The CMO Show:
Renee Garner on diversity of...

Renee Garner, CMO at amaysim, sits down with host Mark Jones to discuss how marketers can drive impact on a global scale by championing diversity and inclusion in their organisations.

Diversity of thought can enhance creativity and innovation. 

According to a 2020 I&D report by McKinsey, the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.

Think about the inherent and acquired diversity of your marketing team, leadership wider organisation, customers and society at large: 

  • What is your organisation doing to understand and reflect this diversity in its marketing outputs?
  • How is your organisation using diversity of thought to drive creativity and innovation in all areas?
  • Is your brand seizing these opportunities to make an impact? 

Renee Garner, CMO at amaysim, believes that marketers have the ability to challenge and shape perspectives, drive cultural change and kickstart movements.

“It’s really finding that special magic and then saying, “How do I build and mobilise and galvanise a whole organisation around the energy around that and get people to buy in?” Because that’s half the challenge. Then, “How do I actually communicate that out to the world in a way that brings others along?” But it’s got to start inside out,” Renee says.

As a marketing leader in a male-dominated industry, Renee has seen first-hand how diversity of thought in marketing leads to the best representation of a brand’s customers.

“[Typically male-dominated industries] like all industries and businesses that are trying to win, they win through diversity of thought and leadership. The way in which you can drive a competitive advantage is to get that representation in there and harvest those unique ideas through all the people.”

Check out this episode of The CMO Show to hear more from Renee, and find out how marketers can drive impact on a global scale by championing diversity of thought and inclusive leadership. 

Resources

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The CMO Show production team

Producers – Charlotte Goodwin & Stephanie Woo

Audio Engineers – Tom Henderson & Daniel Marr

Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: cmoshow@filteredmedia.com.au.

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Transcript

Host: Mark Jones

Guest: Renee Garner

Mark Jones:
Creative problem-solving and innovation in all areas of life demands diverse thinking. Diversity of thought “behind the marketing” better reflects the diversity of a brand’s customer base. So the opportunity for marketers is to develop a more inclusive and authentic approach to the way they work and make an impact. How are you seizing this opportunity?

Mark Jones:
Hello friends! Mark Jones here.Great to have you with us again on The CMO Show. My guest today is Renee Garner – CMO at the largest mobile virtual network operator in Australia, amaysim. On this episode, Renee and I discuss how marketers can drive impact on a global scale by championing diversity and inclusion in their organisations. Let’s go to my conversation with Renee. 

Mark Jones:
Renee Garner, thanks for joining us.

Renee Garner:
Thanks for having me.

Mark Jones:
Now, first thing’s first, amaysim, it’s a brand that’s been around for a long time in the telco or MVNO, is that right?

Mark Jones:
Did I get it right?

Renee Garner:
Yes.

Mark Jones:
Mobile virtual network operator.

Renee Garner:
Network operator.

Mark Jones:
Right. An interesting category which we’ll talk about.

Renee Garner:
Yes.

Mark Jones:
amaysim, where did the name come from?

Renee Garner:
It came from the founders, Peter O’Connell, who was recently our CEO – but since the Optus acquisition has moved on. But he came up with amaysim with the four other German founders. We think it came from “amazingly simple,” but it was born somewhere 10 to 11 years ago through those founders and they’ve never looked back.

Mark Jones:
Well, I’d think it’s a lot of fun.

Renee Garner:
It is.

Mark Jones:
And it’s a brand in the Australian market that’s always had quite a unique personality to it. But before we get to all of that, I want to know a bit about you, and you have a legal background.

Mark Jones:
So somebody who was a lawyer and is now the CMO, what was that moment where you were like “I’m a lawyer and now I don’t want to be one anymore?”

Renee Garner:
Look, I think I had this ‘aha’ moment at the United Nations climate change negotiations actually in Copenhagen.

Renee Garner:
I had this moment where I thought I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore, I want to work in an energy business. During those early years at Freehills, I had this insatiable curiosity around climate change. 

