Managing Marketing: Retail Brand and Business Building

Ryan_Gracie

Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Ryan Gracie is the Chief Marketing Officer of the ASX listed MyDeal.com.au, one of the fastest-growing marketplaces in Australia. But Ryan has built a reputation as a retail brand and business builder, from his days in the bricks and mortar JB HiFi to his role leading the transformation of Catch.com.au to today. He shares his passion and excitement for retail and reflects on the career path that has brought him to the leadership role he has today.

You can listen to the podcast here:

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media, and advertising with industry thought leaders and practitioners. Today, I’m sitting down with Ryan Gracie, Chief Marketing Officer at the publicly listed mydeal.com.au, one of Australia’s fastest-growing online marketplaces. Welcome, Ryan.

Ryan:

Welcome, and thanks for having me, Darren. It’s so good to see you again.

Darren:

Yeah, and good to see you too. And you’ve got a new job because — I know it’s not, it probably doesn’t feel new now. But last time, we were talking, you were at catch.com.au, and now, you’re at mydeal.com.au.

Ryan:

Yes, I moved over; moved over to the excitement really. So, started with MyDeal back in May of 2021, May 24 to be precise after five years with the Catch Group, and after a wild ride with the guys over there building an amazing business, I believe. And Catch is such an amazing business, but now, I’ve taken on the challenge to do it all over again. They call me crazy, but I really enjoy that challenge of growing businesses and I just moved over to MyDeal after seeing the potential that it’s really got.

Darren:

And look both of those, and then before that, you also, if I remember rightly, you were JB Hi-Fi a couple of times. Have you got retail in the blood? Are you one of these people that loves the adrenalin rush of ‘stack them high and watch them fly’?

Ryan:

I’ve worked out that I love retail. I don’t think I chose retail, I think retail chose me purely for the frenetic pace, for the results that come in daily, hourly, by the minute. The fact that you can make changes on the fly and like you say, watch them fly out the door. I just love being able to do things at a pace and scale, and then just see the results. And I feel like retail is where the action is, and that’s why I just gravitate to it.

Darren:

It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because I would say especially in the advertising world, a lot of agencies think that retail somehow, second string, but I think you’re evidence that retail is actually like a massive discipline in its own right, isn’t it?

Ryan:

Yeah, look, agencies just like to take their time to do things and in retail, there is no time. If you don’t act, your competitors are — so you can’t afford to be slow or you’ll miss opportunities. So, that’s why you have to be constantly on your toes, making changes all day, every day, and optimising everything that you do.

In other sectors, it’s not so frenetic for a reason. They don’t need to be. They can afford to go and play some foosball for half an hour and not worry about what the competition is doing, because they’ve just got to make the brief by the deadline. So, a very different game and it’s an interesting one that people say to me, “Ah, dirty retail, you’re a dirty retailer.”

And it’s a strange association that they use the word “dirty” in front of retailing when retail essentially, is what makes the world go round because when you’re dealing with an agency, ultimately, you’re trying to sell something. You’re trying to get them to help you sell something anyway. So, everyone is in the game of retailing, just on a different level, I suppose.

Darren:

It’s interesting from my perspective because when we looked at the most trusted brands in Australia, there were quite a few retailers up there in the top 10.

Ryan:

Ah, look at Bunnings, look at the number one brand in Australia. Bunnings is pure retail. I was in there on the weekend, and just the whole experience of Bunnings is what makes people love it so fondly. And JB Hi-Fi, a brand that I know so well that I was immersed in for close to five years, the love for that brand is amazing, and the loyalty to that brand is just incredible.

And this is a retailer. They sell products that most other electronics retailers will sell, but they are just top of the list every single time when it comes to that space, purely because of the way they branded themselves. Purely because they’ve got real people in those stores dressed like real humans, acting like real humans, and serving you as you deserve to be served. There’s nothing fake about their brand at all. Just the authenticity and the legitimacy of that brand is what drives the love for it, I think.

And you’re right; on that list of the most loved brands in Australia, retailers are always well up there. Retail is part of everyone’s life. We spend most of our money at retailers. We spend most of our time in retailers if not online, buying from them. So, it only makes sense that they would be at the top of the charts.

