Jamming brand and education
SCOTT OXFORD: 00:02.159 G'day. I'm Scott Oxford and welcome again to BrandJam, the podcast where we jam about brand because brand is our jam. [music] I'm just your regular, everyday, garden-variety brand evangelist, and my day job is Head of Strategy and Creative for an Australian brand and creative agency called New Word Order. So I live and breathe brand everyday. And talking to people who own, manage, or empower brands is my happy place. Education is our topic today and specifically, tertiary education and the brand of a university, one which has carried the clear and prominent brand promise of being the university for the real world for as long as I can remember. So I'm jamming today with Xavier Amouroux.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 00:49.579 We're not only promoting QUT. We are promoting also the fact that higher education is a good place to be.
SCOTT OXFORD: 00:54.806 Executive Director, Marketing and Communication at Queensland University of Technology, otherwise known as QUT here in Brisbane, Australia. Xavier took over this role in 2019 after joining QUT in 2017 as Associate Director of Digital Marketing. The Times Higher Education 2020 ranked QUT in the top 200 universities in the world and the one of the best young universities in Australia. With approximately 50,000 students, QUT places a premium on the national and international accreditation of their professional degrees. They are focused on transforming the learning experience and embedding work-integrated learning in courses and have a strong focus on developing entrepreneurial skills. Xavier's responsible for leading an integrated department covering domestic and international student recruitment, media relations, and internal communications, brand, and digital marketing. Quite a remit. Since the end of 2020, he's overseen the centralisation of brand marketing, comms, and student recruitment across several teams of marketing and communications professionals. This year, QUT launched a new brand campaign to expand on QUT's real world brand positioning. The new campaign, titled, "The real world starts here," developed a new narrative to explore the student learning experience at QUT and how the university can match future students' aspirations and ambition. Senior marketing leaders, Xavier has 20 years experience developing successful marketing and communication strategies here in Australia and also in Europe. He has experience in both private and public sectors across higher education, governmental organisations, and financial services. Previously, he was a Head of Brand, Corporate and Sponsorship, Communications for Crédit Agricole Group based in Paris. He worked across several European countries with a supervision of a portfolio of major banking brands from the group, that's including Crédit Agricole S.A., Crédit Agricole Italia, Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, BforBank, LCL Bank, and Insurance Amundi. In 2009, Xavier developed the branding and launch of a new, fully online bank, that one I mentioned, BforBank, designed as the first premium online bank in France. He was then responsible for customer acquisition marketing, and he contributed for the successful launch of their iconic France Effie award-winning campaign. And if my wife is listening, she'll be swooning when she hears his beautiful French accent, so enjoy that as well. Xavier, welcome to BrandJam. I'm looking forward to a conversation - Here we go. Here's my dad joke - full of higher learning.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 03:24.172 Thank you very much, Scott. Thanks for having me today.
SCOTT OXFORD: 03:26.900 Yeah. You've spent a lot of your career in Europe and in France. And I think the first question I'd like to sort of ask is what are the differences you've noticed between, say, the marketing world in France versus Australia?
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 03:39.589 That's a very good question. I think I would say I see more similarities than differences. I think marketing is probably some of the main activities that you find lots of similarities across countries. I think we tend to work in marketing across similar tools or dashboards or techniques or approaches that we are all sharing and we've been developing for the last, probably 100 years or 50 years. And then it's more the differences are more about the markets, the agencies, and the specificities of each countries. And this you would obviously see when you are in Europe. There are some common things across the different countries, but there are also lots of different elements about the culture relevance that a country-- whether you're in France or Italy or Germany or the UK, there are things you would do differently. So it's more using same techniques but approaching different agencies and finding the way to be relevant to these agencies.
SCOTT OXFORD: 04:45.004 Yeah. Yeah. I get that. That's the thing about Australia. We're very big and broad, but there's not a lot of differences. I mean, there's nuances and subtleties about different populations in Western Australia versus Tasmania and Queensland. But yeah, France to Italy to Spain, these are all very unique. And so your brands would need to individualise for each of these.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 05:07.790 Yeah. Definitely. And it starts also-- particularly in Europe, obviously, with the different languages and the different culture. So the vocabularies and the words and the way you would express things would be different. And the culture's obviously extremely different, so you would have that. What is very interesting in Australia is it's, at the same time, an old country with a huge history and a fantastic background, but also a new nation. And having the opportunity to grow brands in this country is really, really exciting because there are plenty of things to do and explore and bring on board all the different aspects of the country, the culture. And some are emerging and some are growing and developing themselves, and it's very exciting to see that.
