Natalie Davey is the head of marketing for Cricket Australia. Prior to her current role, Natalie held senior positions with some of Australia’s most iconic brands including Holden, NAB and Origin Energy. Natalie and David talk about the nuances of successful sports marketing, the joys and challenges of working with a passion-brand, navigating out of COVID, Natalie’s multi-category experience and her views on what it takes to be a female leader in some traditionally male-orientated categories.
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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.
And today, I’m sitting down with Natalie Davey, who is an experienced Australian marketer with quite frankly, an impressive track record of roles across brands like Holden, Cricket Australia, Origin Energy, and NAB. So, welcome, Natalie. It’s great to find the time to talk with you.
So, there’s lots that we could talk about, and obviously, we’ve worked together on a couple of things in the past.
Which we’ll probably get onto. But I’m really interested first off to talk a little bit about the transition from auto to sports marketing. So, for the last three years, for the benefit of our listeners, you were with Cricket Australia, and you arrived there from Holden, which is a really interesting category move.
So, from a professional perspective, what drew you to sports and give me a sense of your experience comparatively between the two categories.
Yeah, it’s really interesting that you make that comparison just between Holden and then moving into sport. Like if I think about my whole life and think about where my career started, I’ve always pivoted, as I’ve never taken a linear approach.
I mean, I have a degree in nursing, I went and worked in the mines for five years up in the Northern territory driving cranes. You know, and then I went travelling overseas, which is when I found my love of marketing.
So, my foray, I guess, into marketing was quite nontraditional. And I think that also followed in the roles that I’ve had and the companies I’ve worked for. So, creative agencies moving into banking, moving into utilities, then moving into auto. So, I haven’t actually ever stayed in one industry.
I think from a sport-perspective, I just grew up in a family of sport. We played everything; tennis, netball, basketball, volleyball, you name it, we played it. And so, sport has always been a significant part of who I am and part of my story and my family.
So, I have always had a love of sport and I just had never thought about that as a career, like in a marketing sense. And I think coming from Holden, I took a year out and I got tapped for the Cricket Australia role to give it a go. And I think for me, what took me there was just that genuine desire to get more people to love sport.
And what also took me there was, I guess, the genuine desire that Cricket Australia had to really change the way that they positioned the sport, the way that fans connect with the sport and the players connect with the sport. So, going from one challenge in Holden to another.
Well, one of the reasons I make the comparison is that of course, Holden sadly was a passion brand of its own and in its own way in Australia. If you think about the heritage of Holden and also the sport association with Holden, and that’s kind of what led me to make the link. But I guess, there was a thread of passion running through both of these brands.
Yeah, but quite different. I think the passion levels are quite different. Working at Holden seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen customers as passionate about something, is what I actually saw at Holden. And I think that was because the time I arrived at Holden, it was about a year before local manufacturing was closing.
So, the passionate Holden customers already knew that that local manufacturing of locally engineered Holden cars that are made for Australian roads, that are made for Australian drivers, would no longer be.
And when you’ve had something for so long, you know the history and tradition and icon of that brand, those customers were hugely passionate about that. And it’s a very different passion to cricket where your passion is following a story, following a game, the highs, the lows, the strategy, the fun and just that edge of your seat grouping. So, the passion comes in, I guess, two very different ways.
Interesting. And we’re going to talk a bit more about that from a marketing perspective in a bit. But we’ve mentioned the P-word for passion.
Let’s just mention briefly the C-word, which I should add is COVID ─ marketing cricket in COVID. I mean, we can say this about any brand or category, but of course, you were with Cricket Australia through the inception and advancement of COVID which as a marketer must’ve given you some sleepless nights, to say the least.
What were the primary challenges you experienced with COVID and continue to, and how did you attempt to resolve them?
Yeah, I mean, it’s crazy to reflect back on that, because it was pretty much like this time a year ago, 80% of Cricket Australia was stood down for three months. And it presented a lot of challenges. And look, cricket was no different to any other sport or any other business or any other person. I think it affected us all on a personal level. And it affected us in our families and the change in how we have to live, but also through work.