Darren:

Well, what you just mentioned there is quite an interesting conundrum, isn’t it? Because I think Australian retail was very slow to embrace e-commerce compared to other parts of the world. You know, there was this real bricks and mortar mentality, which was slowly changing and you were involved in that with Catch and now, MyDeal.

But a lot of the traditional retailers were quite slow to move to e-commerce and setting up online stores. But that rapidly accelerated during the COVID pandemic. Suddenly, every retailer worth their salt had at least some sort of online presence, didn’t they? And they were really playing catch up (if I can use that term) to catch up with the pure-play e-commerce stores.

Ryan:

Yeah, it was funny to watch it unravel actually, because in my time at JB Hi-Fi, I looked after digital marketing and e-commerce there. And when I first joined the business back in … it would’ve been 2010, 2011, there were two JB Hi-Fi websites; JB Hi-Fi online and jbhifi.com.au. And you would go to jbhifi.com.au, but if you wanted to buy something, it would take you over to JB Hi-Fi Online to actually transact.

Which I mean, think about the craziness of that; a product catalogue of thousands of products being managed in tandem and just the work and the labour that was required to keep them both going because e-commerce was not a thing. It was just a place that people might go to check a price before they go into a store.

And I think it was about 2% of sales. It was negligible and there was no real understanding of the research online by the offline concept that the large chunk of transactions that happen in-store actually start with people checking online to get the information that they need around the product, check pricing, check availability, all of those things.

So, it was … I won’t say neglected, but it always was a distant second to the in-store experience. And we built a new site there and it took us a fair chunk of time to merge those two sites together. It was a great experience. I think that site is built off a look and feel from a template I bought off theme forest for about $29 and it still exists today. Now, though, it makes up over 20% of their total gross turnover volume.

And during the pandemic, JB Hi-Fi was at the forefront of online. They opened up their phone lines, allowed customers to call them, they allowed their staff to make deliveries to people’s homes. They went full throttle and proved how significant this is to their business overall. Not as the online sales, but the overall customer experience.

And look, had they have done that maybe even two years before then, then I think they would’ve been well ahead of the curve. And we wouldn’t be saying now that they’re just catching up. But this is the case, also, we talked about Bunnings. Bunnings only went online a couple of years ago. It was, what? 15, 20 years before that they didn’t even exist, so you could press an add to cart button.

I mean, that just shows the power of that store, the fact that they didn’t have to sell anything online, they can still kick the shit out of everyone else. So, they’ve all played catch up. They’ve all done a really good job of it.

Catch, formally, Catch of the Day was right at the forefront of that sort of in tandem with Kogan who was growing at the same time, eBay had already been here, Amazon was here just like a dot com. The pure players were here. Sean, our founder started MyDeal 10 to 11 years ago. So, he was building marketplaces when everyone else was building in-stock businesses.

And yeah, they were doing it well. And then the pandemic hit and wow, the growth just went through the roof. We’re talking about 200% growth. Some of these businesses would never have happened had the pandemic not have hit. So, it’s definitely been accelerated. The habit is here to stay. People are shopping online more than ever, and people are getting their act together, purely through necessity rather than a want.

Darren:

It’s interesting because I think the only limitation now is Australia Post’s ability to keep up with demand. You know-

Ryan:

Don’t get me started, Darren.

Darren:

We won’t go there, but the reason I brought that up is one of the things you mentioned earlier was that JB Hi-Fi and Bunnings have built this huge level of trust through a brand experience where there are real people in-store providing real service. And one of the things I have noticed is a lot of those bricks and mortar retailers are using online e-commerce to do things like click and collect, buy online and come and collect.

I even noticed Catch is doing it through the Kmart division of Wesfarmers to that with … you can buy through Catch, but rather than have it delivered to your home, you can go and pick it up at your nearest Kmart or Target or whatever.

Do you think that that is just them using their existing infrastructure? Or do you think that gives them some sort of advantage over the pure delivery to your home model?

Ryan:

Yeah. So, there are two models there. So, the Catch model that you mentioned is … I actually had this discussion many times in the business, because it’s not necessarily ‘click-and-collect’. So, you would buy something from Catch, it’d get sent from the Catch warehouse to Kmart or Target.

