Jamming brand and fuel
SCOTT OXFORD: 00:03.008 [music] Good day, I'm Scott Oxford and welcome to Brand Jam, the podcast where we jam about brand because brand is our jam. [music] You can probably tell I'm somewhat of a brand evangelist. My day job is head of strategy and creative for New Word Order, an Australian brand and creative agency. So I live and breathe brand every day and talking to people who own, manage, or empower brands is my happy place. My guest today has worked on an incredible range of brands and some of the most iconic campaigns many of us will remember fondly. Most recently, he's worked on fuel variously known around the world as petrol or gasoline. Today I'm jamming with Brian Fisher. Chevron Fuels' head of brand for Caltex Asia.
BRIAN FISHER: 00:48.939 Yeah, I think we should be more positive, less conservative and more outward-looking.
SCOTT OXFORD: 00:55.227 Brian calls himself an old-timer, graduating from the UNSW in marketing back in the early '80s and he has a long career in this field, both on the client and agency side. After doing his apprenticeship in the sales department of a Sydney brush and plastics company, he headed off to London, where he joined the marketing team of an OTC drug company. His crowning achievement there was to get the authorities to allow for piles or haemorrhoids treatments to be advertised on TV. He returned home to work for a while in the food industry with White Wings and then Unilever's margarine division. Weekly blind taste testing of margarine and fatty oils drove him to advertising - and why wouldn't it? - and he joined McCann Erickson as an account director, working a range of diverse accounts from Coca Cola to Levi's jeans to Cooper's sheep dips. In 1993, McCann moved him to Singapore to look after Coca Cola in Southeast Asia. Singapore became his home for over 28 years and he's only just returned home to Australia. And he's sitting in hotel quarantine as we speak.
SCOTT OXFORD: 02:00.870 While in Singapore, he also ran the Asian ad business for MasterCard, Motorola and Caltex before he jumped to Chevron, the owners of Caltex. Working on MasterCard [inaudible] launched the priceless campaign which still runs today globally, over 20 years later. And he counts long-running campaigns based on consumer insights as his favourites. He also launched Motorola's first World Without Wires campaign for their mobile phones, a campaign shot by the volatile Oliver Stone. At Caltex, Brian established himself as an innovative marketer doing integrated brand properties and content long before they became de rigueur online. Some of his fuel campaigns were even on [inaudible] and his last Asian campaign even won a Guinness world record for the fastest ascent of 1,000-metre mountain in northern Thailand, which was then turned into a 360 campaign by National Geographic. In his spare time, he loves to watch black and white movies, the Sydney Swans, test cricket and ride his bike leisurely to unwind. One hour is definitely not going to be enough to even scrape the surface but let's give it a crack.
SCOTT OXFORD: 03:07.511 Brian, welcome. Thanks for joining me.
BRIAN FISHER: 03:10.171 Thanks, Scott. And it's a pleasure to be with you on Brand Jam tonight.
SCOTT OXFORD: 03:14.388 So some big brands and some amazing campaigns you've worked on there. Is there any chance that you have an absolute favourite?
BRIAN FISHER: 03:21.115 Oh, yeah, yeah. I definitely have a favourite. In the '90s when I worked for McCann Erickson in Sydney, I had the pleasure of working on Coca Cola and Coca Cola, when their advertising broke September/October time, that was the beginning of summer and Coca Cola used to take over the radio, the TV, the billboards wherever and was present for the next six months. And in those days, Coca Cola used to have some great campaigns and I was lucky enough to work on a few of them including - if people remember - the Sky Surfer campaign where people were flying through the outback, hot and thirsty, and they saw down below a shop or a store with Coca-Cola on the roof. So they took their surfboards, jumped out and surfed all the way down to get a Coca-Cola. So that was definitely my favourite campaign ever.
SCOTT OXFORD: 04:19.747 Yeah. That's a smasher. The other one I remember too, is everyone in big plastic balls out on the water, sort of like - I can't even remember what they're called - but huge inflatable balls, and they were pretty much having a party and drinking Coke inside of that. Was that one on your watch too?
BRIAN FISHER: 04:37.477 No. That was before my time. But that was the tradition that we had to build from. So every year we had to produce a better campaign-- what Coca-Cola thought was a better campaign than the previous summer's campaign. So there was always a challenge. But it was also an honour to work on such a great brand.
SCOTT OXFORD: 04:57.778 Such a massive commitment and in a very different time of media as well, where you could pretty much own the media, in terms of one spend long before digital diversified and created all these opportunities.
BRIAN FISHER: 05:13.892 Yeah. They were good days. And I remember the accompanying radio ads. We used to have to produce about 50 or 60 thematic radio ads because we were on radio every hour, every week, every month of summer, so we needed a lot of variety to keep people interested, so they were fun times.
SCOTT OXFORD: 05:36.309 Yeah. Yeah. It's amazing. I actually watched a doco recently, I think on ABC iview you can watch sort of the history of Coca-Cola and they sort of look at the beginnings of it and the different challenges that the brand has faced over the years in terms of competition from Pepsi and then the changing of the recipe and the like. But you've got to wonder whether there are many brands in the world that have spent as much money-- have invested as heavily in advertising to support their brand as Coca-Cola.
