Wendy Rayner, head of marketing at NZ Lotteries and reigning Marketer of the Year, has resigned after around nine years with the organisation and seven years in the top marketing role.
“Time for a new challenge. No idea where I’m heading just yet. But I’m working on it,” she says.
Lotto arrived in New Zealand in 1987 and, at the time, Kiwis were excited, the big ads were delivering the goods and the coffers were filling nicely. But when Rayner started her role as marketing manager for jackpot games in 2003, having come from accountancy, advertising and nine years at TVNZ, jackpot fatigue had set in, the products weren’t working and sales and player numbers were in decline.
Rather than babysit a stable of brands that were past their prime, she chose to try and revitalise the Lotteries portfolio instead. And through a series of huge product relaunches, lotteries innovations and quality campaigns like Lotto ‘Lucky Dog’ and most recently ‘It Pays to Push Your Luck‘ for Instant Kiwi, she played an integral role in driving a sales increase of over $250 million, an increase bigger than the total chocolate confectionary category in New Zealand.
Success has many fathers, of course, but this massive improvement in fortunes can’t help but be correlated with her tenure, as well as the tenure of marketing-focused chief executive Todd McLeay, who left late last year to take up a role with APN and was replaced by Wayne Pickup.
Rayner, who missed out on the top role, holds a position in the executive team at NZ Lotteries, holds directorships for both the Health Navigator Trust and the New Zealand Marketing Association, and has completed Harvard’s exclusive Programme for Leadership Development.
Here’s what she said about a range of things when we interviewed her last year:
On the Lotto turnaround: “When I started, we’d been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for four or five years. So we just went back to basics. It was just ‘how do we fix this?’ And this sounds really clichéd, but we started simply by listening to our retailers and our customers. We were spending thousands, millions actually, on research, and we cut it all. Our sellers told us what we should do. And we just did it. It’s still about keeping it emotional, too. It’s a completely intangible business. So we need to make that yellow bit of a paper into a dream and you have to fuel those dreams, make people feel them, because that’s the thing that will make them buy.”
On advertising: “We are a marketing-led business. IT is an incredibly important foundation for us because we can’t get things wrong or you might not pay your winners. But I think bringing back that focus on the dream, the emotion, but keeping it real and not too clever is important. Saatchi’s made this gorgeous animation a few years ago about a cog that came out of a machine and went on to live this life and sailed away into the sunset. It was beautiful and so clever but people didn’t really get it. They didn’t want to be a cog. Who wants to be a cog, you know? … [Lucky Dog] is on the far side of complexity. You have to go through a lot of complexity often to get to where things are simple. And I love that our customers would never ever think what went into those shoots. They shouldn’t. Yes, it’s complex to get that stuff right because you are trying to reflect reality.”
On the importance of campaign longevity: “We never make an ad for a year any more like we used to. So our [old]Big Wednesday campaign was on for almost three years. We spend a lot producing great ads. But we spend equally as much time going through a strategic process to make sure that they are based on the right thing; on the brand truth. I’m really big on process. So now if it’s not good enough to last for two years when you start to get the better efficiencies through media and production, then it’s not a good campaign.”
On agency relationships: “I’m quite good on client driving strategy so we do our brand plan before we brief them. We keep them across it but I want my guys to be able to have the ability to think strategically about their brand future. I also have to figure out how that works across the portfolio. So at the moment Instant Kiwi is focusing on recruitment, Big Wednesday is going in-between on the light users, and Lotto is just being the umbrella hero for the category and keeps everybody loving it so that we can push into these other areas. I just don’t think agencies are that good at that. It’s not their job. So then we give them comms strategy…We always write formal briefs. We always have measures in them. And we always push them to be quicker, to be more cost effective.”
On the dearth of marketing-led businesses: “I think some businesses should be more marketing-led than they are. Perhaps telcos would be a good example of that. And obviously there are some commercial realities there. But then the commercial reality for us is that since this structure started in 2004 we made $300 million, so it works. I think that it’s really hard when you are pushed through to think about every year all the time, in the short term, rather than have agreement from the CFO or whatever to think a bit longer term than that.”
On gambling: “We’re taking a lot more money out of the community and making more in sales, but the problem gambling figures haven’t increased by anywhere that scale. And we’re not an instant gratification type of gambling. It’s a very important consideration for us. But thankfully we’re not causing a great deal of harm. And I wouldn’t work here if we were. We try really hard to run this place like a commercial business. And the fact that I also get to give $150 odd million dollars to the community every year is just an amazing marriage. It’s hard to beat.”
On marketing as a business discipline: “I’m on the Marketing Association Board now and I am really passionate about continuing to push it. I think the Chartered Institute of Marketing process will help that [professionalism], because it’s just a change of perception when you have letters around your name. I think marketers have to just take the responsibility to do more process stuff; to take an interest in accounting, return on investment and what’s happening with their brand … More and more marketers need to be doing that and operating at an Exec table and taking it really seriously.”
On her highlights: “Big Wednesday. That was my baby. I project managed the entire thing, even though I had no project management experience. And that went across IT, across a live draw every single week and across marketing. We did a nationwide live show to all of our retailers and it was a blast. We knew we were on to something really good. Sales were actually double what we dreamed they would be. We were on a dream run at that time and we had a great team. It was just one of those moments in your career where it just all comes together. And then I went into labour prematurely in a meeting and my waters broke in the office four weeks before it was supposed to launch … Last year was just an exceptional year for us. We launched two projects and products in one year and the Instant Kiwi re-launch was massive. We just pulled the whole thing apart and built it up again. And we pretty much did that in six months. Once we had gone through two years of actually getting permission to do what we wanted to get done. You’ve got to keep it fresh. You’ve gotta do re-launches. And they can’t just be comms all the time. You’ve gotta change more than that to try to keep them interested.”
On leadership: “At the moment, the marketing department is 15. It’s the biggest we’ve been. And I would hope we’re doing something similar to Lion here, which used to train marketers up and you would go out and always recruit someone out of Lion because you knew they would be really well trained. I’m trying to get them installed in that process and get them exposed to a broad range of activity … You can often find me on a shoot for an hour, but what I really love about my role is leading a team. And I want to have successors. I want people to be ready to do my job. I couldn’t even count the number of internal promotions that I’ve made in my time here because I’ve had great people and we’ve given them the opportunity to be even better … I love being able to work out the vision for this business for the next three years and present regularly to the board on strategic decisions. It would be really hard to beat this head of marketing role but I would like to [take up a chief executive role]. The challenging thing is for marketers generally, and myself included, how do you get there? … I’m doing the Leadership Development course at Harvard at the moment and getting back into principles of accounting. But the culture is led from the top. So I guess when I say I’ve been able to give my team opportunities to grow and be challenged that’s where [ex-chief executive] Todd [McLeay] has set that culture for us.”