Now, the traditional model of click and collect is you buy something from JB Hi-Fi, you just go down there and you collect it off the shelf from JB Hi-Fi, it’s actually warehoused there. But customers are embracing this either way. The uptake is huge. A couple of reasons; it’s really, really convenient in terms of I’m not home and I don’t trust it to be delivered to my house. And people prefer that they can go and pick it up. It’s also cheaper.

So, Catch offers a discount to have it shipped to Kmart or Target. Now, with JB Hi-Fi and Bunnings, JB, they have 300 warehouses, essentially because they can store all of the goods there. People are checking click and collect. Then they reduce their overheads around picking, packing from the warehouse, delivery costs, which often come at a cost to the retailer.

It’s a better experience so they can sell them a carton of milk on the way out because they walk in. They actually get them into the store. So, there’ll often be an upsell on these products that they may have bought the iPhone, but once you get them in-store, you’ll sell them the cable also.

Darren:

Well, sorry, because they always stick the collect point at the back of the store. So, you have to walk all the way through, collect something and then walk all the way back and you go, “Oh, hang on, hang on.”

Ryan:

Exactly. So, at Catch, there was always talk we should give them $5 to spend at Kmart and Target when they go and pick up their goods because we know that $5 will turn into 30 or $40. It’s just a given. So, yeah, the hardest part about retail is getting people into the store. So, when you can serve two masters, sell them a product, but also get them to come into the store with reduced overheads, then it’s a win-win. It’s a real competitive advantage over pure-play.

Darren:

The other thing is, you mentioned this before, and I have a general understanding of the marketplace, but can you just explain how MyDeal as a marketplace, as opposed to an e-commerce retailer, the difference, the mix; because I think a lot of people do struggle with the sort of differentiation between the two.

Ryan:

Okay. So, the best analogy would be eBay, I suppose. eBay is a pure marketplace. eBay doesn’t have an in-stock business where they have buyers who put stuff in a warehouse. They don’t have that side of the business. They purely rely on third-party sellers plugging into their platform and offering their goods for sale.

Now, the difference between eBay and MyDeal or eBay and Catch, is that we have a curated marketplace where we don’t just allow mum and dad to sell a used phone on the site. They must be a reputable seller. They must have gone through a stringent amount of checks. They are curated, so we will take them down if they do the wrong thing. We will also pick and choose the products to make sure that the customer’s getting the best experience. Marketplace, we can’t control the price of marketplace sellers though. That contravenes the ACCC’s rules. So, we are beholden to their price.

Now, the advantage to the marketplace seller is that they get to scale. They get their advertising paid for essentially. So, I spend millions of dollars on Google every month and I’m paying essentially to sell those marketplace products on behalf of those sellers because we clip the ticket on the way through. As a marketplace, the seller will pay us a fee, which from their point of view would be equivalent to just paying an affiliate fee.

So, if they’re giving us 10%, say it’s a 10% cost per sale, they’re either going to give us 10% or they’re going to have to spend their own marketing dollars, and that would come at a cost per sale either way. So, it’s also a very efficient way for a marketplace seller to scale and grow. The one tradeoff is that they don’t necessarily grow their own brand.

So, if they don’t operate stores or they don’t have their own e-commerce site and they don’t have a large audience, then they’re really just a transaction. But then there are large brands that come on to sites like MyDeal and Catch, who just see it as an extra avenue to make sales. They’re extending their footprint and they’re capturing, potentially capturing market they wouldn’t have got.

Darren:

So, a real-world example is you’re a bit of the online Westfield. You are a destination with lots of stores in there. Some well-known, some unknown, but because you’ve become a destination online, it’s an advantage for the sellers that are in there. And I like the fact that you curate them because that also … one of the big problems for online for a lot of people is not knowing who they’re actually transacting with.

Ryan:

Yeah, and that’s the benefit to the consumer, is that they’re actually transacting with the marketplace. So, when they buy something from MyDeal, the transaction is with us. The customer service resides with the marketplace seller. But if there is an issue, it gets escalated back to MyDeal for us to sort out, and we will solve that issue.

And the marketplace seller is beholden to a CSAT, an NPS. And if they do the wrong thing, then they eventually … we fuck them off. They get chopped. So, they don’t want to do the wrong thing because they don’t want to be taken down. They essentially cut their income. So, we also act as the police to make sure that the customer always has the best experience.

