Melodie Vickars, Head of Brand, Marketing and Communications at AA Insurance, caught up with NZ Marketing about what it was like to be a finalist for the Marketer of the Year at the 2022 TVNZ – NZ Marketing Awards, what she loves about her job and what it takes to create a campaign that balances heart and science and shows up for customers when it matters.
How did you feel when you found out you had been nominated?
Genuinely surprised! Every day I see so many examples of great marketing work that I was surprised I stood out. It’s a privilege.
Briefly, give details of your marketing career to this point.
Over the last 17 years I have led brand, marketing, and communications in various roles for AA Insurance. Prior to that I did a decent chunk of time in the UK agency side leading automotive, charity and financial services accounts. I started my career at Westpac on their graduate programme and I always knew I wanted to be a marketer.
Why do you love working for AA Insurance?
I never thought I would be at AA Insurance as long as I have but it is a great place to work. The culture has a focus on people and great customer experience and there have been so many opportunities to make a difference. AA Insurance has grown so much whilst I have been here, and I really feel I have contributed to that success.
What do you love about marketing? Is there a specific type of marketing you particularly enjoy, or specialise in, and why?
I love that successful marketing is equal parts hearts and science. At the core has to be a deep understanding of human behaviour. Over the years I have become more of a generalist who enjoys seeing the bigger strategic picture and connecting the dots across the marketing funnel. I have tended to specialise in financial services – it’s not a product that excites consumers, so you have to work really hard to tell your brand story and I like that challenge.
What do you think it takes to be an award-winning marketer?
It takes a village! I am lucky to have a great team and partners that make me look good. Have a clear marketing strategy that connects back to the business objectives and purpose. Execute that strategy using best practice and be confident with your direction. And take calculated risks to work out what best practice looks like for your brand.
What do you think has been your most significant achievement throughout your career?
I have been proud of how the AA Insurance brand has showed up in moments that really matter such as the Christchurch earthquakes and the onset of the recent pandemic. Having to pivot and work at pace and have your brand come out stronger for it is incredibly rewarding. Looking back over my time at AA Insurance we have achieved so much to build our brand to be the strongest in the category. We set out to do this 10 years ago and at the time, it seemed like an impossible task.
What are some of the biggest challenges you as a marketer face working within the industry that you do?
Like many industries, the insurance industry has more scrutiny on it that ever before. The bar to earn customers’ trust has been raised. A brand has to demonstrate trust throughout the customer journey. There are so many disruptors – supply chain issues, environmental, social, purchase channels. Now is not the time to be complacent with your brand values and experience.
Tell me about a marketing initiative you have recently worked on that has realised great success, and why you think it has done so?
In 2018, we launched Live a Little Freer as our campaign platform. It is the way we represent the AA Insurance purpose, ‘We care, we help and we get things sorted’ in market. It is much bolder in leading with a strong and consistent brand message that flows through all marketing – whether it is SEM, sponsorship activation or incentive-led acquisition. It has delivered record growth and the leading consideration and brand results for the category. I put it down to insight-driven creative, and reinforcement through consistency and investment to become meaningful and familiar with consumers.
Where do you see your career headed in the next 5-10 years?
I always want to feel like I’m making a difference. I find myself more and more interested in how marketing shows up in business strategy and purpose. I’m enjoying being involved in the wider business strategy for AA Insurance using skills honed from my marketing experience and I’d like to continue this. I’d like to share my marketing knowledge and give back to the community in some way. But equally, I predict reaching and engaging consumers is going to change dramatically over the next 10 years and the challenge will be just keeping up.