BRIAN FISHER: 06:11.511 I would be surprised, to be honest. Yeah, trying to think about it. But every brand if they want longevity have to continue to invest every year or else you just get left behind and people innovate and other people forget you. And so Coca-Cola 's a great testimony to long-standing brand support and commitment form the company to continue to drive their brand forward.
SCOTT OXFORD: 06:40.875 Yeah. Absolutely. And still to this day if you wandered down any supermarket shelf you will find that nothing takes up quite as much real estate as the bottles of black liquid ith the red device on the label.
BRIAN FISHER: 06:59.287 Yep. Yeah. I mean, Coca-Cola also innovates as well. So there's Coke Zero and there's all sorts of variants, which is important because brands also have to evolve over time. They have to meet changing consumer trends, in some cases they have to lead those trends. So you've always got to be relevant. And it's not just obviously the advertising or the marketing, but it has to be the product itself.
SCOTT OXFORD: 07:26.257 Yeah. I think from what I've heard Coca-Cola's trajectory is to ultimately be sugar-free, that's what the market is demanding a fully sort of sugar-free kind of world in order to be healthy and innovating in terms of packaging and the like and meeting that the customer and the market is actually demanding. Because back in the day you guys could control the conversation of Coca-Cola in terms of and ad campaigning, but today there are many conversations happening around it in terms of sustainability of packaging and waste and health and obesity and all of these things. And were any of those conversations happening back then? Or is it pretty much sort of just sort of focused on lifestyle back then?
BRIAN FISHER: 08:12.747 It was a lifestyle brand but obviously, we had Diet Coke in those days. So there was quite a lot of conversation around obesity. But in today's world, the beauty, I guess, of online and social and so forth is you have these two-way conversations. So you quickly pick up trends of what people are talking about. And as a good marketer then you have to develop strategies to address those trends and, as I said before, change to meet those trends. And each generation of consumer that comes through has a different attitude to life and to products and to the world around them. And so you've constantly got to be changing. And I think the world is increasingly concerned around sustainability and plastics, for example. So that's a new challenge that Coke is rising to and developing all kinds of recyclable and hopefully better packaging all the way that doesn't leave us with landfill and plastic in all of our oceans. So, another challenge. As I said, I'm sure they'll rise to the occasion.
SCOTT OXFORD: 09:34.149 Yeah, they're not afraid to invest in such things so I think we'll see some massive change in that space. Watch this space. But we're not here to talk just about Coca-Cola. We're here to talk about what you've spent and dedicated the last 15 years of your career to which is fuel. And fuel's something most of us, most of us, need on a weekly basis. We certainly need to buy it usually on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. And a lot of us use it every day. And there are a number of sort of big fuel brands around. I remember back to my childhood and there's some iconic brands that I've forgotten. I think Golden Fleece is the one in particular that I think of when I flashback to my youth. And there's a town north of Brisbane, up in the mountains, a town called Maleny and there's still an original Golden Fleece sign up there. Yeah, I'm not sure what-- it still sells fuel too. So obviously it's not a Golden Fleece but it's maybe a little independent that's kept it on. But such an iconic brand. Your experience is in Asia. What is it, say in the Asian market-- what is it that makes somebody choose one brand of fuel over another?
BRIAN FISHER: 10:52.787 That's a good question, Scott. Because the category is actually incredibly difficult for a marketer. A lot of consumers will think that all fuels are the same therefore they're just going to buy based upon the nearest location or the nearest location with cheapest prices. So people in a perimeter around their home probably have three or four brands that they're happy to go to. But it really depends on the street price and of course the street price changes day by day. So people will often make the decision by what price they see on the street and they'll think, "Oh that's a good price, I'll go there today and choose it." So as a marketer, we need to be really smart to try and get people to understand that there are differences between brands like, say, Caltex and Shell and BP and Esso in Asia. So it's a complex task and what we've all was done with Caltex is that we take a lot of care over the actual product that we sell. All of our fuels have an additive in them which we call Techron. So it does mean that not all fuels are the same. We believe in our additive and we launched I think 15, 16 years ago. And like the Coca-Cola example, we consistently advertise and remind people why Techron cleans their engines, and makes their engines perform better, so that as you build the campaign over a consistently long period of time people start to get the message because it is a low interest category, and then they start to try your product, and then they start to believe it as they use the product more often.
SCOTT OXFORD: 12:54.027 Yeah, well that's exactly it, isn't it? It's all sort of theoretical, and I guess in some ways it's a consumable, isn't it? You just kind of you've got to put it in, and you burn it off, or you use it up, and you get from one place to another. But a tank of fuel with an additive in it, I assume, goes further and longer and maybe looks after your engine more and all of these factors. And so how do you go about convincing a consumer of these? Obviously there's some science behind it.
