Jamming brand and reputation
SCOTT OXFORD 02.679 [music] Good day. I'm Scott Oxford and welcome to BrandJam. The podcast where we jam about brand because brand is our jam. [music] Today, I'm jamming with Nicole Schulz, a strategic com specialist who's worked across a diverse range of industries including retail, home appliances, beauty, FMCG, beverages, consumer technology, gaming, and financial service. That's a pretty lot of things to cover there. Her clients have included SpecSavers, Electrolux, SPC, and Jacob's Creek, and she's currently working with L'Oreal group and she helped to launch the PlayStation 3 back in the day. That must be [inaudible] history, I think. Nicole spent the majority of her career at Hausmann Communications, a consumer public relations agency, part of the Haus Group, working her way up the ladder from starting in graduate role to becoming a business director. 18 months ago, Nicole joined Sefiani Communications Group, a strategic communications firm based in Sydney to lead its brand reputation practice. I'm excited to pick a brand today because she specialises in building and enhancing brand reputations, shifting brand perceptions, and building trust, one of my favourite topics around brand. Welcome, Nicole.
NICOLE SCHULZ 01:18.336 Thanks, Scott, so much for having me. I'm really pleased to be on the show.
SCOTT OXFORD 01:21.578 It's good fun. It's good fun. Let's have some fun. All right. I want to start by asking you, why does a brand need your help with its reputation?
NICOLE SCHULZ 01:29.827 Good question, Scott. Look, I think the brands today have seen a real shift in a way consumers interact with an organisation. And, I think, a really good analogy for this and the change that we've seen is that, previously, brands would operate in a black box. So people couldn't see from the outside in what was happening within that organisation. All they could see was the image that that organisation wanted to project of their brand, by painting a picture on the outside of the box, people can have a look. It was very one way. They like it [but a lot?] didn't like it. But, today, with the connectedness that we all have, living in this digital world, everything is transparent. And brands now operating in a glass box. People can see how the organisation behaves. They have a direct insight into the values, the culture, and that makes them feel something about that brand and therefore affects the brand reputation. So a lot of organisations do need support and help in kind of getting through this changing landscape and all these different factors that now influence their brand reputation.
SCOTT OXFORD 02:40.186 Yeah, totally. Because the reality is even if you have someone internally who's keeping an eye on this, we all can't see ourselves from the outside, can we? We need an outside provider.
NICOLE SCHULZ 02:49.359 [crosstalk].
SCOTT OXFORD 02:50.309 We need someone who's scanning the market and looking in. I guess that's a big part of what you do.
NICOLE SCHULZ 02:55.721 Absolutely. And I think bringing that external perspective is really helpful and I've always worked in agencies in working with brands as my clients. And I'm sure you've experienced it with some of the clients you've worked with, too, Scott, when you're inside it, when you're that realms, sometimes it's hard to take that step back and think about how other people will perceive you. And that's what we can help, kind of brand that outside of perspective while still having the really excellent knowledge of your business and what you're trying to achieve.
SCOTT OXFORD 03:28.896 Yeah. I like that point you made, too, about the glass box and the transparency. I was thinking earlier because we're going to talk possibly a little later on celebrities and influencers. And I remember when I was growing up, I grew up in the 70s and 80s and you trust the celebrities. You didn't know any better. We didn't have social media. We didn't have the glass box. We just assume that they're famous because they are trustworthy. That sounds really naive but we sort of believe more of what we've told and now, do you think this is-- in the information overlay, we've become either very cynical or we just don't know what to trust anymore?
NICOLE SCHULZ 04:08.168 Yeah. I think that consumers are just really switched on now, Scott. They understand that most brands we interact with, they're operating as a commercial organisation that is trying to sell us something and make a profit and that's okay. But people, I think, do have that probably underlying cynicism when they feel like they're being marketed to, perhaps, in a way that's not authentic. And when brands don't act authentically, consumers see that very clearly. It's very visible to them now. They're aware of all the tactics that brands or organisations have used over the years. So I know this gets talked about a lot, but authenticity really is the most important thing in working with celebrities, again, is just making sure that that is a really genuine partnership in what they have to say and their perspective on the brand that they're working with is coming from a very real place. And then that's where there is a great opportunity.
SCOTT OXFORD 05:08.495 I was thinking about it from the perspective of people who have a famous personal brand, a celebrity. It must be somewhat risky to lend your personal brand to a business one. There must be a lot of due diligence surrounding.
NICOLE SCHULZ 05:25.176 Yes. Absolutely. I mean, you have to, at all costs, protect your own brand. But there's also great reward in investigating or looking into really interesting collaborations because that can also help enhance your brand through that partnership. But in doing that, you still just always need to remain true to what's important to you and your values and the way that you want to represent your brand. And all those different touch points need to be consistent, even if you are partnering with another brand or another organisation.
SCOTT OXFORD 05:59.223 Yeah. Two examples that I've sort of noticed. One is the Aviator Gin and Ryan Reynolds and his extremely successful lending-- I guess, it's his own brand. He can take some bigger risks with that. But yeah, he almost feels a little bulletproof in that kind of space, whereas I look at someone like Chris Hemsworth. And he did a similar thing with his exercise app. And I remember reading something where he was saying, "We're taking quite a big risk here. We're putting a lot behind this." And there was almost a sort of tread softly, and I would have thought he was just as invincible as Ryan Reynolds. But it struck me that there must be a lot of work behind the scenes, and I guess that's where you guys help out with too, is it?
