Ric Navarro, Global Director of Marketing & Communications for Norman Disney and Young, speaks to host Mark Jones about customer-centric marketing and building genuine human connections.
How do we break down the artificial nature of marketing dialogue, in favour of forming genuine human connections with customers?
Ric Navarro, author of the best-selling book Marketing With Purpose: a C-suite guide to being truly customer-centric, says the key is brand and relationship building.
Ric began his career as a journalist and later went on to manage communications for the Howard Government’s Supermarket to Asia program. His experience in strategy and tactical execution combined with a passion for storytelling eventually led him to a career in marketing. Now, he’s the Global Director of Marketing Communications at engineering consultancy firm, Norman Disney and Young (NDY).
“There’s a few of us that have come through the ranks of a different craft, and that is the craft of words, messaging and storytelling. I think when you strip everything back, marketing should be fundamentally about that,” Ric says.
In order to help NDY and fellow marketers achieve their desired outcomes, Ric has formed his own take on Robert Lauterborn’s 1993 Four C’s marketing model. For Ric, the four C’s of today are: customers, content, channels, and consistency.
Ric posits that customers should be the primary focus for any marketer, and content and storytelling tap into emotions and influence action. When it comes to channels, maintaining a consistent approach and message, and combining digital and traditional media is vital.
However, Ric says in order to make this model successful brands need to be clear on what they’re trying to achieve and what they mean to their customers.
“Brand purpose has got a lot of oxygen over the last few years with good reason. At the nucleus of the four C’s has to be what an organisation and brand purpose is. That’s going to be the driving force for a lot of strategy and decision making,” he says.
Tune into this episode of The CMO Show to find out what it takes to break down the marketing dialogue and genuinely connect with your customers.
- Norman Disney and Young
- Marketing With Purpose: a C-suite guide to being truly customer-centric
- Supermarkets to Asia
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The CMO Show production team
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Host: Mark Jones
Guest: Ric Navarro
Mark Jones: I’ve been fascinated by the argument, some might call it a dilemma, over the role of purpose in marketing. There’s a feeling that we have to have an existential or broader societal purpose, but that purpose can also be how well aligned our marketing is with our company or brand strategy. We can have all the arguments about whether or not purpose needs to exist, it begins with how well do you know your customer and how would they like you to change?
Mark Jones: You’re back with The CMO Show. My name is Mark Jones. Thank you so much for joining us. Today is a big one on the subject of marketing with purpose and the role of customer centricity. I have a fantastic expert on the subject. His name is Ric Navarro. He’s the global director marketing and communications at Norman Disney and Young. This man is also well credentialed. He is on the CMO 50. He’s been climbing up the ladder of the CMO 50 over the last few years, and he’s also written a book called, guess what, Marketing With Purpose.
Mark Jones: He’s got a great set of insights into how to be customer centric. He likes talking about storytelling which is my favourite subject in the whole world as I’m sure many of you know. He knows how to think about the way to make sure that your marketing strategy is aligned with your business strategy. Look, this is a real bit of a think piece episode is probably how I’d describe it, how to really get your strategy right and how to make sure that your purposes, your brand purpose and your marketing strategy and everything’s all aligned.
Mark Jones: Let’s hear from Ric Navarro.
Mark Jones: Joining me today on The CMO Show is Ric Navarro who is the Global Director Marketing and Communications at Norman Disney and Young, which is probably not a movie house.
Ric Navarro: Not a movie house, indeed. No relation to Disney or Pixar. We are a engineering consulting firm, so we fall into that interesting bucket of professional services.
Ric Navarro: We have amazingly talented engineers and technical consultants on staff who actually are transforming our built environment. Of course, our marketing team rocks.
Mark Jones: Starting at the beginning, journalism, I think this is something you and I have in common. You began your career as a journalist at somewhere in Australia.
Ric Navarro: Fairfax, The Age, fantastic breeding ground for understanding the craft of talking to people, about the ability to understand what makes audiences tick, and being able to communicate stories in a way that actually encapsulates a strong message rather than just being words on a page.
Mark Jones: Yep, and from there, working with John Howard.
Ric Navarro: Working for an initiative of the John Howard department, which was really about food exports to Asia. That was a really interesting time, because Australia was on this uplift of food processed and commoditized products to Asia. It was really about that craft of communications, but then starting to get into BD and marketing. I think that was really the germination of where a lot of that marketing came into play with communications in particular.