And it was interesting because we’d just come off the back of the T20 World Cup, MCG, 86,174 people at that game, which was just absolutely incredible. And two days later, we find out that there was a COVID case that was identified. And then I think Richmond, Carlton played on a Thursday night, and that was the last time a sport was played for a very long time with attendees.
There were a huge number of challenges, notwithstanding 80% of the workforce being stood down. Schedules and we had India coming out. We had BBL and those schedules are done in advance, like a good six months in advance. And so, we were actually sitting there not knowing where we were going to play, if we were going to play, if we could get players into the country, all of those things.
So, from a marketing perspective, I think the first thing that we did in July was we actually did a huge strategic piece because to just determine what role could cricket play for the Australian public and the international public during the summer, because we all know that our attitudes shifted, what we valued changed, our behaviours changed because we were in lockdown because we were uncertain about the future. And that really required us to look at a lot of the insight that was coming out, so we could actually work out what role could cricket play.
So, that was the first piece of work that we did. And that really helped us to determine the role that we could play, as we could provide that relief in a time of need. You had Melbourne that was in a significant lockdown, different parts of the country were, so it was important that we could get those games on no matter how we got them on.
From a marketing perspective, communicating that it’s safe to attend. So, there were significant biosecurity requirements in order to put the games on with COVID crowds, so minimal crowds. And because we as a nation and as, I guess, globally, we were still trying to understand what COVID was, and being educated around it, it was really important that we were very clear in our communication of what was expected of a fan when they attended a game, and what we could do to provide that safe environment.
And also, the data showed us that women and kids were less likely to attend any live events and also, multicultural communities were less likely to. So, for us, when we were thinking about those audiences, we really needed to pivot and make sure that that safety and biosecurity layer in the communications was there.
I think one of the other things, we developed our brand campaign for the season. It was all done remotely for the first time ever. So, we had our agency in Sydney, we had the director in Sydney, we had the production crew and the players in Adelaide. And then we were sitting here working off our laptops, signing off for the pictures. So, that was quite a different approach to doing our marketing.
But logistically, it was quite tough because everyone needed to be in bio-security bubbles, because you had players that they couldn’t afford to get breached, otherwise, they wouldn’t have been playing. So, it was a huge responsibility for us.
If I think about ticketing ─ ticketing is always a key objective when you have a season of cricket, and we just didn’t know whether we were going to have crowds or not. There were some games where it was closed doors. There were games where we allowed 10,000. There were games where we actually allowed 60,000.
So, we had to really plan out media at short notice. Where we would usually work on a full-month cycle, we were really working on a two-week cycle because we just didn’t know. And actually, for the whole season, we got away every game. I think we moved maybe three BBL matches because some borders closed and we had to move people around.
But I think we were incredibly lucky. It was luck. Certainly, wasn’t through planning. But we had a lot of scenarios to work with. Yeah, so, it was pretty tough.
Yeah, it sounds ─ well, luck and hard work, I think you’re selling yourself short to just say it was complete luck. I think it’s an amazing achievement to get all of those games away.
I also think … and this is something as COVID has evolved with all of it ─ and it’s the reason I asked the question about COVID, particularly in the context of sport and sport marketing. The role that sport plays in society, particularly Australian society, has always been strong, but the ability of sport to turn people, to help people in this time. If I look at a lot of the sport around the world, European football, Formula 1, cricket, the Olympics, did you feel the pressure of that?
I mean, it’s almost like a responsibility. It’s not like you’re marketing blocks of cheese, you’re marketing and helping people to attend these events. It has a real psychological boost for people.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think there are probably two aspects to it because COVID, that started in March. And through that period, so our domestic season would not start until September, October with the women’s and then move into the men’s.
But there was that period of time where we were not playing and yet, you had the majority of Australians, they were indoors, they were at home. And if you can think back, we created new traditions at home. We were doing things in our family unit that we have never done before.
