Friday, August 29, 2008

Telecom, Kevin Roberts and Brand

I noticed with interest the appointment of Kevin Roberts to the Board of Telecom. Looks like I am not the only one as well.

I have had some limited contact with Kevin during my time at Telecom - the most interesting being a 2 day workshop where we tried to discover the key purpose of Telecom. Fascinating and inspirational. I've also worked with a lot of Saatchi's people, most recently Saatchi X who are (in my opinion) world-class Retail designers - they get the whole notion of designing Retail for customers. This is to the extent where they went around a bunch on NZ stores and just watched what customers did before leaping into any design work. Much better than what you would expect from a normal ad agency. So I have a lot of respect for the work that Saatchi can do to communicate a brand.

A few things I noted from yesterday

1. Governance - Kevin says that he is privileged to contribute to the governance of Telecom. I was very pleased to see this. Kevin has spent a lot of time through Saatchi and Saatchi advising Telecom directly on Brand Communications. Saatchi's has been Telecom's key agency as long as I was there (15 years). This Board role has to be separate from that - good to see he gets that. I do wonder how Telecom can get the full benefit of his brand expertise as both a director and its number 1 supplier , surely this starts to become a conflict of interest? Will be interesting to see how it is managed.

2. Comments about the lack of marketing and brand expertise on the Telecom Board. Wayne Boyd himself says that Kevin will bring Brand and Marketing expertise, as well as customer satisfaction skills. There is already significant brand and marketing expertise on the Telecom board with Rod McGeogh (anyone who can lead a successful bid for the Sydney Olympics knows how to execute a marketing strategy) and Ron Spithill (global marketing manager Alcatel). This may signal even more of a marketing focus for Telecom. However, given Kevin (through Saatchi and Saatchi) is already providing Telecom's brand execution, how much more can he offer than this? And is this really the problem?

3. The Telecom brand - the Radio NZ interview with Wayne Boyd yesterday included some commentary along the lines of 'if Telecom got its Brand and Marketing right then shareholder benefits will follow'. This is not a Wayne Boyd quote but a reporter's quote. This is mostly right but not completely.

In my opinion, Brand is the promise that you make explicitly and implicitly to your customers. Everything they see, touch, hear and feel when they interact with you defines the Brand. It's not that complex a concept (although it is difficult to tell a good story in a short period of time and keep your business in sync with it) and Telecom has been really good at making these promises and communicating them through its marketing and PR efforts supported by Saatchi. It invests a lot into this, wins global awards and therefore this is not where it falls over. 

Where it needs the most effort is in the delivery of the promise. In my mind this is where Telecom really needs to look in terms of its leadership. Telecom needs to make promises that it keeps - its recent brand damage has been caused by saying one thing and doing another. This is the long hard road to rebuilding brand equity.  Where is that leadership coming from?

I have been thinking about brand, marketing and customers for a while now and have a small series of posts that I think will help explain this further. Kevin talks about the whole notion of Lovemarks superceding brands - my view is that is a bit glib. Love is damned easy to talk about but really hard to build. 30 second ads and stories don't cut it in my mind - but more for a later post.

There - I've made a promise, time to deliver on it.

Disclaimer: I hold Telecom shares and have spent a lot of time trying to build a view and product set in Telecom that says if you do right by customers, then you'll get great results. I really want to see Telecom become a loved brand in NZ again.


Juha said...

Lovemarks could be like lovebites... where the vampire-like admen suck the necks of the clients in displays of mock affection. :)

Ben Kepes said...

Great post Miki - I have to say that my eyebrows were very raised when I heard the news. KR is the ultimate show pony and I'm just not sure how well suited he is to Telecom's culture. Most of what I've seen from him seems to be in the pursuit of benefit for KR Inc. I wonder how this will play out in the TNZ boardroom?

Also agree totally re the conflict of interest - it's a whole can of worms IMHO

stephen Baugh said...

Hi Miki.

Thanks for the great post. I also wrote one on the same topic.

I had forgotten about teh Telecom / Satchi relationship so thanks for pointing that out again.

I guess for me, my post is basically talking about the gap between the "promises and the delivery"

All the best ...


Gregory said...

Hola Miki,

Here you'll find what Kevin has to say about it himself.

..."somewhere I could contribute to New Zealand"..."Telecom New Zealand is vital to the continued growth of all New Zealanders" - Lets hope this means 'doing' (not presenting some nice little jingle) whats best for New Zealand's digital future and the economic benefit of all New Zealander's and not a handful of majority (with the deciding balance of the corporate vote) shareholders who really have the say - many of which I understand are not New Zealander's.

In regards to Theresa - how does someone get a "leaving payment of $5.125 million in cash and 12 weeks annual leave owing" - - when she has lead for the same people above the strangling of the NZ digital economy for the past 8 years. In this time we have witnessed the booming of the consumer web, dotcom blow-out, the birth of web2.0, all kinds of advancement in digitisation passing over the internet, etc.

I write from Buenos Aires using an all you can eat 100mbp connect (including local phone calls) for around NZ$35 per month (by the way I can go to pretty much any cafe in town or highway and get the same or faster for free - just part of the cafe 'experience' - the coffee is no where in the quality league of NZ). The NZ consumer needs to have at their senses uncapped and 'real' broadband (upload / download) and not what is currently on offer capped by Telecom,10627,205728-204466,00.html
The upload speed of 128kbps on offer is not even what OECD count as broadband
and is half the speed of an ISDN connection I was using back in 1992. Speeds at this rate are simply 'broadcast' plans - good for more 'spot the dog' and ‘Xtraordinary’ commercials - not really what is meant by empowering the individual to 'interact' (2 way exchange not a 1 way channel) and get into the digital transaction economy.

If Kevin can help to move Telecom from noise generation and entertainment to empowering the user with self fulfilling benefits and a great experience plus deliver on brand promise and build a future for New Zealand by action then maybe New Zealand can really join the revolution and lead. If anything help those out in the sticks who still only have the choice of dial-up would be a good start.

Alot has been debated about the state of NZ broadband and change is on the horizon but New Zealander's really need to understand what they are missing out on / pay for and demand the change to happen.

Signing-off now before I get onto how New Zealand is "Among Most Expensive In OECD For Phone Calls"

So even if you a VoIP user...

End quote from
"The internet is becoming more and more essential. It's becoming something people want everywhere, not just at home on their desks but all over their homes, in their cars, in their pockets - it's an integrated part of daily life and people are relying on it for the simplest things from settling a bet to complex investigations on medical issues. It's affecting relationships with people, with doctors, with politicians, with journalists. We think it's changing virtually everything."


Anonymous said...

Nice post Miki - I have to say that also agree the conflict of interest

All the best ...