SCOTT OXFORD: 05:55.318 Yeah. I would imagine that your experience working across countries in Europe would make it easier for you, as a marketer, to land in a country like Australia and just be very aware that it is going to have a strong sort of cultural nuance. And so learning that is probably first port of call, so understanding and getting integrated, and also knowing what you don't know, so how to tap into the locals.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 06:18.527 Yeah. I fully agree with that. I think I came with a set of knowledge in marketing, but I took a very humble approach in discovering the country, knowing the people, understanding the culture and the history, and thinking, "Well, then I can probably apply with a team some marketing techniques and communication approaches, anything like that." But always having a sense of what the general vibe, what the general atmosphere, what the general context, because it is so important you understand where you are, what the people are thinking about, what their concerns are because every country is different. And even in Australia, we have different concerns, whether you live in South Australia or in Queensland or Western Australia, etc. And it's very important that as marketing people, we keep really ourselves very aware about that. And we really develop our understanding before we start engaging with the agencies and before we start developing some marketing techniques. So we have the understanding where people are and what they are expecting from a brand.
SCOTT OXFORD: 07:24.578 Yeah. Absolutely. I've talked to a lot of guests about just that importance of having the customer perspective and being sort of connected in with them. And so yeah, I imagine that's been a big chunk of your work sort of back in Europe, but certainly, here too, and particularly when you're differentiating university as well. And you've inherited a very, very strong brand and QUT has been-- for those of who live in Brisbane, we've been very, very aware of it for a long time. Certainly, my wife is alumni of QUT. I went to the competition but that's okay. And so it's a very, very strong brand. So I guess a big theme of today in this particular episode is not about repositioning, but it's actually about evolving a brand and sort of taking it and running with it. So tell me about the QUT brand when you landed here and what your first experiences of it were.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 08:24.475 Yeah. You're very right that QUT has a very strong history as a brand for many, many years and has been very successful at being consistent, particularly with the claim of the university for the real world and its approach to teaching and learning and it wants to engage with future students and existing students. So as a marketing person, it's fantastically exciting because working with such a great brand is very good. You have a strong basis, and you are working with foundations that are extremely well-developed. And the narrative and the identity and all that is making really work probably a little bit easier than if you have to really start from scratch or develop a new brand or work with a brand that have some issues or concerns, anything like that. So this is really a very good thing. And I think as a marketing person, it's something I was looking forward to working with QUT. It's been now nearly four years. But this is coming also with responsibilities. You feel, as a marketing person, you don't want to break anything. You want to keep it. You want to develop it. You want to grow it. But you're also very-- I was personally also very conscious that I didn't want to change too many things in case of breaking something into that. So the question with all teams were about can we still be relevant? But also can we be developing the brand into some territory that are a little bit new for us and the organisation but are also still very strong connections with what we would call the DNA of the brand and that we are keeping that. So definitely, the focus on the real world is a key element of QUT. Probably with the new compend of thinking was more we've been explaining a lot what the outcomes of graduating at QUT and from QUT will help you to be successful in your career. And we are always taking very practical examples of graduates and students who have been having successful careers, whether in Australia or overseas. But it was always a little bit the life after university. And we thought, lately, that we probably need to come back a little bit to the beginning, which is what will be exactly the experience you will get as a future student if you come to QUT, and what makes QUT very different from any other universities in Australia or in the world that you will find has an element of distinction and distinctiveness around that. So we really came back to the roots of the first day you start at QUT, all it will look like, what it will be, all you will engage with, all the students, teachers, lectures, facilities, buildings, and also connect within industry partners and carry out outcomes, anything like that. So that was keeping the real world, but bringing the real world in what we call, "The real world starts here." It's on your first day at university at QUT on your first day on campus or online. And you will experience what the promise of the university will be, working with it.
SCOTT OXFORD: 11:50.069 Yeah. I think my key observation there is that a lot of brands over the last few years have missed the outcomes and all focused on the offer. And so they've been really working to try and do that. Whereas QUT has led with the outcome very strongly and quite uniquely, I think, for a very long time. But yeah, for someone finishing Year 12 and as the parent of a student in Year 12, at the moment, who's sort of looking to the future. But also, as I said, my wife is alumni. So we remember the university for the real world very, very strongly. We have our experiences of it. But yeah, that idea of, now, basically saying, "Well, yeah, that's the future, but what about next year? Is this what I really want?" And to me, that seems incredibly powerful to be able to do that. And so in terms of, obviously, capturing that experience is what the campaign is all about. In terms of reaching that point, I think for those listening, interested to know, did you talk to a lot of your potential students or past students? Or how did you reach that hypothesis?
