Marketer of the Year

With an unstoppable high-energy approach, Simon Hofmann led the charge for the largest brand transformation in Kiwibank’s history. In recognition of this mammoth task, Simon has been named Marketer of the Year at the 2023 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards.  

Transformational leadership

Spearheading an aıbitious brand transformation and coordinating a complete repositioning of Aotearoa’s largest New Zealand-owned bank is no mean feat. But under the guidance of General Manager of Brand and Marketing at Kiwibank Simon Hofmann, the organisation underwent a significant change.

Recognising the competitive landscape dominated by the ‘Big Four’ Australian-owned banks, Simon understood that Kiwibank had fallen behind as New Zealand progressed, and his relentless efforts positioned Kiwibank for the future and generations of Kiwis to come.

Today, the bank is well on its way to equalling its competitors and becoming customers’ top choice.

Drawing on his experience working on major brands like IBM, National Australia Bank, Mercedes-Benz, and Hyundai, and a background in data driven and customer marketing space, Simon encouraged his team to think outside the box. As a smaller bank, Kiwibank needed to outsmart rather than outspend.

To achieve this, Simon encouraged his team to optimise media, product innovations, and build a positive presence in market, while being a true champion of creativity. 

“The recent transformation of the Kiwibank brand was a real privilege to have led and certainly a highlight,” he says. “An amazing opportunity to bring together a broad cross-functional team and use the power of a brand to drive complete organisational change through everything we say and do. 

“It’s been amazing to see the lift in pride within the bank, the outstanding brand and marketing results and their contribution to a hugely successful year of business performance for Kiwibank. I’ve built an incredible leadership team through the process and so many of our wider team have played critical roles in delivering it.”

On learning he was named a finalist in this year’s Awards, Simon says he felt “humbled and surprised by the nomination” but also “proud that the work and impact we’re having at Kiwibank is being recognised”.

Motivated by his competitive nature, he says he thrives on the challenge of taking on Australian banks and throughout the brand transformation, he trusted and encouraged his team to pave the way for product innovations.

“We compete with brands that have five times the investment we do and significantly more resource, but that’s an environment I thrive in. It’s a David vs. Goliath challenge and it means we have to weave together a team that is more connected, with a more efficient way of working that delivers work that is more effective,” he says.

“The pace of change in the industry and the financial services category is unrelenting and the breadth of work we deliver and the role we play for a business like Kiwibank is extensive. Ensuring I stay focused on delivering to our strategy, while constantly looking to the future to keep evolving, is a constant juggling act.”

As for what makes a successful marketer, Simon says awards are very rarely won on the merits of one person.

“Marketing is part science, part art, enabled by a great team and strong connection into the business. The foundation of successful marketers is being able to build and lead a great team around you alongside a strong partner village. An environment that allows people and teams to rise to the challenge and utilise their different strengths is a winning combination.

“Having a clear ambition where everyone can see the role they play in the successful delivery of it needs to be supported with clear and measurable objectives. Having a strong and trusted connection into the business ensures that the corporate strategy is connected with the brand and marketing strategy, creating alignment between the promise and the experience delivered.”

To date Simon’s greatest career hits include playing a pivotal role in NAB’s campaign, ‘The Breakup’, and spearheading the viral and award-winning ‘I am Hope’ campaign, raising awareness for mental health through clever partnership leverage.

He also aligned Kiwibank’s aesthetic with its bold ambitions, reversing brand decline, and driving record customer growth while successfully managing multiple cyber-attacks during this time.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Simon championed the development of ‘Co-own,’ an innovative product that reshaped home ownership perceptions.

With a focus on nurturing creativity, he has fostered a positive internal culture that encouraged ideas from every team member. Notably, the team’s innovations included a shared home ownership proposition, a corporate wardrobe redefinition, and digital finance simulators.

One standout success was a single social post capitalising on the #barbie movie mania, which not only was met with mass positive engagement but also influenced acquisition behaviour and instilled pride within the organisation. 

“It was the perfect mix of leveraging a cultural moment, aligning the moment with an authentic brand and product demonstration, great application of tone and some clever community management. Leveraging cultural trends with an authentic place to play can be super powerful,” he says.

And it wasn’t just Simon’s drive and vision that fuelled the journey – it was his injection of humour and boundless energy that supported, connected, and made the process fun for his team. Simon’s leadership style, combined with the team’s dedication, created an unbeatable force that continues to leave a lasting impact on Kiwibank.

As for the what’s next, Simon says the way the industry is changing and evolving is exciting but makes it difficult to predict. In the future, he sees himself continuing to build relationships across the industry and through the businesses he works in, while working in organisations that “challenge the status quo and have a measurable impact” and “leading strong teams that have a real diversity of thought wrapped around them”.

Diane Clark (Foodstuffs NZ)
Sandra Daniel (Oceania)

This article was originally published in the September/October 2023 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

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