Horse’s Mouth

Spark’s Sarah Wil­liams on the brand’s evo­lu­tion into me­dia.

New Zealand Marketing - - Contents -

In the wake of Spark se­cur­ing the rights to bring New Zealan­ders the Rugby World Cup 2019 with TVNZ, head of brand, communications and ex­pe­ri­ence Sarah Wil­liams fills us in how the telco has evolved into more than a broad­band, land­line and mo­bile ser­vices provider through its in­vest­ments in mu­sic, en­ter­tain­ment, video and cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences. On how Spark sees it­self

SARAH: The way I see it is we are not just a provider of broad­band, land­line and mo­bile ser­vices any­more. That’s our foun­da­tion and we will ab­so­lutely con­tinue to do that as well, but we also want to be in a po­si­tion where we can pro­vide great en­ter­tain­ment and ser­vices over the con­nec­tiv­ity we pro­vide, and both of those ex­am­ples are ex­ten­sions of that.

On its in­vest­ment in mu­sic

SARAH: The in­vest­ment in mu­sic is a big fo­cus for Spark and some­thing we know our cus­tomers re­ally love and value – it’s re­ally cen­tral to emo­tional mo­ments of con­nec­tion that we share with loved ones.

Bring­ing Spark mo­bile and Spo­tify to­gether fuses mu­sic and tech­nol­ogy, which is re­ally im­por­tant as tech­nol­ogy is our core of­fer­ing. We fo­cus on us­ing tech­nol­ogy to bring cus­tomers closer to amaz­ing mu­sic ex­pe­ri­ences.

We also work re­ally closely with Live Na­tion and some of the la­bels to de­liver exclusive cus­tomer op­por­tu­ni­ties and they come in the form of meet and greets, pri­vate con­certs and live stream­ing of events.

I think the rea­son we do this is we be­lieve we re­ally need to earn the priv­i­lege of be­ing in a space like mu­sic that our cus­tomers re­ally care about. That means you can’t just ben­e­fit from the mu­sic in­dus­try, you’ve also got to be very much in there and sup­port­ing it as well.

On cre­at­ing Spark Arena

SARAH: It was an in­ter­est­ing one for us. As an iconic Kiwi brand, we were re­ally ex­cited to part­ner with what we saw as be­ing an iconic Kiwi mu­sic venue – it’s a great way for us to show our com­mit­ment to the mu­sic in­dus­try.

We’re re­ally proud to have our name on the side of that venue but also our tech­nol­ogy in­side it, start­ing with the free Wifi for all vis­i­tors. We are look­ing to do even more in that space with the launch of things like the cus­tomer space that Spark cus­tomers can get ac­cess to.

On win­ning the Rugby World Cup rights with TVNZ

SARAH: Win­ning the Rugby World Cup rights is def­i­nitely an ex­ten­sion of our goal to pro­vide New Zealan­ders with the best en­ter­tain­ment - we know how much Ki­wis love their sport so it’s very much a nat­u­ral ex­pan­sion for us.

Spark is go­ing to be of­fer­ing New Zealan­ders a choice about which games they watch, how they watch them, and where or when they watch them.

Op­tions will in­clude every­thing from full tour­na­ment passes and passes for in­di­vid­ual games, and there will be pack­ages we will find out about in due time.

You won’t have to be a Spark cus­tomer to watch the World Cup, we will be stream­ing games over an app which will be avail­able to all New Zealan­ders and com­pat­i­ble with a range of de­vices.

What it al­lows us to pro­vide is a lot more flex­i­bil­ity in terms of peo­ple be­ing able to turn up and watch what they want and when they want to watch it, as op­posed to fall­ing in line with one per­son’s idea of pro­gram­ming.

Watch this space for more to come.

On of­fer­ing both Net­flix and Light­box

SARAH: We see the two ser­vices as very much com­pli­men­tary in that both of­fer exclusive con­tent.

I think the days are long gone where we can chose one way to watch con­tent or even one plat­form to watch it on. These days many peo­ple sub­scribe to a real range of dif­fer­ent en­ter­tain­ment ser­vices and I think the re­al­ity is that no one con­tent provider can cap­ture all the con­tent avail­able to­day.

By bring­ing Net­flix and Light­box un­der the same roof, we are try­ing to make it eas­ier for our cus­tomers to ac­cess the con­tent that they re­ally want to watch and when they want to watch it.

