‘Evangelist’. It’s a word most commonly dedicated to those seeking to convert others to the Christian faith. And yet, when asked to describe Elliott, it’s the word his colleagues use to describe just how much of a crusader he is for the industry. In full, the description reads: “Dave is a change agent, transforming the role and influence of marketing. A passionate evangelist for customer centric marketing.”
Those praises are well deserved, as Elliott, who has been the general manager of marketing at Mitre 10 since 2010, has overseen a major marketing transformation.
In the past six years, he has consolidated the brands Mitre 10 Mega and Mitre 10 under one identity and advertising programme, and introduced data-driven initiatives to measure, test and improve the media mix for Mitre 10’s advertising. It’s an effort that resulted in impressive efficiency and effectiveness gains.
He also set in place an enduring brand framework to define and protect the Mitre 10 brand purpose, values and role and also created the content platform ‘Easy As’ to teach a new generation of Kiwis how to DIY. In doing so, he took Mitre 10 into the digital world with the OmniChannel digital transformation project.
At the same time, Mitre 10 has enjoyed unprecedented growth in both sales and its market share, both of which the CEO and board have attributed in a large part to marketing. John Hartmann, Mitre 10 CEO from 2010-2013 says: “When Dave joined the executive team at Mitre 10, he led us in rethinking everything about our marketing strategy. The results have been stunning. Dave is a true thought leader in the Australasian business landscape.”
Elliott’s career in marketing started in 1984 at Caltex, as a marketing assistant supporting a range of marketing activities on the upper South Island and lower North Island.
It was there he saw changes begin in the industry and a shift towards data. However, he says this isn’t the data that’s creating a buzz in the industry today. Instead it was the information that came from the barcode when it was introduced around 1987. From that, retailers were able to see the factory figures once only seen by the suppliers and manufacturers.
He says data then became a tool used for direct marketing from the late ‘90s. Since its emergence, Elliott says he “almost thinks major campaigns are over” because they can’t be communicated in the segmented world in which everything is coming to have a personalised relevance. “You used to launch an ad on a Sunday night and go to bed and sleep well and your campaign was done, you’ve achieved take off. It’s not like that anymore,” he says.
Another change he’s seen over his career is the movement of customers to the digital space. Early on in his role at Caltex, Elliott worked with a team to review PCs, looking at which was best to bring into the business because it had never used them before.
But, fast forward to 2012, and Elliott led the launch of Mitre 10’s Easy As YouTube channel and now, four years later, he and the team have just launched Mitre 10’s own On Demand content platform. However, despite this change in technology, Elliott says the context of what he does hasn’t changed. He says the way he wants to serve customers in a way that’s helpful to them, and understand their needs, remains.
One of Elliott’s most significant achievements according to his colleagues. It’s seen the retailer take its products and advice to Kiwis through videos to inspire them to do some DIY.
Mitre 10 CEO Neil Cowie says the media platform, and its continual evolution to meet customer needs, has been instrumental in driving sales beyond $1 billion. “Put simply, we wouldn’t be Mitre 10 without Easy As,” he says.
The more recent On Demand content platform has also been named as a significant achievement, and sits alongside a list of projects that have made this a pinnacle year in Elliott’s career.
He’s also seen the successful launch of proprietary brands for Mitre 10, including Number 8, Nouveau, Job Mate, and the successful introduction of one-to-one engagement programmes The Home Improvement Club and The Gardening Club (the brand relaunch and Gardening Club both won TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards last year).
However, when Elliott is asked what his biggest achievement across his career has been, he takes a trip down memory lane and says he’s been privileged to be involved in a number of great projects. One of those was during his time at Caltex, when it did a deal with Subway in the US and became one of the first places to roll it out in New Zealand. He does, however, say his work with Mitre 10 has been his most significant because working to keep a New Zealand company with Kiwi owners ahead of its giant Australian competitor Bunnings is a challenge in itself.
He even chooses Mitre 10 above his roles as regional marketing manager and regional procurement manager for Chevron across Africa, the Middle East and Asia Pacific region. The first saw him based in Bangkok, focusing on retail innovation and retail development projects as well as being responsible for co-brand marketing programmes. The latter saw him move to Singapore and take responsibility for managing marketing and merchandise spend and chain development.
It was after this role that Elliott returned to New Zealand in 2007, going on to join Mitre 10 in 2010. While his career has included both consumer and B2B marketing, he says he enjoys retailing because its effects are quite obvious.
Throughout it all, one of the people who has remained consistently in the picture is global vice chairman of FCB Bryan Crawford. The pair worked together for Caltex and Elliott values their relationship because they see things differently and therefore allow each other to see things they otherwise wouldn’t.
Crawford is equally as complimentary and calls Elliott “a visionary marketer”.
“He’s prepared to lead both his team and the wider business beyond their comfort zones,” says Crawford. “He is often several years ahead of others in his thinking. This requires resilience and bravery that great marketing leaders must possess.”
Mitre 10 marketing operations manager Mike Giles also speaks highly of Elliott calling him a “brilliant leader”.
“By far the most inspiring, bold, visionary and humble person I have ever worked with. I’ve learnt more from Dave than anyone,” says Giles.
It’s not surprising someone should mention what they have learned from Elliott as he himself confesses that teaching people is one of the things he looks forward to doing in his career, even if he can’t quite say where it’s going to head next.
“All that I care about is that I have this great team of people who I work with, who have got fantastic potential and I get to enable that and empower them to do everything they can possibly do.”