Year in Review: Cassie Roma, The Warehouse Group

1. Favourite local campaign that isn’t yours

There were a lot of great campaigns out this year across New Zealand. And, many of them eschewed the traditional equation in marketing where a TVC must lead the way in terms of generating reach, buzz, and talkability. From a brand perspective, I love how Samsung spent a lot of time, effort, and money backing true talk-triggers by partnering up with influencers to launch their new products and to really tell their ‘why’ before jumping into the what and how of their hardware.

Samsung’s global push towards allowing creators to tell stories suited for channel, community, and tone has done a lot globally to bring the brand ranking up in the cool-stakes. Here at home in New Zealand, the creators working with Samsung are delivering. I look at talented people like Logan Dodds and Jupiter Project and feel proud of their work and accomplishments – all of those warm fuzzies then spill over into the Samsung brand for me. I’ve really enjoyed watching the nuance in many of the both macro and micro influencer relationships blossom this year. There’ve even been moments in which I’ve considered trading in my Apple for a Samsung (it hasn’t happened yet, but sheesh…it’s not all that far off.)

Beyond Samsung and their brilliant ability to allow creators to do what they do best in partnership with them, I loved the Tourism New Zealand’s, Off The Map campaign that starred quite a few familiar and famous kiwi faces. I can remember sitting in a restaurant in Chicago a decade ago looking at a map on the wall where New Zealand wasn’t on the map. Which, as you can imagine, made it difficult to explain to my fellow American diners where I was living! Ruh roh. And, let’s face it, any video that has both quirky Kiwi comedy and features the PM is bound to be a massive win in the books for any brand!

2. Favourite campaign that is yours

Oh gosh, I can’t chose one!

I started working at The Warehouse Group in May of this year, and have been so impressed by the people who keep our marketing machine running day in and day out. Not only are my colleagues brilliant professionals and marketers, but they know when they’re onto something magical.

For me, the first iteration of sprinkling magic dust for The Warehouse came for Father’s Day. Our campaign featured our own people as they told stories about their own father figures. On set, as our colleagues told of their memories, we laughed, cried, and connected. The end result was a magical as I’d imagined it’d be. Ahem, my eyes aren’t leaking, your eyes are leaking.

Beyond Father’s Day, I really loved being a part of a storytelling quilt of ours that was interwoven across traditional and emerging platform: the launch of Kiwi Scrabble. The hero video content of the campaign featured a cheeky game of Scrabble over a cuppa between Jo Seagar and David Tua. From there, it dove into many layers of deep content, influencer engagement, IRL events, and community engagement. Talk about a symphonic example of modern marketing omni-channel sorcery.

Also of note from Warehouse Stationery, was our Christmas campaign that starred Nikki Si-Ulepa and her grandmother, the amazing Ma. Seeing Nikki and Ma interact in silly, quirky, and cheeky ways together really brought home the spirit of the holidays for me – while doing a darn good job at featuring the range of products that I never knew I never knew about at Warehouse Stationery.

3. Favourite international campaign

Everyone who knows me knows of my deep, undying, and yet unrequited love for Elton John. Spanning 25 of my 37 years, I’ve seen Sir Elton live 21 times in 21 years. He’s written the soundtrack to my life. I even have his face tattooed on my arm. That’s fandom, folks.

What’s the point of telling you about my unabashed love for Sir EJ?

Two words: John Lewis.

This year’s hotly anticipated Christmas ad from the British retailer told the story of Elton’s most extraordinary life. Working back from present day to little Reggie Dwight tickling the ivories for the first time, the ad hit me right in the feels. #EltonJohnLewis trended for a week, and although it was received on two ends of an advertising love-spectrum, it’s my pick for fave of 2018.

Because, Elton.

4. Least favourite campaign

Isn’t it funny how brand love can actually transcend purchase history and become an affair of the heart? Such is my love for our national carrier. From the day I first arrived in New Zealand 16+ years ago until now, I’ve been impressed with the marketing that my colleagues and compatriots have come up with.

This year though, I have to put Air New Zealand’s recent safety video campaign as my least favourite of 2018. If safety is key and you’re jazzing up the medium to drive more attention before a flight, then this missed on both counts. While the talent in the video was fab, and the idea was well suited for a Vice-style throwback music video, the safety messaging gets completely lost. And I mean, completely lost.