Darren:

And is that, therefore, different from something like Shopify?

Ryan:

So, Shopify is merely a platform, it’s slowly taking over the world, it’s amazing. And you can spin up a Shopify site in a matter of hours, if not days. And what happens here, we have direct connections with Shopify. So, you build a Shopify site. You want to open up a store that sells jewellery — within a day or so, you can be plugging into MyDeal and selling your jewellery on the site.

So, therefore, you’ve gone from zero to potentially a million active customers in two days without having to spend a dollar on marketing. Now, if you’ve got a good offer that competes against the other jewellery manufacturers or sellers on the site, then all of a sudden, you may have sales that you can’t keep up with.

Darren:

One of the big things that you did was in your time at Catch, because when you joined Catch, it was pretty much online and, in many ways, the strategy was to convert as many people in the marketplace to come onto Catch, wasn’t it? And you, then, developed and executed a brand strategy to sort of fill the top of the funnel.

Ryan:

Yeah. So, when I arrived at Catch back in 2016, it was purely transactional. We were buying customers, we were churning customers. We’d have to rebuy them a year later and they were coming in.

And I always use the analogy that having a brand is the difference between love and sex. And what was happening was we were having a lot of sex, a lot of people coming to use us; wham, bam, thank you, one night stand, out they go. We’d have to meet them at the club another year later.

Whereas, and then I went back to my JB Hi-Fi experience and it was love. It was love to the point where you didn’t have to coerce them back. Wasn’t just a one-night stand, you’d have great sex, but then they’d come back a week later and do it with you again. And it’s cheaper and it’s more efficient and it feels better, and everything’s good. And that’s because they had a brand. And because they build that brand, they promoted loyalty. And we know that loyalty comes through brand also.

And that wasn’t the thing at Catch, at Catch of the Day, when I first arrived. I convinced them to drop the of the daypart. Went to Catch, there still was this heavy reliance on performance marketing, the performance marketing drug that I like to call it, and because it works. It works, it makes you feel good, but it works as a sugar hit forever. And you eventually, become diabetic unless you start to build your brand.

So, when we got close to the Wesfarmers’ acquisition of the business; Wesfarmers came in and said, “We’re going to buy this thing.” Then the pockets opened up to the point where we had money to invest in the brand because it takes a leap of faith to throw large chunks of money out to traditional media networks and not see the return come to you that minute or the next day.

Now, I was putting billboards on the side of the road and I get asked the question, what’s the return? I’m like, “Oh, how can I tell you the return on the billboard? I’m sorry, I haven’t got an econometric model built for the billboards yet.”

Darren:

And besides being expensive, the econometric model would’ve cost about 10 billboards anyway.

Ryan:

Let’s just put them on the side of the road, people will tell you they saw them, it’s worth it. So, we do sporadic TV campaigns and because they were so sporadic, there was once again, just a very small hit. But winning the fight to get proper investment in brand building is what really changed that business, I believe.

We had very efficient ROAS metrics (return on ad spend metrics), but once the brand campaign went live, it bolstered all of them. So, all of the channels grew, direct especially. It’s the free traffic ratio increased over the paid traffic and that’s what you would want. The ROAS on Google increased because you get more branded search.

So, therefore, you could spend less to get the same amount or just push harder, spend more, and get even more. All of the channels grew and so did the brand awareness in the market. So, all of a sudden, fewer one-night stands, more love. And the business continued to grow to the point where it was over a billion dollars in revenue by the time I left from 180, 200 million when we joined.

So, the case there for that campaign and you were part of that campaign, you know all about it. It was the everyday Aussie’s campaign with Justin Timberlake and Sylvester’s Cologne and all of those-

Darren:

And the Darren Woolley’s jumper.

Ryan:

Darren Woolley’s jumper, custom made.

Darren:

I still have that, pride of place. I feel very proud that I inspired some sort of creative leap there.

Ryan:

But it was good fun. It was good fun. We injected a personality in the brand and that’s what we’re doing now at MyDeal. We’re doing the same thing.

Darren:

The thing that I notice though, and our earlier conversation, traditional retailers have always understood the importance of brand, even if it’s from the point of creating the destination.