Renee Garner:
I just absolutely was obsessed with global policy on climate change and what was happening in the Australian market and how that influenced the political sphere and those kinds of things. I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the United Nations climate change negotiations, and in those negotiations I realised that hang on, the whole idea of it is actually around energy security and the energy ecosystem.

Mark Jones:
It’s economics as well.

Renee Garner:
Yeah, economics and just this underlying energy ecosystem. I thought if I want to really make an impact, I want to work in a business that is an energy company and I want to be a part of the solution.

Mark Jones:
Right, so change from the inside?

Renee Garner:
Yes, exactly. And so after the back of that, I came back and thought I’m going to start calling everyone that works in an energy business that I can find. And I cold called on LinkedIn, and contacts that I’d worked through Freehills and other people, and managed to find a wonderful opportunity at TRUenergy then, that turned into EnergyAustralia, working into their M&A and commercial team. And that’s how I transitioned out of law, but back then I didn’t think I was going to end up in marketing.

Mark Jones:
I’ve got to say, just that whole set of experiences must have been really quite amazing. What happened next?

Renee Garner:
When I think about my career, it’s been non-linear to get to where I’ve gotten to, and I’ve always just followed that curiosity and jumped at opportunities. So in eight years at EnergyAustralia after that, I had four or five different roles in M&A, working into corporate strategy, always looking for an opportunity to make an impact and following a passion, and asking for the opportunity if it wasn’t there, and learning fast and throwing myself into the deep end.

Renee Garner:
Essentially pitching to my CEO at the time, “Look, we are the second largest emitter in Australia, what if we could be the answer to that problem as well? Not just the problem, but the answer as a business, and actually have a purpose beyond making energy and turning a revenue?  What social impact can we make and how can we actually be the one that accelerates towards a clean energy future?”

Renee Garner:
We did a major project – a purpose project, top down there – which I helped lead with the CEO. And off the back of that, it actually turned into the brand strategy, so that’s how I got into brand – through leading the purpose work and then moving that into what’s our external facing position on that. 

Renee Garner:
That was a many a-project around saying how do we take purpose? How do we all buy into that, internally? Are we confident that we can make tough decisions around the choices we make in terms of our investments, in terms of where we want to put our resources and deploy our energy as a business? And then how do we actually manifest that to customers through the external manifestation, which is the brand and the story.

Renee Garner:
And then from there I became obsessed because I was thinking how great is sales and marketing, but how wonderful and how important are brands.

Mark Jones:
You had a reason, a purpose for doing it, right? It came from that passion and you then found yourself being so excited about the story that you wanted to take it further, “I just kept following it and following it and following it,” right?

Renee Garner:
Yes, and trying to make an impact. I think brands have a very unique opportunity in society to make a special impact, either at a macro level, at an ecosystem level, or at an individual level with people’s lives. And so it’s really finding that special magic and then saying, “How do I build and mobilise and galvanise a whole organisation around the energy around that and get people to buy in?” Because that’s half the challenge. Then, “How do I actually communicate that out to the world in a way that brings others along?” But it’s got to start inside out.

Mark Jones:
From the way that you describe it, you were something of a flag bearer or the champion for this change that needed to happen at EnergyAustralia. What was that like for you really having this passion and wanting to bring so many people along? I can imagine possibly an impatience that comes along with that experience.

Renee Garner:
I think it’s funny though, when you ask the question, “who wants to be a part of something that’s shaping society?” So many people want to be involved. People want to work for a business that is beyond just turning that profit. They want to work for making a difference, and so it wasn’t just me out on my own, there was a huge group of people that were so behind this concept in there. And I can see that, a similar thing now at amaysim with our Big Love brand idea.

Renee Garner:
But the people in our business really believe that they can make a difference to customers, and they can show crazy customer love, and hero our customers – hero their stories, get behind them, champion them. There’s just a real truth and belief. You can’t ask a culture to be a certain way, you’ve got to actually surface it from the inside out to drive that brand, that purpose, and then that narrative externally.

Mark Jones:
Very true. I guess to drill into that a little bit, the challenge in the category that you’re now speaking about, entirely different to the energy sector.

Renee Garner:
Absolutely.