For a brand with a huge backlog of ‘massive hits’ this one is a big ‘miss’ for me.

When it comes to safety, my recommendation would be to perhaps hero that, not raps without rhymes.

5. Your own biggest success

In all honesty, my biggest success this year has been walking away from that which doesn’t fill my soul or allow me to spread kindness to others. Being true to myself, as hippy as that sounds, has made both work and home life magical. When I take on projects, speaking engagements, workshops, or tactical jobs, they must fit the criteria of being able to act with integrity, kindness, and honesty. It’s not always easy finding gigs that complete that trifecta. But, when I do find them, I grab them with both hands!

To that end, professionally I feel more fulfilled than I have in yonks. Every day a new opportunity to do and be better comes my way – and that’s magic, right? Also, working for a business that is truly committed to doing better for New Zealand and New Zealanders fills my soul. Speed wobbles be damned, here’s to learning, growing, and working together more closely in 2019.

6. Most significant launch/innovation/thing of the year

2018 was a jam-packed year when it comes to launches, innovations, and things. I’ve thought and thought on this questions and my answer is one from both the gut and the heart: I reckon the most significant thing that I reckon happened this year was that our PM delivered a healthy child without missing a beat when it comes to governing, leading, and being an all-around cool cat.

Travelling with her partner and baby daughter was a coup. In doing so, our PM showed the world that women really can parent, work, and lead concurrently. This in itself really touched me this year. As a mum of an almost 13 year-old-girl, representation like Jacinda Ardern’s matters. It’s powerful, it’s poignant, and it’s affirming. For the world’s media to praise New Zealand on the most prolific of stages fills my heart with pride in my chosen homeland.

7. What should be un-invented?

This is a hard one. I really believe that inventions, all of them, are borne of a necessity – or boredom. Either way, un-inventing something sounds like a bit of fun. That said, if there’s anything that’s become quite mainstream this year that really zests my lemons, it’s the upswing in apps that’re built specifically with changing how people look physically before they share an image or story to social media.

“Guys with beer guts, get a six-pack in five seconds!”

“Girls with wrinkles, lose them instantly without botox!”

Apps and interfaces that bring the idea of necessary photoshopping mainstream make me both nervous and sad. We should all be proud to be who we are without feeling bullied into making everything shiny, smoothe, and insincere. Bring on the imperfectly imperfect world we inhabit. Bring on more realness! 

8. Lamest trend

Asking influencers to do anything that isn’t something they’d do IRL. What do I mean by that? Well, simply put, as brands we should really try more to understand the human side of why we do what we do. We spend a lot of time on our customers, in trying to understand them.

But, when it comes to influencer content or storytelling, a lot of marketers treat influencers like a transaction. Yuck. Please, if anything can end in 2019, let it be treating truly influential people like a line-item on a campaign masterplan. If you want to work with someone who has a truly passionate following, find out what makes that person and their community tick. Get to know them, befriend them, maybe even put just as much time into them as you would hope they’d put into your brand/product/campaign.

Giving love to get it back in return, that’ll be where the magic lives in 2019 when it comes to influencer marketing and seeing a steady, long-term return over time.

9. Best brands

These won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me – or anyone who loves it when a brand can be gentle, strong, kind, and cool all at once.

Nike has been my favourite brand since childhood. I was raised on healthy doses of Michael Jordan and swoosh-laden footwear. As an adult who also happens to be in the marketing game, I love the way their strategies around audience, channel, messaging, and moments lines up perfectly. This year’s Colin Kaepernick campaign sparked a boycott across the USA. Folks burned their shoes – silly, silly folks. They promised to never shop Nike again. And then, they fell out of their armchairs when Nike posted a $6 billion jump in sales. Nike’s move was ballsy. It was also very well measured. I truly believe that retail has the power to change the world for the better – if only more brands were like Nike!

Beyond Nike, my new Boo when it comes to outdoor wear is homegrown Californian company Patagonia. Going from strength to strength, I cannot wait to see what Patagonia does in 2019 to make the world a better place to live, play, and adventure in. 