NICOLE SCHULZ 06:47.839 Yeah. Definitely. I love the Ryan Reynolds example that you mentioned there. I followed that brand's story. And him, as a personality, is definitely what's helped to elevate that brand and build trust in it. But I think that the humour and the cheekiness that he brings to that brand character really just stands out and cuts through because it is, like many categories these days, highly competitive. But definitely, with any kind of new venture, it is still just being, again, true to who you are and what you stand for, what you believe in, regardless of the category or the sector or what it is that you're pursuing it. So I think with Chris Hemsworth, even though, I guess, doing anything new is going to have an element of risk attached to it. But no risk, no reward. So sometimes you got to just put yourself out there and try something. And again, if you do it authentically and from what I can see from his exercise program - I haven't trialled it myself - but what I've seen through the marketing is that it is something he really believes in, he's really passionate about, and really gets behind, and it comes across to me as being very genuine. So I think there'll be great success with that.
SCOTT OXFORD 07:58.886 Yeah. Definitely. So do you think celebrities still have the same level of influence that they once did as brand ambassadors beyond those two examples of their own brands? It's a very natural fit, but where you're hiring someone to be a brand ambassador, is it still working?
NICOLE SCHULZ 08:19.637 I think there definitely still is a role for celebrities to play in partnering with brands. But I think the big difference now is that we have so much access to all different types of people of influence, whether it be experts on particular topics, social influences, celebrities, whoever it may be. So we're seeing a real rise in, as well, that peer-to-peer recommendations are so important and so highly valued. In saying that, I don't think that that has changed the power or influence of celebrities. I was thinking of it perhaps it's being somewhat diluted because there are so many other different people of influence in our lives that we have great access to. But one thing that I think is really important with any brand ambassador that you decide to work with is just making sure that the celebrity is not the story because the huge risk there is that the celebrity completely overshadows what you're trying to achieve as a brand, and therefore, your brand becomes not memorable as part of that partnership. So you need to be really clear on what's your brand narrative and who is a suitable person to use as a vehicle to communicate that message. And that's where it works really successfully.
SCOTT OXFORD 09:42.371 I've just seen in the last few days the Hugh Jackman piece for R.M. Williams boots. I don't know if you've seen that piece, but that's a really interesting one where basically, the delivering-- obviously, I don't know, targeting women, maybe, in terms of Hugh Jackman naked, aside from a pair of boots and a strategically placed microphone or pair of boots, I think it is that cover it up. And that's an interesting one where it's delivering everyone the big dose of Hugh Jackman in a fantasy kind of realm. But at the end of the day, the whole essence of it is-- the story is told through him, essentially, wearing nothing but the boots. So it'll be interesting to see. I don't know if we'll ever get to see some figures on that and how it worked, but it's--
NICOLE SCHULZ 10:30.499 I haven't actually seen that content, Scott, but Hugh Jackman nude has definitely got me listening. [laughter] So I'll be sure to check that out afterwards.
SCOTT OXFORD 10:39.274 Yeah. It's brand new. It's literally just dropped, I think, over the last few days, so.
NICOLE SCHULZ 10:44.539 There was actually an instance earlier this year, where Rafael Nadal was in Australia for the Australia Open, and he was promoting a travel insurance brand that he has a partnership with. And there was actually a really scathing article written by a sports journalist following a really negative experience that he had with the publicity team around media opportunities with Rafael because of the specific demands that they were asking be included within his coverage, which he felt was really at odds with his editorial integrity. I think that was just a really disappointing example of where it has gone wrong, where you're trying to force fit your brand into a channel where it didn't naturally fit. I mean, you can't expect a sports journalist, who's reporting on the Australian Open and all the exciting things that are happening during the tournament, and have this interview with Rafael Nadal and then interjecting the information on a travel insurance company, right? It just doesn't really flow, and that's going to be jarring for--
SCOTT OXFORD 11:46.364 Yeah. It's wrong, isn't it?
NICOLE SCHULZ 11:46.956 --that journalist's readers as well. So again, it's just making sure that you have a right to be a part of that story and the celebrity is just helping you to tell that. I think, still speaking on the tennis topic a brand that I believe has done it really well has been BERLEI with their partnership with Serena Williams, and that's been over a number of years now, so there's been time and they've been able to kind of build-up that connection between the two of them. But, to me, those campaigns are all about body positivity, female empowerment, they've had great partnerships with the Breast Cancer Network. And, for me, BERLEI, is definitely leading the charge and Serena was a really great person to work with to tell that story.
SCOTT OXFORD 12:30.963 Absolutely. And look the reality is she is a lady who needs great support when she's doing her sport. Like, any example, where you're asking more of a product-- where the celebrity endorsement is asking more of a product than you would in every day is great proof, if nothing else, but then you add in all of her personality, all of her character, all of that and yeah, it's a beautiful example. And, I just think, as you say, the message is if it doesn't feel really natural and really obvious and really, "Aha," don't do it, stay away, stay away, you know? Like it's just, it's going to have hairs on it, it's going to go wrong. Yeah, yeah. Cool. So well, that's interesting you were talking there that there's a brand that you admire. But let's take you back to childhood and what's the first time you became aware of a brand or something that you remember that connected with you from childhood and tell me about it?
NICOLE SCHULZ 13:33.274 I love this question. I love a bit of nostalgia. There is one brand that I've really fond memories of, from childhood. I'm going to give you a few quiz, Scott, and see if you can guess. I think it will be pretty easy, actually. So this brand had a very iconic jingle. When I was growing up in the '80s it was used very prominently, but it was actually a part of the brand history for many, many decades.
SCOTT OXFORD 13:57.874 VEGEMITE?
NICOLE SCHULZ 13:58.882 Ah, you've got it--
SCOTT OXFORD 13:59.752 Hyper little VEGEMITES?
NICOLE SCHULZ 14:00.070 --and I didn't even need to give you the lyrics [laughter].
SCOTT OXFORD 14:01.582 No. There you go. I don't know. I did not know that too, that was basically-- because when you said it had heritage it was like, "Yes, that was the one I remember from childhood," because it looks like it was from our parents' day, you know? I'm a bit older than you, but it looks sort of-- because they were bringing it back.