BRIAN FISHER: 13:26.077 There is science behind it. One of the things I love about marketing is using the five senses. So when you talk to consumers about products you can show them, you can let them touch, you can let them smell, you can let them taste, but you can't do any of that with petrol, obviously.
SCOTT OXFORD: 13:45.583 [laughter] No, no.
BRIAN FISHER: 13:45.222 So the great way to get consumers to believe that your product works is through demonstration. So seeing is believing. So we do actually have a number of different techniques that we use but the best one I like is we often get in people that drive very old cars who are using cheap fuel, and we bring their cars into our workshops and technical folks have what we call a borescope. So imagine it's a camera that goes inside the engine. A bit like something that might go into your body to check for unfortunate things that you might have in your body. But this camera the borescope goes deep into the engine, and it actually sees how dirty or clean the engine is. And these older cars are usually quite dirty. So what we do is we then flush the engine with Techbon in a concentrated format, ask them to drive for a week or so and then come back to the workshop and e do the borescope test again, and consumers can see how much cleaner their engine is. So seeing is believing, and this is a very real technique that we use quite often in Asia, and the results are always-- consumers that drive these cars are always stunned and amazed when they see the result of what Techron can do to clean their engine.
SCOTT OXFORD: 15:24.845 Yeah. And that's basically evidence-based marketing, isn't it? You're--
BRIAN FISHER: 15:29.708 Yeah.
SCOTT OXFORD: 15:30.309 Yeah. And you're literally showing by putting real people in that situation and giving them an opportunity to prove for themselves. And then obviously they would testify to camera, and that would form a powerful kind of testimony that potentially is going to change those behaviours. And so that obviously is not only about a selling a good product. That brand has a a good story, a positivity to it as well, but it also is powerful in terms of building, I assume, a bit of brand loyalty. So there is more than just price, for example. It's not just about price. It's actually a sense that this fuel is going to look after my car better. Is that--?
BRIAN FISHER: 16:19.452 That's true. So I think most consumers have this value equation, so they mentally do the sums or the maths, and the equation is the value of the product to me depends on the quality of the product divided by the price. So if they don't really care about their engine and their car, they will continue to buy fuel based upon low price, but if they start to understand that not all fuels are the same and that we're searching for quality, people become more loyal to your brand and less reliant on looking for cheaper prices.
SCOTT OXFORD: 17:00.874 Yeah. So it's fair to say that in terms of being that it is something that people don't want to think about, but you're making it easy to make a positive decision there. Are there any other points, other aspects in which that fuel or a petrol can differentiate itself? I guess there's sort of the experience when you go to a service station.
BRIAN FISHER: 17:26.031 Yeah. So obviously, with retail service station brands, there's a lot more than just the fuel. You have a tangible service. So in Asia, a lot of stations are full service, so that means a pump attendant comes out and greets you, you sit in the car, and he'll fill up the car for you and then organise the transaction at the end, and so people become loyal to that kind of service. If they like the service they'll come back to you. But there's all kinds of other techniques and-- well, not so much techniques, but other reasons why they will come to a service station. Bathrooms, for example, are very important. People will not come to your gas station if they know that they're dirty restrooms, particularly females with children. So restrooms always have to be spotless. The shop, as well, is important. Does the shop next to the service station cater to the needs of the motorists? If it does, that's great, but if it's selling the wrong things, then consumers vote with their wheels and go somewhere else. And increasingly, we're seeing loyalty programs important to customers. Collecting points or whatever, using the Caltex loyalty program to get rewards over time, and also, increasingly, those loyalty programs are going online and people have apps as well to collect their points. So there is a basket of goods and services that help people judge which brand they would like to go to, which of course, is good for marketers because it does deflect a little bit from an industry which is incredibly price-sensitive.
SCOTT OXFORD: 19:24.481 Yeah. Exactly. And it's funny, the price sensitivity. I know in Australia, we've just had a couple of days of really, really high prices and it's almost something to be expected, and I think in Australia, we don't tend to blame the fuel company for that. We just kind of-- I think we've been conditioned to feel that that's oil price. How about in the Asian market? Is there a sense that fuel price is set by the brand itself or is there a similar awareness?
BRIAN FISHER: 19:54.842 Similar awareness because the price of crude oil is is named every day on the news in every country around the world. People now seem to know that the price of oil goes up and down a lot and that has a direct relationship on retail prices, but of course, within the retail prices, there's often a lot of tax that consumers have to pay and there's also a lot of supply details that go into it. So when you build a service station, for example, you have to make sure that your underground storage tanks are incredibly well-maintained, built in the first place, kept up to date, because the last thing that anyone wants is for fuel to leak out of those tanks and cause contamination. And that does happen sometimes so that costs a lot of money to remediate and fix up, but they're all the commitments that consumers should realise that goes into the price of a litre of fuel.