It would be remiss of me to not mention The Warehouse Group in this list of Best Brands. Remiss because, although I’ve only been here a short while, I’ve uncovered so much magic across the group since arriving. Whether it’s in our people, the work we do in the community all across New Zealand, or simply in our promises to Kiwis everyday – I love working for a group of companies that try their best daily to do and be better.

10. Best stoush

Wow, there were some real zingers this year, weren’t there? I’d have to say an embattlement I’ve watched almost obsessively has been that of Facebook v Government Powers. Facebook, of all the main media and social media channels that exist today, has faced a crazily crappy year. The media hasn’t been kind to the Book of Faces (and mostly, rightly so), but we’re all still checking our profiles and newsfeeds, aren’t we? So for me, the stoush is more than that between Facebook and the US + other governments, it’s multi-levelled. And, as long as we all continue to pray at the altar of algorithmic goodness, the longer the feed will be fed. Or summat.

11. Heroes

Those who give back – be they corporates, community organisations, or people on the frontlines of making our world better for the future. If you’re looking for a brand that lives and breathes the give-back philosophy while still producing some amazing products and doing superb marketing – then look no further from Wildfang. Over the course of 2018, Wildfang has become heroic by many standards.

The one that stands out the most to me was when the business took on the President of the United States. When the first lady wore a VERY questionable green jacket during a time of absolute horror as our country separated children from their families at the USA/Mexico border, Wildfang created a similar green jacket – with kindness at the heart of it.

They raised over US $250K in a couple of weeks through sales and donated it all to getting kids back together with their loved ones. Social activism, heroic use of platforms to speak loudly, and backing it all up with action is what the world will need more of in 2019.

Closer to home, I have to take my hat off to the entire team at Starship Children’s Hospital, The New Zealand Police, and all of the organisations who speak out and act on behalf of a less violent and more inclusive society to raise our kids in.

12. Villains

As an American, I’ll tread carefully and simply answer in a colourful headline:
Orange despot doofus wears red hat, makes nothing great again.

13. What died in 2018?

This year, thankfully, I started to see a dying of (it ain’t dead yet unfortunately and might never be) the over-curation of personal and influencers profiles on social media. There’s beauty in imperfection, and a perfect sheen matters not if it makes a customer or consumer of content on the other end of a newsfeed feed anything other than great. I’m seeing a lot more gritty, speed-wobbly, gorgeously gregarious posting happening. And, from it all, I am noticing more conversations happening that go beyond the shallow depths of marketing influence.

Beyond the over-curation online lives, there’s something else that sends me running for the exit when I see it barreling for me like a freight-train without enough track to stop before taking me out at the knees. Can you guess what it is?  it’s people shouting “I am an influencer” without having any navigable skills to give back to anyone or any brand. Using the words “genuine” “real” “authentic” must give way to ACTUALLY being those things. To influence you must think beyond the next selfie you take with someone’s product in it. Luckily for us here in New Zealand, we have some of the most talented and deeply skilled creators in the game. Gosh I love this country of ours!
 #Ad #LetsTellBetterStories

14. What’s the biggest mistake marketers will make in 2019?

Paying for vanity metrics and staying put in the digital 1.0. Going back to basics doesn’t mean we must eschew new tech or platforms, it means we need to understand how to tell captivating stories, how to capture minds, imaginations and hearts within new platforms and parameters. And, we need to start inserting more humanity into brand storytelling. A TV ad is very rarely a story.

Honesty bomb:
If I could, I’d skip all ads.

And in turn, if I could, I’d listen to ALL THE STORIES (in or out of ad placements in media).

15. How far in our future do you think The Handmaid’s Tale is?

Good god, I hope so far that it NEVER eventuates.

I have so much pride and belief in our generation and those coming into adulthood now to not have fear in my heart around this. As a gay woman raising a child in beautiful Aotearoa, I see the promise of a new consciousness that believes in the goodness of others regardless of gender identity, skin colour, religious choice, or who you cuddle at night.

Right now though? I believe that schools should not be war zones, women’s rights/ freedoms should not be decided upon by panels of old men, and that kindness does not equal weakness.

If we ever do end up in Gilead though, my money is on an army of Offreds to save us all.

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