NICOLE SCHULZ 14:19.964 That's it. So VEGEMITE was a brand that really resonated with me for a number of reasons and, probably, reflecting on it now, I can see things a little bit differently as a grown-up, but as a kid, that brand was synonymous with rosy cheeks. And I was going to say the last line in that jingle was, "It puts a rose in every cheek," and I remember so vividly the TV scenes with just kids having fun, doing cartwheels, but they were predominantly all black and white except for these painted on bright pink cheeks.
SCOTT OXFORD 14:52.628 Colourised, yes, almost. Yes.
NICOLE SCHULZ 14:54.918 [laughter] And you may, or may not, have noticed this about me, Scott, but I have exceptionally rosy cheeks [laughter], always have, ever since I was a kid--
SCOTT OXFORD 15:04.213 And you blame it on the VEGEMITE, don't you?
NICOLE SCHULZ 15:06.038 --well, that's the thing, people would always say to me, Gina McColl, you must eat a lot of VEGEMITE, and I'd get referred to as a, "Happy little VEGEMITE," and I thought it was hilarious because I genuinely loved VEGEMITE, probably more than the average child. I would eat VEGEMITE on toast for breakfast and on a sandwich for lunch, every day. So it was kind of a big part of my life. At the time my relationship with VEGEMITE was that it was a food that I loved to eat, but thinking back on it now, being associated with that brand it was a positive thing because the way that brand represented itself during those years, it was all about happy, healthy, active kids having fun. So why wouldn't you want to be associated with something like that? I kind of, almost, wore it as like a badge of honour thing kind of called, "The VEGEMITE Kid."
SCOTT OXFORD 15:58.419 Yeah, yeah. The power of suggestion is huge and I've often heard people from overseas who just can't understand why we like it and you sort of think, did I like Vegemite first and then warm to the brand or did the brand actually do a number on me and I just assumed that I would like Vegemite and my brain overcame the taste and I just grew to like it? Because it's a strong, almost acquired taste. In some ways, it's the sort of thing like blue cheese and sardines that you come to later in life, yet we grab onto it very young.
NICOLE SCHULZ 16:32.482 Yeah, it's really interesting, isn't it? And you often wonder, is it the brand or the experience that comes first, and as a kid, obviously, you don't think about it that in-depth but I think the key thing with Vegemite is to get the ratios right [laughter]. You've got to get the butter-to-Vegemite ratio spot on or things can go terribly wrong, and I think I would challenge anyone who says they don't like Vegemite to have an expert like me--
SCOTT OXFORD 17:01.658 Prepare it for them.
NICOLE SCHULZ 17:02.297 --butter the bread for them and then see how they go.
SCOTT OXFORD 17:05.369 Isn't it interesting? Because all those iconic food brands from childhood, things like Milo, it's all about the ratio. And with Milo it's the more Milo, the less milk, the better [laughter] whereas with Vegemite, you get it wrong and it's a mouthful of, I don't know, tar or something. Whatever it is [laughter], but yeah, I'm a lover of Vegemite too and I can just hear that jingle in my head. It'll be there forever, so.
NICOLE SCHULZ 17:30.993 Oh, it's ingrained in my memory, yeah, for good.
SCOTT OXFORD 17:34.162 Powerful. Powerful. Let's talk about a couple of brands now that you've worked on. I'm really interested to hear about the work you did with Specsavers because I do remember them being the cheap glasses brand. And I'm a creative. I need to look the part to some degree and cheap glasses have never been part of my world and yet those who swear by the couple of pairs that you get for free, basically, because your health insurance covers it, I've never had that joy so I've never been a cheap glasses kind of guy. But yeah, I do remember that Specsavers was the cheap one and things have changed. And why have things changed?
NICOLE SCHULZ 18:21.819 Yeah. Specsavers was a brand that I really enjoyed working with and I think at its core is because I believed in their purpose as a brand, and the reason the founders created Specsavers was that they believed that good quality eye care and eyewear should be affordable and it should be accessible to everyone. That was really the premise on which the whole Specsavers brand was built upon. It was very successful and well-established in the UK for a long time, probably one or two decades before they launched in Australia. In Australia, pretty much no brand awareness for Specsavers, so all that people saw when they first launched was the name, Specsavers, which definitely doesn't scream out premium. It definitely says in the name, the brand, that this is something that is cheap. And also their advertising was very price-driven. It was sort of two pairs for one low price. They did have and still do use the should have gone to Specsavers, quite humorous [inaudible] campaigns which are really likeable and memorable, but again, I guess don't speak to the quality message. So in working as their PR agency partner, our role was really about getting people to understand that Specsavers does provide excellent quality but it's just doing it at an affordable price. So one of the ways that we did that was through designer collaborations. I guess, speaking before about working with different high-profile personalities we established partnerships with Alex Perry, Collette Dinnigan, to working collaborations with Specsavers to design glasses and it was hugely successful for the brand because Specsavers, prior to that, they actually had many designer ranges but they were all UK based designers that no one had heard of. So seeing those brands on the shelves didn't actually mean anything to them. But seeing Alex Perry and Colette Dinnigan they were the--
SCOTT OXFORD 20:27.377 For me, they're household names.
NICOLE SCHULZ 20:29.040 Yeah. Australian premium designer brands that many people maybe hadn't previously had access to, couldn't potentially afford those items of clothing, but now could get these really stylish glasses. And I mean, the sales results were incredible. The Alex Perry range was actually the most successful designer range for Specsavers anywhere around the world when it first launched.
SCOTT OXFORD 20:55.456 Wow. Beautiful win for Alex Perry as well.