We got back to basics. We found our community, our immediate community, like you knew the people in your street. We didn’t know the people in our streets before. You knew your local butcher and you went to the local fruit shop as opposed to going to the big supermarket.
So, there was that real sort of sense of community. What Cricket also did was really on two fronts ─ we actually created, we played some of the most iconic Australian games that have ever been so people could actually enjoy those. We banded with the players because the players they were in lockdown too.
And showing and sharing that the players have their own struggles, whether it’s mental, physical. It was Marnus Labuschagne, and he shared doing some exercise and keeping fit and that sort of stuff and posting it. So, others were doing the same, our community cricket team were developing video content pieces for parents, so they could get out in the backyard with their kids.
And you don’t need a bat and a ball; a rolled-up piece of newspaper and a taped tennis ball will do the trick. And so, even through those periods where we weren’t actually playing, cricket still had a role to play in the home and in the community. And I’m incredibly proud of the work that Cricket’s done in that space.
And I think the one thing Cricket did, and yes, there was luck that played in it ─ but just that unwavering determination last season to make sure that a game could be played. And there was a lot of planning, there was a lot of scenario planning, getting players on planes, moving them here, because it’s really important to get that game on TV, so everyone can actually enjoy and feel a sense of normality because we hadn’t had that.
And that’s what I think cricket does. It gives you that sense of summer. It gives you that sense of there are things that we were craving normality because everything was so different.
So, that’s getting us back to passion, isn’t it?
And we mentioned it a bit before, and I we’ve talked also about both of the last two roles that you’ve had being passion brands. But I want to get on to talk a little bit about that in a marketing context.
The natural assumption, I guess, would be that marketing to passion brands would be both massively enjoyable whilst very hard work, you clearly have enjoyed it.
But almost like a sort of breeze, all these people just want to come and be with your brand, and I’m sure it’s not as simple as that. So, I’d really like to get your balanced perspective on the opportunities, but also the barriers of working with brands or some of the challenges of working with brands in which your consumers are so heavily invested.
Yeah, it’s interesting. Like I look at Holden and I’ll talk about Holden for a moment because there’s so many similarities, but there’s a lot of difference between Holden and passion customers, and then passionate fans of cricket.
But as I mentioned before, the closing of local manufacturing and that grieving, I guess, of those passionate customers was a bloody challenge because you suddenly had European-made cars that had a Holden badge put on them and sold in Australia. And that’s not only a marketing challenge, that’s a business challenge.
Like how do you encourage loyalists who have blood, sweat, and tears, have bought and have these Holdens and part of history, and the reason people love it is because it’s Australia-made, it’s for our roads and our roads are very different than anywhere else.
Like that was a really, really tough position that GM had in trying to get those loyalists or keep those loyalists within the brand. I think that the conundrum there really was you had this declining generation of loyal, passionate customers that were never going to accept an overseas car with a badge on it.
But then on the flip side, you had this portfolio of cars that were for every customer; there were SUV, there were small cars, there were medium cars, it actually opened up Holden’s opportunity to actually talk to women, to talk to students, to talk to the family. But probably, didn’t really … well, they actually didn’t really take that opportunity and probably left their run too late.
Sorry to interrupt your flow there ─ you’ve literally taken the words out of my mouth. Did they try and make that shift too late? Obviously, they would have wanted to hold the diehards and bring in women and younger people.
Totally. And that journey doesn’t happen overnight. Like that takes time, it can’t be everything to everybody, and I think there was always that conundrum of we can’t piss off the loyalists, but we need to appeal to this new generation of people that we actually have products for, that we can actually talk to.
But there were discussions, do you just actually retire the Holden brand? Like is that challenge way too big to try and bring those loyalists across into the new world? Or do you launch a new Holden as a new brand, a new car brand, which equally is a massive challenge within the industry in Australia that has 60 or so different brands-
Incredibly competitive, right? Yeah.
Yeah, I mean, both challenges would have been equally as challenging. But, I think the run was definitely left too late.