Like in many ways, the brand is the place I’ll go to because it was the shop’s front, and whether it was the original Coles, G.J Coles, variety stores or whatever, that was the thing that … it was that first, and then the product. The product was almost like the second — the deal on the product was the secondary thing to drag you in or give you another reason. But they got that it was about the brand first.

What I’ve noticed and not just in retail, but in all online businesses that are started by tech people, and I’m not asking for a comment on this; but because these people often come from a technology background and they’re internet-savvy and they seem to have become very … they’re very quickly addicted to this bottom of the funnel.

They get last click attribution, they see, as you say, direct return on investment. And so, they’ll often be fishing at the bottom of the funnel, not realising that you can’t just rely on it filling up at the top. And I have a couple of case studies which I’ve shared previously where the change only happens when they suddenly start dropping off because the truth of the matter is the Googles and the other wall gardens, Facebook and the like, are actually going to be serving you up a smaller and smaller and smaller percentage of that audience at any particular time, which means that as the advertiser, you end up paying more and more and more, for less people on that basis.

Ryan:

Exactly, exactly. So, you need to keep filling the top of the funnel up. And you go back to what you just mentioned about how shoppers make their decisions about where to buy. Great CMO, Simon McDowell previously at Coles now at Bunnings, taught me all about the customer choice framework, how people decide where they will shop. And primarily, he spoke about supermarkets and generally people choose to shop a supermarket by which one is closest. There’s Coles, there are Woolies, potentially, Aldi, and they’ll go where it’s closest.

But when you’re in the online world, everyone is just a click away. Everyone is as close as each other. And you think about the competition out there, it is so fierce; Amazon, eBay, Catch, Kogan, Temple & Webster, MyDeal, where do you go? Where do you go? How do you make the decision?

So, generally, you would go to the one that you know, but what happens online is finding a price comparison is literally a right-click away. And Google shopping will unearth that product from 20 different retailers, all at the best price.

So, then there’s a conscious decision for a consumer, “Okay, so it’s cheap at MyDeal, well, I’ve never heard of these people. Do I trust them? Why would I trust them?” So, they’ll click on it. They’ll come through, cost us a click, great. Then we have to convert them and that’s the hardest part. We get them on the site, how do we build that trust?

Now, if they have seen us on a billboard on the side of the road, or if they had heard us on the radio, on the way home last night, then potentially, they can trust us. There’s a little bit more trust there. But if they only saw us in a Facebook ad or they only saw us through a retargeting ad, I don’t believe it inspires as much trust. There’s no way in the world it inspires as much trust.

And their lies the power of some of these traditional media is that they add credibility. They add authenticity and trust levels that other digital media just can’t. Because any Joe Blow can spend a hundred bucks on Facebook, but it takes a very large organisation to be sponsoring The Block. So, all of a sudden, that trust goes through the roof.

So, once they’re on the site, then that question is sort of banished. Then it comes down to the UX, delivery options, price, etc; and away they go. So, that’s the game that we’re in at the moment.

Darren:

The other strategy and Catch did this, is the app; make the app the destination with everyone carrying a smartphone. And there’s also evidence that retailer apps are inclined to get larger basket sizes on average than people coming through search.

Ryan:

I can tell you it’s true. So, at Catch, the app was a very large part of the total revenue mix. At MyDeal, we launched the app only in February of last year, probably closer to March, April, actually. And we have put on hundreds of thousands of users onto the app.

And a proud moment, yesterday in the Google Play Store, we were ranked number five. Number six was Amazon, number seven was eBay, and number four was Woolworth Rewards. So, look, it was a great moment because this is a relatively small business compared to these guys, still, a business that turns well over $200 million a year, but just showing the power of the app and knowing that they convert at a higher rate, their basket size is higher as you mentioned.

Once you get them to download it, they become more loyal, they shop more often. They also have it on their phones every time they scroll through, they see your logo. So, there’s a bit of brainwashing happening there.

Darren:

A bit of brand reinforcement.

Ryan:

Reinforcement, let’s call it. It’s just, apps are very, very sticky and they work really, really well. And I’m surprised that many more retailers don’t have them.

Darren:

In some ways, it becomes the destination at your fingertips. It’s like I’m not going to go and buy a pair of Asics shoes, I’m going to go to the app and see what the Asics shoes are.

Ryan:

And you find people open it up and they just scroll through endlessly a lot of the time. It’s a source of entertainment, so we do focus heavily on the app.

