Contagion @ SXSW: Zoe Macfarlane on working in the US, Kiwi vs. American work culture and innovation

Contagion’s Tom Bates had a chat with Jucy’s Zoe Macfarlane who has been driving the company’s marketing and business management in LA.

Tom Bates: What do you do in the States?

Zoe Macfarlane: I’m the VP marketing & business development management for Jucy USA and responsible for building the branding and driving consideration for what is a relatively new category in the US – camper vans or mini RVs. Our customer base is a mix of Europeans, New Zealanders, Australians and Americans. 

TB: Why did you decide to make the move to the US? 

ZM: Jucy moved to the US in spring 2012 as research indicated that there was a gap in the market for an experience that sits between heading outdoors and sleeping on the ground in a tent or navigating the driving and logistics of a big RV. 

I was invited to move to LA last year as we needed someone that understands the brand culture who can also tap into the US mindset. I’ve been a regular visitor to the US for festivals and travels for the past five years and have a large friend base here. So I have a better understanding of both and how to meld the two together. Plus it was a great opportunity!

TB: Would you recommend it to other Kiwi creative types? 

ZM: Yes! I would say that getting into the right work space is crucial though. Although Jucy has a branch in Lawndale, I work in a co-working space in Santa Monica where there are 350 members who are mainly start-ups, entrepreneurs, or are the satellite office for their global businesses.

Cross Campus holds regular events, networking opportunities and workshops plus being around creative, business and tech professionals lends itself to a more productive work day. Everyone is so motivated! I recently held a Jucy event there and had a chance to show off our vehicle and that was free because I’m a member. I would also stress that a great lawyer to wade through the visa issues is crucial. 

TB: What are some of the core differences between American and Kiwi work culture?

ZM: The phenomenon of little or no vacation time is real! It definitely affects our business as our burgeoning American customer base are taking short trips – usually 3-7 days – compared to our European and antipodean travellers. I’ve also noticed that the work/life balance is more favourable in New Zealand culture. Long work days, answering calls and emails late at night and working six days a week is really common in the US. I think the Kiwi balance allows more time for creativity to flourish. 

TB: What are some of the trends that will define marketing and advertising in 2016?  

ZM: A move away from building apps seems inevitable with the success rate only being 0.01 percent. China’s WeChat success is going to shape platforms like Facebook to make them more inclusive and I think there will be a move from live chat to direct customer chat among messaging services to keep an ease of conversation and remove the clutter of emails. 

TB: Do Kiwis have to get better at taking risks and innovating?

ZM: I think New Zealand does a fantastic job of innovating and risk taking and we’re fortunate to have the services of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to support innovation. I think our distance from the plethora of start-ups in other countries and our geographical isolation affords Kiwis the distance and space to think creatively. At SXSW it seems that other countries consider New Zealand to be at the forefront of innovation already. So I believe it is important that the risk entrepreneurs take is in investing in events like SXSW or CES to get scale quickly. The networking here is incredible.

TB: What are some of the key takeaways from this year’s event?

ZM: Hot topics were definitely around VR and live-streaming and how brands can incorporate both into their marketing successfully. YouNow and Twitch are changing the live-streaming model and brands targeting 13- 24-year-olds need to have high consideration of how to develop that marketing channel. Multi-channel storytelling and developing more sophisticated pathways to engage and retain customers is going to help brands get ahead too. Oh and static banner ads are dead according to the experts.

TB: Any other thoughts on the state of marketing?

It’s not directly the state of marketing but the sessions that packed out here the quickest were on happiness. Take from that what you will. 

  • See more of our SXSW coverage here

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