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 13:05.588 Yeah. We are regularly engaging with our existing students and I would say working on the campus, and even if we've been online as well due to COVID-19. We are really close to the students and the community of students. And we have a good sense of what they are thinking about the university, what their experience is about. But obviously, like many brands in marketing departments, we do regular surveys and research around a little bit knowing what the expectations of a Year 12 will be. But also, we are looking at people who are little bit older and who are thinking maybe I'm now ready to go to university even if I studied with a job or different activity or something like that. And we regularly organise focus groups and discussions, just to understand how they are perceiving going to university. And like any industries, the first one for us is more getting a sense of what it means to make the choice of going to higher education institution versus starting in a new position or developing a job or having your own project to be your own business person and develop your entrepreneurship program or follow your passion. So basically, going to university is starting part of what is your journey? Where do you want to go, and what do you want to do, and how can we fit into your plans? What having a degree, whether it's an undergraduate degree or post-graduate degree, or whether it's more short courses or procial education and development. What does it bring to you in your journey? Is it helping you to be yourself or be ready for the future and be ready in a sense of get to where you want to go? So we spend a lot of time to get a sense of that understanding because everyone is different and all generations are different. And the reason why we are going to university and some people are going to uni are changing all the time, and it's a very important choice in life. And you're right, when you are Year 12, it's probably one of your major choice you have to do at such a young age. So we want to make sure that we are having the right proposition and the right understanding with that.
SCOTT OXFORD: 15:26.173 Yeah. Because, yeah, a powerful aspect of your brand is not just to represent the university and what it offers, but it's also your brand actually opens up people's minds to what their life can be as well, isn't it? And that's the role of it is it's almost to create need or want, which is to suggest-- and what I've noticed, too, is that back in my day, it was you finish Year 12 and you went to university, you did your degree, and then you worked. Now, there is a lot of first degrees, second degrees third degrees. There's the coming back. There's that retraining in your late 20s. And I don't know if it's a different-- if you see a difference between males and females. But one of the things that I remember very clearly is that it took me-- I'm told it's because I'm a bloke. But until I was nearly 30 to kind of work out what I wanted to do when I grew up and start this business. And in the meantime, I was just working and learning and trying to sort of grow. But for friends, I had a friend who retrained from being a radiographer to being a lawyer. And then his wife sort of retrained from-- I can't remember what she was but she became a doctor. It's sort of that kind of thing. So your market is very sort of far and wide. And your market is even probably alumni who come back again. And so you have a lot of audiences and a lot of sort of-- a lot of people to keep an eye on and so yeah, I appreciate that that sort of customer research is such a big part of what you do.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 16:54.947 Yeah. No. Absolutely. You're very right in the sense of we are considering yourselves that we're engaging with people who are probably from Year 9, 10, and getting to 11 and Year 12, obviously, with that moment of choice, but also to people who are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s or older. And it's definitely the importance for QUT to be seen as a place that is designed for lifelong learning. You're very right that the way everyone now is probably approaching a career pathway is very different from what it used to be, maybe 30 years ago, 50 years ago. We know that we'll do plenty of different jobs in your career. We'll have different initiatives and different opportunities. And the university, such as QUT, wants to be really seen as a place where you can re-skill yourself or you can up-skill yourself and you can be ready for next challenges and the next opportunities. So it's definitely not just a place where you would say, "I'm coming for three years or five years. I'm graduated and having my diploma and graduation, etc." But it's also, "I should probably come back later. I should come back in another time." And QUT has been developing really different pathways around that. QUTeX is one of our latest sub-brand, if I may see. It's really designed for engaging with agencies and learners who are keen to explore executive education and professional education and professional development. And it can take the form of a couple of days as short courses or sessions, anything like that. So it brings you some flexibility. It doesn't mean that you need to commit for a long six months or one year or two years. But you can do different modules, and you can bring these modules together and get to the next level with that. So it's bringing that sense of flexibility to anyone who thinks, "Yeah. I need to be ready for the next step in my career."
SCOTT OXFORD: 19:04.401 Yeah. And that sort of brings another facet to the real-world aspect of the brand promise, which is that in the real world, we have to earn a living and we have to work while we study. And a full-time degree isn't necessarily going to fit in. And an MBA might not be right, but there are other things in between, so.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 19:25.536 Yeah. Exactly. And we see that in marketing. When I studied marketing, obviously, online and digital marketing wasn't part of that. It came much later into the game. And you need to skill yourself and you need to really make sure that you're ready for that at that stage too.
SCOTT OXFORD: 19:43.422 Yeah. Interesting. Interesting. So graduate and student success stories, I mean, storytelling and personal testimony is certainly a powerful tool and pretty central to your narrative. And again, the advertising executions for many years before you joined as well have been these powerful inspirational stories of alumni landing in amazing countries in the world and sort of doing dream jobs. And I know for me, they were always exciting. And I knew crew who've worked on those as well and just the shoot was as exciting as the ad itself. It was just a lot of fun to land in another place and sort of live that dream. But coming back, I guess, to these graduate student success stories, that technique is not unique in itself. But this has obviously worked really, really well. Why do you think they've worked so well for the QUT brand?