Darren:

It’s interesting your point about the traditional media because harking back to your career, you had quite a significant part of your early career working in media. I think there was some radio in there and a bit of online, APN Online and-

Ryan:

Yeah, look, I’ll give away my age here. So, I finished school in 1992. Wow, way back then.

Darren:

Last century.

Ryan:

Well, it’s way back in the last century.

Darren:

Did they have calculators back then, Ryan?

Ryan:

No, I think I had an Amstrad 64 — that was a Commodore 64 actually, and it had a tape deck. I used to queue it up before I got home so I could play Commando. But prior to finishing school — so I finished in 1992, but prior to that, I was working every afternoon at WIN TV. I grew up in Wollongong. So, the head office of WIN TV is in Wollongong with the legendary Bruce Gordon up there.

And I was a news cameraman. Every afternoon after school, I would get up to the TV station at 4 PM, I would finish work at 7 or 8:00 PM every single day. And the day I finished school, I started working there full time. And I started working in videotapes, night shift. So, literally started work every night at 12:00 AM midnight. I would finish at 8:00 AM in the morning.

And my job was to keep the TV station on air around the country. So, they broadcast from Wollongong for the entire nation. And why the fuck they trusted me as an 18-year-old kid making sure that everything was fine, who knows? Half the time I was at nightclubs and whatever else.

Darren:

Now, I think you proved to Bruce your dedication by turning up every night after school to do the camera work of the news.

Ryan:

I owe a lot to Bruce. He paid for my university education when I was 30-years-old. But that’s another part of the story. But anyway, so I started, literally started behind the camera in media. So, I was very exposed to it from a very young age. And it just got in the blood, and then I moved on. That’s a very, very strange career move.

While I was doing the night shift, I was playing a lot of golf and I played golf with a guy who was a professional horse race punter, a professional punter. And I laughed at him and he said, “Well, come along to the races one day and I’ll show you how I do this.” And before I knew it, I was his apprentice. Let’s say I was his apprentice, a guy named Peter Walker.

And he taught me how to analyse races and make money from races. So, I eventually quit WIN TV and became a professional punter and a bookmaker. I went and worked at the races for about five or six years. So, it was a hell of an experience.

Darren:

I’ve known a few bookmakers and punters. And one thing it does, is it trains the mind to think analytically and to do very complex calculations in your head in real-time under pressure.

Ryan:

Exactly. You have to be very, very quick, it’s life and death, make or break.

Darren:

Play those odds.

Ryan:

Especially as a bookmaker, we were handling very large sums of money and taking a lot of risks. So yeah, from there, I went into racehorse syndication, jockey management, etc — long story, but we eventually went broke. So, that taught me a lot of lessons too.

Darren:

Well, it’s always the disaster that teaches you the most. But so, when did you go from there to JB Hi-Fi? Was that the-

Ryan:

No, no, what happened was I went cap in hand begging for a job. So, I literally went broke, I had no money, and went back to WIN TV and said, “What have you got? What can I do?” And they said, “Well, why don’t you just go and work as an account executive in radio, see if you can sell something?”

So, I joined the radio land and yeah, after five years… I ended my role there as the general manager for the WIN Radio Network. And from there, took a role in Brisbane as the head of digital for APN News and Media. So, moved from Sydney to Brisbane and spent some time there, and then moved on to JB Hi-Fi. And I got approached by a mentor of mine, George Papadopoulos and Scott Browning down here at JB Hi-Fi. And they took me under their wing and away I went.

Darren:

Look, I just think that that career path, you probably at the time, it was just looking for the next opportunity and moving forward. But in many ways, you’ve covered off some significant areas of business and marketing and media. Do you find that in your career now, there are lessons from all of those experiences that you’re drawing on today?

Ryan:

Yeah, I believe it’s a patchwork quilt that when viewed too closely, it looks disastrous. But when you step back and have a look at it — and I haven’t really thought about that until this very moment; that I’m not a trained marketer. I mean, I have a masters in management, but I’m not a trained marketer. It’s not something I studied for years. So, I really am an aggregation of all those experiences, I suppose.