You’re getting to the nub of what the challenge is there though. There’s this sense of you only hurt the ones you love the most or whatever that saying is. And when you’ve got a really invested set of consumers, that’s great that they love your brand, but also, it’s so easy for them to hate your brand if you do something wrong, to feel personally wronged.
Again, it’s not blocks of cheese… I should say everyone in marketing eats blocks of cheese ─ blocks of cheese are amazing. But if you’re emotionally invested, of course, it can swing the other way so easily. And I guess taking missteps is much easier from a marketing perspective. You can get something wrong and really upset people.
Yeah, totally. And I think for Holden, the challenge they had was they needed to remain relevant with a really challenging future ahead of them. And you actually can do both. And I think that’s where if I look at Cricket ─ I think about Cricket in the last 12 years, Cricket has innovated. And it’s funny, I sort of got into Cricket, not actually thinking about that.
But 12 years ago, all people knew was 12 guys on a field playing test cricket. You know, now you have over 250-yard male and female players, domestic, internationals of all nationalities playing cricket, which when you hold up all of those players and you face it back to the Australian public, it mirrors the diversity in Australia.
And I think it’s a really beautiful and unique thing that cricket is, like it really is a sport for all. And you think about the BBL, where BBL’s coming into its 11th year. So, just had 10 years. And it has brought a whole new generation of fans into the game of kids and mums and families and parents into a game that were never there before.
And I look at some of the other sports and look at their year-on-year growth, and they’re sort of up and down, but generally, trend-wise sort of pretty much the same. But cricket’s just had this trajectory over the last 10 years. And again, I think it comes back to remaining relevant and actually understanding what the consumers want, like what the fan wants.
I also think as you were talking there, I was just thinking a lot about not just the consumer, but the Australian consumer. It’s great seeing those comments on diversity and bringing in … because Australia is becoming so much more diverse and bringing in from the ground up in Australia, Australians who may have originated from different places, but are now getting to the game is amazing.
On the flip side, and I’m going to state a personal opinion here, you need to do agree or disagree. But with Holden, it was almost, it felt, and I should say Natalie and I have worked a bit together when she was at Holden, but it was almost the inverse in that you had GM coming from a completely global perspective and wer either not willing to, or were simply not able to grip what the Australian consumer wanted, who the Australian consumer actually was.
Because it’s fine to say, oh, we’re going to market to women, but well, they’re Australian women. You can’t just implant it in. Is that fair?
Yeah, totally, a very fair assessment. And I think in the realms of GM, Australia is such a tiny market, so it doesn’t command the significant thinking around that. It’s like, oh, we’re building this car in this country. We’re going to badge it this in Europe, but let’s badge it Holden in Australia.
I mean, it’s not so basic. There is some insight in that, but not specific to Australia. And again, that is why Holden was so successful because they engineered those cars, unlike any other car in the world.
From the ground up out into Australia, absolutely.
Correct. Because the roads that we have here are completely different. So, if you’re engineering a car in Korea for Korean roads and you bring it to Australia, it’s going to feel and behave and be very different. So, yeah, totally agree.
Okay. Let’s switch gears. Let’s talk a little bit about agencies. And the reason I mention agencies is that when we worked together at Holden, it was all about market tender and finding the right agencies to fit you at the time.
I mean, agencies obviously play different roles to different organisations and there’s a lot of factors in that. But do you think agencies are doing enough to evolve to the changing needs of marketers and organisations? What have you seen that’s been great and what would really need to change in your experience?
Yeah, if I think even just sitting here as a marketing professional, things are rapidly changing for me and for us as marketers, we’re needing to continually keep abreast of what’s going on. And that’s exactly the same as our agency partners.
And I think that the role of agencies, I think constantly evolves. Like it just does. I think the success of an agency really comes down to the success of that partnership with your brand and with your marketing partners. And that for me, is first and foremost, it’s about that connection and having that trust and being able to have the real conversations like they’re an extension of your team.
