Melissa Hopkins of Optus on the Renewed Power of Marketing, Research Share and Rebranding During COVID-19
Optus, a leading Australian telecommunications company, has made the decision to relaunch its brand amid a global pandemic. Marketing Director Melissa Hopkins speaks with Gabey Goh of ARM for Marketer’s Toolkit 2021 on Whether Marketers Should Reset Their C-Suite Value, Lessons Learned From Adopting A Platform unified measurement and the problem of new growth measures.
How have the developments of the year impacted your marketing operations and strategies?
I think the change has been massive. Particularly for us, because we were planned and continued to relaunch a great brand in the midst of COVID-19. But I guess for us two things: It forced us to become more innovative and creative, and it also forced us to really think seriously about the consumer moment that our brand is in.
It is not only the strongest of the strongest who survive, it is those who are willing to adapt, change and grow, especially in times of adversity. This is really what we had to do as a team. We are lucky that the service we offer has been a critical infrastructure in keeping Australians connected during this time.
Our ambition before COVID was to become a “fabric” brand in Australia and create a love for the brand, which is often a challenge for telecom operators. I think COVID just forced us to focus more on this. I firmly believe that brands are created and can thrive in a crisis and there are some very strong examples of what has happened in the past.
I think that, if played well, the role of the marketing team is one of the most important in the whole organization, [especially] in partnership with the management team. Because they are – more than ever – desperate to hear what is happening with consumers. We should see this as a huge opportunity to reset the value that marketers play in this boardroom.
- Business leaders are desperate to hear what’s going on with consumers and the industry should see this as a huge opportunity to reset the value marketers play in the boardroom.
- Marketing needs to be recognized as the engine of growth and handled that way as it is naive to assume that you can just ask for a budget as it is going to get even more difficult in the years to come without really being able to demonstrate this. return.
- The biggest marketing challenge will be finding a genuine and distinctive role in consumers’ lives and avoiding being part of a ‘sea of sameness’.
The pandemic has forced many brands to seek new and creative ways to engage with homebound consumers. What do you think is the best way to approach this challenge?
Number one is consistency. Number two is having a purpose and a reason for being there in the first place. There are many examples where, at the onset of COVID, brands created havoc. I use the example of a linen maker, where if he emailed me one more time about how he kept me together and supported me with his 600 thread count sheets … I wanted to scold them ! Some [brands] has just entered into complete over-communication.
We started these things that we called ‘COVID quick facts’ every week, which gave us a sense of how Australians feel, their index of normalcy, their concerns and their pilots – good or bad – in our category. It created so many strong ideas for us. The fact that we have done this weekly and been able to power things up and get some views has been incredibly helpful for [terms of] how we rotated.
Each country handles this differently. You have to be very careful to fully appreciate and understand the market you are operating in and how they feel.
Optus recently moved to a unified marketing measurement platform with the goal of implementing a solution that supports data-driven media modeling through all offline and online channels. How did this new platform help the team?
This is helped massively because it is a tool that can determine the profitability of a sale. So instead of just attributing media expenses to a sale, we can determine by product line what our gross margin is. In these times, it provides vital evidence to protect our budgets, which is extremely important.
The other thing he was able to do is, with particular messages, start to demonstrate which channels are actually better and how that has changed and shifted. It has been helpful to us. Setting up in 12 months was record time as these things can often take two or three years. We built the stack in-house, in Australia, but we have over 300 data points that are ingested into this model.
We are renowned for our strong creativity, but [are now] able to combine that with the power that data can bring. The whole ambition is that we no longer want to be seen as a cost center, we wanted to be recognized as the engine of growth. And we think we have to handle it that way and it’s naive to assume that you can just ask for a budget and I think it’s going to get even more difficult with a lot of shareholders over the next few years, without you really being able to. demonstrate this return.
Any key lessons learned in the process, if you could go back and start all over?
Yes, install it in the US, not Australia! We designed it to be GDPR compliant up front, which was extremely important to us. In Australia we have an added complexity where we have the Telecommunications Act which adds another layer of privacy requirements on top of any other normal organization.
I think we’ve made a wise investment in bringing an outside legal advisor into the integration of this because in the future it needs to be privacy and data compliant. Because of its sophistication, we wanted to be extremely careful with the data we used – not just from our own customers, but other customers coming in. involved from the start, because they did a spectacular job building this thing with us, so it’s waterproof. But we probably wasted some time having to go around how it works.
I think we thought it would be easier than it was. There have been a lot of painful, governance-building meetings with regulators, including our own internal regulators. It was worth it, but there was certainly more time spent making sure it was completely robust and having to travel around a lot of people who don’t understand marketing. For example, people who say “but you can’t retarget people with an ad” and it’s kind of like “this is the base of the guys on the google platform, it’s been happening for years”. So it was a big education process.
Media platforms and channels becoming entangled in geopolitical tensions have certainly been a problem this year, especially with TikTok – from a deeper scrutiny in markets, including Australia, to an outright ban in India. How do you and the team manage these risks?
We have an amazing direct partnership with TikTok and the first thing is we would never get involved in a platform where we thought the data was being misused or not responsible. In addition, for us, we try to be authentic on the platform. So we launched hashtag challenges – the strategy is different.
I guess the biggest question and challenge around TikTok, and a lot of noise, is just looking at Google and Facebook as massive platforms and how they work. The transparency that TikTok provides to major platforms like Google and Facebook is much more.
Google is an extremely important partner for us, where we spend a substantial amount of our media [budget] from search to YouTube to view. They have probably – in Australia too – recently had more challenges.
I think you don’t put all of your eggs in one basket with these new vendors. With tech companies, there will always be a vision of their political nature. If we believe someone’s data – or the way businesses operate – is compromising our integrity, we’ll remove it, but we’ve had similar issues with Google in the past where we’ve shown ads against speeches by hate or racism and we had to change all of our brand lists around that.
I’m probably a little more relaxed because we are testing and learning and not throwing all of our eggs in one basket.
There is a new school of thought on the importance of “search share” as a measure of brand growth versus share of voice. How do you see this discussion?
We take advantage of it, but like everything, I don’t think it’s either one or the other and you have to seek to balance that. You can also argue, as an example, that just using share of voice for investing can also be dangerous. I like a metric I call “impact share,” which is maybe a little harder to measure.
My biggest competitor Telstra’s media spend is three times that of ours and they also have over 12,000 branded phone booths across the country. So their share of voice is definitely more important than ours, but we have been judged and rewarded for being more efficient and effective.
The search portion is interesting, but organic search goes up and down based on a whole host of reasons: how AdWords is treated on people’s websites, people’s SEO strategies versus their SEM strategies. So we absolutely use it as a benchmark and that’s important to us, but that’s not how we would determine the full success of our brand.
It goes back to the early days of share research. We used to say you can buy clicks to any website. We don’t even measure clicks anymore – that’s where they come in, level two or level three. It’s my same challenge with share of voice. Lots of brands can scream and you know they exist, but that doesn’t mean people are acting on them. So we’re probably bigger on the impact part.
One that I would like to measure is the “share of results”, and this is probably where you need to take all of those ingredients to build it.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge or issue facing marketers in all industries and markets in 2021?
I would say it’s finding a way to play a genuine and distinctive role in the lives of consumers. It’s number one for me. There is too much imitation communications going on right now and there is a risk of falling into an ocean of sameness. The biggest challenge is how to stay authentic, relevant and distinctive?