Mark Jones:
And to find that purpose that is true, I imagine is quite a challenge if you’re starting out. If you go back to the beginning days of amaysim, again, it’s developing the culture, right?

Renee Garner:
Yes. Well, I must say the founder, Peter O’Connell, I mean, he is this magnificent human and he was incredible to work with in the last few years. I learned so much from him in terms of the power of empathy. He founded a business built on absolute empathy, and not in a soft way. Actually standing in customers’ shoes, standing in others’ shoes and saying, “What do they want?” They want simplicity, they want to cut all the fine print, they want what it says on the packet. That’s what they want from their provider.

Renee Garner:
And it seems really simple, but you just don’t get that a lot across many utilities. There’s a lot promise over here, deliver over there. And it was founded on that idea of empathy and simplicity and giving customers simple pricing, cut the fine print. And it was really disruptive at the time in that market when there was complex contracts, and so that actually core idea has not shifted. We still deeply believe in making it easy for customers, being great value and keeping it simple.

Renee Garner:
Customers still want that. They may be happy to trade off gold class service for a simple value-led, but very connected and great service, and that’s what we like to think that we offer. We think we do that uniquely with Big Love. We think that how we do that is crazy customer love – writing love letters to our customers, sending them jokes on their birthdays. We don’t have a big marketing budget, so we have to find really quirky ways to show them the love and make it feel personalised.

Mark Jones:
So Big Love is the creative idea that speaks to how we think about you as a customer, right?

Renee Garner:
Yeah.

Mark Jones:
If I look comparatively across the whole telco sector, it’s hard to avoid the race to the bottom in terms of pricing. And that must be quite a challenge particularly given your own heritage, which is also low prices. So how do you get that cut through? I feel like it’s one of the greatest existential challenges in the telco sector.

Renee Garner:
I mean, we always have to be great value because there’s customer needs that say, “Look, I need a really competitively priced mobile plan.” It doesn’t mean we have to be the cheapest, right? So we’ve always got to make sure that we are competitive and not race to the bottom. Then, what we think we can do uniquely is overlay that Big Love, which for us is being really easy to deal with and incredible customer service. And a lot of it is love bombing, what we call surprise and delights. Making sure our customers know that they’re always on the best deal. Something that is very central to our philosophy around Big Love is this immovable truth around no existing customer should be worse off than a new customer. Not many utilities do that.

Renee Garner:
You hear it a lot in utilities where customers say, “Why do I very to call to get put on that new plan or those new inclusions, why do I have to ask you for that?” So we don’t have a back book, that’s very unique in utility and it takes courage because there are obviously commercial implications with those decisions, but we start with the question of what is right for our customers first.

Mark Jones:
So there’s immediately an interplay between sales, marketing and business. 

Mark Jones:
So tell me about the way that you develop campaigns in that context because you’ve got to take in the ideas and the views of different stakeholders, right?

Renee Garner:
Absolutely. Like I said, we first ask ourselves what’s right for customers, then we say, “What’s the implication?” In our marketing and our campaigns, we think about those customers we’re acquiring, where are they coming from, on what offers? And then we think about, “How do we nurture them through that first three to six months?” In a way that makes them feel loved, that they feel like value is affirmed and that they make sure that if there’s any changes in the market or plan prices that they’re looked after and we’ve got their back.

Renee Garner:
And so, it’s really just thinking through what would a customer expect right now from us if we were doing the right thing.

Mark Jones:
Tell me about Optus because obviously that’s the acquisition that went through.

Mark Jones:
You’ve got a very clear brand identity and I know that the brand continues as it is, but how do you think about the brand and marketing strategy knowing – I presume now having a greater insight into what Optus is doing? Because one of things I do know from a bit of work in this sector is that everybody is watching everyone’s plans and their pricing and their structures and their ideas all the time. So now you have a great insight into what your parent company’s doing, how do you approach that from a CMO perspective?

