Over its 180-year tenure, NZ Post has become one of Aotearoa’s most enduring brands.
We spoke with Sarah Sandoval, NZ Post’s general manager of consumer marketing and brand, about navigating a rebrand during a challenging time in New Zealand history.
Technological advancements and the rise of online shopping have fundamentally changed NZ Post's business model in recent years, but despite the ever-evolving environment, the brand has remained a staple in the everyday lives of Kiwi customers.
Sarah's advice for maintaining a strong brand is simple: focus on your customer, always. It will pave the way.
“I think it's the job of marketing to put the focus on the customer. That’s what gives you focus and clarity on what you need to achieve.”
Admittedly, being truly customer-focused is easier said than done. Here’s what Sarah has learned over the years:
Start with insight and strategy
NZ Post has recently been through a re-brand, which for any business can be complex. However, it went smoothly and Sarah believes this was because they started with insight and strategy, and didn't go straight to execution.
“The projects that I think have ended up being really powerful and successful are when we've not tried to rush. If you jump straight to execution it might feel faster, but you won’t have the clear direction to make decisions effectively and you will end up having to look back.”
Bring key stakeholders along on the journey
Key stakeholders must be part of the conversation every step of the way. For big organisations like NZ Post, getting agreement across the organisation is critical. When important stakeholders are part of defining the problem, they’re a lot more receptive to your strategic recommendations on how to move forward.
“We’ve used this approach in designing our brand tracking – so that stakeholders can really understand how we’re measuring our brand to create value.”
Let your customer lead the way
Sarah says it might sound cliché, but it’s true – focusing on delivering outcomes your customer need will make the decision-making process easier. “There are always other things that come in, but you’re constantly bringing it back to your customer. Yes, it’s often more difficult to do it that way, but you’ll deliver the outcome your customers actually need.”
It’s about the outcome – not how you get there
Even after years in the game, Sarah says she often must remind herself that it’s not about the detail in the delivery. Marketers need to get comfortable with adapting to different approaches because what matters is the outcome that’s best for the customer.
“We talk about this a lot, especially when it comes to customer experience and tech. Don't give me the specific solution, give me the customer outcome you want. You might have some constraints, but if you're clear on the outcome there will be a way to do it – we always need to stay outward, rather than internally focused.”
Opportunities in brand tracking
Marketers can often shy away from tracking their brand or the success of campaigns – perhaps out of a sense of loss aversion or fear that the results aren’t going to justify the investment. Sarah, instead, sees opportunities in a strong brand tracking programme.
“We use brand tracking to understand if our strategy is working and our objectives are being met. The insight filters down into everything we do and the decisions we make on our brand, our communication and our customer experience.”
Showcasing the true business value of the marketing function
Sarah spent eight years in FMCG – “I earned my stripes in that world” – before moving into a service organisation. She says there’s a stark contrast between the way marketing teams are structured. In services, different marketing functions are often siloed, and that can sometimes dilute the perceived business value of marketing.
Adapt your language
Engagement metrics are great in a marketing context, but it’s not always obvious how they link to wider business objectives. To get traction, marketers must speak in ways that make it easy for other teams to measure that success.
“I'm very clear that I need to be able to link our marketing activity back to our business objectives. One of the ways we are working to drive value is by selling consumers the higher value products that meet their needs better and this is something we can very clearly measure.”
Move people across the business – not just up
Marketing professionals need to move themselves and their people sideways and expose them to roles in different marketing functions.
“We need to support the machine that delivers the short metrics. But the bigger role of marketing is driving growth and value over the long term. Expanding your skills and knowledge across the business will help you do that.”
Change your perception of value
Sometimes, value can be seen as extractive, so how do you align that with customer-centricity and doing what’s best for your customer? Adjust your perception of value.
“When I'm thinking about driving growth for the company, I'm thinking about how I can make customers advocates and provide a service that they value enough to pay for. Now, the only way I can get that is if they’re getting something in return.”
But the bigger issue is changing the value perception of marketing beyond the advertising campaign. Ironically, that requires “marketing to market themselves better” and linking marketing metrics to business objectives. Here’s how Sarah has worked to combat that at NZ Post.
Stay connected with the latest learnings
One of the turning points in Sarah’s career was when a project didn’t go well. She went looking for answers outside of her organisation and was quickly reminded of the value of seeking new information. “When you're working within your own organisation, you’re dealing with lots of different people outside of marketing. Connecting with other marketers is a good reminder of what you’re there to do and resets your priorities.”