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 20:39.398 Yeah. I think they worked very well because as you said, they are really connecting the aspirations of the future students and the students to their ambitions. And they can see themselves in stories that reflect on what they want to achieve as a person and whether they want to have a very exciting life in a different country, engaging with new people, new cultures, anything like that, or whether they are really committed to, I would say, change the world and really have a sense of providing the support to things they think they are caring for. So they are talking literally to you and these stories have always been based on real graduates, real alumni, real students of QUT that everybody may know them. They've been maybe in the same classroom. They've been on campus with them, and they have heard of them, so you can relate to them. And I think we'll always make sure that-- particularly when we engage with Year 12 students, we find people who graduated from QUT but were close enough to them in age groups and characteristics so they can relate to that and they can project themselves into, "Actually, that young woman has such a great, amazing career. I would love to be her," or, "That young man is great too. I'd like that." And it's something to inspire you and develop that.
SCOTT OXFORD: 22:09.282 Makes it accessible.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 22:10.175 And accessible, exactly. So you can really create some connections with them and develop what the next steps would be. Because let's be honest, when you are probably 16 or 17 years old, I think a sense of what the world can bring to you, what the carriers would be, it's sometime very difficult, so it's good to have a sense of, "Yeah. Actually, these are the things I know sort of, but I can consider now. I can do that, and that person did it and I'm probably in the capacity to do it as well."
SCOTT OXFORD: 22:40.012 Yeah. Exactly. And if we think that sort of brand is a story and a brand becomes relevant to me because the story intersects with my life, that idea of modelling something and making it feel real and possible. It makes it a brand that I can naturally connect with that draws me in. And I guess a great thing there too is a brand's job is to draw in those that it needs to connect with. And it's just as important that those who are looking for something different self-select out, I guess, in terms of they kind of choose a different path that's probably going to fit them better and probably going to be better for everybody's outcome in the end.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 23:24.798 Yeah. You're very right with that in the sense of-- what I'm trying to say is when you make the decision to come to a higher education institution and come to QUT, you are in a capacity to build your own success and really want to have a sense where you will be in a capacity to develop that. And the success is not defined by one or another way of doing that. It's your own definition what is to be successful, what you want to achieve as a person, what you want to achieve with your community or in your business activity, anything like that. And you need to find that place where you can grow that and develop that and be able to achieve that success that you have defined for yourself.
SCOTT OXFORD: 24:11.184 Yeah. Yeah. And so you have to be the kind of person who is looking for that, who's keen for that. One of the things we've-- I've worked a lot with private schools. And one of the things that we've seen probably in the last 20 years is a growing shift where students have more and more say over-- it used to be the parents chose a school and the like. And obviously, tertiary education, certainly the youngest members entering would be finishing high school. But the parent is still a heavy influencer kind of role in that, I would imagine. And yeah, have you noticed that there's a heavy role for influences in tertiary?
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 24:53.923 Definitely. There are. And I would say there are many different types of influences around the future students. In a sense, I would say it's very obvious outcome, in a sense. But you can be inspired by someone in your family. You can be inspired by your sister or your brother and someone who did that previously. And maybe it will give you a sense of, "This is what I want to do." But sometimes, it will be also a sense of, "Actually, I don't want to do that because I can see it's not really for me." So there is definitely siblings, parents are our key influences. But also, teaches and guidance officers and within the schools, there are lots of people well. So helping and supporting students to find their own way and give them some indications. Sometimes it comes about what you want to do and you have your clear idea of that. But sometimes, it comes because you are very good in math, or you are very good in English, or you are very good in history. And then it starts to define a little bit your journey and what the other thing you would like to do. The thing we try to do is work very closely with schools and teachers and really make sure that we are not only promoting QUT. We are promoting also the fact that higher education is a good place to be and that's something to consider. And when schools and students are very talented and skilled, this is something they need to consider and welcoming everyone is really a key element of that. And encouraging, also, people to think that you can achieve that within the university. It's at your reach. We particularly focus over the last few years to encourage young women to go into stem carriers so they can really embrace science, technology, mathematics, engineering. Because I think they're obviously very successful. There are lots of grad students at QUT and alumni who've been having fantastic career in that space. And it's definitely encouraging young women to get there. So we have, over the last few years now, a compend that is called STEM the tide, which is really designed to really promote that because we can see that there is a gap for gender equality in that space. So we really want to encourage them, particularly in university of technology, such as QUT where everyone has a place and a role to play in these disciplines too.