NICOLE SCHULZ 20:59.264 Yes. Definitely. And again, a great creative opportunity for him to lend his talents to doing eyewear, when he'd previously mostly done clothing. And Colette Dinnigan's range, within-- I think it was the first six weeks, 50% of sales were with new customers, and that was so rewarding for us. That was exactly what we're trying to achieve. We're trying to introduce new people to the Specsavers. So it was a really successful approach and really helped to start kind of steer a new path for Specsavers in terms of perceptions of the brand and what it could offer people, being more than just a low price point.
SCOTT OXFORD 21:39.954 Yeah. Yeah. And again, it's really what we talked about before about you've got a level of celebrity endorsement there, but you've essentially got these prominent people lending their reputation across in a win-win that's actually going to help both and seeing it sort of pay off massively for both. And how do you-- do you think every brand has an opportunity to partner and leverage other brands? Or is it really going to be limited to certain categories, do you think?
NICOLE SCHULZ 22:13.506 Again, I just think it comes down to whether there's a desire amongst consumers to see these types of collaborations. Is it bringing them something that's useful, that's relevant to their lives that they're going to enjoy, that's going to bring enjoyment, whatever it might be. If there's a purpose, then absolutely. I mean, there's so many great collaborations that are a win-win for both brands. One that I loved recently was IKEA partnered with LEGO and they created these almost sort of quasi-pieces of furniture, but they've got LEGO built in. And it was all about kind of the way that's it made is it's kind of self-contained. So you can store the LEGO in this piece, but also play with it. It's sort of part of the creativity of building and using the LEGO. And it was supposed to be trying to help encourage kids to pack away their LEGO and put it back in this piece. But I thought that was really clever and useful. I saw that and I thought, "Oh, I've got to have that."
SCOTT OXFORD 23:11.488 Yeah. Yeah. And isn't LEGO a brand that has-- they have managed to navigate their way to survival through massive changes, the introduction of online gaming and even console gaming and the like, and come out the other side in incredible shape, reinvented. There's another brand you once worked on that didn't come through so well, which is Nokia. Nokia that you worked on prior. And I'll make a point here that that was not a comms agency's [inaudible].
NICOLE SCHULZ 23:48.616 No, that wasn't. Definitely can't come down to the Australian comms agencies.
SCOTT OXFORD 23:54.152 No. But it is an example. I've talked previously on the podcast about Holden, a brand that just lost relevance in the Australian market. And Nokia was this incredibly huge, powerful company globally. And just like Blackberry, like how those others just didn't manage to survive and reinvent. Kodak, the other classic example of a business. Mind you, Kodak's clawing its way back at the moment. They're sort of doing some reinvention. Somehow they hung around. But, yeah, so Nokia. What do you think they should have done? What would've changed? Have you ever thought about that? What would've helped them survive?
NICOLE SCHULZ 24:41.630 I do think about that, Scott, because, probably like you, I've become quite attached to the brands that I work with, and that was a brand I worked with. It was quite some time ago now, the beginning of my career, but I worked with the brand for five years and actually had the opportunity to work with them during their heyday when they were by far and large the number one mobile phone brand. They had more than 50% market share. They were always the head of the game in terms of the technological innovations. And there's been so much research on what happened? What went wrong there? Because I think it was within five years of the iPhone launching, that iPhone toppled Nokia. And it was quite shocking to see a brand that had been so dominant for so long and had been the pioneer of mobile phone, to really sort of fall apart. But I've read so many different perspectives on this. I think one of the key things was iPhone as a brand is all about challenging the status quo and doing things differently. And if you compared the kind of flagship Nokia at the time that iPhone launched, technically the Nokia probably was superior. But what the iPhone had was just this reimagination of what a phone does. And it wasn't really built as a phone up. It was this mini-computer that had the capability to make phone calls. And it was the first time we were seeing phones without the traditional numerical buttons to press. It was just this touch screen, and it was really intuitive, and it was exciting and different, and really easy to use. So I think all of those, the way they approached it, was just really exciting for people, and they enjoyed using it. And I've read as well about, I guess this comes down more to internal culture, but some of the challenges at Nokia was not willing to admit where there were changes that needed to be made to the operating system and things like that. A bit of fear within the internal culture to try to speak up. So it goes to show as well about how important that is, about how you need to have that internal culture that's really open to innovation and change, and acknowledging when maybe a competitor's doing something better, and that you need to do things differently and not just keep following on that same path.
SCOTT OXFORD 27:12.916 Yeah. Well, it's interesting. I remember, like you say, they were the innovator. They were the phone featured in The Matrix series. I actually had the same phone, the little curved flip phone, or the slide phone I think it was, and I'm sure that was a piece of product placement. Was that your time? Probably before your time maybe even. I don't know.
NICOLE SCHULZ 27:35.473 I mean, Nokia was the phone that you'd see in all of the movies.
SCOTT OXFORD 27:39.954 And now it's an iPhone. Nothing sort of even comes close. But yeah, I love a good cautionary tale, because it's an example of how a brand can scale very high and then just not. The feeling I get from all of our conversation today is you've got to have a sense of what the customer aspires to. And whether it be just aspiring to a bit of high fashion in their outfit, as in a pair of spectacles, or whether it's holding a piece of technology that looks like what you saw on the latest Tom Cruise film. Minority Report was a hugely influential film in terms of depicting technology that then all came to pass and pretty much is now sort of there. It was very forward-thinking and it was the secret behind it. So we're all sort of looking for something kind of new even if we don't know what it is that we want. But yeah, it's got to be different. Essentially, Nokia fell apart partly to do with internal culture and that has to do with the way the organisation sort of runs and innovates as well. But what about the role of internal culture for brands? How does that influence how consumers, customers, outside view?