And so, you need to have that element of trust and alignment, I think as well. And coming back to your point, absolutely like the role of an agency is very different in different organisations, depending on what your challenges are that you need to solve for.
I think where agencies sometimes don’t get a fair wrap is where they don’t really get brought into the business. And how can you expect your agency partners to really understand and help you solve for those challenges that might actually not be marketing related. But how can they really say or solve for that if they don’t see anything beyond a brief.
And so, that for me, is really important to have that business relationship as well that you can share. So, beyond the strategy and the planning and the creativity and that sort of stuff, but just having really good business discussions that actually might bring you to some marketing related outcomes that can actually start to solve for that.
I think that the diversity of thought is really important. And like I think about Cricket, and you have your creative agency, you have your media agency, you’re working with the broadcasters directly, you’re working with the sponsors directly, you’re working with your content team in digital, you’re working with the news and media publishers, and when I first came in, I’m like, wow, there’s all these different relationships and all these different pieces of work going on.
Imagine what we could do if we actually were all together and actually working towards a common goal. The power of all of those people in that room and the diversity of thought to actually deliver on a challenge or an objective is far greater than just thinking, oh, well, they’re a creative agency. We’re just going to give them a creative brief and get them to solve for that.
And I think agencies need to be more open and willing to just having those conversations that might not actually arrive at an outcome of a creative brief.
We could talk all day about this stuff. I mean, it’s a really interesting assessment. I think it’s really interesting you touch on organisational challenges. We were talking just before we started recording about some of the challenges in the organisation, whether it’s data or MarTech and how that applies to different parts of the business.
I think agencies would love to hear you say things like being brought in more consultatively, more for diversity of thought. But you’re right, there’s a flip side, which is that the agency has to have the integrity to not lead everything down to somewhere that is within their immediate wheelhouse. And beside that, the agencies need to be paid in such a way that that thought and that time that they spend is still compensated for.
I mean, this is probably quite a hard question to answer, but in terms of how agencies get paid, what could change there to help that?
Yeah, a couple of thing … one of the ideas I’ve sort of worked with or thought about and actually worked with some agencies is absolutely, everyone needs to be compensated. Nothing’s for free in this world. And you have a set of partners around you that you value, and that you can work collaboratively with.
At the end of the day, that diversity of thought, they’re all wearing the same hat and that hat is for the client. So, it’s about solving a challenge, and not knowing where that will go. So, agnostically, how are we going to solve that challenge?
I would love to lock six or eight people from different industries or different agencies that are part of my network in a room for a couple of weeks; “Here you go, off you go, I’ll pay for that. And here’s the objective, this is the challenge we’re trying to solve for, go and work it out. And hey, I want to come in there with you.”
I’d be amazed if any agency did not want to be involved in that sort of thing. I think when we talk about compensation, I’m not necessarily talking about how much, it’s more about the methodology behind it.
So, a simple example, let’s take the example of a media agency who is remunerated in a very traditional way. So, a small percentage commission and then a lot of financially-based KPIs sitting behind how cheap can you buy the media.
That’s not going to lead to objective transparency with an agency. Because they’re getting compensated based on buying cheap media, naturally, they’re going to bend towards buying cheap media.
But that’s if the relationship you’ve got with that media agency is like that.
Is transactional, correct, yeah, absolutely.
That’s right. And if it’s a partnership and there are shared KPIs and you have that trust at the table and actually that transparency and what that financial arrangement looks like, I think you can get to very different places.
So, one of the biggest single challenges we try and solve when I’m working with clients on pitches or assessments or whatever with agencies, is that there’s often a break in organisations where you have people like yourself saying exactly that.
But then other people, whether it’s procurement or someone else saying, “Okay, that’s fine. You can have that, but we’re still going to pay the agency in that way. And we’re still going to target them based on the cheap media.” So, it creates this kind of double level; are we transactional or are we consultative or what are we?