SCOTT OXFORD: 27:18.366 It's really interesting you mention that aspect because I'm nearly 50, so I'm classic Gen X. And I lived in a world where there was-- I went to high school in a world where there was still men's work and women's work and certain disciplines like engineering and other sort of STEM-related activities, it has been sort of such a tied-- to stem as you say. But what I noticed that in the stem related subjects at high school, the consistent high-performance were always women, and it just made no sense to me. And so, yes, the world is slowly catching up, but, again, it is a role that you, as a brand play and your position on this, and that is again, part of this story. And I think the picture I'm building from our conversation so far, just-- there's some obvious things that we know about universities and tertiary education, but from a brand perspective, it just means your brand has many touchpoints, and it has many audiences, and it has many roles above and beyond, simply that traditional idea of, "Here we are: a place you can come and study a degree." There's such a deep cultural role and a deep role in the forging of aspirations and careers as well. So yeah, it's powerful.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 28:39.119 Yeah, you're very right on that, absolutely. In a sense of-- particularly QUT wants to be the real-world university, as we said. And one of these aspects is definitely engaging with communities and engaging with industry partners. And that makes the sense of having these connections built from the university to that real world, not just being a place that is isolating itself from the rest but really being connected with that. And I think one of the many great assets at QUT is having teachers and lecturers who are coming from the real world. There are lawyers, there are marketing people, there are engineers, there are CEOs, and they bring their knowledge and experiences into the mix of the-- I would say the curriculum. So you can really practise, connect and engage with that and have that sense that the university is not isolated but really part of the rest of everything. So that's the natural connections to job, career, outcomes and projects you can have in entrepreneurship or developing your own.
SCOTT OXFORD: 29:45.024 Yeah. I always advise my own clients on when we're talking brand that wherever possible, make a big, bold promise that you can deliver on and almost challenge people to test that. And I think that's the thing that-- from what you've described today. You make a claim to be the university for the real world, and then these are all of the ways that you deliver on it. It's sort of not hard to kind of go, "Okay, well, that makes it-- yeah, that makes it part of my real world. That makes it part of my real world." And I think for anybody listening, who's a student of brand. I think that's really powerful because even though it's been around for a long time and a lot of us who are local to QUT are very familiar with it, it is actually a big, bold claim. I mean, it's basically saying that those other universities are not, I mean, essentially, very politely, but do you know what I mean? By its implication. And so it's really a powerful when you can make that claim and obviously hold it for so long, and it is as you say, central to your DNA, so.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 30:50.441 That's very right. It's definitely a thing. The key element is the consistency and make sure that obviously the organisation while keeping your promise right. But also as a marketing department, working on the consistency of the message, make sure that we always keep that in people's mind and they can really relate to what it means and associate QUT with that real world. In the last campaign we did, at one stage we barely said the word QUT, but we say a lot of real world and well, it's now very strongly associated to, as you said, that the be very good work that has been done for many years and that consistency is definitely a key element.
SCOTT OXFORD: 31:37.004 Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Very different but it's almost similar to the fact that KFC doesn't mention chicken or anything anymore, but everyone knows it's synonymous, bit different, but. I want to take you back to, sort of, you've gone from a very solid brand like QUT, but you've worked with some not so solid brands in the past with reputational sort of issues and the like and I'm sure those listening would love to know that when you are working with a brand that's got some problems, that's got some challenges to face, what's the process of fixing a brand, I guess?
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 32:16.292 Yeah, it's a very interesting one and you're right, I worked previously for banks and financial services and through their own history as a bank or also the global financial crisis, they've been through probably a lot of issues in the matter of reputation and perception from the general audience about what this bank is about and what that brand is about, kind of thing. So this is definitely a very exciting task for a marketing person because it seems very daunting at the beginning. It's a bit impressive to say, "Okay, can you really fix a brand? Can you really, really change the perception of the audiences?" And first of all you have to start with the people working within the organisation, the staff members. And you have to start then with the customers and then the stakeholders. So it's quite a long journey to fix that and I think it's very important to understand what the issues are, basically. Do a very simple audit and assessment of the situation because obviously for every brand the issues could come from plenty of different reasons. The one I was working in Europe was in financial services and has been probably part of the massive issues and almost close to bankruptcy and things like that. So there's definitely the element that you need to rebuild is the trust with the customers and make sure that they can see that the bank is an institution you can trust. You have confidence in that because this is the basis of what you need to have as that kind of place. It's based on that. So you have to rebuild that with the employees. And I was very fortunate to see that the moral and the spirit of all the bank employees was extremely high. There was a really strong desire to bring things on board and give up all that, and really regain and re-earn the trust of the customers. So interestingly when you start doing ads and advertising and re-engage with the agencies, what I found is mainly the TVCs we're doing, were probably more stimulating, the staff of the bank, as a first element because they were almost galvanised when they were seeing that we are speaking again. We are talking to the agencies and the customers again and they were probably feeling probably energised by that. Feeling this is the right thing to say. We are honest, we openly say what went wrong, what would be the next steps, or we work on that. And I realise that sometimes you need to start with your employees first, and really make sure that they are really part of that journey, and then they can be really the best supporters and the best advocates when they engage with the agencies, whether it's the branch or online etc. so it's definitely a key element. But sometime with some brands you can't fix it and you have to accept that whatever you do, the issue will remain and that stays into the perception of the general audience. And in one of the brand in financial services I was working with, what we realised after a few years is the name of the brand of the bank itself was now associated to almost financial crisis. So at that moment, when your brand doesn't belong to you but it becomes in the general sense for everyone, again, that financial crisis, and they use your name for that and say, kind of like that A, B, or C, we realised this will never change. Now it's part of the media, the general audiences, the customer, they will associate. So this is when we had to rethink what the new brand should be, because we need to probably say this is the past and there is a new page and a new chapter coming up, but we need to really develop that new naming, and new branding, and everything like that. Keep some element from the past, but also accept there is a new thing, and it will take probably 5 or 10 years until that new name and new brand will be familiar to everyone and you are getting there. It's extremely rare, but it happens at some time. You just can't fix it.
