Z has finished the massive task of rebranding more than 200 Shell station forecourts, and it's ramping up the patriotism once again for the next stage in its evolution with a new campaign from Assignment Group and Exposure starring some financially savvy youngsters.
"The key point of difference is that Z is New Zealand owned and the profits stay here, rather than head overseas," says marketing manager Jane Anthony. " ... And, not just that, 50 percent of the profits go back into the Super Fund to help us in the future. So that's pretty compelling."
The problem, she says, is that many didn't know Z was owned by the Super Fund (or what the Super Fund even was), so it needed to make that relevant to people and show that filling up at Z was "going to benefit your kids".
The campaign launched on Sunday night, so she says it's too early to tell how it's been received, but a couple of the concepts were tested before they went ahead with it and the general consensus was "this is great".
She says there has been a mixed response to the ads on its Facebook page, with plenty of obligatory comments about the price of petrol at Z and a "lack of understanding over the ownership structure". But explaining that ownership structure is the point of this campaign. And, unless you're making them jump off rocks into a river, using cute kids is a time-honoured way of capturing people's attention, as evidenced by Civil Defence and Clemenger BBDO's latest Drop, Cover, Hold campaign or Mitre 10's classic 'sandpit' ad (there are some equally impressive performances from the young stars in this one, particularly from the little logger rocking a sweet forearm tat).
As for why Z has been so successful so far, Anthony says it's due to a combination of factors. During the strategy phase, she says the research showed New Zealanders said it would take more than just being New Zealand-owned for them to fill up at Z. It also needed to be a better company and do things differently from its competitors, and from better toilets to forecourt service, from better food and coffee to supporting local charities, she says it's listened to its customers at every turn. And it seems to have worked, with Z's own research showing an unprompted brand awareness of 71 percent, not far behind the other big players, and the second highest rate of behaviourial preferences.
Fuel companies aren't generally renowned for their openness and honesty, but Anthony says "being straight up", which is one of the company's main principles, has also helped the brand.
"The whole industry is a bit of an enigma [to customers]," she says. "And when people don't understand something, they often don't trust it, so that's why we've been happy to have conversations with customers in the open. "
As part of that transparent approach, it recently released an impressive interactive annual review, which highlights Z's philosophies and showcases some of its recent highlights, such as winning overall energy company of the year, lifting earnings from $157 million to $172 million and gaining over 80,000 Facebook fans.
Anthony says it didn't fit with the brand to make a printed version, so Z's marketing and corporate comms teams collaborated with Assignment Group and digital agency Heyday to create something more suitable. And, as far as annual reports go, you'd have to say it has set a new benchmark in New Zealand.