And I also, I grew up in a place called Port Kembla, where we did it pretty tough. We did it pretty tough and it taught me what people value. I completely understand what motivates people to survive. And the majority of people are just surviving, they just want to get through the next week. We’ve got good lives. We’ve made good lives for ourselves and everyone is trying their hardest, but not everyone has what I now have, which is a great life.

And I completely see the other side and how people get out of bed in the morning and just want to make sure that the kids get to school, have great clothes on their back, get home, everyone’s happy. And that’s probably why I’m a good retailer because I know what motivates them. I know that yeah, it’s tough out there, so let’s just make life easy for some people.

Darren:

Well, and in many ways, retail is that fulfilment of needs and wishes, isn’t it?

Ryan:

Exactly. And that’s why perhaps I’ve gravitated to JB Hi-Fi, Catch and MyDeal as three challenger brands that talk about the deal, and talk about always just doing the best for the customer. Because I think that I’m in that customer cohort actually just because of my past. I’m a native tight ass, I think. So, I speak their language, so, therefore, it’s easy for me to communicate.

Darren:

But Ryan, what I’m hearing in what you’re saying is a deep respect also for the customer. And what I often see and hear in marketing and advertising is sometimes people that think of themselves above their customer, that they look down on them almost as if these are just people that they need to consider, but they don’t really respect or even take the time to understand.

Ryan:

No, you have to be on the same level as your customer. Fair enough if you’re Louis Vuitton; if you’re marketing Louis Vuitton, then your customer’s at a very different level. Okay, that’s great. But when you’re JB, Catch, and MyDeal, I completely understand who our customers are. I can tell where our customers are. I know where they’re shopping from, and I can see the psychographic overlays, the mosaic profiles, the helix personas, whatever you want to put on top of them. I know who they are, and they just want a good deal. They just want to make their family happy.

So, we need to be on that level. We completely understand we need to be on that level. There’s no need to fly over them. You can lead the audience, but let’s not do it with hubris. Let’s just make sure that yeah, we’ve got some personality that they can relate to and therefore, they may wanna purchase from us.

Darren:

Well, the other sort of mindset is that somehow, they’re stupid and we need to dumb down things for them. I mean, I think don’t make things complex for the sake of complexity, but also, understand that being people, they like to be surprised, delighted and entertained, and not just talked at.

Ryan:

I love that. I love that retail to entertain. And that’s the secret source of JB Hi-Fi really, you walk in and it’s like you’re walking into a rock concert. There’s an entertainment factor in there, and that’s what we’re doing at MyDeal, and that’s what we did at Catch. We built some entertainment into it. We wanted to make things a little bit more spontaneous and to have some fun and not take ourselves too seriously. And I think that’s what excites customers.

Darren:

Yeah, it’s funny you should say that because I remember walking into JB once in quite a suburban shopping mall, but the staff there had the piercings, the tattoos, the coloured hair, and it was almost like central casting for the music industry, but it just added to a sense of authenticity, and that these people really knew their … they were subject matter experts just by the way they were presented.

Ryan:

And how does that compare to walking into a Harvey Norman store? Where they still sell you a TV wearing a tie? I mean, it’s ludicrous really.

Darren:

Go Harvey.

Ryan:

Talk about flying above your customers. There’s no need to be wearing a tie while you’re selling a Breville Mixmaster, it just doesn’t make any sense. But when you’re real and you’re just authentic as JB is, they allow their staff to dress as they want to dress and to be who they want to be, then I think that’s when the magic happens.

And I think we’re seeing this playing out in a lot of workplaces also. So, when you look at a lot of traditional media, the way that they dress, their culture as compared to those that are slowly eating them, like the hoodie brigade of Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, all of those guys; Larry and Sergey walking around in jeans and a hoodie, then it says something about just real people seem to win the fight in the end, I think.

Darren:

Yeah, absolutely. Ryan, look, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I’ve so enjoyed this conversation. I can’t believe how quickly time’s flown by. I’m just really thankful that you’re able to make time. And just so everyone knows, this is well and truly after work hours, because it was the only way that Ryan could fit this into his busy day. So, I really appreciate you taking the time.

Ryan:

That was great fun. I really appreciate it too, so thank you.

Darren:

Look, just a final question before we go; and that is who do you think is really driving retail innovation in this country now?

Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media, and commercial communications professionals, Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by Darren Woolley and special guests. Find all the episodes here