2023 Marketer of the Year finalist – Diane Clark, Foodstuffs

Leading a brand transformation for an almost 100-year-old brand is no easy task. But Diane Clark used her skills and innovative thinking to lead quite the reinvention for Four Square, capturing not only customer attention, but the attention of the 2023 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards judges as well.

How did you feel when you found out you had been nominated?

I was completely floored; I didn’t even know Jane Wardlaw at FCB had even nominated me! Once I’d got used to the idea, receiving that kind of observational feedback from someone I respect so much – and reflecting back the impact I’d had on the transformation of the Four Square brand was pretty cool.  And then getting a finalist spot was even better.

Briefly, give details of your marketing career to this point.

I’m a career marketer and passionate backer of Kiwi retail brands. I’ve marketed for New World, The Warehouse, Farmers and now I’m the first Head of Marketing & CX for Four Square, a near 100 year old Kiwi icon. In this awesome role I get to lead brand, marketing, customer experience and media strategy. The last couple of years I’ve been focussed on the revitalisation of the Four Square brand. I’ve also worked in the banking, beauty and exhibition sectors in NZ and overseas.

Why do you love working for Foodstuffs?

Foodstuffs is a great employer who is genuinely committed to doing their best for all New Zealanders. These are tough times for all of us and I’ve been so inspired by the laser focus everyone currently has on fighting inflation – it’s purposeful and rewarding work with a culture of collaboration and ‘kiwiness’ that’s difficult to beat in a working environment.

I’m not the only one that feels this way, the engagement in my wider team is phenomenal, above 90 percent, which is world class and speaks volumes.  Our team proudly delivers measurable results back into our business and it’s really cool to be a part of that.

What do you love about marketing? Is there a specific type of marketing you particularly enjoy, or specialise in, and why?

There’s a few here – but most quickly summed up as the science and the art – strategic direction and creative excellence.

I love marketing and am a massive advocate for marketing science having spent my career executing and proving the theory. I love teaching new marketers, non-marketers and active marketing naysayers of the impact and role marketing plays in businesses success – shifting marketing to be seen as a value-add discipline rather than a cost centre.

Being a cheeky challenger and striving for outstanding creativity is also a passion. I always love to push creative boundaries. The work on Four Square is a pure love of mine. Insight led, laugh out loud, fun. Purposely sitting outside of the category expectations means we’ve packed a punch in market. 

What do you think it takes to be an award-winning marketer?

I believe that an award-winning marketer should be the biggest voice for the power of marketing with a focus on driving winning outcomes for business and customer.

It all comes down to bravery and perseverance. You have to take calculated risks and trust your gut; science can only take things so far. And stop sweating the small stuff. Marketers can get caught up in the latest and greatest – but what matters most is doing the big things right and focusing on the right small things – that all make a difference.

Keeping teams pumped and focused on the jobs to do and their part in achieving that is vital too.  If they know the path, they’re going to get there a lot easier.

What do you think has been your most significant achievement throughout your career?

Transforming a Kiwi icon in Four Square has been by far the standout – what a privilege. Being entrusted to reinvigorate what Four Square means to customers now and into the future is something I’m immensely proud of. 

From stalled market share and latent brand love – to getting Four Square back into the spotlight – and making it cool again! Getting customers to reconsider Four Square and flipping the experience has turned the brand from stagnant growth to a superstar performer with more potential to come. 

Under my stewardship, Four Square has gone from a brand that was plodding along to a brand that’s seeing unprecedented results in market share and sales and the highest ever customer brand health measures.

Four Square ranked #1 for Most Satisfied Customers by Canstar Blue in 2022, has driven increased year-on-year sales and picked up Best Design, Beacons, and Axis Awards along with a Kantar Ad Impact.

What are some of the biggest challenges you as a marketer face working within the industry that you do?

Marketing is a career that comes with so many expectations, and plenty of opinions shared on how you could do things better. Shifting the discussion from marketing being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, to having a voice in business decisions is always a big challenge. 

Building influence and trust within a business is important as a marketer. Becoming the expert in the room requires us to build trust and demonstrate continuously how marketing can transformation and add value. 

We’re the biggest voice of the customer, so making sure we’re using that voice with impact and influence where it counts and can make the difference.

Tell me about a marketing initiative you have recently worked on that has realised great success, and why you think it has done so?

Our shift in Four Square’s strategy has been a big one. The brand had become irrelevant to most consumer shopping missions. We needed to shift the business from a ‘what we want to sell’ to ‘what customers want to buy’ and address Four Square’s charming but somewhat old fashion and tired perceptions without losing any of the customer love that comes with a heritage brand. 

Customers want convenience more than ever before, so our transformation strategy was to unify the brand around the convenience needs of customers. Instead of fighting a losing battle for the planned weekly big shops which are well-covered, we focused on shopper needs in the next 2 to 4 hours – the unplanned missions – and shift from ‘top up’ to first stop shop in peoples’ minds.

We’ve delivered a refreshed creative visual ID, taking a ‘bre-tail’ approach making every piece of marketing deliver on both brand and retail outcomes, launched new store formats with exceptional customer experience, gotten an uber eats partnership off the ground, delivered value to our customers, and focused on salience building with our first brand campaign in 18 years – Kings Feast – launching this April.

In my mind the secret sauce was engaging every aspect of the co-operatives in our brand strategic direction – from stores and membership engagement, merchandise, operations, and IT – we’ve been able to drive change from inside the business to deliver a truly lined up customer proposition.

In a nutshell I’ve led Four Square from being a much loved but a bit stuck in the past (operationally and perceptually) to a brand that’s delivering what customers want, convenience. We’re already seeing unprecedented results with market share and sales increasing year-on-year, and customer measures the highest ever.

Where do you see your career headed in the next 5-10 years?

The most rewarding thing for me is making an impact with whatever I’m doing. My focus over the next five years is to continue be a strong advocate for winning outcomes for business, customers, and our communities as a strong transformational marketer. I’m also excited to support and grow a future generation of passionate marketers in their careers as one of the most rewarding ways to give back to our marketing world.

Longer term, I’m particularly fascinated by behavioural economics, consumer biases and the evolution of our future communities and generations and how I can drive richer conversations around this in the industry.

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About Ayla Miller

Ayla Miller is a Feature Writer/Sub-editor for SCG Media Business titles, NZ Marketing, StopPress, Idealog and The Register.

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