Yes, I think it comes back to having that common goal. And I think it comes back to understanding and defining the role of each of those partners in actually providing that value. And I think if you have that at the fore, I think a lot of that stuff just falls away. I’m an optimist, but I see it. I don’t have those transactional relationships with my partners, that just doesn’t exist. It’s based on mutual trust, known value and partnership.
That requires marketing leadership, it really does. Well, we’ll put this recording out and then whenever you next run an agency pitch, I’m sure you’re going to have people queuing up, 40 agencies all wanting to work with you, which is not a bad thing.
So, talking about agencies and we’re talking about organisational challenges and we’re talking about how these things all marry together, and it does lead naturally into data and creativity in marketing and the constant assessment and debate both internally in organisations and across the industry. And in terms of the role data should play in marketing.
There’s conflicting opinions about the effect of data on creativity and how those two things need to marry up. And to be honest, in my experience, despite all the talk, very few of us are actually walking the walk as organisations.
So, again, with passion brands, particularly in mind, because that’s where you’ve come from most recently, what’s your take on what the balance should be between the role of data in defining marketing and the role of creativity in bringing things to life?
Yeah, I’m big on the data train. So, data absolutely needs to inform the value we can create. So, whether it’s for our fans or customers, it’s the insight that actually feeds into the strategy that feeds into the challenges you’re trying to solve for.
Gone are the days of just intuitive marketing, like fans leave signals for you all over the place because we live in a digital world. So, as marketers, it’s remiss of us not to pick up on those signals and be able to respond in ways that are actually going to drive value for the fans.
So, from that perspective, like I’m all for data. It doesn’t come at the expense of creativity. I actually think it enhances the creativity and probably opens your thinking and thought as opposed to how you actually can creatively respond versus thinking it’s going to contract that.
At Cricket, we’ve been doing a lot of work in the data space and the customer data strategy over the last 12 months. And even thinking about it at a participation level and I’ll use my son, Loki as a good example, he’s 11-years-old, he plays at Bowie Sharks, he’s got his myCricket app.
So, all of these stats every week are in the my Cricket app and so I also know that he’s an Adelaide Strikers fan, Rashid Khan’s his favorite player. And that’s just basic info. So, how do you creatively respond to that in a way that is gonna make Loki love the game even more?
Well, wouldn’t it be great to be able compare Loki’s stats to say Rashid Khan’s stats? Wouldn’t it be great for Rashid Khan to do a message for his birthday or just things like that? And if you don’t actually use the data, you actually can’t open your mind to the creative ways in which you could actually deliver some pretty awesome stuff.
Yeah and that becomes about reactive content, as opposed to, let’s just have one big idea and that’s the way you feed your consumers, you make it tailored.
Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree. I think the biggest challenge though, that we have, and it’s something that we touched on before, is just around the acceleration of the digitisation of businesses, acceleration of marketing tech and data capability in organisations that perhaps that need the upskilling to actually understand the true benefits of that.
And I think that’s where a lot of businesses are grappling with at the moment of how they actually either start that journey, and they’re either starting from scratch or they’re starting from a point where they may have a significant amount of legacy there that really needs quite significant transformation to move forward.
Before we started the recording, we were talking a bit about this and what I took from some of the things you said that certainly with Cricket, you’ve sort of taken a block-by-block by block-by-block approach, building things up over time and almost on the run.
You’re adapting and sort of iterating as you go. Which seems inherently the better way to do it because we see a lot of organisations who have tried it top down. So, they just embedded an enterprise system and they’ve forgotten that no one actually knows how to use it or bring that thing to life, and all the heritage stuff around, it doesn’t plug in properly.
These things don’t happen overnight and you need to bring everyone on the journey because and this, again comes back to it’s not a marketing issue, it’s business-wide. And it involves technology, it involves digital, it involves finance, it involves strategy, it involves marketing.
So, it is an enterprise challenge that needs to be addressed. And you actually need to understand what the end game is that you actually want to get to before you work out the journey to get there. And so, having that sort of iteration and understanding along the way of what those key milestones are, but it’s also important that you show at those milestones, that there is that return on investment.