SCOTT OXFORD: 36:48.677 Yeah. What I love about those stories, the first one in particular, is that my belief, and I don't own this belief, lots of people believe this, but brand is actually not something we craft. Brand is actually truth. Brand is what the story really is. And it is in the conversations, it's in the living, the breathing, all of that. So starting with employees and having them really own and live the truth of that. That's essential so that you're not trying to polish something up. We have a phrase in Australia, polish a turd, you know? You're not polishing a turd. You're actually bringing out the truth and the authenticity, and you've got something very rich. And that surely makes it easier than to tell that story when you're able to do that. But as you say, when something is broken, that's the truth of it and there is no denying that. All you would be doing is trying to polish it, so fundamental things have to change. That's really good.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 37:46.523 Yeah, definitely on that in a sense of you have to stay very genuine and authentic, and you can't only develop the, I would say, the aspects of the brands in something that is disconnected to the reality or becomes very artificial to everyone. It has to stay very real.
SCOTT OXFORD: 38:08.980 Yeah, totally. Now I know that when you were in Paris, you worked with brand agency Brandimage who have an international brand consultancy, have an incredible reputation, and you worked on a rebrand for a fairly famous little company called Air France. This is a great story I'd love you to tell me. They came for a new logo, is that right?
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 38:30.511 Yeah, that's a good story. Actually, I wasn't working for Air France, but the bank I was working, Credit Agricole, was a client of Brandimage and were discussing a little bit about the change of the logo, a little bit of the change of the identity and visual design, and things like that. And many years ago, our account director told me that story when they worked for Air France. And Air France, being a major French airline, came to them and said, "Well, this is a brief," and they probably engaged with several agencies around that, I would say tender or procurement process, and the brief was, "I think it's time to refresh our logo. We need a new logo. We need something fresh and new. What could it be?" And I guess, most agencies replied with, "This is the way we would approach the design and the visual identity work to redefine your identity and your logo." And what my partner was talking to me about that is for Brandimage. They took the approach very differently, and they replied to the brief in a sense of, "Well actually, we won't do a new logo for you," which was a little bit awkward when the brief is actually we asked you for a logo. And they said, "Well eventually, we will get to a new logo with you, that makes sense. But I think we need to work with you, with all the different touchpoints with your customers and audiences, and we need to rethink your visual identity more broadly than just the logo at the top of it. Because otherwise, you will probably be very happy with the new logo, visual identity, and you will probably use it everywhere, but the rest of your contact points, and touchpoints, and experiences will stay the same." So they won the competition with that agency in a sense of we won't do the new logo, but we'll work with you. And for probably 5 to 10 years, they reworked everything and all the different aspects of the brand. So it could be uniforms of the staff members of the airline. It could be the design of the lounges. It could be the web experience or the mobile app kind of thing. It could be all the things in the cabin design you would have an old experience.
SCOTT OXFORD: 40:50.619 All the customer experience. All the touchpoints.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 40:53.323 Exactly.
SCOTT OXFORD: 40:53.721 All the things that embody that brand. And let's show that it's so much more than just a logo.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 40:57.386 Exactly. And what was interesting is the agency took them on that journey for a few years, and quite, I would assume, a lot of work to get there. And when finally they completed all that, they revealed the new logo, and it was just, not only, but the main thing that came at the top to really complete that process. And I find that approach very interesting in the sense of how the agency was very bold and have a very strong view of how to really develop that identity for that company.
