A winning partnership

Jules Lloyd-Jones has been Chief Marketing Officer at Mitre 10 for four and a half years, during which time she’s dedicated much energy to building brand love with customers. She shares with us what makes the DIY retailer’s approach to customer experience so special, explaining that the brand has its foundation in formidable partnerships.

In 2021 we were privileged to witness a slew of wonderful, new advertising on our screens. While some came from overseas, many ads were produced locally, as a degree of normality returned to New Zealand at least for a while. 

Certainly, the narrative started to shift from how brands could help consumers through Covid-19 to themes drawn more from their regular playbooks. Throughout the year, insights company Kantar tested 176 TV ads in total – as part of its Ad Impact Awards – and saw a number of very high performing TVCs making their mark, with strong storylines, humour, nostalgia and music often playing a role in their success. From a field of very impactful ads, earlier this year Kantar announced the worthy winner of the 2021 Kantar Supreme Ad Impact Award was Mitre 10.

The ad, ‘With You All the Way’ via FCB, tells the heart-warming story of a Kiwi bloke wanting to build a dream gazebo for himself and his partner but not knowing where to start – until he enters Mitre 10. This campaign endeared itself to viewers who were enchanted by the storyline that features a Mitre 10 staff member, our hero figure, who helps the dream come true. 

Across the three key pillars that support impactful advertising and deliver strong branded memorability, Mitre 10 scored above the 90th percentile for enjoyment and branding and just shy of the 70th percentile for impact.

“‘With You All the Way’ is our customer promise of partnership – championing our commitment to helping customers build confidence in their home improvement abilities and offering valued support to get their projects done right,” says Jules Lloyd-Jones, Chief Marketing Officer at Mitre 10 New Zealand Ltd.

“The ad combines the message with good storytelling, a touch of humour and a catchy tune, to create an emotive connection with the viewer. It also leverages our key points of difference: our helpful team members and quality customer experience. We’re honoured to see the campaign recognised in this way and look forward to unveiling further chapters in Pete and Grant’s story in the coming months.”

But, to truly get to the heart of what makes this TVC so successful, Jules says the context behind the brand positioning is important. Keen to share more, she takes us back about 18 months when the DYI retailer set out on a mission to further grow brand love with its customers. “We wanted to do this in a meaningful way that helped create deeper relationships of trust with our customers. And we knew that to do that, we’d need to create genuine emotional connections across all of the touch points that we have,” she explains.

Brand obsessed

More than just a marketing campaign, Jules says the with you all the way movement has been about what Mitre 10 needs to do across the business, holistically, to deliver on this growth of brand love. 

“When we looked at customer insights, because we’re a very customer-led, insights-driven business, we looked internally at our values that we have in the organisation and one of them, in fact, an absolute key driver for us is about customer obsession. Then we looked at the customer insights, and what mattered most to customers. Through this time, (and the front end of Covid lockdowns), all of our research was telling us the same thing; that customers really valued having help to generate ideas, solve problems, find solutions, and ultimately why, because they were looking for confidence.”

Making sure that Mitre 10 customers get great advice, knowledge, and expertise, delivered with the confidence that they’re looking for in the DIY retail category, was a key brand proposition explains Jules. “And that’s where the work began, not only on the ‘With You All the Way’ campaign, but also the entire brand position across all touchpoints.

“What this translated to was that customers are in fact looking for a partnership with Mitre 10.”

One of the most important touchpoints that Mitre 10 has is its just over 7,000 strong staff, working across 84 stores and in the support centre, who are ambassadors for the brand. 

These team members are often a significant point of contact with the brand. Jules says that it was therefore important for any messaging around partnership to include the team, as well as have buy-in from the team.

“We initially set about creating thinking around what our brand platform and a brand promise would look like. Then, how this would resonate with both our team, that actually empowers them to deliver on the brand promise, and also genuinely connects with our customers. 

“One of the key things for us is that our retail customers and our trade customers are very different. Their needs are not the same, and their interactions with us differ greatly across touchpoints.  

“If anything, our relationship with our trade customers and our trade team members is even more important because of the nature of the business that they’re doing. There’s a reliance they place on us getting the goods to their site at the right time, so that they are able to get on with their house builds, renovations, and so on. So that’s what we did. We came up with this concept around with you all the way. And that was going to be something that we were thinking about bringing to life across the entire business.”