NICOLE SCHULZ 28:53.691 Very much so. I mean, you're internal culture is a representation of your brand and I touched on this before in talking about the [glass?] box but the reason why that is so significant is because of this sort of rise in meaningful consumerism. People care about the way that a organisation that they're spending money with behaves. So whether that's acting ethically, trying to reduce its environmental impact, how it treats its employees, all of these behaviours, they matter to people and people want to spend money with brands that they see have shared values with them. So that's why there's this growing importance to make sure that every aspect of your organisational operation, your processes, your support of your staff, the way you behave as a brand, and the impact you have on society, is all going to be impacting your reputation and the trust that people have in--
SCOTT OXFORD 29:58.448 And do you find, in terms of businesses that you deal with-- there's a really good chance if a business is hiring your firm, they're switched on to this, but generally, out there in business when you're looking, do you think this is something leaders recognise, just how vital-- I mean, they might know internal culture's important to keep the business rolling and profitable or healthy but do they see the impact on brand? Or do they need something to happen to them, like an event, like a scandal, or a problem, to see that?
NICOLE SCHULZ 30:28.705 I think, by-and-large, most organisations are really progressive in this sense from what I see. I think that they understand the impact that this actually has on business success now and this is probably something that's become more prominent in the last sort of 5 to 10 years, I would say. But certainly, when problems arise, it definitely comes to the fore very quickly and the kind of rise of the idea of cancel-culture and every person now has a channel to be able to speak their opinion and share their views and if those views are shared by many others, then it's going to escalate pretty quickly. So that access to people's opinions and how, again, that can shape a brand's reputation, is really critical and brands definitely have to be aware of the power of that.
SCOTT OXFORD 31:27.027 Interesting thing around cancel-culture because definitely, you see when it flairs up and when something really resonates and people all jump on board. But it just seems social media is loaded with-- or making a statement-- just this morning I saw some aerial footage of crowds streaming out of the stadium from the football on the weekend. Someone was basically saying, "My business, my restaurant, can't have 50 people in it and look at this. Thousands of people in close proximity." I wonder if that's going to pick up any-- what do you think helps things pick up momentum? How do people catch on to this? Is it just because it really is topical? Is that what cancel-culture really taps into, this massive collective upset, or is it because somebody's done a really good job of presenting that complaint, for want of a better word?
NICOLE SCHULZ 32:20.175 I think that it's probably a little bit of both, but there has to be a collective of people that feel very passionately about it. It will never really pick up without that widespread support and a kind of shared sentiment amongst many people. So, yeah, I definitely think it comes from that kind of collective, and I guess, in many ways, I see this being actually helpful to brands. It can be a moral compass for them on kind of checking in, like, "Are people happy with the way we're behaving? Is this right?" It's an opportunity to actually make positive change; it could be a catalyst for that, which I believe is a really good thing.
SCOTT OXFORD 33:09.848 Absolutely. Businesses spend a fortune on market research and this is actually opinion that's all out there. You need to filter it, interpret it. You need to even harness it and gather it, but really you've got some very honest, passionate thinking out there, that has got to be helpful and certainly, in volume, it's got to give you an understanding. And that's the worst thing leaders in business can do, is keep their head in the sand, so, great to sort of respond to that. I look at something like that particular piece I saw this morning was aimed at our premier, and we're in election mode now. We've got an election in a few weeks' time, and, yeah, it must be an incredible challenge when you're managing a brand like that. The premier has her own brand as well as the government's brand as well, to be able to try and keep a track of all of these things and gauge what is flaring up. I know in the past-- well, we still have media monitors and services like that, that help us see our mentions in the press, but how do we gauge-- how do we keep an eye on what's going on there? It sounds like a really full-time job?
NICOLE SCHULZ 34:19.513 Yeah, it is around the clock job, Skye, you can't take a break from it. You need to be across what's happening in the social media environment, in the media environment, and there are definitely a lot of tools out there that help you do that. But just staying connected with where you know your audience is, so what's your audience reading? Watching? Listening to? And making sure that you're doing the same, is really kind of the best way to keep on top of it. But I would say, as well, that everyone understands that we're all human, and behind every organisation there are humans that are driving that forward, and people will forgive when mistakes are made. But I guess there's two things. It's how much goodwill and trust have you built up prior to that happening? And then, secondly, how do you deal with the issue when it occurs? And it's really about taking accountability, taking ownership of it, being very transparent and clear about how this certain situation has come about, and what you're doing to change it. And that actually can be a great turning point for organisations, and you'll find more often than not, that consumers will support you on that journey.
SCOTT OXFORD 35:36.983 Yeah, and you have to do it really authentically, don't you? And that's, I think, particularly where the role that you play is really valuable. Because people, when they're in difficulty, they're not in a position to think the clearest to manage that. And they're not an expert at understanding the realm in which they're suddenly playing in. Big mistakes being made with Ellen DeGeneres and her personal brand, and all the fall-out from that. These misfired attempts; it's missing the authenticity factor. The apologies aren't ringing true. The the change isn't evident. There's a real sweeping under the carpet and it's almost like they've declined the offer of help and they're managing it themselves. How are they getting that so wrong?
NICOLE SCHULZ 36:29.880 I know. It's so disappointing to see, isn't it Scott? And I think people behaving in that way, they believe they're actually protecting the brand, but they're doing more harm. They're damaging the brand even more and just authenticity and transparency is so incredibly important.
SCOTT OXFORD 36:48.759 Yeah. And I think that's the thing is that people like you and I, our role is not to put a spin on things. Our role is actually to help monitor the lens by which everybody's looking in and to make sure they're seeing the truth and seeing the authenticity. We're not here to polish the turd, so to speak, because again, inauthentic--
NICOLE SCHULZ 37:10.555 Complete opposite.
SCOTT OXFORD 37:11.920 Yeah, I know.