Mark Jones: There’s a lot of connection points between journalism and storytelling and communications and marketing, and understanding business. This is the world that I live in. I’m very happy to find someone else doing the same thing but from a different perspective, of course. I’m really interested to start to unpack that because how have you processed that in your career? How have you seen the connection points there and what’s your view of how this integrated world of marketing of ours is evolving?
Ric Navarro: It’s really interesting because you talk to a lot of CMOs today and they’ve come through the ranks, rightly so, of having a marketing degree or being educated throughout the lens of a very strict marketing formula. There’s a few of us that have escaped that and come through the ranks of a different craft, and that is the craft of words and messaging and storytelling. I think that when you strip everything back, marketing should be fundamentally about that.
Ric Navarro: Ultimately we’re dealing with messages, we’re dealing with human beings, and we’re dealing about human-to-human interactions. I think we’re now gone past that whole conundrum of B2B or B2C, we’re human to human. This is where the real craft of turning letters into words, that morph into sentences that create some compelling content, that’s the life blood of a lot of brands.
Ric Navarro: A lot of them are getting smart about how they do that, and actually hiring ex-journos to write content, but also then how that cascades into the marketing function as well. I see that’s probably been one of my greatest assets. Some marketers might say, “You really should come through a marketing degree.” I’m all for that. I’m actually on one of the advisory boards for the Australian Marketing Institute which looks at further education and certified practising marketers.
Ric Navarro: I think we need to be open to what a marketer means in these days. It means everything from being a data analyst, but also let’s not forget that really the fundamental nucleus of a good marketer is being able to understand audiences and tell a good story.
Mark Jones: Many people would say that the one defensible aspect of marketing in the boardroom is creativity, as opposed to data which can be replicated by others, or the other train of thought is sales. Isn’t it interesting how marketing, it seems to me having interviewed many people now, is constantly being pulled in multiple directions?
Ric Navarro: Yeah. There’s a lot of tension in marketing leaders in the directions in which they are being pulled. I think if you go into an executive team meeting or a board team meeting and you start talking about soft measures that don’t relate to what they are seriously looking at as a strategy, you’re going to, I suppose, lose that credibility from a marketing point of view. It’s really important, that strategy, marketing strategy has to really support and underline group strategy.
Ric Navarro: There’s no point marketers going off and implementing work or strategic initiatives that they believe are going to be fundamentally important. It has to align and support group strategy. The tension you speak about is actually causing a short tenure of CMOs as well. We’re seeing the erosion of, I think it was just a few years ago it was five years on average, and then it was four.
Mark Jones: It’s much less than that.
Ric Navarro: Now, it’s, if you’re lucky, three. That’s because there’s a lot of short-termism as well, so the expectation from executive teams and boards to see that ROI from marketers. Quantifying that can be very difficult, and that’s the conundrum that we face as an industry.
Mark Jones: I see it as an expression of the evolution of the “which 50% of my marketing is working” conundrum from some 10 years ago, to these days where we want every aspect of our marketing to be measured. Likewise, the pressure gets ratcheted down on the CMO to say, “You’ve got to justify your existence.” It’s the spend versus investment mindset. How are you seeing that aspect of the dilemma change as it relates to your work?
Ric Navarro: I think it’s about identifying and being very much upfront and having the support of the CEO and the executive team to understand that marketing is actually the champion of the customer. I think if you’re able to really strongly articulate that and actually carry that forward you’re going to have a lot more social licence within an organisation to be much more strategically focused, and given that opportunity to really invest a lot more in initiatives that are going to be, again, going back to what I was saying earlier, supporting group strategy.
Ric Navarro: That natural tension will continue to exist because we’re seeing an increasing plethora of digital tools come on the market year on year. That unfortunately creates this short-termism. We want quick results. We see this can work. We’re giving you X amount of tools for this budget. Why aren’t we seeing the results? Data is one thing. It’s about implementing creative strategies at the end of the day.
Mark Jones: Does that mean you own the customer?
Ric Navarro: We should. For me I believe that the marketing leader and the marketing department really have to be the champions of a customer within an organisation. We’re seeing the rise of the chief customer officer. That’s very much in very large organisations, very multi-matrixed organisations. They’re few and far between.