SCOTT OXFORD: 41:28.423 Yeah. And that's the sort of deep strategy, deep understanding of what a brand really is, and hence why Brandimage have the reputation that they do. I want to take you back now to your childhood. I presume that was in France, and I want to ask when you first became aware of a brand or first connected with a brand? One that means something to you.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 41:53.582 Yeah, so you're right to assume that definitely childhood was in France. I think the first brand I was probably very aware of being probably seven years old was probably Lego. I was playing with that all the time. I was very excited by assembling little bricks of plastic together and building cities, or houses, or planes, or anything like that. So I think that was something that I was really engaging physically all the time playing with that and manipulating different bricks and building lots of exciting things with that. And that was probably the very first one.
SCOTT OXFORD: 42:35.381 Yeah. Yeah, and such a powerful brand that has been a part of so many of our lives and still remains. I confess, as I have done before, that I've only recently rediscovered Lego, and they make some pretty amazing 18+ level architectural things that are a beautiful way to switch your brain off and reengage the engineer within and just marvel.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 42:59.837 Yeah, definitely. It's very impressive how they have managed through the years to keep being relevant and engage with the different generations of younger and not-so-young people. Because you're right, now they diversified so many products in their range of things they do that, yeah, you can do that as a puzzle, or it's a 3D puzzle if you're an adult, or be excited by the technology you would build in a small robot, all these kinds of things. And I'm very impressed how they always kept are keeping their products so relevant to everyone.
SCOTT OXFORD: 43:33.982 Yeah. And in many ways, the basic element is largely unchanged. And the magic of it, the story of it is unchanged. And yes, I've been trying for a while now to secure LEGO for the podcast. I'll keep trying. If you're listening, LEGO, say, "Yes." Please, say, "Yes." Yeah, LEGO, that's awesome. So what about today, is there a brand today, that you would say that you trust?
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 44:01.354 There are definitely many brands I do trust, and some I do partially like. And I see them sometimes, probably from the eyes of the customer, or sometimes, also from the eyes of the marketing person I am. There's definitely international brands such as Nike, that I'm always impressed by the massive work they've done for many, many years to develop that sense of, "Everyone is an athlete," and you can develop yourself and they are giving you this pure energy to train and all that. And they stay very-- not only focusing, obviously on the high quality of their products, but also on the message, and all the message resonates every time with everyone, whoever you are, that they are supporting different causes and different topics in society as well. And I'm really finding that very admirable about doing it so well.
SCOTT OXFORD: 45:08.694 Yeah. Yeah. So of all the brands that you like, could you say that there's a brand that you really love?
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 45:15.799 Yeah. That's a very good question. There are some love brands and that. There are definitely-- because I'm someone who's very passionate by aviation and things like that, that I really connect with that, so Air France is obviously one but since I'm in Australia, I think Qantas is, for me, is such an iconic brand, and I would say I think I do like it, I love it. In a sense of, it's probably before you meet Australia you meet Qantas. And that's your first connection with the flying kangaroo and all the excitement of having a trip and coming here. And when you travel and you're here, it's definitely one I would put on the list. And then there would be probably other brands that-- I don't think I would say that I love them, but I'm very impressed by the work they do internationally, brands such as LVMH and that group. I'm really impressed by the work of managing such a very strong one, but also part-fully of very strong brands as well.
SCOTT OXFORD: 46:24.896 Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. For those of us who work with brand and marketing, we're definitely fan boys and girls of people who do it beautifully. And yeah, look, mentioning Qantas, I think their most recent ad, the vaccination sort of returning to the air ad, was one of the most inclusive, embracing, positive contributions to the Australian vernacular that I've seen advertising do for a long time. And there was so much love for it and it just builds that sense of love. So I just wanted to ask you, Xavier, as a marketer, talking to an audience, I guess, of people interested in brands. Some people who manage and own brands. What would be your big sort of top tip to a brand? It might be mistakes to avoid or cautionary tale or whatever, what would you say to your piece of advice to brands would be?
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 47:17.676 Yeah. I would probably start by listening to the potential customers and the potential urgency that you want to engage. And really, in a capacity to listen and hear their expectations, their needs their concerns. Because you are trying to provide a service or product and you want to fix something or you want to give a service or you want to solve a problem. So I think the first starting point is really being in a capacity of listening and hearing all that and capturing these elements and seeing, what can we respond to that. The second thing I would think of is definitely thinking about what is a service and what is a product. And really focusing on that because even if anyone in marketing would do a fantastic job in delivering a brand identity or brand message or a narrative. At the end of the day, customers are judging the service or are judging the product. And they will come back to a brand because not only it's a great brand, but also because they are getting good value for their money. And they are feeling that they enjoy that product or that service. So I think it's always for me, the core element of the marketing and the four traditional Ps. Product is really key. And the third one for me is from the marketing perspective is focusing on the user experience, really making sure that as marketing people we practice, we test things, we look at that I'm always keen to see, what does a website looks on a mobile and does it look on a smaller screen or a bigger screen? Can you click on the menu? Can you fill in a form easily? That kind of thing because these elements are sometimes a little bit can be irritating for the customers and if you don't fix them, I think at the end of the day, it creates a little bit of, for people to be a little bit more unsatisfied by that. And the user experience, there are so many things you can do in InDesign and ergonomy and things like that. So particularly since we all know working in such a general economy, there are plenty of things, we need to focus in that aspect.