SCOTT OXFORD: 21:05.442 Yeah. And it's really interesting if we go back to what you said, that fuel is something that people don't like to think about. They tend not to place a lot of thought and it's almost an autopilot. All of these programs, the loyalty, the shop, all of this is designed to subliminally lead you toward one over another, and at the same time, there is that sense of brand-building on the other side which is sort of awareness of the story. And in your particular case, in the Caltex Asia case, it is this additive which is particularly unique to your product, and therefore you have that sort of balance happening and almost a tension there. And little does the average consumer know that there's this battle for their heart and mind going on, which sounds pretty much like the entire world of brand and marketing summed up in one. So your work at Caltex, it spans 15 years. What have you seen, the changes over that time, particularly with the advent of online? I think we referred to it a bit before about the fact that we used to be able to, say, with Coca-Cola, certainly own the channels. Was the same 15 years ago in fuel?
BRIAN FISHER: 22:18.867 Caltex doesn't have a position of strength like Coca-Cola did. Coca-Cola always had a stronger share of voice. Our market is a bit more even. There's a lot of good competitors, but yeah, 15 years, we've seen so much change in the marketing. The most important thing, as I mentioned before, is that it's a two-way conversation now, so you're constantly getting feedback from your consumers. So I think across the region we have about 1.2 million followers on our social media feeds, which is incredible given we're a brand, not a person, and we're a fuel brand. It's not a sexy brand like, say, for example, Louis Vuitton or something. But we get an incredible amount of feedback on Facebook and our Instagram channels, and we get lots of advice from our consumers about what we should do better, and a lot of that advice, of course, is real-time, and consumers want a response in real-time, so it means that as a marketer, with all of this feedback, if you're gathering it and harvesting it and responding to it properly, you should be constantly improving your offer which is obviously what we intend to do.
SCOTT OXFORD: 23:49.944 Yeah. It sounds like, though, you would have a potentially massive, almost unwieldy volume of feedback to manage. Is there a good software forms or is there ways in which you do that? Or are there some unique aspects of life in Asia versus say, life in Australia where you can employ some talent to help you out with that?
BRIAN FISHER: 24:16.845 I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer that Scott. But it's a combination of some automation and some human manual touch. But, yeah, we're kind of on top of it and we're constantly monitoring what people are saying, not just on our social media feeds but what they're saying online about the industry and our competitors as well. So obviously we use a whole load of platforms to do that, but we're constantly using that feedback to improve our campaigns.
SCOTT OXFORD: 24:53.818 Yeah. And that's been a really valuable lesson from pretty much every brand holder or owner that I've talked to on this podcast is, absolutely about staying connected to your customer, keeping as currently aware of what they and the market are saying at any particular one time, and ensuring that you're not just being reactive but you're actually able to-- by moving quickly be able to be quite sort of proactive. And I'm guessing that sort of impacts business strategy as well - not that that's what we're here to talk about - but brand is such a powerful aspect of the business of many, many products and certainly, in terms of fuel it's huge. So I'm assuming that they're not just telling you about what your brand-- what they feel about the brand, but they're certainly giving you information that helps you refine your offering and deliver them very operationally what they need as well.
BRIAN FISHER: 25:53.704 Yeah. That's true. I mean, the world that we live in today is actually dominated by brands like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and they're leading the way in terms of marketing, and almost every executive that you meet at the moment has done a Google online marketing course. So every brand wants to be customer-centric, it wants to be fast, it wants to be frictionless, it wants to be connected. And that's the challenge for the brands today. Not only to do that, but to do it in their own unique manner as well, and I think that's going to be a tough challenge for a lot of marketing folks coming forward. Because I don't think marketing these days is like it was when I grew up, when it was a combination of art and science. I think now it's becoming a lot more around the science of AI and algorithms and Google technology and so forth.
SCOTT OXFORD: 27:00.479 Data.
BRIAN FISHER: 27:01.026 And risk and data, yeah. So the risk, of course, is that people will be producing marketing campaigns based purely upon data but without really understanding, I think, the human insights or the human touch that's required to make those campaigns connect with consumers in a human, in an emotional manner. And I think that's the risk for marketing going forward, is we're going to become so rational we'll lose that emotional side of the equation.
SCOTT OXFORD: 27:39.000 Yeah. It is that sort of, not just power to move and connect, but they always say that the scariest thing is when artificial intelligence or robots can murder us. But I think it would be even scarier if they could actually make us fall in love. And that's that missing human connection that you're referring to there, is just that deepest most human point how we connect. And that's something that only a-- well hopefully for good, but certainly right now still only a human can do with another human.
BRIAN FISHER: 28:16.544 Yeah.
SCOTT OXFORD: 28:17.798 Yeah. How philosophical are we today? Look at that. It must be a Monday and you being in lockdown. I wanted to ask you before we sort of move on, just again on the Asian market versus Australia. I know you've been in Asia for 28 years so, you've been connected, you've got family here, you've obviously spent time back here as well, what would you say differentiates from a-- I guess from a brand perspective, that's really what we're here to talk about. What differentiates the Asian market say, from the Australian market?
