Lessons from Turners in driving fame and business results

Lloyd Thomason, Communication and Brand Strategist at The Research Agency (TRA), looks at the much-loved and highly successful Tina from Turners campaign.

Tina from Turners is, and continues to be, a very effective campaign.

Since launching in 2021, it has picked up the Marketing Supreme Award, won two gold Effies, and delivered record profits to the business. Impressively, the campaign started working straight away – paying itself off within just one month.

“The Tina from Turners campaign has capped off several years of retail transformation for us. I think it’s a great example of when you create a marketing program that’s 100 percent aligned with your business strategy and ties in nicely with your organisational culture. We are pretty pleased with the results: big improvements in both our business results and brand metrics.” – Greg Hedgepeth, CEO, Turners Auto Retail

Tina from Turners has quickly become one of the public’s favourite campaigns.

TRA (The Research Agency), in partnership with ThinkTV, regularly ask a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 New Zealanders a simple, unprompted question; “What is your favourite ad on TV at the moment?” The most frequently mentioned favourites make up our list of New Zealand’s 10 Favourite Ads.

Tina sits at the #2 spot for June – an impressive feat given how outspent the campaign is compared to some of the other campaigns on the list. Looking at the top 100 TV advertisers for the month of June, Turners was #83 in terms of Ratecard presence.

There’s no doubt that the news of cultural icon Tina Turner passing away amplified conversations. Many mistakenly mourned the loss of the fictional brand character on radio and social media. Tina has become a loved personality in her own right.

To find out more about what it takes to create a famous and highly effective campaign, I spoke with some of the minds behind it. Here’s what they had to say.

Leave your ego at the door

A big part of the campaign’s success, says David (DT) Thomason (Brand and Advertising Strategist), was that no-one in the team was thinking about what was in it for them individually.

“Nobody was thinking about how they were going to get an award out of it. We were completely focused on creating work that would take the business forward.”

It was Kim Thorp who first uttered the words ‘Tina from Turners’ but everyone owned the idea together. With egos at the door, the team worked with commitment to bring the campaign to life.

Decide in the room

From target audience to positioning to the concept of the Tina character, all decisions were made in the room and approved on the spot.

The team avoided wearing down the edges of the idea with rounds and rounds of feedback through having the confidence and experience to make calls in the room.

Importantly, the marketing team had faith in the creative as experts who would deliver and gave them the freedom to do what they do best.

This meant Darryl Parsons (Creative) could go off with the full support of the project team to give life to a solid platform that everyone backed and believed in.

Find a great insight

It started with a simple business insight. While people knew that Turners sold cars, the brand wasn’t front of mind for buying cars. Focusing on a ‘we love buying cars’ message would lead to more, higher quality cars.

There were also customer insights at play:

  • Car salespeople aren’t seen as particularly trustworthy. The ‘we love buying cars’ message allowed Turners to circumnavigate this.
  • Getting rid of an old car can be a real pain (admin, time, dealing with strangers etc.), so a promise for Turners to take this away would really resonate.

These insights helped differentiate Turners vs. competitors and inspired fresh and entertaining executions.

Focus on doing one thing well

Sean Wiggans, GM Marketing, points to focusing on one message as another contributor to the campaign’s success.

“People are busy, and most don’t care about your brand, so you have to make it easy for them. And if your budget isn’t that big, you have to focus even more.”

Chances are you will get a halo effect anyway – the campaign is focused on customers selling their cars – but has been a big driver of buying cars as well.

Through staying focused on one message, Tina has become a shortcut to both the Turners brand and its message. This frees up space in executions to bring Tina’s infectious personality to life.

Draw on life experience

The campaign wouldn’t be what it was if it wasn’t for Darryl Parsons’ hilarious scripts.

Parsons puts it down to life experience. He didn’t get into advertising until he was in his 30’s. Before then, he had lived all over New Zealand and had close friends from diverse cultural backgrounds who showed him different ways to see the world.

Because of this, Parsons says he knows what New Zealanders like and can add nuances to the work that only those with real life experience can.

Make space for play

There’s no denying that a big part of the campaign’s success is down to the pure talent of comedian Sieni Leo’o Olo who plays Tina.

The close working relationship between Leo’o Olo and Parsons takes the work to the next level.

Importantly, there isn’t a finalised script on shoot day. The pair are free to try different things and see what works. This leads to even more magic moments being captured.

Invest in fame

James Roberts, Head of Strategy at Lassoo Media & PR, describes the use of TV as a key contributor to the campaign’s fame.  The amount of people who mentioned seeing the campaign on TV was staggering given how much scepticism there is around TV viewership.  

Roberts explains that to build fame, the focus was on extending Tina’s personality over a direct sales message – even in channels like radio and online. You don’t want to be the media planner who didn’t give a brilliant creative idea the opportunity to shine. 

The numerous executions allow us to be in market constantly and there is undoubtedly a cumulative effect across all the campaign elements that contributed to Tina’s overall fame.

Add a bit of magic for good measure

Using knowledge that is now available about how to create effective campaigns, the team did everything they could to ensure success. But Sean Wiggans is quick to admit that while he absolutely knew the campaign would be effective, he had no idea that it would be just as effective as it has been.

“Fame was always an objective – but as a Big Hairy audacious Goal (BHAG). I think to truly resonate with the public and achieve fame there has to be an element of magic at the end of the day,”says Wiggans.

The team deliberately created the environment for it, but the ‘magic’ of really great people doing what they do best is impossible to bottle.

“Our team – right from the initial sessions with the strategy, to the creative and production, to the media strategy and delivery – everyone did an outstanding job. And the results reflect that.”

Perhaps if you create the right environment applying some of these learnings, who knows, you too could create a bit of magic and deliver a campaign that hits ‘fame’.

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