SCOTT OXFORD: 49:38.134 Yeah, look, I totally agree with you there and it's amazing how a whole brand can be judged, especially an online brand but can be judged. And I will preach to anyone who listens that one of the most important things to be aware of for a brand is the subliminal aspects of it. And user experience is one of those key areas where just the irritation as you put it, or the barriers to participation, can actually make you give up entirely on what would otherwise be a wonderful product or a wonderful service for you because getting there is just too hard. And so yeah, it's such a valuable aspect and it's just I guess proof once again, that a logo is not a brand, that a brand is a lived experience. And it's in the experiences, the conversations and ultimately how well it meets what a customer is looking for, so.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 50:35.053 Yeah, definitely. It's definitely about being humble. And knowing that you don't know everything and your customers and future customers will give you some very good insights about that. And then trying to be smart in that sense of responding that in the best way and giving the best user experience or the best customer experience. So you think Yeah, I'm really helping you in that. And I'm just putting a nice logo but I'll make sure that you can use my website very nicely and easily. And that's a good experience. Because otherwise, if it's so annoying, and I can't-- and wake on the fix that when they spent so much time and energy in this area. This is the most important thing of these touchpoints.
SCOTT OXFORD: 51:13.115 Yeah, yeah, I had that myself this morning, I went to an alternate online shop to buy something and the experience frustrated me and I got right through to the end that told me the product was no longer available. And I went, "That was my first and last experience with you." There you go, I'm not going to name them, not going to say it. Now you've worked for some pretty and worked with and for some pretty interesting and amazing brands. And I don't sense that you're leaving QUT anytime soon.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 51:38.079 Not at all.
SCOTT OXFORD: 51:39.522 But if you had a dream brand that you never worked on or for or a sector, what would it be? Where would you like to get to?
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 51:49.103 Yeah, well, I've been working financial services for such a long time, have some interest in that space and personal interest in personal finance and that kind of thing. And working for one brand, which is the launch of before bank as an online platform. I was really excited to develop the idea that you can manage your own finance, you can be your own personal banker and have access to tools and services and all that. So there are some brands like a thing of a good legacy and history such as American Express. And I think when I see it from the perspective of financial services and marketing, I think There's so much they could be more into that space. I think they have fantastic brand DNA and history. But there are no-- they need to evolve into the fintech industry where there are lots of new services on your mobile phone for doing and managing your money or your mortgage or loans and credit cards and for that, and you think, well, this is a brand that needs to be ready for that 21st century, beyond the fantastic Platinum or gold card they've been doing for a long time. But I think that there are lots of things I find really fascinating. But there are also other industry that and brands that are fine, particularly here in Australia, really interesting. Our country road is one I find really, really good. The simplicity and oh, it's really connected to everyone and the culture and what they are doing at the moment with their products and shops, their experience online, their services, and but also Oh, they are part of our culture in Australia and are all they do that simply naturally and for everyone.
SCOTT OXFORD: 53:34.244 Yeah. Well, they're an aspirational brand for me in the 80s and high school. Yeah, that was it. The cool kids, they had the County Road bag, and yeah, that logo remains unchanged, which just suggests-- and it survived, and it's a big deal to survive that long. So but yeah, I think you're on track for American Express, you've got all the financial services experience, and you've got the brand extension experience, which you'll be doing for the foreseeable future with QUT. So I reckon this is your perfect job application. [laughter]
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 54:04.516 We'll see that in the future.
SCOTT OXFORD: 54:05.560 Absolutely. Oh Xavier, It's been a delight to hear about QUT but also hear about the rest. And again, I know we could listen to your beautiful accent all day, but it's we have one hour and that hour is up so it's been such a pleasure. Thanks for joining me.
XAVIER AMOUROUX: 54:19.819 Thank you very much. [inaudible]. [music]
SCOTT OXFORD: 54:25.699 So to finish off, one of his favourite marketing authors is Theodore Ted Levitt, who says, "If you're not thinking in terms of segments, you're not thinking." which of course relates back to his main marketing question of, "What business are you really in?" Great question. My studio producer and editor is Zane C Weber, music is by Phil Slade and brand and art direction by Andrew McGuckin and my team at New Word Order. Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast if you have not already. I'm Scott Oxford. Thanks for joining Xavier and I today on BrandJam.