BRIAN FISHER: 28:53.429 Wow. That's a really tough question, Scott. I'm not sure I even have the answer for it. Maybe in a broader sense, in a broader sense I see that Australia is actually becoming quite a conservative country in many, many aspects, whereas Asia is still very much around change. They're very much around embracing the future, and brands that promise you a good life, a better life, in a modern society in Asia are still highly-respected whereas I sense looking a lot of marketing from Australia, there's still this kind of nostalgia thing that maybe suggests that we've had our best times and we look backwards a little bit, which I think is actually-- well, if that's the way the market's thinking then I personally think it's wrong. I think Australia is a great country. That's why I came back. It's got a great future. Maybe not because of the politicians [laughter] but it's got some great people here and it needs to be more futuristic-looking, and I think it also needs to be more outward-looking as well. The world is our oyster. It's a great opportunity for Australia, once we get past this pandemic, to really go out and do good things throughout the world. So yeah, I think we should be more positive, less conservative and more outward-looking.
SCOTT OXFORD: 30:43.220 Love it. Great advice. Brilliant. Well, we have probably not explored everything there is to explore about fuel but we do have lots of other questions, and you have a life before fuel as well and I wanted to just make a special mention of the Mastercard Priceless campaign because 20 years in market, that is pretty incredible. It's still a beautiful campaign line, beautiful tagline, fresh, I think, as the day it came out. But it did some pretty special things for the brand and it built connection with customers in a unique way. Can you tell us a little bit about what happened when you launched that?
BRIAN FISHER: 31:27.854 Wow. Well, it is 20 years ago so my memory is a bit fuzzy, but it was a pitch that McCann Erikson amongst other agencies globally went to Mastercard, and Mastercard actually wanted to build off their tagline, The Future of Money. And we did a whole load of research around the world that showed that consumers didn't really understand what the future of money was. They didn't feel connected to it. So we went back to them, and from our research, we found out that people that had credit cards are perceived as having either a good attitude to credit or they use it irresponsibly to rack up debts that they couldn't afford, and of course, most credit card users put themselves in the first camp as responsible or good revolvers. So they would use a credit card instead of cash - this is 20 years ago - and at the end of the month, they would always pay off what they used. So we thought, well, credit card campaigns in the past had always been incredibly materialistic. Use a card to get a holiday or a car or something expensive. Gold diamonds. And we felt, well, really, you can use a credit card for anything. So one of the first campaigns was where a father takes his son to the baseball and we remade the campaign for India and I think Australia where the father takes the son to the cricket, and he goes along and buys a hotdog and a coke for $15, the Aussie shirt for $35 and the tickets to the game for $60, and then, of course, something exciting happens in the cricket. There's this bonding moment between the father and son and the line which has become so famous is, "There are some things money can't buy, but for everything else there's Mastercard." And that moment where the dad realises, "I've spent my money wisely, bonded with my son." Priceless. So it became a great campaign because it's still based upon that original and universal insight about people really wanting to bond or really wanting special moments in their lives.
SCOTT OXFORD: 33:59.456 It's what you were saying before about human connection, wasn't it?
BRIAN FISHER: 34:00.956 Yeah.
SCOTT OXFORD: 34:02.539 It's about the power of that sense of human connection and that celebration of those moments and the idea that a brand can be a facilitator of that. I love that they never took credit for that moment. They just were the facilitator of the setup and allowed the humans to take sort of full credit for that, and that is such an incredible transference over to a consumer, isn't it, that idea that I'm going to be set up to have these magical moments in my life. No wonder it was so powerful. And it did amazing things, didn't it? It changed the position Mastercard had in the market, didn't it? Were they like the poor cousin or a distant cousin to [crosstalk]?
BRIAN FISHER: 34:47.161 Yeah, they were, before this campaign, they were always what we called Visa Envy. They were always looking at, "What are Visa doing? Oh, it must be good. Let's do something like them." And then when they realised they'd got this campaign, they never looked back again at Visa, and they just continued to do their own work and their own campaign and I think, in most markets, they've significantly cut the gap between Visa and themselves. But, the other great thing about the campaign was, that when 20 years ago, people still paid cash for everything. You think about it now. People use some kind of payment tool, whether it's an e-wallet or a plastic credit card for virtually everything, so all the brands in this space have been big winners in that time.
SCOTT OXFORD: 35:44.908 Yeah, yeah. They've just become the very day and it's such a strange thing to have a wallet full of cash, that months later still have a wallet full of cash. I mean, when I say a wallet full of cash, I don't mean wealthy, but in terms of you put a few 50s in there and they're still there a month or six weeks later. It's--
BRIAN FISHER: 36:06.091 Exactly.
SCOTT OXFORD: 36:07.811 Don't use that anymore. Barely pull the plastic out of the wallet anymore. The other day I had to actually run-- do a swipe or insertion of my card, and it's like, "I don't actually carry my wallet anymore." It just couldn't happen.
BRIAN FISHER: 36:19.233 I know. It's incredible.
SCOTT OXFORD: 36:21.209 So that must present in itself some challenges where people aren't even looking at the branding on the card anymore. They're literally tapping their phone. But of course, Apple-- there was a lot of talk about them entering that space as well and creating some disruption in that category, but haven't heard anything about that for a while, so I'm not sure what's happened to their credit card. But certainly, for many of us-- it's interesting, I've got more Mastercards in my wallet. I've got two Mastercards and one Visa in my wallet. So there you go. Must have worked on me, hey Brian?
