tomers had to be mi­grated onto a new sys­tem and new prod­ucts. And one mil­lion Na­tional Bank cus­tomers had to be told their bank would be turn­ing blue. While he ad­mits suc­cess­fully dis­patch­ing 1.2 mil­lion emails and 500,000 eDMs within two hours post an­nounce­ment was a mas­sive chal­lenge, he kept telling his team that it was the kind of work they did all the time. Un­like the tech­nol­ogy team, which mi­grated ANZ cus­tomers to the Na­tional Bank sys­tem, it didn’t have to learn new ways of work­ing. It just had to work at scale and pace.

As the quote goes, cul­ture eats strat­egy for break­fast. Cun­ning­ton knew it was ANZ’s game to lose, rather than the com­peti­tors’ game to win, and a big part of win­ning was to get staff to be­lieve in the change.

“If they were con­vinced, they would con­vince the cus­tomers. The plan­ning was more for our own peo­ple so we could say ‘you should ex­pect this’, rather than leav­ing our front­line ex­posed.”

He says cul­ture also benefits from a chal­lenge. Hav­ing a “bi­nary event like this that could ei­ther go well or go badly” gal­vanised the busi­ness and gave all the var­i­ous de­part­ments mo­ti­va­tion to em­brace the idea of a suc­cess­ful trans­for­ma­tion, stick to the strat­egy and ex­e­cute their roles bril­liantly.

“The big­ger an or­gan­i­sa­tion gets the more it is fo­cused in­ter­nally and on manag­ing those con­flicts be­tween de­part­ments. Hav­ing some­thing ex­ter­nal like this gets you fo­cused on the right things: out­comes for the cus­tomers. It’s an easy thing to say, but it’s hard to do. And for ANZ, it’s about keep­ing that mind­set go­ing.”

Those who are at­tracted to this in­dus­try are of­ten at­tracted to change. Cun­ning­ton is no dif­fer­ent. He thor­oughly en­joyed the chal­lenge of the trans­for­ma­tion project (he has re­cently taken up a role as deputy com­mis­sioner at the In­land Rev­enue Depart­ment in the In­for­ma­tion, In­tel­li­gence and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions depart­ment and, with a huge IT project in the wings, he says this role will be sim­i­larly trans­for­ma­tive). But he is also a believer in con­sis­tency. Much of the creative work for the cam­paign was fairly sim­ple and kept drum­ming home key mes­sages. He ad­mits it’s tempt­ing to change those mes­sages, or the style of them. But he thinks over­in­flat­ing a brand’s im­por­tance in cus­tomers’ lives and con­stantly look­ing for “the new and ex­cit­ing is where [the in­dus­try] of­ten falls down”. As he says: “You’ll get sick of what you’re say­ing be­fore the cus­tomers even no­tice you’re say­ing any­thing. They’ve got plenty of other things to worry about. So you have to say it of­ten.”

In his view, mar­keters and their agen­cies are not suf­fi­ciently fo­cused on the com­mer­cial re­al­i­ties of busi­ness, be­cause if it isn’t go­ing to be good for the busi­ness, it’s not a good idea for a pro­mo­tion or an ad cam­paign. And this is why he be­lieves mar­ket­ing some­times strug­gles to get a place at the board­room ta­ble.

“As mar­keters we need to be harder in our think­ing, and have more com­mer­cial acu­men. The great thing about New Zealand is that you can get stuff done. There’s not as much of a food chain. But be­cause of this, I’m not sure whether we’ve got the dis­ci­pline to do the right thing, and to put more rigour around it.”

There was cer­tainly no short­age of rigour for this project. And the re­sults have vin­di­cated that effort, with brand aware­ness up sig­nif­i­cantly, a small num­ber of cus­tomer de­fec­tions, and brand im­age mea­sures strength­ened across the board (read more about the cam­paign on page 28).

“I can gen­uinely say I wouldn’t have had the balls to stand up in front of the board, re­mind them of what we were plan­ning to do with the two brands and tell them that it would look like this in 12 months. It worked bet­ter than any­one dared to pre­dict. These things play out over four or five years, not just one. But for most peo­ple it’s just some­thing that’s hap­pened and they’ve moved on.”

Cun­ning­ton’s ex­cel­lent lead­er­ship and his faith in the strat­egy en­abled his team to ex­e­cute the project bril­liantly. And as a re­sult, ANZ con­founded the scep­tics, im­pressed its cus­tomers and gave its busi­ness a fan­tas­tic long- term foun­da­tion for growth.

As his ex- col­league and head of re­tail mar­ket­ing Matt Pick­er­ing sums up: “Colin Pow­ell de­fines good lead­ers as great sim­pli­fiers. That de­fines Mike’s lead­er­ship style. Last year he took a com­plex sit­u­a­tion, sim­pli­fied it into some­thing achiev­able and em­pow­ered his team to de­liver.”

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