More changes at Telecom as Nathan takes up senior Pumpkin Patch role

Telecom has made some big changes this year—both internally and to its agency structure. And there’s time for another big one before Christmas, with general manager of brand, communications and digital Kellie Nathan set to depart in February after taking on the job of general manager of marketing at Pumpkin Patch.  

Jason Paris, who has recently had a change of title from chief marketing officer to chief operating officer of Telecom retail, said in a statement that Nathan has made a huge contribution at Telecom, “playing a key leadership role in the transformation of our retail brand, as well as overseeing the successful Snapathy campaign and a whole host of other initiatives, and we are very sad to see her go”.

“Kellie’s role at Telecom is arguably the largest brand, communications and digital role in the country, but the new position at Pumpkin Patch will see Kellie sit on the executive team and have a broader commercial remit, and so is an exceptional opportunity for her. Although we hate losing our stars, we understand this is the result of the higher profile that the Telecom marketing team is getting through delivering strong commercial results.” 

Paris says it is actively recruiting through Hourigan International and it is his intention to shortlist by Christmas. We have asked Telecom whether the chief marketing officer position will be filled and will update the story if we hear back. 

UPDATE: Paris’ role has been disestablished. 

Pumpkin Patch has had its fair share of difficulties in recent years and, back in September, its share price was down 22 percent for the year to date. But new chief executive Di Humphries is confident she can turn things around and Nathan is obviously an important part of that mission. 

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at Telecom,” says Nathan. “The marketing team are a fantastic group of smart people who are very focused on bringing game changing propositions like Ultra Mobile to market for customers. I leave with mixed emotions, but the opportunity to join the executive team at Pumpkin Patch was too good to pass up and I’m very excited to be joining them in March next year.” 

NZ Marketing recently sat down for a chat with Nathan about Telecom’s changes, its recent injection of colour and its attempts to woo the mobile-lovin’ young’uns.  

On the target: “Our key target is to drive mobile, particularly in Auckland and under 35. We’ve specified that age, but it’s more of a mindset. It’s the people who want to go and experience things. So we’re all about driving that experience and showing what you can do with the phone, rather than showing the technology itself … We are doing very well on post-paid, but less so on pre-paid. That’s critical because if you’ve got them on a contract or plan you have a relationship with them that you can manage. So we index quite highly in terms of average revenue per user [ARPU]. But we want to gain market share in mobile and then the ARPU will flow.”  

On Telecom blindness: “We’re really strong on broadband, but less so in mobile. Voda has been strong and 2degrees has obviously come in aggressively as well. We’ve got great value offers and we’ve done some great work on propositions but the problem is they just weren’t seeing us, we weren’t cutting through. So part of it is how we look, but it’s also where we talk to people. So we’re taking our story to the people on social, digital and out of home, rather than expecting them to come to us.”

On emotion: “Blue and white is very corporate. And I think colour can be an injection of personality. It’s also the tone and language, so hopefully you’ll see less telco speak and more talking like a human from us. It’s such an amazing thing that people have in their pockets. It’s the centre of everyone’s life these days. But as a telco we’re not owning that high ground of the emotional connection … Now’s the time to have a point of view and be stronger on why people should come to Telecom. Vodafone has the international flavour, 2degrees has got the Kiwi ‘fighting for fair’ thing and we need to make sure that we communicate what we own more clearly. And I think it is that we’ve got everything covered … It’s not just about being faster or better, it’s what it enables, so there’s some territory there. Then we have to back that up with brand experience and events and we have to do that properly and find the audience in the environments where they are. It’s not just making a big ad and saying ‘we’ve changed and we’re better’. We need to demonstrate it.” 

On perception: “We’ve been around for a while, we’ve been loyal and we’ve got a large customer base. New Zealanders see the heritage, they see we’re a New Zealand company, and they know we’re trying to change. They don’t hate us, they want us to be successful. The research is pretty positive. But they want us to put all that together, put the right wrapper on it, talk to them in the right way and give them the right service experience and if we do that we’re primed for a big step forward.”

On the inside: “We launched the new brand internally and got all of the values aligned across the business. Inside out branding is 101, but if you pick up the phone and get a bad experience the colour palette is meaningless.” 

On the logo: “The spark remains and you’ll see that appear in six different colours across everything we do. It is a big step forward, but there’s very little downside for us going from not being seen to being multi-coloured. And I think if you look at the billboards we’ve probably upweighted the spark. You can’t deny it’s Telecom and I think it cuts through.” 

On the future: “The Digital Ventures arm of the business is about looking at completely new revenue streams in adjacent markets. And obviously content is one of them. But it’s about looking at how you create—or co-create—innovative content that can be part of our brand story rather than a one-off campaign. Everyone’s got a smartphone and they’re capturing content all the time. But how do you work with your consumers to do that? We’ve been quite a corporate brand, we’ve never let control of our assets or brands go, but in the new world, co-creation and working through that with your customers is far more engaging.” 

