Aside from one small and entertaining Cupertino Effect-related glitch and some criticism of the Thanks reward scheme, most would agree the Spark rebrand went extremely smoothly given how big it was. And it's continuing its quest for the hearts and minds of younger Aucklanders—and keeping with the trend towards creating experiences rather than just running ads—with the launch of Spark Lab, a new innovation and ideas workshop in Britomart.
The purpose-built space, located in a floor of the historic Seafarers Building, was a collaboration between Spark and Shine, which, in additiohttp://www.seafarers.co.nz/spark-labn to its advertising business, has a growing hospitality empire.
The opening month will focus on music, with 20 curated events planned throughout November. Each month it will focus on a specific discipline with a series of curated events on topics like fashion, art, technology, design, photography, film making and architecture that will see leading figures giving talks, holding workshops, hosting seminars and running hack sessions.
The music line-up ranges from show and tells by Fat Freddy’s Drop founder DJ Fitchie (Spark customers only) and hip hop star Che Fu to songwriting workshops, performances, and talks from local heavy hitters including Lorde’s manager Scott McLaughlin, major record label heads and Flying Fish's James Moore.
Participation is not limited to industry newcomers or to Spark customers, although there are a couple of customer-only events. Tickets to Spark Lab events can be booked online.
Arnna Conroy, senior brand and content marketing manager at Spark, says the space is a physical manifestation of its 'never stop starting' slogan and while she wouldn't discuss how much it has invested in the space, she believes the impact it will have in supporting innovation in New Zealand and getting young New Zealanders to come in and be inspired will be "great value for money".
She says the schedule of events is intended to get the attention of its new target market by creating a space that's "centredaround things we know our customers and non-customers love and care about". But there won't be much media spend around it, she says, with a big focus on owned and earned media to spread the word.
This is another example of Spark moving away from traditional media and creating utility. And while she says there will always be a place for traditional media, she says there needs to be more than just "bombarding people with messages".
She points to Tech in a Sec as a good example of that evolution. While there is plenty of TV space bought to promote that masthead, it's working very well as a digital content campaign as thousands of people—including her—go online and learn about how they can benefit from technology.
"It's a different way of working. There were a few raised eyebrows and question marks at the start. But the proof is in the pudding. We need to engage with customers in a different way."
As for the rebrand, two months later and she says the sense inside the business was that it was very successful given the scale–and the potential for things to go wrong.
"When you do a rebrand for a company of our size, it's massive. Even changing out every word from Telecom to Spark is big. I think it went surprisingly well and the anecdotal feedback is that people are starting to sit up and take notice."
She says the momentum started a year or so before the name change with free wifi, free 4G and free Spotify so "they were primed and ready" for Spark.
Recently, it headed of to Vodafone's heartland in South Auckland.