And I think even more so now, with COVID over the last 18 months, a lot of organisations are constrained, the investment in those businesses and brands, you need to account for everything. So, it’s really important that you can demonstrate return as you are working through that journey, because you’re probably talking about a three-year journey to make a transformation like that, which requires resourcing, capability, up-skilling education, ways of working, change management.
Requires people to be in the same roles for a long time. Do you feel that … and again, we’re not talking about Cricket or Holden or anyone here, just industry-wide. And again, I’m referring back also to things that we see from TrinityP3 working with organisations.
Do you feel that there is sometimes an unfair degree of pressure placed on marketing to affect this digital transformation? Because your apps, I couldn’t agree more, it’s a completely enterprise-wide thing. But we hear time and time again when something goes wrong with, well, where’s our customer data? It’s marketing that gets pointed at. But at the same time, marketing simply cannot have all of the blocks in place without compliance from everyone else.
Yeah, totally. I think the pressures on marketing over the years have become a lot greater. I think that the responsibilities that marketing has around business growth, the difference between today vs more than say five years ago is significant.
So, yeah, marketing does seem to get looked at from that perspective. But I think it also depends on how organisations are structured as to whether they see it as being cross-functional or whether it should be driven from marketing.
As we think about some of the disciplines that marketing, that has evolved in marketing customer experience, for example, that’s not just marketing; that is every touch point that that customer has with that brand. And not everything sits within marketing. So, everyone has a degree of responsibility around creating that consistent customer experience. So, it has to be a cross-functional effort in order to get it right.
Agree, couldn’t agree more. And I think the more organisations accept that, the better quite frankly, because then it will be less talking the talk and more walking the walk.
But I think that’s where it comes back to the education though.
It does, you’re right.
Like it’s hard for us to just keep up. And I wouldn’t sit here professing to know everything. Like the last 12 months, my intellect and education around this space has been quite significant just with the work that we’ve been doing at Cricket. And I am really grateful for that. But there’s a lot of marketers and a lot of businesses out there that aren’t even thinking about data, and they’re not thinking about customer.
And I think from that perspective, they’re starting from a fair way back. And I think CEOs need to be educated around the advancements in digital and data transformation, and actually, really be thinking and looking at data as an asset as opposed to the actual business. And that is a significant and fundamental shift in thinking for organisations to see true value in their actual data.
I think also that, I mean the MarTech industry may be slightly to blame for this. But I think there’s always this sort of rush for the summit of what’s absolutely on the cutting edge. And I think that can be distracting sometimes.
And going back to the block-by-block, let’s build it up as best we can ─ if you get distracted by that ─ “Oh, now there’s a new thing. Oh, stop what we’re doing. There’s a new thing. We’ve got to go and do this now,” that can be really detrimental or counter-intuitive to just, “Okay, we’ve got what we’ve got, let’s just have a vision.”
Like you said, we want to get here, let’s do it in blocks. Do you see that pressure or do you feel that pressure? There’s something new every day, right?
Totally, there is. But I think the key to that is knowing what success looks like and what do you need that technology to do? And what sort of value do you need to create for the business, but also for the customer, and you stay true to that. And there is, there’s always a new shiny toy. You know, there’s always something else.
But you actually need to develop a plan that can live through those advancements and changes and be able to adapt as it needs to. But I certainly don’t get stressed about it. We’ve had some very, very good partners work with us that are very clued up in this area. And they’re like, “Don’t be distracted by that. What we are doing is the right thing for our business.”
Let’s take one more switch of gears, just a final switch of gears. I want to talk a bit about your last two roles that have been with organisations and I’m talking organisationally here, not just marketing. If I’m being a bit stereotypical ─ are both likely to be quite male-orientated in terms of historically the kind of people who work there. Is that right or not? And as a female leader in these businesses, what’s been the good, the bad and the ugly from your perspective.