BRIAN FISHER: 37:01.375 Yeah, hopefully. Yeah. Advertising works.
SCOTT OXFORD: 37:05.080 It does, it does. And it builds brands and it brands story. Speaking of which you told me you were actually a little bit jaded about brand and brands. Why is that?
BRIAN FISHER: 37:15.925 Yeah, I am a little jaded by a lot of brands in the category or in the world these days. I think the uniqueness of a lot of brands is being eroded by more and more transactional marketing. Brand values are being diluted by-- our market is sort of treating brands as commodities and not really recognising that brands have some beautiful and unique values. I touched before on Visa and Mastercard and how Mastercard used to try and copy Visa. But I see that in so many categories that brands are trying to copy each other. It's becoming harder and harder to have a really strong and unique brand positioning because I don't think marketers respect brands and as a result consumers are chasing discounts too much, and so there tends to be a kind of rush race to the bottom, and it's something that good marketers really need to guard against, I think.
SCOTT OXFORD: 38:30.835 Yeah. And it's a complex one, isn't it? It's like if I said to you, what's the answer, it would be an unfair question because there isn't an easy answer. One of the things I am noticing more and more is that the brands that seem to combat the price issues tend to have a social purpose attached to them and people are willing to pay a bit of extra for a product that they need every day because there is a purpose attached to it, and that is-- and they're donating the money to something. So you're essentially you're making a donation by proxy. But that's not going to work for every single brand, is it?
BRIAN FISHER: 39:13.494 No, it's not. And I'm actually a little sceptical in that area, and I still-- and I do sell gasoline so I've got to be careful what I say. There's a lot of greenwashing I think that goes on to consumers and I think a lot of these socially good campaigns, as a consumer, I see these brands saying, "We're going to donate X cents in every dollar to a good cause." And then I think, "Really? Is that going to make a difference? Is it really going to help the planet?" And I actually sat in some research recently in Queensland where consumers were actually saying a similar thing. They were saying, "Well, I live near a park and--" - I can't remember the brand, but the brand was saying, "I'm going to donate to help grow more trees in Queensland and this lady said, "Well, I don't see any more trees in the park that I live next to. I don't think this is happening." So I think if you're going to do these kind of social activities you really have to show consumers where you've put the money and how you're really helping with tangible examples rather than just talking about it.
SCOTT OXFORD: 40:43.270 Yeah. Absolutely. That's that real proof, almost scientific or empirical evidence that supports that so that you can actually sort of trust-- because there would be nothing more damaging, I think, to those brands to be found out. We've all seen, in terms of say musicians, what we do-- I'm going to date myself really badly and mention Milli Vanilli who going back a long long long time, but pretty much lost their credibility down to not being what they said they were going to be. In a world where things are much more-- it's much easier to find out the reality behind what's going on there it's a dangerous game if you're not actually living it. But clearly even if they are doing the right thing, clearly a customer is lacking in evidence of that and needs to be convinced. So if that's coming out of the mouth of a customer, then that's a legitimate question that brand needs to face.
BRIAN FISHER: 41:44.050 Yep. And it's the exposure that you have on social media as well. So whne you talk up your brand you also have to live up your brand as well or else you get called out by the consumer.
SCOTT OXFORD: 41:57.061 Absolutely. And that's certainly in the very busy, noisy world of social media that is a challenge tpo stay constant, stay current as you said with channels in Caltex Asia, and it's huge volumes there of feedback. Many, many conversations going on and many, many aspects of the brand in action in those conversations. So it's a busy, busy time, and it's a, I imagine, a busy business to be marketing fuel into a market like Asia that from the outside, certainly from my perspective, as an Australian looks to create many, many or more opportunities for brands to advertise and to present themselves, and also a lot of competition as well.
BRIAN FISHER: 42:56.981 Yeah, I think the other thing to bear in mind, Scott is that Asia is not a homogenous market. So I work across markets from the Philippines which is third-world to Singapore which is first-world, to all kinds of markets in between. All different stages of development. But also different cultures as well. So I think for any marketer that wants to export Australian goods, or expertise or services or whatever to Asia really needs to understand each of the markets that they're going to target because they're all so different. And they're all so amazing. And they're all so beautiful. I mean I loved working in Asia, I met so many great people and every market's completely different with its own unique challenges which made it actually a lot of fun.
SCOTT OXFORD: 43:55.248 Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Anytime you travel it's, yeah, across different countries you sort of discover it's not just a language change it's an entirely different sort of perspective and again that would be the-- in Australia we're just so used to travelling from one side to the other and barely noticing a glitch in the generalized kind of culture of things. But, yeah, certainly Asia must have been a vibrant and exciting market and not just many languages but many cultures, so.
BRIAN FISHER: 44:31.146 Yeah.
SCOTT OXFORD: 44:31.552 I want to take you back to childhood. I mentioned before that in the fuel space, Golden Fleece was one that I remember from childhood. What about you? What's a brand that you remember and why?