Ric Navarro: I still think that the chief marketing officer or head of marketing really has to be in tune with their audience, and that means owning the customer. There’s no point trying to unpack what it means to be good at marketing and marketing certain messages without truly understanding what makes the customer tick on the other hand. To me it’s got to be a complete genesis of what that role means.
Mark Jones: Describe your customers to me.
Ric Navarro: If we talk about our environment, it’s very much a slow life cycle and burn, if you like, so it’s very much a long chain. We build brand equity with a lot of our customers over a long period of time, so we’re looking to get them to understand what we offer throughout that entire life cycle, from pre-discussions which can talk about a project in its very infancy, through to then pre-work that we’ll do as part of our own brand or tie in with a broader consortium that’s going to work on a project.
Mark Jones: Are we talking about big buildings here?
Ric Navarro: Yeah. We’re talking large commercial buildings, precinct-wide masterplanning, transport, et cetera. We all love the traffic snarls currently within Sydney and Melbourne in particular, but they’re invading our city. All of that type of work is what we get involved with, so major work that influences our communities at a very base level.
Ric Navarro: That funnel is quite a long one and can be quite a long burn. Customer retention remains one of the key things we look for at the end of that funnel.
Mark Jones: Now, presumably you mean the customer as in the organisation, the client.
Ric Navarro: Yeah. Our clients, obviously we have them segmented into different market verticals. Each one of them will have a slightly different value proposition that we target. We have our broader organisational one, but as per market verticals, we’ll go out to market and we talk to them in their language, if you like. If we’re talking about a massive data centre project that we’re doing for a large tech company, that’s going to be very different to talking to Transport New South Wales about the latest tunnel project, for example.
Ric Navarro: Understanding the clients at each one of those market verticals is really critical. That can be applied across B2C as well, and that’s why I go back to my earlier comment about I’d like to see us as an industry, as a profession starting to break down a lot of that B2B, B2C dialogue. It’s really about those human-to-human connections. Some of the methodologies and tactics will be slightly different, but ultimately it’s about that brand building and that relationship building with individuals.
Mark Jones: I did want to focus though on what’s quite unique about your world is that if you compare it to, say, FMCG, the infrastructure game is long term and we are talking about billions being spent on roads, and bridges, and all sorts of tunnels that you mentioned, and necessarily the mindset of your customer is long term.
Mark Jones: They obviously want to get paid in increments to keep the lights on, and so there are short-term demands, but really the mindset is very long term. It would strike me that perhaps it might be easier in your environment to start thinking and acting and behaving in these long-term strategic ways compared to your friends over in FMCG. Am I right or is it different?
Ric Navarro: No. You are right. What we’re finding with our clients is they do have long-term goals, but there’s also short-term measures. This is where it can quickly unravel if you’re not across being client centric. For us it’s about ensuring that we’re meeting those interim targets, that we’re also catching up with our customers/clients on a regular basis to really understand areas for improvement, so NPS comes into play, sort of qualitative, quantitative feedback from all of our clients on a regular basis is really important.
Ric Navarro: And, just tapping into any instances where we need to up our game, for example. Long project life cycle, but episodic feedback along the way.
Mark Jones: It would seem to me even, because we’re talking about the customer and the relationship, by virtue of your industry you have fewer numbers of them but they’re exponentially more important. You don’t want to lose one, right?
Ric Navarro: Yeah. Exactly right. Rather than have tens of thousands of customers or clients, we’ll focus on a few hundred key clients, for example. It’s really important for us to deep dive into them, who are their key personnel that we really need to be connected with and understand what makes them tick. Personalization at a micro scale becomes really important.
Mark Jones: There’s a couple of things at play there. There’s account relationship management, which is kind of you feel like an extension of sales, or after the sale there’s this ongoing connection, and then there’s the quantitative measurement of how things are tracking according to a project. Where does marketing fit in that?
Ric Navarro: Marketing plays a role throughout the entire life cycle.If we’re looking at continuing to grow, we need new clients. We need our strong client base, but we also need to inject new clients into our pipeline of work. The attraction is critical. Marketing plays a fundamental role in that initial attraction.
Ric Navarro: All of those different segments will have a slightly different go-to-market strategy, and of course, then marketing will support that and inject strategy into how we will connect with those particular clients. Then throughout the pipeline it’s actually more about communicating successes, communicating little wins, if you like, along the way, so the content flow, the story flow becomes really important.
Mark Jones: Reinforcing the activity that’s happening, supporting the people who are managing the accounts, all that stuff.
