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Looking at direct through a digital lens

Think ‘direct marketing’ and what comes to mind? If it’s personalised mail and email you’re not wrong, but in the context of our digital world, that list gets even longer. New Zealanders spend 14 hours a week on the internet, and Chemistry Interaction is harnessing that to help its clients connect with customers at a one-to-one level and create value out of those conversations.

By StopPress Team | April 19, 2017 | Sponsored content

Walking through the corridors that lead into Chemistry’s office, it’s clear the agency takes a strategic approach to its problem solving as the white walls feature rainbow decals that point you in the right direction. ‘You’re almost there’ the walls read, before you find yourself in a room of its 24 team members with directors Mike Larmer and Joseph Silk sitting among them.

The pair started Chemistry four years ago with Pat Murphy and Susan Young, creative directors, and have since built up a “Blue Chip” list of clients looking for support to connect with and retain customers.

And though that may seem like the work of a direct agency, something neither deny they are, in today’s expanding and fragmenting media environment, it’s not a strict definition of their work. Instead, they go by the term ‘direct-digital’.

“So many people who control budgets have a negative perception of direct because they think, ‘ah, direct, you mean you do junk mail,” Larmer says, before pointing out 

Creative solutions

Larmer and Silk say the inclusion of digital into a client’s marketing mix means the creative ways to make connections with customers has never been more varied, but that doesn’t mean a wacky idea for a video. Instead they say creativity is a combination of art and science.

Chemistry will start with a business problem and go through a strategic process to solve it before it gets near a brief for a creative team.

“For us the art and science of creativity is the science of understanding pain points, user experience and what works, aligned with a creative component that takes all of that and positions the customer journey in an incredibly novel, interesting way,” Larmer says.

He gives the example of Uber, because while it doesn’t look particularly creative, it has addressed very real pain points to create a user experience that is both elegant and works impeccably.

“Uber just looked at everybody’s pain points in getting a taxi and said: We’re going to remove all of those in a seamless solution which means you don’t have to stand in the rain waving down a cab.” Larmer says. 

The four shareholders left to right: creative director Susan Young, creative director Patrick Murphy, director Mike Larmer and director Joseph Silk

Hitting the target

In order to make connections with the right customers in the right way, Chemistry works with partners that can pull in different data sources to help it attain the insights it needs, and Silk says the current energy surrounding creative data has made the task easier than ever.

“The excitement for us is now we can target you with a lot more knowledge, so your halo’s suddenly got a lot bigger for us than in the past when we hit one or two data sources.”

Careful not to over complicate it, Larmer uses me as an example, by convincing me to buy health insurance. Rather than listing all the benefits of it, to which I, along with many New Zealanders, would have zoned out, he assumed my age, relationship status, lifestyle and career to tell me specifically why I needed it.

After only 10 minutes at Chemistry, he had me figured and sold me life insurance based on my loss of hands. If I had no hands, not only would I not be able to drive to work, I wouldn’t be able to type and my career as a journalist would be as good as over.

Health by Sovereign campaign

Case in point

Possibly a better example of how customer specific Chemistry can make a campaign is ‘Health by Sovereign’, which it rolled out last year.

The insurance company was the market leader for life insurance, but its health insurance had minimal market share. In order to make people take its offering seriously, it teamed up with Chemistry to help New Zealanders live a healthier lifestyle. It started with a nationwide survey, which revealed New Zealanders’ health age is, on average, two years older than their chronological age.

With this information, it encourages New Zealanders to sign up to Sovereign Health Insurance and be rewarded for behaviour that supports a healthy lifestyle and reduction of their health age.

Members receive a discount on Fitbit trackers and gyms, so every time they work out, do a fresh food shop or get a health related check- up, Sovereign aggregates the data and translates it into ‘health points’. In return, members earn annual cash-backs, so the healthier they are, the less they pay for their insurance.

In the first four months, 70 percent of the annual policyholder enrolment target had been achieved, policy sales were up 53 percent and insurance quote requests were up 45 percent.

Not only are Sovereign’s results successful, Larmer calls it a great example of what Chemistry is all about. Sovereign had a problem, Chemistry pitched a strategic idea and then turned it into a creative launch with an above-the-line campaign. 

Always on

Rather than waiting for a client or brief to come in, Silk and Larmer say we’re “always on” for our clients because we understand the average marketing client only spends10 percent of time dealing with agencies, while the other 90 percent is given to internal priorities.

Because of this, Chemistry initiates many of the conversations it has with clients and the teamwork to deliver a continuous feed of ideas—even if they aren’t always acted on.

“No client will fire their agency because they have a tonne of ideas, but the reverse is true again and again,” Silk says, adding he and Larmer insure they’re never missing in action when the client needs them.

“I think the point of difference for us is we have made a conscious decision to be in the business, on the tools, and with our clients on a daily basis.” 

Following their instincts

We’ve coined the phrase “Joined up thinking,” adds Larmer. “We use it to describe our approach to working with our clients. It means we apply our smarts in a way that connects the client’s business pain points with the customer experience applying a strategic view on how media channel, technology and data can advance its objectives. It’s an approach that has fueled our growth from day one and now we are beginning to get recognised for it."

Our performance at the recent NZDM Awards would testify to this as we picked up a record 16 awards across five clients for every aspect of our work – from strategy to creative craft."

Also setting Chemistry apart from many other agencies is the fact it doesn’t have a bigger offshore office to report to. All the ideas and direction come out of its Westhaven office, a characteristic Larmer and Silk credit to giving the agency the freedom to pave a path that best suits the relationship it has with a client. “If we want to spend two weeks on a client or a prospect, then that’s what we’ll do. We don’t need the CFO to go, that’s a lot of money,” Silk says. “It’s why we gave up network agency roles – we wanted to be working with clients, not managing Australia or New York,” adds Larmer.

In Chemistry, the team has the ability to do what it instinctively knows is right, even if that means investing unpaid time to better the relationship in the future.

“I think it’d be fair to say that we’re playing the long game,” says Silk. "It’s our client list and our agency culture that we’re proudest of."

We always wanted to be an agency that worked with clients that really valued us and whether it’s Samsung, Contact Energy, AMI and State, Sovereign, helloworld, Life Pharmacy or Unichem - they’re all really successful brands and they’ve chosen us, and that makes coming into work a lot of fun.” 

Contact: Director Mike Larmer + 021 277 1345, + 09 300 0500, mike@chemistryinteraction.co.nz 

  • This story is part of a content partnership with Chemistry Interaction.

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