On part­ner­ing up

SARAH: When any com­pany wants to ex­tend into new ar­eas of busi­ness they have the choice to build, buy or part­ner. In our case, we are mov­ing away from be­ing a tra­di­tional provider of tele­phone lines and broad­band con­nec­tion alone to be­com­ing a busi­ness that brings new Zealan­ders the best con­tent in the world and as a re­sult, we’ve de­cided to part­ner with some of the best en­ter­tain­ment brands in the world.

It’s a real win-win for us and the part­ner. We get to have a much deeper re­la­tion­ship with our cus­tomers and the part­ner also gets to have a deeper re­la­tion­ship with the lo­cal New Zealand mar­ket, es­pe­cially when you are part­ner­ing with these big­ger off­shore brands – Spo­tify is a re­ally good ex­am­ple of this.

On mak­ing the com­mit­ment

SARAH: I don’t know plain sail­ing ever ex­ists in the world we live in. I think when you go into part­ner­ship with these other brands you have to go in know­ing that there are al­ways go­ing to be bumps in the road and there are al­ways go­ing to be points of ne­go­ti­a­tion, but you go into it as a part­ner.

If you are com­mit­ted to a long-term part­ner­ship, then you find your way around these things and I think we’ve been re­ally suc­cess­ful in that we’ve com­mit­ted to some re­ally big and some long-term part­ner­ships which are re­ally pay­ing off for Spark cus­tomers.

On stand­ing out in the mar­ket

SARAH: Dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion is great, that’s what we seek to get. You can start to see other tra­di­tional tel­cos and me­dia com­pa­nies are look­ing to change things as well as in other sec­tors, like en­ergy.

You start to see a lot more the line be­tween how a tra­di­tional me­dia com­pany is be­ing eroded in all kinds of di­rec­tions and I guess an ex­am­ple is Face­book – is it a chan­nel or a me­dia com­pany? I’m not sure we can make those clear dis­tinc­tions any more.

For me it makes it more crit­i­cal to be a liked and trusted brand so you have more chance of be­ing ac­cepted with these new of­fer­ings.

On trans­lat­ing the jour­ney in its mar­ket­ing

SARAH: We have a three lay­ered ap­proach to what we do which all spring­boards off our ‘Lit­tle Can Be Huge’ brand plat­form.

The first layer of what we do is around sto­ry­telling around emo­tional mo­ments, while the sec­ond layer is around cre­at­ing amaz­ing brand ex­pe­ri­ences through tech­nol­ogy, and the third and fi­nal layer is around win­ning the bat­tle ground - which is where our core of­fer­ing re­ally comes into play.

What you can see from our part­ner­ship and en­ter­tain­ment ac­tiv­ity is that our mar­ket­ing ex­tends across all three of those lay­ers. For ex­am­ple, for emo­tional sto­ry­telling the ‘Lit­tle Can Be Huge’ cam­paign sees an older cou­ple danc­ing to the Spo­tify mu­sic and tak­ing them­selves back in time, and when you move into brand ex­pe­ri­ence it’s things like the arena. More re­cently we were do­ing a disco light up dance floor with Spo­tify at the Bright Nights Fes­ti­val.

Then you get into the third layer, which is what we call ‘win­ning the bat­tle­ground’. It’s where it all comes to­gether in terms of comms that give you the rea­son to be with Spark - with Net­flix, Spo­tify and our other part­ners.

On its au­di­ence

SARAH: We cer­tainly are a big com­pany with a di­verse range of of­fer­ings right through, from our land­line cus­tomers to the very early adopters who are pick­ing up all of our new part­ner­ships. We have to re­flect what New Zealand is be­cause that’s the brand we are.

On lis­ten­ing to that au­di­ence

SARAH: It’s hugely im­por­tant. Noth­ing that we do is for Spark alone, it’s got to be for a cus­tomer out­come so you have to go into these things know­ing ide­ally what it is cus­tomers are look­ing for.

You mon­i­tor in many ways – whether that’s through re­search, through con­nec­tions or who is sign­ing up for these things – and that gives you a fairly good in­di­ca­tion of whether you are hit­ting the right marks or not. We are in con­stant con­tact with our cus­tomers and we are con­stantly look­ing to im­prove so we bring them into our con­ver­sa­tion reg­u­larly and as early as we can.

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