Renee Garner:
The wonderful thing about joining Optus is now we’re not coming up against each other in market, and we are a portfolio of brands now – Optus owned and operated. So it’s actually wonderful for us because we’re still operating as a standalone brand. We’re working across the Optus portfolio to say, “How do we line up all of the Optus brands now to capture all of the customer needs in the most efficient and effective way and win against everyone else? So it’s more side by side.

Renee Garner:
We look to them about how they can actually help us to live a Big Love in new and exciting ways through their products or tech developments. Similarly, they’re looking to us to say look, “What learnings do you have for us in terms of how you manage your customers and how you think about loyalty and those kinds of things?”

Renee Garner:
So it’s quite a wonderful opportunity I think for a brand like ours, where we’ve got the resource and backing of a big brother, we have the opportunity to share and learn from each other where we didn’t have it before, and we can be much more coordinated in our marketing in terms of our office calendar planning, proposition development and that kind of thing, so that we orchestrate such that we can face into the market and say we’re going to take everyone down now – together – versus come up against each other.

Mark Jones:
So you’re creating space essentially for each other as opposed to trying to step over the top?

Renee Garner:
Yeah, absolutely.

Renee Garner:
And so that will continue. We’re new in this relationship, but we’re working really well together and we’re all part of the same fam now, so it’s really exciting.

Mark Jones:
So tell me about the category, which I’ve been fascinated for and we touched on it at the beginning. Do your customers think about you as an MVNO? To what extent do they think about the underlying network versus just the brand? Do they care?

Renee Garner:
The way the insight shows up to us is really there’s some customers out there that would prefer an established telco, and they want the safety and the bells and whistles that come with that. There’s some that are actually looking for more of a value, is simple, and they’re happy to trade off some of that perceived either service quality or established safety for value. That’s really the way that the drivers of, and the motivations for acquisition play out in market.

Renee Garner:
Our job is to actually make ourselves look distinct and different from all the other players that are playing in that value space, and this is where the Big Love narrative comes in because pricing gigs is not going to cut it. And that’s why brand is super important in the MVNO space because that’s how we are going to tell a different story. 

Mark Jones:
Or in marketing speak, sentiment, right?

Renee Garner:
Exactly.

Mark Jones:
Brand sentiment is king, right?

Renee Garner:
Exactly.

Mark Jones:
So you’ve really got to find the one thing you think you can win at. Is that how you have approached it?

Renee Garner:
We think we win at Big Love. Our customers advocate for us. We drive a lot of sales through referral. And we believe that if we continue to show that love and drive that experience, focus on our existing customers, just by doing that it will attract people into us and we can start to tell those stories and push them out. 

Mark Jones:
It’s interesting from your own perspective as a career professional now in the marketing space, and before we began you were talking about soaking up the ideas of your CMO colleagues, where do you get your inspiration when it comes to thinking about these ideas? Because you have such an incredible background and diversity of experience – that I think a lot of marketers would be quite jealous of quite frankly – because it’s a source of thinking?

Mark Jones:
But when you start thinking about, “Alright, where are we going to go to now as a brand?” What’s the way that you approach that strategic level? Where do you get your ideas from? How are you thinking about creating new horizons for the brand and that sort of thing?

Renee Garner:
I suppose a lot of the thinking at the strategic level comes back to basic frameworks, I know that sounds a bit boring. Obviously I get inspired by other colleagues, but at the end of the day, strategy – whether that’s corporate strategy in a industrial business or a infrastructure business or marketing strategy, it’s “Where am I going to play to win, what’s the couple of focus areas that are going to move the dial from X to Y? What’s that myopic thing that I’m going to be different or distinctive?” And let’s not let the noise come in the way of it, let’s just attack that with vigour and energy.

Renee Garner:
And strategy’s always the same, it’s “I need to move the needle, not incrementally, I want to step change it, what’s that thing that’s going to propel me forward?” So I like to keep very focused as a team on the things that are going to propel us forward from a customer perspective, and then from a commercial perspective. And that’s just basic corporate strategy principles, but outside of that, I get a heap of inspo from people on your podcast, for example-

Mark Jones:
Oh, that’s very kind.