Ric Navarro: Yeah. Celebrating wins of individuals along the way that have been recognised or awarded for particular performances on projects along the way. Then at the successful completion of a project, then we can go into some significant content marketing as well, everything from high-end video production, which really showcases and brings to life the projects that we do, and the influence that they have not just from our perspective, of course, but those who have been on the journey with us, clients, stakeholders, and even the community themselves.
Ric Navarro: That’s really powerful way of bringing to life what can sometimes be seen as an inanimate project like a building or a stadium.
Mark Jones: It’s easy to feel disconnected, because, well, firstly you’re not allowed anywhere near those construction projects, right?
Ric Navarro: Yeah.
Mark Jones: We see that here in Sydney. We’re surrounded by construction projects. You’re not allowed to go near them.
Ric Navarro: We look to bring that to life through storytelling and that can be through long form content that we like to create. We’ve invested in our own magazine, for example. We have also invested in our own TV channel, NDY TV, that we produce content for and feed through. They’re just two small examples, but they seek to reinforce that story that’s being told, not just by us but by our project partners.
Mark Jones: Now, tell me about your book, Marketing With Purpose. Congrats on the book, and apparently you’ve got four C’s. This is a super-leading question. We haven’t rehearsed this, but I am curious.
Ric Navarro: Thank you.
Mark Jones: Could that have been any softer a pass?
Ric Navarro: No. Appreciate that. By way of background, Marketing With Purpose came about because I saw a bit of a, I suppose over my experience, a bit of a misunderstanding of what marketing actually does, particularly at very senior levels. Sadly, in some organisations it can still be seen as the team over in the corner with the colouring in pencils. We’ve come a long way generally in that space, but it’s about breaking down those misconceptions.
Ric Navarro: Rather than marketing being seen as an organisation or rather as a department that is being defined by its outputs, so advertising, events, campaigns, data, et cetera, I think today’s senior marketers need to be defined and measured by their inputs. Input to group strategy, input, as I mentioned earlier, to owning the customer, and even input to technology decisions. That’s an important part of setting the scene very early in my book, because I think that is about reshaping the way in which a lot of the C suite, a lot of our senior leaders think about marketing and its contribution today.
Ric Navarro: I think that plays its part, that misunderstanding plays its part in the short tenure that we’re seeing with a lot of marketing leaders in today’s environment.
Mark Jones: How do you align that thinking with the role of many people actually, but people who think about strategy? I could point to some of the big four. Externally you might go to the big four for a big piece of strategy work, but I guess internally it might be the CEO sets the strategy. I guess others can play into that as well. How do you see those two pieces working together?
Ric Navarro: Well, this is where it’s really important that you’re working with an organisation and organisational team and a CEO that really understands customer centricity.
Mark Jones: so would you be the customer strategist? Because the CEO really would hold the business strategy, and you would say, given that, this is the way that the customers will either bring that to life or reflect your strategy?”
Ric Navarro: Yes, so as the head of marketing, you have to be contributing to that head of customer strategy. That has to, again, as I mentioned earlier, support that organisational strategy that the CEO is setting. If you break down any targets, ultimately they’re about winning increased market share. How do you do that? Well, it’s about ultimately being more customer centric. Geographical growth even plays into the fact that you need to develop teams in certain areas. You need to build brand in those areas, but you need to unpack, and understand what the customers or clients in those particular regions or areas are actually looking for. Who’s going to own that? It’s usually the head of marketing.
Ric Navarro: The play into strategy has to come at that very senior level, and it has to be something that’s valued by the CEO and the leadership team.
Mark Jones: What are the levers that you pull or the metrics that you use to get a sense of whether or not your customer strategy is working?
Ric Navarro: We’ll have regular feedback from clients, so we’ll-
Mark Jones: Give me a 10.
Mark Jones: Give me a 10. It’s the NPS, one to ten, give me a rating.
Ric Navarro: NPS is one of them, but there’s also other, so using third-party software that we use. I can mention Qualtrics. We’ll measure, on a regular basis, sentiment with our clients. That will give us a pretty good insight into episodic feedback, but also long-term tenure and propensity to recommend NDY.
Ric Navarro: That’s a really strong indicator on the way we’re positioning ourselves in terms of the marketing and the client strategy. There are other softer measures that we’ll look at, so more qualitative measures, and that comes through incidental feedback and reporting that we get through conversations with those customers and clients. We’ll capture all of that, and that feeds back into informing how are we tracking, how are we performing, but also do we need to refine any aspects of the current strategy and any of the interplay we have with our current clients at the moment.