Big buy-in

Following much research, engaging with both trade retail and team members to ensure that with you all away actually did resonate and connect with those groups, Jules and her team found that it very much landed exactly where they wanted it to, that it was genuinely seen as something believable with all stakeholders. 

The next challenge was going to be how Mitre 10 brought this to life across all   touchpoints and with all customers and staff. Jules says that buy-in from the cooperative was essential here, and was well supported.

“As a cooperative, getting support from our membership is really important. They effectively need to be brought into the concept from the start and involved throughout as we’re not a corporate. So this was really key upfront. 

“We realised that going out with a marketing campaign was the thing we needed to focus on least, because at the end of the day, where it started for us was putting our people at the heart of our brand. So those 7,000 people fundamentally are the people who deliver with you all the way for us.”

Jules Lloyd-Jones.

The challenge then became, how was this brand positioning going to connect with a Mitre 10-er personally? “To this end we started internally and spent a good part of seven or eight months working with, and internally landing this with our team. Meaning that we had to do things we hadn’t done before, as this promise was going to live through them [the team], not through a marketing campaign.”

The retailer began to engage staff at big road shows around the country, creating workshops for customer experience, and developing leadership around customer experience and customer service. “We got our store management teams from all of our stores across the country to attend these workshops, to really understand the power of what great customer experience is, what it looks like, and how they can actually bring it to life, and have it show up in store.”

Jules believes that this staff engagement on customer experience really sets Mitre 10 apart from other brands in the market, saying that only after success was achieved here, work went into marketing the brand externally.

For the latter, Mitre 10 worked on a lot of the creative development with FCB and other partners (such as Anthem and Socialites) as a collaborative process. 

Mitre 10’s iconic ‘Sandpit Kids’ TVC from the late 2000, which received high praise both within the industry and from consumers, is a bar that the brand is often measured against in its creative executions. “We wanted to take on and deliver something as powerful as we had for ‘Sandpit Kids’, with the ‘With You All the Way’ campaign.”

“Now we’ve got Pete and Grant who are our two main characters, and through our TVC there’s some genuine messaging being told. Most obviously, that if you are looking for a project partnership, we are there to help you.” 

And if the Kantar Ad Impact Award is anything to go on, it’s certainly making a play for a big section of the DIY retail sandpit. 

But what does Jules really think about the result? “I think the big shift that we made in moving from the whole DIY in your DNA five plus years ago, is that this was very much a category statement. It’s a fact. It’s a very humanistic, New Zealand kind of characteristic. 

“Also, the statement of DIY being in our DNA is changing slightly, as we see a bit of a cultural shift globally. It’s not as strong as it once used to be, but still part of the Kiwi psyche. So, needed to be carried through.

“We had to make sure that as we moved to a new brand promise for customers, and for the team, it was something that was really unashamedly Mitre 10. And I feel that this partnership idea really does resonate with everything that we’ve done before and since, it stands true to us as a brand and how customers experience us in the category, on a day-in, day-out basis.”

Since the campaign started running, Jules says that Mitre 10 has seen both brand affinity/ or brand love grow. Two key measures of the business she says. “They have both risen considerably since August 2021, and continue to do so. And this is right through a period where we weren’t operating normally at all.

“I love great storytelling. I think that campaigns that make you feel something, it doesn’t matter what that something is, but if you feel something and you react to it strongly, it’s far more powerful. I think that’s where great storytelling comes in when reaching cusomers on a personal level.

“I think the reason that this story has resonated with so many people, and so positively, is that they can connect with it at a very human level. I think the awkward bromance style of it resonates with a lot of people in terms of how they feel about the partnership, and you can have a bit of a laugh with them.”

So where to from here? Jules says that Pete and Grant will definitely be showing up with more bromance soon. 

“It’s going to be a watch this space situation. But, I think bringing those two very likable characters to life across a number of different things as we move forward will also help engage the kind of ideas and values Mitre 10 has, and the way that people connect with these, and with our brand.”  

This article was first published in the 2022 March/April issue of NZ Marketing magazine.

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