Z Energy’s ‘Good in the Hood’, which let its workers and customers help choose the charities the business supports, made its brand promise a reality.
When Z was launched in 2011 following the biggest piece of industry-specific research done in a decade, the key insight was that “New Zealand companies should support local”.
The problem is that fuel is a grudge purchase in a commoditised market and, on the whole, consumers are unengaged with service station brands. In fact, there is a high level of distrust of fuel companies and a lot of skepticism around their actions. Add in some intense price fighting, the popularity of discounts on coupons and fuel dockets, loyalty schemes like Fly Buys and AA Smartfuel and the influence of convenience in petrol-buying behaviour, and finding a way to bring its brand promise of ‘Z is for New Zealand’ to life and differentiate itself from its price-focused competition was going to be difficult.
In the quest for efficiency and control, most corporates centralise their sponsorship activities. They might put their name on a stadium, or get behind a big project. But one of Z’s five brand pillars is ‘Live Neighbourhood’ and adhering to this meant decentralising control, which takes a huge amount of trust and is more complicated to implement. This local focus is one of its major points of difference and the company has a strong belief that a strong brand will ultimately lead to greater loyalty and bigger market share. So Z needed to find a way to contribute to things that mattered to local people.
The concept of ‘Good in the Hood’ was born out of a much smaller project where Z celebrated its arrival in a neighbourhood by donating $5,000 to local community projects. This scheme showed that having a local focus but amplifying it nationally was hugely successful, so it basically made it bigger and better. After all, good neighbours are good neighbours every day of the year, not just for a few months of the year.
To be truly relevant, however, it left the decisions on who or what to support in the hands of the retailers, staff and customers in that neighbourhood. The scheme wasn’t about beating its own chest. It was simply about allowing it to happen and then basking in the reflected glow.
Each site had $5,000 to give to neighbourhood groups. And to put the call out for applications, Z used Fly Buys eDMs, social, online, onsite and local media. It also sent emails to charities inviting them to participate.
After selecting four groups to support, retailers and staff formed relationships with the groups and other offers of support were made. Z knew that it had to be about more than just donating money. While the initial campaign was just that, it also provided retailers with a platform to extend this further. This meant they were free to choose how they ‘Live Neighbourhood’ under the ‘Good in the Hood’ banner, including the donation of staff time, giving space at service stations for fundraising activities, free product or anything else they could think of.
Each purchase earned customers an orange token and they voted for their favoured group by dropping it into a clear perspex voting box instore. The greater the share of tokens, the greater the share of money the group received.
The call for voting was an invitation to do ‘Good in your Hood’ using TV, digital and social. Thousands of people also hunted for tokens in the online Token Hunt. Game play drove participation and a deeper understanding of the story using hidden content, unlockable tokens and prizes. It helped cement the narrative ‘one good turn deserves another’, and the top ten groups online received an extra $500 each.
Toolboxes were created for retailers to help community groups engage with their own audiences, proposing ideas like community car washes, morning tea shouts or using sites as collections points. It also provided posters, social media tips, example tweets and Facebook posts to help groups spread the word to supporters.
The next phase communicated the results and completed the story. Cheques were presented to neighbourhood groups at local events held by each station. Some even chose to top up the donations themselves so no group received less than $1,000. And the narrative was continued via TVC and online, focusing on how the funds had benefitted some of the groups.
Throughout the process, the comms strategy was based around combining hi-fi media (such as digital, gamification, TV and radio) with lo-fi media (such as voting boxes, community notice boards, local press) to deliver a sense of authenticity and scale.
By being true to Z’s original consumer insight around being local, the programme increased awareness, preference and usage for Z and raised the profile of its commitment to neighbourhoods. It also helped it maintain its position as market share leader, despite intense price competition. The number of what it calls Raving Fans—people who love Z and in turn become Z advocates—hit its peak during the programme, which gave the members and supporters of 600 neighbourhood groups an opportunity to appreciate Z’s support by actively promoting the brand via word of mouth and using Z stations over and above competitors.
Z received its best-ever social media results, with 31,000 social shares and 10,000 social referrals on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. In addition, over 500,000 people saw unpaid media coverage for Good in the Hood and over 23 local papers carried coverage, which is testament to the relationships retailers developed with local media in their neighbourhoods.
The programme provided value to New Zealanders over and above a pricing war at the pump. It elevated conversations with customers from a transactional focus, it affirmed Z’s New Zealand-owned credentials and it created a big business difference.