Mark Jones: I’ll be honest with you, a lot of the work that we do with clients is very much on the tactical execution side of things. Normally the conversations I have, on this show it’s about how do you measure the outputs of the work. This feels like this conversation you’re having at the customer level feels like a luxury for many smaller organisations. How can you make that customer centric approach and the ability to stop and consider all of that, how do you make that real and tangible and accessible to an organisation that’s otherwise just, “Get the stuff done. Get tactics out. I want to see campaigns”? How do you reconcile those two worlds?
Ric Navarro: Well, all of your tactical execution has to support strategy. Setting strategy in place is your north star. It’s going to guide all of your actions. There is no point setting out and doing a whole range of campaigns and tactical executions that are a little bit scatter gun. We try and reconcile all of the activities that we do back to group strategy. Whatever the pillars are for the group strategy for that year or three-year roadmap, all of the activity that I’ll sit down with myself and my marketing team to do, all of the tactical execution goes to support that.
Ric Navarro: Then there are separate metrics around that and measuring that, so whether it’s on social, or whether it’s an EDM campaign, whatever it is, we’ll look at that. We’ll continue to refine that. We get measured on that. We get KPI’d on that. It’s not very different to any other organisation.
Mark Jones: I like the north star analogy, metaphor. That’s great. Take me through the four C’s, customers, content, channels, and consistency. Why did you pick them?
Ric Navarro: It’s actually a variation on marketing thought leader Lauterborn who developed his four C’s back in the 90s. I felt that he made a good start. With all due respect.
Ric Navarro: Consumer, costs, communication and convenience. Look, I believe that’s a significant improvement on the four P’s, …
Ric Navarro: Product, pricing, place and promotion.Lauterborn took those into his four C’s, and I looked at that and from my experience I thought, “Well, he’s introduced the human element through consumers.” Ultimately that’s still a little bit disconnected because consumers obviously being the noun for consumption. It’s not really introducing a customer centric approach. Convenience was positive, but didn’t go far enough to satisfy today’s customers. He still had in there price under a new guise which was cost.
Ric Navarro: For me and from my experience I think if you provide value and you nail everything in the customer experience, price really moves down the list. Cost of execution or, rather, purchase becomes a secondary notion. I wanted to focus on those four C’s. Customers obviously being the primary focus for any marketer. There’s a lot of focus and lip service being given to being customer centric from a lot of organisations, but for me I wanted to place that first and foremost.
Ric Navarro: I’ll use an example. I recently personally received an email campaign from a leading hotel chain, and in the spirit of my 2019 resolution to streamline my life, I thought, “I’m going to unsubscribe from this because I really don’t need it. I don’t use it much anymore.” About 15 minutes later and 20 mouse clicks, I wasn’t really feeling like this organisation was doing it for me. By the way-
Mark Jones: I thought one-click unsubscribe was law.
Ric Navarro: Well, not in America apparently. This particular hotel chain was one that espouses, “We make our guests feel like royalty.” I wasn’t really feeling like royalty after that exercise. For me it’s the actions, and for a lot of customers it’s the actions of brands that speak a lot louder than words.
Mark Jones: Just on that. The word that we hear all the time is experience, so creating positive engaging customer experiences. Are you mashing those two things together? The customer is the experience, if you like, in your framework, is that what you mean?
Ric Navarro: Yeah. There is an element of that. When I talk about customers as my first C, it’s really about saying customers have to be at the forefront of all your decision making, whether it be strategy or whether it be tactical execution. That leads into the second C, which is content. Every brand or every organisation today is a publisher, so it’s incumbent on-
Mark Jones: You’re preaching to the converted here, by the way.
Ric Navarro: There may be listeners who are yet to be converted.
Mark Jones: Jump on in, the water’s fine.
Ric Navarro: Content makes or should make your customers feel something, and, of course, take action. We all know that. Content, we’ve heard it before, is king, and for me the crown that sits upon content is storytelling. You’re probably going to love that.
Mark Jones: No. That’s all right. Check’s in the mail. Carry on.
Ric Navarro: Storytelling is so crucial that I’ve dedicated a chapter to that whole process, and unpacking that within the book. It’s scientifically proven that humans are hardwired to gravitate to stories. Again, you probably know that. I use the example of a beautiful UK jeanery. They manufacture denim and did so for many, many years.