NICOLE SCHULZ 37:12.936 The complete opposite. It's providing the guidance to make the right decisions and do the right thing.
SCOTT OXFORD 37:19.293 Yeah. And at the end of the day help people walk a mile in your shoes, really, when you've mis-stepped in that humanity that you mentioned. It's helping those looking on to actually see your humanity and to see your honest sort of backtracking, and I think to finish the Ellen thing, I just get the feeling there's a certain arrogance there that just kind of says, "I'm bulletproof. I'm actually right. I'm going to do what I have to do but no more," and it's just not working. Mind you, we'll see where that one plays out, hey? Watch in the next 6 or 12 months. She might just suddenly vanish from view, and goodness knows, she's got enough money to do so, but it's not all about that. It's actually about that personal brand, that reputation, all of that work that's gone into it so you don't want to end that way. Yes. Well, we're talking celebrities again. They're such interesting beasts. I want to get back. I loved hearing about Vegemite for you. I'd like to know, is there a brand that has lost your trust, for you, personally, just lost it?
NICOLE SCHULZ 38:30.036 Yeah. This was going back a couple of years now, actually, because it was when I was pregnant with my first child. I did so much research into car seats. I did so much research into everything baby-related [laughter], particularly car seats, and after what felt like weeks and weeks and weeks, I finally decided, my husband and I, on this Maxi-Cosi Euro car seat, thought it was going to be great, and only a couple of weeks after my daughter was born, this particular car seat actually got recalled. And during this one-month period, actually, the brand had two other products also have issues, different problems that led to those being recalled as well, and I just remember at the time, the communication from the brand was really poor. It was really confusing about these different products and the different issues and what you needed to do to resolve it, and it was actually the retailer where I bought the car seat from that was the saviour for me at that time, Baby Bunting. They were excellent. They just said, "Bring it in. You can have a full refund or you can exchange it for something else," and they were so helpful and yeah, as a new parent with a few-week-old baby, you just don't want to deal with [any of the?]--
SCOTT OXFORD 39:49.090 And a safety device.
NICOLE SCHULZ 39:51.059 --hassle, and at the end of the day, yes, it's about your baby's safety which is paramount. So it was quite a disappointing experience and I ended up getting a completely different brand car seat and have been really happy with it, and then for my second child bought the same brand again, and if anyone asks me what seat I'm going to recommend it's going to definitely be that one now. So that's definitely an experience I had with a brand where I thought, based on my research, I'd made a right decision and then through all of those issues and the way they handled them, I was really kind of disappointed and just lost faith in the brand and confidence in the safety of the product which is pretty difficult to come back from.
SCOTT OXFORD 40:36.440 Yeah. Absolutely. And there's not a lot of things in daily life that we require, that could end up in a life or death situation so the ones that are, you sort of wonder how it kind of got to that point. So how then does a brand build trust? For example, Baby Bunting built some trust with you. They responded really quickly. They made a big change. What are the key elements that build trust?
NICOLE SCHULZ 41:07.743 I see there being sort of really three key elements in terms of what will influence your trust in a brand. And the first one is definitely, as you just mentioned, it's your direct experience with that brand. The quality. The reliability. Great customer service. Is it an excellent e-commerce experience? All of those direct interactions that you have, if they are consistently positive, then you're going to have trust in that brand. That you're going to get what you're looking for every time. The second thing is your circle of influence. So who are the individuals that you trust? And therefore if they are providing a recommendation or association or endorsement of a particular brand, then you're going to trust in that because you believe in them. And that really changes depending on an individual and also the particular category that this brand is operating in and that can be everything from, as we mentioned before, it could be a celebrity, social influences. It could be experts on a particular topic, researchers, the media, of course, and very often, just your friends and family. We see, as I mentioned previously, those P2P recommendations are so important. And then the third thing which we've talked about a lot already is just the corporate brand behaviour and whether the brand demonstrates those shared values with yourself, and all those different things are quite interconnected. But at the end of the day, I think at the crux of all of this, you trust in a brand, putting it in its more simple way, you trust in a brand if you feel like that brand cares about its customers and its customers' needs and is doing the right thing by them and if the brand is doing that and demonstrated that through all these other different channels and avenues, then that's really going to help build that trust.
SCOTT OXFORD 43:04.336 Yeah. So many subliminal factors for the average person who doesn't think on a daily basis that they're interacting with brands and having a response to brands, and on the flip side, so many factors to keep track of for an organisation or a business to understand. But it just highlights again how important it is to talk to your customers, to understand the shifts, what they need now, what they need next, what they need in the future, what matters to them, what's changing. And the last probably six or eight months, a lot's changed in this country, in this world. What had the pandemic done form your perspective, to brands who've had to shift and change and try and keep up in some of those factors we just talked about?
NICOLE SCHULZ 43:54.854 I think there's been a lot of really good lessons learned for brands over the last six months. A few, in particular, have really stood out to me is, and again it comes back to the corporate brand behaviour, but just really demonstrating good acts, acts of kindness that then generates goodwill towards your brand, and I think one brand that did exceptionally well was Woolworths. Now I would say obviously they weren't facing the same kind of challenges as most other organisations that were really having to struggle to survive. They were doing quite well commercially during the pandemic but I still think they invested the time in actually doing really good things that would help people. So they had a partnership with Meals on Wheels where they were providing toilet paper, donating toilet paper so that elderly people would have access to it as they were missing out. They had their exclusive shopping hours in the mornings for the elderly and people with disabilities to ensure that they could get to the shops and get what they needed without the crowds. And even just they supported their staff. They made it very clear that they would not stand for mistreatment of staff when their people working on the frontline just as much as healthcare workers in many ways. Their store staff were experiencing abuse and really poor behaviour from customers and they made it really clear like, "No, this is not the way that our staff will be treated," And I think just all those really good acts were a great demonstration of the brand's values, and I think, will be remembered by people. Another learning that I think is really significant was the importance of showing the human side of your brand and remembering how important it is to show empathy and be compassionate. Airbnb where they had to make really difficult decisions about their workforce, and the CEO, Brian Chesky did his address to the organisation to announce that 25% of their team would lose their jobs, which is a horrible piece of news to have to tell anyone. But that address was later published online and I think it's been viewed over a million times now, because it was such a great example of the leader showing true empathy, communicating with complete transparency. He explained the decision-making process and why it had to come to this, and the support and care that they have, and him personally, for these team members and what they wanted to do to try and help them find new jobs during this transition period. So it was just two great examples of a brand just being human and during a time like this when everyone was feeling scared, and confused, and uncertain, to just have brands that were interacting with them on a human level, was really, really valuable.