On Tommy and Boris: “They’ve been gracefully retired. They did a really good job, but it was a retail framework and it was a bit of a placeholder to get us through to this point. It was really effective and people loved it, but it wasn’t under 35 mobile.”

On partners: “Saatchi continues to be one of the key agencies engaged on our business. Our media agency Dynamo, which was appointed earlier in the year, plays a key role in the first stages of our briefing process. This ensures that we start with the customer and channels to market, before we initiate the creative process. We then select the right creative agency or agencies to work on each brief and, increasingly, we are moving away from pure TV advertising, to ideas that incorporate brand experience, social, digital and content.”

On Skinny: “That’s managed separately out of Digital Ventures, but we’re still talking and looking at the market as a whole. And if we can steal share of our competitors, it’s a double win. It’s early days, but obviously they are broadening out of the youth market to be a value-based commodity brand. They’ve changed colour and brand positioning as well and the early signs are that they’ve got a good, strong proposition.” 

On sponsorship: “We do a lot of brand experience activations like Fashion Week and the BMX World Champs. That’s where the [under 35]audience is. But what we haven’t had is a content framework that captures and brings that all together to drive new business and give us a clear retention piece so that if you’re a Telecom customer you have a different experience and we can reward you for being with us. We’re looking at summer and Christmas to activate more strongly around that market and we looked at the sports, arts and all the things the under 35s over-index in that we’re aiming to actively own.” 

On the All Blacks: “For Telecom, the All Blacks sponsorship didn’t work. We didn’t feature strongly enough in our tracking as an All Blacks sponsor to get the attribution we needed to justify the investment. There are so many others involved who have done a lot of work to build up a presence. So rather than be one of many, we said ‘let’s own something and develop it from the grassroots up’.” 

On outside influence: “The key change is we’ve got some agency partners outsourcing a couple of areas. Touch/Cast has picked up all of our website and mobile user experience design. We still do the thinking and strategy. And we rely on them for delivery, whereas before we had a whole lot of delivery in house and that just got to business as usual spinning, making 150 changes to the website each week on price changes. We lost site of the big things, like what do we want to be, what do we want the website to do … It’s been a huge undertaking to say ‘Here you go, have it all’, so there have been a lot of learnings, but they’ve done a great job. And they also have our studio, all of our trade marketing and all of the creative that doesn’t go through the other agencies.” 

On inspiring loitering: “All the free WiFi activity at 700 hotspots [through Telecom phoneboxes]nationwide was done through Digital Ventures. I was down in the Coromandel a few weeks ago and I said ‘what are all those kids doing hanging around the phone box by the shops?’ And they were actually getting the free data. You need to be a Telecom customer to get that. And that’s great. But while it was all about texts a few years ago, all the research says that it’s now all about data.” 

On content: “Our toe in the water was around Coliseum and the English Premier League and that was something for us to trial to drive acquisition via online channels. Over 2,000 people took that offer up. Obviously as a brand we want to encourage people to use data and experience technology. For us, it’s more about partnering with the right people who are going bring the right content to our audience as an added value or acquisition offer. It’s not our core business.” 

On social: “We’re just building social into everything we do, whether it’s from a customer service or brand point of view. All of those brand experiences would have a social component. So as we build our critical mass we can talk to customers in a far more cost-effective way than we can with just mainstream media. Whittaker’s has done a really good job. And we’ll be putting in a lot of effort in social and social engagement … We get feedback via social at the moment and they’re very open about what they like and what’s working. And every now and then about what they don’t. It’s almost like customer research, instead of having to do a focus group, but it’s about figuring out how we pull it all back in … When you’ve got a certain filter on it, social media can be quite negative. But equally, is a focus group contrived to the point where it’s not real? Sometimes social media is probably closer to the truth.” 

On the web: “Our website is getting a major overhaul and that will be launched soon. We’ve got far more dynamic interaction, far more places for content and video, and we’re very clear about the areas for shopping and buying. We sell a reasonable percentage of broadband online, but mobile is quite low. We have big plans for that to grow.” 

On success: “Obviously the commercial outcomes from the brand relaunch is the key driver. It’s got to deliver the mobile connection numbers and we’ll be watching that. It’s very simple. What we’re looking for is active consideration to move up. We already have high awareness as a brand, but it’s no good having that if no-one moves through the funnel, if they don’t prefer you.” 

Telecom by the numbers
Total mobile connections decreased 10.6 percent from 2.097 million in FY12 to 1.815 million in FY13. This was largely attributable to the closure of the CDMA network in July 2012. But growth since the closure has been strong. 
While Telecom’s mobile market share is down since 2011, mobile average revenue per user is up by 18.1 percent to $33.65 in FY13 when compared to $28.50 in FY12.
Broadband connections are up from 610,000 in FY11 to 649,000 in FY13. Market share has held at approximately 48 percent following several years of decline.
Employee numbers are down by 16 percent from 8,353 in FY11 to 6,622 in FY13. 

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