Mark Jones: A jeanery. Now I learned something today. A jeanery?
Ric Navarro: You’ve never heard that.
Mark Jones: No. Is that like a nunnery?
Ric Navarro: Yes, except they use denim, not spiritual guidance. I’m just going to read this verbatim from the book.
Mark Jones: Yeah. Go on.
Ric Navarro: Because I think that’s the power of words in terms of the story. It’s called the Hiut Denim Company, H-I-U-T. “Our town is going to make jeans again. Cardigan is a small town of 4,000 good people.”
Ric Navarro: “400 of them used to make jeans. They made 35,000 pairs a week for three decades. Then one day the factory closed. It left town, but all that skill and knowhow remained, without any way of showing the world what they could do. That’s why we’ve started the Hiut Denim Company to bring manufacturing back home, to use all that skill on our doorstep, and to breathe new life into our town. Yes, our town is going to make jeans again. Here goes.”
Ric Navarro: That’s two and a half paragraphs which I think encapsulates who they are, what they do, their purpose, and obviously there’s a bit of strategy in there as well underlying all of that in terms of saying, “Well, we’re going to do one thing and do it well.”
Mark Jones: On the hero’s journey you’ve got the setting out on the journey. You got the hero which is the whole town, and we’re going out into the great unknown which is now I want to know can they do it.
Ric Navarro: Exactly.
Mark Jones: The market’s changed. The world’s changed. There’s a reason why the other jeanery left town. A great way to get people into a story.
Ric Navarro: Yeah. You’re right, and all those elements which you’re obviously familiar with that can really lead to a good story whether you have the hero and the obstacle, et cetera, scenario, and unpacking all of that. I think storytelling is crucial, and whether it’s as dramatic as that, or whether it’s simply resonating with your audiences about stories that really talk about your industry. That can be done in very simple ways, but I think a lot of brands are still underplaying the whole storytelling component.
Mark Jones: I would probably add to that and I would say that marketing has always been about storytelling. Advertising as one of the earliest expressions of storytelling really did bring to the fore this idea that a brand could create a narrative ultimately with a very strong call to action agenda, but could still create this narrative that invited people in to think about their product or brand in a different way. It’s just that as time’s gone on we’ve realised that there’s so much more to it than just that one expression.
Mark Jones: It’s an interesting conundrum we find ourselves in, saying, “Hey, guess what, storytelling was right there at the beginning. Somehow we lost our way and we need to rediscover it again.” Right?
Ric Navarro: I think it was probably the first real profession in the world, storytelling. Sometimes storytelling is not just about words. There are some fantastic examples of storytelling where there’s not a single word said. It can be a really powerful short video.
Mark Jones: Well, actually the WALL-E movie that Pixar did, no dialogue.
Ric Navarro: Yeah. You look at examples of really powerful storytelling and I think depending on what brand you have and what your audience likes to hear and the ways in which they like to be communicated, that will set your strategy towards being a more impactful storyteller as a brand.
Mark Jones: I’m going to move on to channels next, because otherwise we’ll talk about storytelling all day, my favourite subject in the world. We’ve got channels and consistency to go.
Ric Navarro: Channels, obviously we have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et cetera. I like to also look at the traditional channels, because they can often be underestimated too, so TV, print, radio, outdoor, et cetera. Those combined with digital channels, they’re the rivers that deliver the fresh content to your followers and to your customers every day.
Ric Navarro: What’s interesting about channels these days is that it’s not a one-way conversation, obviously. Customers have the power to talk about your brand, back to you about your brand, but also to other potential customers in forums.
Mark Jones: How have you thought about the best way to make channel decisions, splitting up your budget, aligning spend and engagement, different levers that you have I the channel space with the customer bit at the front? What’s your unique spin on all of that?
Ric Navarro: Marketing budgets in a lot of cases are getting tighter. Not always, but I’m finding in talking to a lot of peers that there’s a lot of pressure on marketing and return on investment as we spoke on before. Making sense of every decision when it comes to channel execution, and omnichannel now, talking to clients, ame clients perhaps in different channels or different clients through very narrow channels is what’s preoccupying the minds of a lot of marketers.