BRIAN FISHER: 44:45.505 Oh my God, that's such a-- that's really going back in time. This is going back to ancient history. But I think looking back, when you asked me this question the other day, looking back, I think I must have known I was going to be a marketer or a market researcher. Because when I used to sit in my dad's car, I used to count the number of gas stations for each brand, or the number of building sites for each building company or real-estate signs for each house that was being sold or let. And then I used to always at the end end of a long trip work out who was winning, who had the most, so maybe that was why I got into marketing, but I was always interested by that kind of stuff.
SCOTT OXFORD: 45:38.267 I think what you're talking about there is really interesting because it's about having a discernment at that time. You had an awareness. The rest of us-- the rest of the world is subliminally decoding brands without that consciousness whereas you're actually quite consciously aware of different ones and almost attributing sort of certain characteristics to each one by volume and number and I think that's really interesting. Anyone in particular that you remember? Was it fuel for you? Is that, or was it--
BRIAN FISHER: 46:07.525 Yeah, well fuel was always the one that was everywhere, right? So you'd count up to see how many Shell stations there were versus Golden Fleece or Ampol or whatever. So that was always the big ones. Then I went to uni at the University of New South Wales and after the first year, you had to decide what you wanted to do as your second year major, right? And I was going to do economic history because I liked history, and then when I went back to uni for year two, we looked at the boards, and there were 1000 people doing a Commerce degree. There was only one person enrolled to do economic history and that was me. And I thought, "Mmm, this doesn't sound right. What are my mates doing? Ah, they're doing marketing. Okay, well let's do marketing." And that's where I got into marketing and I remember the very first case study we had was on Moove flavoured Milk, and the New South Wales Dairy Board or whatever they were called were concerned that milk sales were falling so they wanted to reposition it like a soft drink, and they introduced these flavoured milks with the brand Moove, and they had all sorts of advertising that looked like Coca Cola ads, people frolicking on the beach drinking flavoured milk and the results were quite impressive of the case study, and I thought I can do this job. This job looks like a lot of fun. And it has been ever since.
SCOTT OXFORD: 47:50.481 Yeah. I can tell. And, yeah, the great stories that you have to share, we don't even have, like I said, a fraction of the time we need to hear them. But I'm going to tease out a few more. I want to know is there a brand that you trust?
BRIAN FISHER: 48:09.296 Well, there's lots of brands I trust. I'm a brand guy. I love trusting brands.
SCOTT OXFORD: 48:16.868 You certainly know how to decide on what basis you trust them as opposed to the average person who probably doesn't really think about it, just--
BRIAN FISHER: 48:25.308 Yeah. Yeah. I mean, yeah, I mean as a more kind of intuitive marketer, I kind of trust brands based upon first impressions more. So if I hear from friends about a good brand, then I will have a natural bias to it. So word of mouth is obviously one of the most important aspects of marketing so it's always good to have-- when you're trying to find a brand, its always good to talk to people who have experience with them, and if my friends have a good experience with a brand then that's often good enough for me.
SCOTT OXFORD: 49:10.890 Yeah. That's interesting. Yeah. Well, they're putting their reputation on the line by referring you to it, and?
BRIAN FISHER: 49:20.209 Yeah.
SCOTT OXFORD: 49:20.514 Yeah, so that's, yeah. I think we do think twice about whether we'll put something forward when we've had a good experience, don't we? We sort of stop and go, "Yeah, no, I'm comfortable with this." Nothing worse than finding out later that you gave someone a bum steer. You sent them to a restaurant and they had a bad experience it's-- we take that very personally, don't we?
BRIAN FISHER: 49:42.603 Yeah. Yeah. That's one thing I don't really like doing, is recommending a restaurant, maybe a set of restaurants to people because yeah, that's quite different. I think restaurants are quite different to brands in that respect, because the level of service or the level of whatever you get from a restaurant can change quite dramatically from time to time.
SCOTT OXFORD: 50:05.045 And the entire experience can be in the hands of one person so-- whereas, yeah, a much bigger brand, it's a whole different thing and-- yeah. So that's brands, why you trust brands. Is there a brand that you would say that you trust so much that you even love it?
BRIAN FISHER: 50:24.144 Yeah. There is a brand I really do trust. As you mentioned before, I ride bicycles, and I have a Bianchi bike, which is made in Italy, and it's one of the oldest bikes ever made, and it's quite famous for its Celeste Green. And this guy Edoardo Bianchi invented the bike, and if you look at the history of Bianchi bikes over 150 years, they have invented so much technology in biking. They have been involved in so many amazing things like, obviously Giro d'Italia and Tour de France and World Championships. To me, when I ride my Bianchi I'm riding a sort of history book, a history experience, and it's--
SCOTT OXFORD: 51:26.698 150 years of it.
BRIAN FISHER: 51:28.495 Yeah. And I'm sure there's a lot of better bikes than Bianchi, but there's something magical and mythical about riding a Bianchi that makes me feel so happy.