SCOTT OXFORD 47:02.156 Yeah, we always like to talk about it, we didn't coin the phrase whatsoever, but I love it, the idea that shall we do B to B, B to C, but we're actually at the end of the day, we're all H to H, human to human. Everything, every marketing project we work on has got to tap into the person within the professional, or within the consumer, or within whatever and so everything we do has to recognise that. But what I love about those two stories is that they do strike as being just an authentic outpouring of the person that is. And it sort of says a lot, doesn't it, for leaders to really be able to tap into that very human humanitarian side of them and not be afraid of actually bringing that out and making that a central part of the brand because it's the austere leader in the clouds that gives brands really bad reputations. And particularly a reputational example that's still playing out at the moment, is the Dreamworld disaster, which recently had filings handed down and just I don't think that the various CEOs have been inhuman at all. They just were not able to connect in, they were so fearful and so-- there was a lot going on, let's face it. It was a pretty hideous, horrible situation, so I'm not throwing stones, don't get me wrong, but yeah, these are the moments when we need the humanity more than ever. I want to know those that are in crisis times, what a powerful thing to bring over post-crisis, hey? To really sort of see that bringing out more and more the greater role of that being promoted in organisations that otherwise don't really have a voice. The Ubers of the world, there's no sort of central voice there. You hear moans here and there about whether they're well paid or not, or the employees-- or not employees, the drivers and the like, but yeah, you don't sort of have that central voice. I think there's a real role for us to take that learning from this time and really bring the human back into business, hey?
NICOLE SCHULZ 49:16.962 Yes. Absolutely. I completely agree. And I think the other really important learning was just again, around being distinctive as a brand. We saw a lot of brands kind of jump on the bandwagon, in a way, of the pandemic, with very similar messaging around, "During these unprecedented times--"
SCOTT OXFORD 49:39.442 "We're here for you." [laughter]
NICOLE SCHULZ 49:39.531 "--we're here for you." [laughter] And I don't know if you saw, Scott, all the different kind of spoof montages that were going around and all these ads put together, which were essentially kind of saying the same thing?
SCOTT OXFORD 49:51.339 Yeah.
NICOLE SCHULZ 49:51.468 So they weren't memorable for the brands. And they weren't helpful for consumers. So brands that actually did something that was true to their brand in that environment, and helpful and engaging, like Nike, with their, "Play Inside, Play for the World." I thought that was really clever and really inspiring. And I loved seeing all of the— they had so much user-generated content of people working out in their homes. And it made me want to put my gear on and get involved. They were the sorts of brands that really stood out and were memorable. And again, it's just about being distinctive and authentic and true to your brand. And what can you deliver during this time that's uniquely yours?
SCOTT OXFORD 50:34.678 Yeah. Absolutely. So Nicole, what's a brand that you do trust now? Something that's earned your trust, and I'd love to know how and why it earned your trust?
NICOLE SCHULZ 50:48.585 There is a brand that I inherently trust so much right now. It's called Go-To Skincare. It was founded by Zoë Foster Blake. And it's an Australian brand. And I'm kind of assessing my own consumer behaviour and asking myself, "Why do I trust this brand so much?" I think there's actually a number of reasons. And we talked before about all those different layers that [informs?] your trust in a brand. But for me, my experience with this particular brand. First of all, is that it was recommended to me by many friends. So already that's a big tick for me. That means something, that I've got that sort of trusted recommendation from people I know and people like me. And secondly, the founder, Zoë, is someone who I believe has great credibility in the beauty space. She's always acted with integrity sort of throughout her career and before founding this brand. So she, as an individual, is someone who I trust in. And I don't believe that she would put her name to any product that she doesn't believe in. And honestly, if Zoë tells me to use the exfoliator swipeys twice a week and follow it up with the oil cleanser, that is exactly what I'm going to do. [laughter] Because I just completely trust in her advice. But also, the whole brand philosophy is something I'm just really buying into. And her reason for creating the brand was that she felt that skincare had just become so complex and confusing. And that was the feedback that she was hearing from people, that they were just overwhelmed. And she's like, "Skincare should be simple and it should be fun." And she's a really talented author and writer. And that really comes through all of the marketing sort of collateral touchpoint with the brand. It's really clear, simple language, but also incredibly humourous. I get my delivery of Go-To, and I have a little chuckles out loud with the copy. And the way I feel like, it's just a friend talking to me. So again, it's that human to human, and I just think she's really nailed the brand. It's clear what the brand stands for. The tone of voice is consistent and very relatable, and the products are great, and I really enjoy using them. So it's a new brand to me, but I'm in. I'm really enjoying it.