Ric Navarro: I go back to that word, again, strategy. Strategy’s always going to be your guide post in terms of how you actually execute the tactical delivery of those through the channels. Customer research, taking a step back from strategy, because customer research is fundamental, I can’t emphasise it enough, in terms of understanding your audiences and doing deep dive customer research to really unpack what it is that’s important to your customers.
Ric Navarro: That’s ground zero for me. I always think that, and I’ve been guilty of it, diving into a project or a particular initiative because I think I know, “I’ve done this before. I can whip into action. I know exactly what the audience wants, and I know this client, and it’s going to work.” Perhaps did, but not as successfully perhaps as it could have been, because didn’t do that initial upfront customer research. So, deep dive, and that can take many forms, qualitative, quantitative.
Ric Navarro: Unpacking that is going to allow you then to focus in on the strategic initiatives that allow you to deliver through the right channels. Marketing spend through those channels is going to be dictated by that research in itself. It’s not a set and forget either, so research needs to be undertaken on a regular or semi-regular basis as well, because your customers are changing. Their needs and their lifestyles are changing as well.
Mark Jones: They are indeed. Lastly, consistency.
Ric Navarro: Don’t we love consistency in brands, like consistency when we see a brand that we just know nails it, and we all have it in our own lives. We’ll go out and buy something and we think, “Every time I purchase from this brand, they just know how to communicate with me. They just know what makes me tick. They just know how to deliver the right service at the right time.”
Mark Jones: Have we forgotten that as marketers do you think?
Ric Navarro: I don’t know that we’ve forgotten it. I think there’s a lot of distraction and noise around all the other moving parts that we’ve covered today. Sometimes consistency can fall off the radar, so consistency for me is about also consistency in being true to what you stand for as an organisation. Mind you, these four C’s that I’ve talked about bundle around brand purpose.
Ric Navarro: Brand purpose has got a lot of oxygen over the last few years with good reason. At the nucleus of the four C’s has to be what an organisational and brand purpose is. That’s going to be the driving force, again, for a lot of strategy and for a lot of decision making.
Mark Jones: Do you mean purpose in the context of a brand strategy, or do you apply it more liberally in the existential sense in society?
Ric Navarro: I’m of the latter. I actually believe that a brand purpose needs to be transformative, so rather than a linear purpose which is really, “Well, we do X, Y, Z,” it needs to be a transformative one. It needs to talk about why this is important to customers. In many ways that can also lead to improved engagement and performance from your internal teams as well, because they’re now believing in what they do and what they contribute on a daily basis to the successful outcome of the brand.
Ric Navarro: For example, Caltex, a petroleum company, theirs is really simple, to make life easier. That’s their purpose. That’s succinct and powerful, but for me I think it’s very linear, and perhaps even a bit esoteric, so make life easier for who? For shareholders?
Mark Jones: Or even just why.
Ric Navarro: Exactly. It’s very powerful, but it’s not telling me anything. I look at Brambles, for example, another ASX-listed company in the logistics industry: to connect people with life’s essentials every day. Now, for me that’s, again, really punchy, but I can see a transformative purpose in that, because they’re actually putting customer first, so we’re talking now about our customers, how we’re going to help them every day. It’s also that transformative piece internally, so the way in which their own staff can now resonate and say, “Well, every decision we make has to help our customers lives’ essentials every day.” That can really be powerful in the contributions they make, but also understanding the impact they have on the bottom line as well.
Mark Jones: They’re great examples. How would you translate that into Norman Disney and Young? What’s your version of that?
Ric Navarro: That’s a good question. We went through a deep dive exercise a few years ago on this very path. We had never had a stated purpose in our long history, and we ended up with a very powerful one, which was “making spaces work.” The idea that we make spaces work for our clients, for the community, and for stakeholders. Our people loved it. It was unveiled in an environment that was a global launch, so that people understood that it has global impact as well.
Ric Navarro: The feedback we get from clients is also, “Hey, that’s exactly what you guys do. You actually make spaces work for us.”
Mark Jones: It resonates.
Ric Navarro: Yeah.
Mark Jones: As opposed to making work spaces.
Ric Navarro: Which could have been another option. For us that was a really powerful exercise to land on a place where we know that this is what we stand for. Our people love it because they can articulate it very simply, you know those sort of barbecue conversations that we talk about.
Mark Jones: How do you connect that umbrella messaging to the customer centricity that you’re speaking about? You have to translate it into layers of messaging below. People do that via messaging channels or they’ll say messaging pillars for example. I presume in the research that you’ve done with your customers you’ve arrived at an informed position on all of this.