SCOTT OXFORD: 51:43.596 It's story isn't it, though?
BRIAN FISHER: 51:45.260 Yeah.
SCOTT OXFORD: 51:45.237 It's connection to story, and to everything that it stands for, and what they-- their dedication and their continuity and there's got to be something good about a business that can last for 150 years, surely? They must be good--
BRIAN FISHER: 51:58.353 Exactly.
SCOTT OXFORD: 51:58.946 -- particularly when they do one thing and make bikes.
BRIAN FISHER: 52:01.784 Yeah. Well, they did sort of expand a little bit. They were tied up with Mussolini's war effort I think for a while, but--
SCOTT OXFORD: 52:09.707 Aha.
BRIAN FISHER: 52:10.873 --some of those things you don't need to know. Every brand has a sort of a black chapter in its past that you don't necessarily need to know.
SCOTT OXFORD: 52:21.198 Yeah. And the crisis comms of the PR firm, or the equivalent of the time, did a particularly good job on it and we forgive such things. Is there a brand instead, on the flip side, a brand that's broken trust with you? Where you-- or that you can't bring yourself to trust?
BRIAN FISHER: 52:41.280 Well, I don't know about a brand as such, although a category, definitely. I just feel that banking-- banking is an industry that really needs to have a look at itself, personally. Trust is such an important thing but-- and I know banks talk about security, but the way sometimes they look after your money, it's almost as if it's their money, not your money. And their obsession with security makes it really difficult for customers to have a and smooth relationship with banks. I mean, the best example, of course, with banks is their online banking services which I just think, particularly the phone lines, are just absolutely hopeless. You're on hold for hours waiting for someone to answer your call and then you're constantly being asked to do more checks. And I kind of understand why because they don't want to give your money away to anyone, but it just seems to me, in this day and age, a really difficult way to build trust with consumers. And I know online banking with fingerprint technology and eye technology and all that stuff is starting to come to the fore, and it's not before time, because banks really need to change the way they're perceived by their own customers for the better.
SCOTT OXFORD: 54:28.664 Yeah. A bit like telcos. They have the same problems that you were sort of talking about, obviously, not regarding money, but yeah, they've come up in the answer to this question as well and most people are fairly prudent not to mention naming names because pretty much a whole category seems to have not cracked the nut and what you're saying there is banking-- just hopefully, something good's going on behind the scenes because they need to crack that nut some time soon.
BRIAN FISHER: 54:55.995 Well, it is getting better in the online experience and I do my best now not to ever talk to a bank hotline because they really are bad, but the other thing I've noticed is they put more emphasis on online. When you actually physically go to the bank they don't want to serve you anymore and they say, "Oh, you have to go to the website or your online app to fix that," and it's like, "What?" I still think brands today need good human touch points or else they run the risk of just becoming based upon, as I said before, AI, algorithms and sort of a soulless relationship.
SCOTT OXFORD: 55:39.588 Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. We have used up our hour really, really quickly. There is one last question I wanted to ask you. You've worked on a lot of brands. You've worked on some massive brands. Is there any brand left in the world, a dream brand, that you haven't worked on that you'd like to?
BRIAN FISHER: 56:01.179 Wow. Well, yeah, probably. I'd love to work for a sporting brand. If someone came to me and said, "There's a world cup coming to Australia. Would you do all the marketing for that?" It doesn't matter what sport. I think that would just be an amazing opportunity to be at the centre of a world and be responsible for greeting customers and consumers from all over the world to come to your country for something special. I think that would be the greatest [crosstalk].
SCOTT OXFORD: 56:39.122 So you're a bit of a sport nut. Not just the cycling. A bit more than cycling.
BRIAN FISHER: 56:43.208 No, no. I love sport. I love the whole drama of sport, and what I've already noticed coming back to Australia is how much live sport there is all the time and it's just such a great way to build community. And it does require people touching each other, it does require crowds. Sport really does engender the human side of brands and I think it's a wonderful way for a great country like Australia to unite and get behind things. So last weekend's victory in Wimbledon by Ash Barty is such a great thing for the whole of Australia because it really unites people behind something that's unique and special.
SCOTT OXFORD: 57:36.524 Yeah. And top that off with Dylan Alcott with his men's singles as well. It was just a great way for Australia to really celebrate someone other than an able-bodied male [laughter] winning Wimbledon, winning a big global thing. So it was a win for diversity as well. Well, thank you, Brian. It's been a pleasure, and as I said, we could talk all day, and I might buy you a beer and hear a few more of those stories. I look forward to it. So thanks again, Brian. Appreciate your time today. [music] Podcasts survive on word of mouth so jump on our socials and share us around. Find me on LinkedIn or follow brandjam_podcast on Instagram, and of course, subscribe to ensure that you don't miss an episode. You can also visit Brandjam.co. Drop me a line there or connect me up with anyone you feel should be a guest. And to finish, a quote from Steve Forbes, the Editor-in-Chief of business magazine, Forbes, he says, "Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business." And he would know. I'm Scott Oxford. Thanks for joining Brian and I today on Brandjam. [music]