SCOTT OXFORD 53:12.804 Pretty incredible too, because, yeah, crowded market. A lot of products out there. Huge amount of products out there. And, yeah, I actually listened to one of Russel Howcroft's podcasts, Brand New World. He interviews her, and that's how I know all about the product. I otherwise wouldn't. It's definitely worth a listen, his interview. She's a great interviewer, and yeah, that brand naturally seems to roll out of her. That's someone who's using their reputation for good and putting it all out there on the line, but also just actively staying connected with every part of her business as well. Back to what you said before, from what I can glean, the internal culture of the organisation is just an extension of the experience of who she is and what she sort of stands for. So, yeah.
NICOLE SCHULZ 54:05.568 Do you know what I else I think about with that brand and other brands as well through our discussion today? I mean, building trust is absolutely paramount. But if a brand takes it to that next level, and they've earned trust, but also brand love, to me, that's the absolute X-factor, because you've won someone over both from the rational and emotional perspective. And with that brand, I trust that brand, but I also just love the brand. That's your point of difference because you could actually trust multiple brands in one category. So what's then going to make you choose one over the other? There's got to be something more that you get from that brand beyond its functionality aspects, it's functional aspects.
SCOTT OXFORD 54:45.649 And that's heart, isn't it. That's the heart. That's that ability essentially to love, not like your child or your partner, but to love as much as one can love something that isn't a person.
NICOLE SCHULZ 55:02.985 A brand. Yeah. It's that connection, and it's just that feeling of, "That brand gets me." And if you can achieve that as a brand, that's really powerful.
SCOTT OXFORD 55:12.730 And I think for all of us, there is a devastation when you love a brand, and it ceases to exist. There are people who love Holden, who love everything Holden stood for, who are devastated. I was talking to someone yesterday about Caterpillar. You know, Caterpillar, the big diggers. Diesel fitters start working with Caterpillars, they all get a cat tattoo. They get the corporate logo tattooed to their body. Aaron Williams, the longhorn. It gets tattooed on people's bodies. Not just occasionally, all the time. These are brands that people love so much that they put it on their body. In your case, you don't have to tattoo it, you just put it on your face. But again, there's a lot to be said for what you can put on your face. That is fabulous. Thank you. We are running out of time. We could talk all day, and I dare say we might do a return visit in the near future. But just to finish off, I just wanted to ask you finally, you've worked across a lot of brands. Is there a dream brand that you've never worked on, but would love to work?
NICOLE SCHULZ 56:20.321 Yeah, just generally speaking, I love working with global consumer brands. I find often they have quite an interesting brand challenge that they want to or need to overcome to kind of achieve long term success. And as a communications professional that's a really interesting experience to be involved in that journey, particularly over a long period of time. There is one brand that we already talked about earlier that again, I just love this brand and that's LEGO. And I feel, at its absolute core, I think there's been, as you said, so many changes in the world. For kids today, my goodness, the amount of toys and choices that are out there, it's incredible, but LEGO was such a simple concept that has stood the test of time. I loved it as a kid and now my children really enjoy LEGO and I've enjoyed kind of reconnecting with the brand as an adult and playing LEGO with my kids and I love that it's all about harnessing children's-- not just children. I should say grown-ups too enjoy LEGO as well. We've seen from the success of the TV show.
SCOTT OXFORD 57:35.096 Yeah, massive.
NICOLE SCHULZ 57:35.759 But just harnessing your imagination and your creativity and that's really great, and as a parent now, that's what I'm always looking for when I'm choosing toys or entertainment for my kids. It's sort of about what has multiple uses and multiple functions that's going to enable them to be creative and it's going to have longevity, and as a corporate brand, I think they have really wonderful initiatives and do really good things around the world as well, so that's--
SCOTT OXFORD 58:01.644 And sustainability as well. I mean, they've always been the plastic toy that you didn't throw away so they were always pretty non-disposable anyway. You didn't need to recycle it because you kept it, but even now, they're moving or have moved to sustainable plastic so they're moving with the times, they're understanding what the consumers want and delivering for it. And I agree with you. I think it would be fascinating to work on the what's next for LEGO. Where to next? I mean, fundamentally, it works the same way it always did. It's pieces that click together and create things and then you break it apart and you create something new, ultimately, but there's got to be that whole what's next, where does it go next, and I'm fascinated too by Minecraft. I don't know if your kids have discovered Minecraft. They might be a bit young.
NICOLE SCHULZ 58:47.461 No, I think they're still too little.
SCOTT OXFORD 58:49.115 Yeah, but my kids certainly are teenagers now but even still enjoy it, and Minecraft is essentially the LEGO principle in a virtual kind of world and I don't think it replaces LEGO at all. I think it's an alternative to it but it's a pretty interesting-- the same principles apply. There's engineering, architectural principles. Creativity being imbued on the user and what a fabulous thing. So may long live LEGO. So yeah.
NICOLE SCHULZ 59:19.389 Yeah. And it sounds like Minecraft is in my future as well [laughter]. [inaudible].
SCOTT OXFORD 59:24.966 It definitely is, I would say, and it's probably one of the few computer games or online games that doesn't seem to have a lot of downsides so it's highly creative but we'll see. We'll see. Nicole, it's been so great to draw on some of your experience, hear your recollections and get some great advice on brand, and I love those things that we've really sort of highlighted out of this is which just how you earn trust and it's about being human and being transparent and being able to be understood and being accessible and what a powerful thing that brands need to do more of. So it's been brilliant. Thanks so much for joining me.
NICOLE SCHULZ 01:09.437 Thank you so much for having me. It's been a blast. Thanks, Scott.
SCOTT OXFORD 01:15.458 [music] So if you enjoyed this episode, I would love for you to subscribe. If there's someone like Nicole that you think I should interview, I would love for you to connect me. I'm going to sign off with the words of the famous and fictional Don Draper from Mad Men, one of my heroes, and I say this every episode because it's especially pertinent today when we're talking about reputation and the conversations that are had about us, but Don Draper says, "If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation." Thanks for joining us. [music]