Ric Navarro: Yeah. Exactly. Look, two key things that really inform us from that in terms of a purpose, and delivering on that is making spaces work for us reliably, so being a safe pair of hands, being technical experts. Yes, Norman Disney and Young is that, but you guys are reliable, and we look for that reliability in our projects, …
Mark Jones: Good work.
Ric Navarro: … so you’re making spaces work. From a tactical execution point of view what we do from a marketing perspective is to then articulate that through the lens of our own people. Our engineers and our technical consultants become the everyday heroes who deliver on that. We look to celebrate the work that they do through the project and the lens of the project that they’re working on at the moment, and working with clients to deliver that. They’re making spaces work in their own way at an individual level, so it’s a collective as well as a global imperative.
Mark Jones: You have presumably some other words, so reliability. Do you have safely? Are there other key expressions or thought pillars?
Ric Navarro: Yeah. Reliability’s the main one. The other one is obviously value, and value not so much from a dollar point of view, but value in terms of adding innovation to projects, value in adding energy efficiency to projects, for example, and reducing costs of an asset over a 30 or 40 year life cycle, which can be really significant. We, again, articulate that through very lucid and clear examples of successes we’ve had.
Mark Jones: Now, let’s talk about the customer obsession piece and how you go about getting research insights. I’m quite a fan of the behavioural economics school of thinking, which is to understand the emotional impact that storytelling can have at one level, and also knowing that we buy emotionally, that we think about things through a whole, you said human to human before, but we have this psychological filter through which we see, well, everything, but particularly decision making. How have you baked some of that into the research?
Ric Navarro: Research allows you to clearly better understand your customers. For me a customer-obsessed brand has at its core the correct balance of strategy, purpose, process, and people. Those ingredients for me work together in unison to create a customer-obsessed brand. Customers today demand experiences, and you touched on that earlier. They also want to know that they are a priority for your brand, so being able to achieve that through multilayered touch points is really important as well from a tactical execution point of view.
Mark Jones: That’s great. You’ve got a lot of stuff going on here. I’m interested in what’s the future looking like for you? You’ve got a book. Quite clearly you’ve thought a lot about strategy. You’ve got experience in execution. What are you looking to do? Are we going to see you on the speaking circuit more, or taking some classes somewhere through the AMI? You can come and learn from Ric.
Ric Navarro: I’m actually loving what I do. We recently joined Tetra Tech, which is an American-listed firm, last year. That’s opened up a whole range of opportunities globally for us as a firm. We were always global, but now we’re 16,000 strong across the globe. That allows from a marketing point of view and customer point of view to work with other experts across the Tetra Tech network as well.
Ric Navarro: From that point of view, that’s a really interesting piece of work for me to get stuck into over the coming years. Who knows, there might be another book in me. I think marketing’s one of those spaces-
Mark Jones: Maybe you should reinvent the four P’s.
Ric Navarro: I should reinvent my own four C’s. That’s the thing about marketing, it’s constantly evolving, because customers are constantly evolving, and technology’s constantly evolving as well. The way in which customers interact with brands has really changed and transformed, and continues to do so. Who knows what tomorrow’s version of Instagram will be. It may be something that’s going to challenge marketers at their very core.
Mark Jones: Nice. Well, Ric, it’s been fantastic to have you on the show.
Mark Jones: I love your ability to understand the big picture and also drill down into specific areas of marketing and perhaps reinterpret old truths in a way that makes sense for us today. Congratulations on that and your work, and I trust that the glowing, expanding Norman Disney and Young enterprise will continue to provide you with lots of fresh challenges.
Ric Navarro: I’m sure it will. Thank you very much, and thanks for your time today.
Mark Jones: One of the things that got me thinking about the future of marketing is this notion of transformative behaviour, or understanding that your approach to marketing should be transformative.
Mark Jones: When you dig beneath the surface, what transformation is really saying is that we have to make sure that our actions, our behaviour, what we’re doing in the marketplace is aligned with our purpose and what our customers expect from us.Mark Jones: I think for my two cents it really gets back to that focus on what does the customer want, and making sure that that is, to echo Ric Navarro, is at the centre of everything you do. I hope you’ve enjoyed the show today. I encourage you to subscribe to us on all the podcasting channels everywhere Thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you on the flip side.