Renee Garner:
… I was saying before. Mentors that I work with. I’ve had some incredible leaders, Kim Clarke, who was an ex-Voda CMO, she was the chief customer officer at EnergyAustralia. She taught me so many lessons. “Run to the red, be proud of the green”

Mark Jones:
Yeah, wow.

Renee Garner:
I take these little nuggets of learnings around with me. Mentors are really important I think, especially as a more junior person coming into the CMO role or starting out in your early career, having great people that can give you the confidence and connection. And if you don’t have one, I always say to my guys, “Hit people up.” They love it if you flatter them and say, “I’d like you to share your learnings with me.”

Mark Jones:
So what other benefits have come from being both a mentor and a mentee, I presume, in that context? How has that helped your career?

Renee Garner:
Enormously. Like I said, it gives me a lot of confidence being able to have someone to bounce things off and understand perspectives and understand – I suppose hear stories from other leaders about where they’ve had failures or how they’ve won, how they’ve come at problems. But for me, actually mentoring others is really a wonderful experience as well, because I learn so much through that process. And if I can help other women and other people succeed and get the help and the energy that I got from others in my career, if I can do that for others, that gives me a lot of personal energy as well.

Mark Jones:
The telco sector –  there’s no surprise to anyone there’s a lot of men in it. What have you learned from being a woman in a male dominated sector?

Renee Garner:
Being a woman in a male dominated sector’s a unique opportunity to bring diversity of insight and thought. It also gives me a great opportunity to bring more women into the team and into the sector, and we have a fantastic representation at amaysim of female marketeers, product tech marketeers.

Renee Garner:
So I think yes, sure, these industries have been typically male dominated, but like all industries and businesses that are trying to win, they win through diversity of thought and leadership and it’s the way in which you can drive a competitive advantage is to get that representation in there and harvest those unique ideas through all the people. So for us, it’s really embracing everybody and using that, because that’s the best representation of our customers and that’s where we think we can get a competitive advantage.

Mark Jones:
And so what advice then do you have for women who are starting out in their professional careers?

Renee Garner:
I would say channel any energy that surrounds self-doubt, push that into having a crack at new opportunities, say yes when things come up. If you see some white space, ask to play there because that’s where you can make an impact. Reframe your success as attitude and effort, not wins. Have massive swings. Swing hard at things and if you stuff it up, all good. But really think about, “Am I showing up with the right attitude and am I giving it the right effort?” And if I can leave nothing on the table there, that’s a good result. And I think through that there’s a lot of growth and learning. And I think the idea that you need to be the expert marketer or the expert lawyer or the expert anything early in your career, just think of yourself as “I’m going to be a well rounded business women that learns through my experience” and that can always say that “I gave it a red hot crack.”

Mark Jones:
And I think to your own credit and your story, the tenacity that you showed in getting into the energy sector is an example of that, right? You saw the white space or the opportunity and really ran for it. To what extent is having a personal vision or a sense of the things that really drive you important? Because it’s one thing to have a swing, but what if it’s not something you’re really passionate about, you saw the white space and I’m just going to step into it because it’s there? I think that’s a different experience probably for anyone than “I’ve got this conviction.”

Renee Garner:
Absolutely. I think it has to be conviction-led. I mean, certainly my career and my experience has been very curiosity-led, and I think you’ve got to try things to find your passions, to find that conviction. So even if you’re not necessarily sure that what you’ll be experiencing is something that’s going to float your boat, have a go and then understand ‘is this for me or not?’. And I think that exploration and being cool with exploring new opportunities, experiencing new jobs, trying new things is a very important path and way to get to that conviction of passion. So you just have to keep pushing at that.

Mark Jones:
The interesting thing about tech is just how fast it’s changing. How are you getting your head around, “Which technology trends or even products and systems should I pay attention to and which ones should I let go for a while?” Is that the sort of thing that you talk about with your CMO peers?

Renee Garner:
Yeah. I talk about that a lot with our CTO actually, Richie Dean. We have a philosophy at amaysim that we go for best of breed technology. It needs to be married up with the capability that you’re trying to unlock at the level of maturity you are in your business. So when we look at our life cycle comms maturity, we know where we are today, the technology choices need to be able to unlock value tomorrow and serve and underpin our growth in the short to medium and longer term. We do it very use-case driven actually, “What are our hypotheses where we believe we can drive incremental value off the back of this technology?” Do a lot of proof of concepts.

Renee Garner:
We’ve just implemented two way dynamic SMS for example. We ran a deep POC, proof of concept, on that to understand customer response and whether it would actually help us in our existing customer campaigns – upsell, cross sell and so forth – before we make any choices around technology, because as a lean business, we can’t just invest in everything, we have to make our choices work for us and they need to be able to deliver what we believe we can, our short term use cases, but also underpin our capability and our value unlock into the future.

Mark Jones:
So just to understand that though, does that mean you get a message from amaysim as a customer, and now you can start treating that like a chat channel?

Renee Garner:
Pretty much.

Mark Jones:
Is that the idea?

Renee Garner:
Exactly, yeah. We can have multiple SMS’s going out with different responses coming back in. And it’s all automated off the back in terms of, “What do you want to do?” It’s not just a is it yes or no, “It’s why are you leaving us?” And it’s able to actually almost take that conversation back and drive insight and actions off the back of it.

Mark Jones:
So is that an AI thing?

Renee Garner:
There’s probably some AI in it, but it’s really a decision and two way communication tool.

Renee Garner:
It’s very important for us that we make those investments that we make work hard for us. 

Mark Jones:
Yeah, scale is a big deal.

Renee Garner:
It is.

Mark Jones:
“How can we roll this out and keep it simple at the same time?”

Renee Garner:
Exactly.

Mark Jones:
You’ve talked quite a bit about passion and purpose and making an impact, so how will you continue to keep those things aligned, and continue to make a positive impact on communities and individuals?

Renee Garner:
Well, next month, we’re launching something really great at amaysim.

Mark Jones:
Can we get a scoop? No?

Renee Garner:
Yeah. Well, we’re actually it’s a bit daggy the headline, but it’s Big Love Legends.

Renee Garner:
But this is us getting behind our customers who are trying to make an impact in society.

Mark Jones:
Okay.

Renee Garner:
So we’re starting off with Danielle, who’s one of our customers who leads an organisation called Motherless Daughters – for women who have lost their mothers very early. She’s created this amazing help group on Facebook. We heard about her, she reached out to us. We started talking and we’re like, “We need to get behind you. What you need is us to put you on a podium and give you some visibility and help you drive your media and things.”

Renee Garner:
And it started us thinking, “How do we get behind our other customers who are trying to make an impact in society?” So it’s not us doing some charity work, it’s actually us enabling and empowering our customers to do what they love. And again, that’s Big Love in action. So that kicks off next month, but I’m really excited because it’s going to give us visibility and a way in on so many different individual stories that we can tell, and incredible people that have incredible passions that maybe don’t have the backing, that don’t have the ability to make it something big, and we’re going to try and help them with that.

Renee Garner:
And it might be some funds, but it may be that we can help them with design of their website, it may be that we can leverage our unique team or sim cards or anything that’s required to help them get along. For me that’s alignment of my passion and purpose and our businesses as well and our people, that they want to help the customers get ahead in their social impact.

Mark Jones:
There you go. And again, making the customer the centre and in this case the hero-

Renee Garner:
Exactly.

Mark Jones:
… of a campaign and the stories themselves. So that’s a really exciting thing to hear about. Well, we will watch that with interest. Renee, it has been so fantastic to have you as our guest on the CMO Show.

Renee Garner:
Thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it.

Mark Jones:
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Renee Garner. It was really eye-opening to hear from her about her experiences as a marketing leader in a male-dominated industry. Also her belief that diversity of thought in marketing leads to the best representation of a brand’s customers. How can your brand drive innovation and solve problems creatively through diversity of thought and inclusive leadership? 

Mark Jones:
Finally, a quick reminder – if you haven’t already, please “subscribe” to The CMO Show on your favourite podcast app, so you never miss an episode. And thank you for joining us on The CMO Show. As always, it’s been great to have you with us. Until next time.

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