And by the way, I should add … sorry, before you start that answer ─ the fact that you just revealed at the start of this conversation, you’ve worked in a mine as well. I mean, I’m thinking about cricket and cars. Like you’ve worked in a mine for crying out loud, fair enough.
Yeah, that’s where I was actually going to start. I think in my early twenties, working in a mine in a remote part of Northern territory where the ratio of men to women was 30 to 1, absolutely, is where I learnt how to handle myself. It’s where I learnt to be able to just talk and work with different people.
You had people from all walks of life that lived up there and it was a fly in fly out scenario. And so, you had the miners, but then you had the executives that ran the mines and the contractors and all that sort of stuff. So, as a young female, I was thrown into this environment for four and a half years. You either sink or swim and I swam.
And so, for me, working in Cricket or working in Holden, I’m like….
What change is there….
Totally. And I equally don’t want to stereotype. But there are always situations that you come across that just again, you sort of think, yeah, that’s not quite right. I think Holden certainly had its challenges and particularly working with the dealer network. And again, that’s just what they grew up with.
And you have multi-generational dealerships and families that have had dealerships for years, and then the son comes through. And so, you had 20% of those dealerships that were really diverse and really embraced change and were quite progressive, I guess. And then probably the 80% that didn’t.
So, as a female marketer, you would often be put in situations where you’re just a female with a voice that no one’s sort of really listening to, and then other times, you would be heard. And I don’t take it personally. I’m confident, I can certainly hold my own. And if a situation presents itself, I’ve no qualms in suggesting my views on that situation.
So, I think that for me, I’ve gained respect, whether it’s working in the mines, I’ve got friends now, still, that live there and they’re like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe you work in corporate and you work in sport. God, you used to wear a mining hat and steel cap boots.” Like they can’t believe that I’ve changed industries.
But yeah, I think you’re always going to come across situations where you’re challenged. Women are seen as emotional and empathetic because we are empathetic human beings. I’m not saying that men aren’t, they certainly are as well. But if I think about me personally, I’m an emotional marketer. Like I’m really passionate about what I do and that comes across in everything that I do, whether I’m in a meeting or whether I’m with my team.
And so, sometimes that passion is joy and sometimes that passion is not, and that’s okay because I’m just being me. So, yeah, I think as a society, we’ve got a long way to go. I think there’s always going to be those times where you’re correcting someone to say, yeah, my name’s not “Love,” it’s Natalie, thank you. But I don’t see much of that. I did use to see it in some previous roles. I don’t really see much of that stuff now.
Yeah. I was going to ask about that. In fact, I’ll come on and ask about that. I think your experience in the mines, that would have toughened anyone up. We times it by a thousand for the one female in 30. And it’s really interesting to hear you say how that sort of helped shaped you in some ways.
I grew up in a small country town and I am so different today to the young woman that I was when I left Seymour. And again, I think it comes down to my experience in diverse industries, different careers. I honestly think that … and that just provides that sense of confidence in whatever situation, I guess, that I’m put in.
Coming back down into our industry specifically, and talking about some of your experiences ─ I mean the dealer network, that’s interesting. I’ve heard similar. In fact, we won’t go into them but some pretty horrible stories about dealer networks. I’ve known other females who’ve worked in them.
But from a marketing industry point of view, how much progress do you think has been made in the last few years? I mean, we have seen an increase… I wouldn’t say that anything’s even close to being right, frankly, but we’ve seen some advancements and we’re seeing more female leadership, particularly on the agency side, actually, more female leadership which has been positive.
You mentioned the sort of “My name’s not Love” dying out a little bit, but where do you think we still need to get to? How much progress has been made?
Short answer, not enough.
Yeah, fair enough.
Not enough and not quick enough. Just thinking about my more recent experience and with Cricket and coming into Cricket, I had a preconceived perception that there was just lots of men that worked in Cricket, but it couldn’t have been further from the truth. And it wasn’t that at all.
And coming into Cricket, there were these amazing smart women in senior leadership positions there. There were amazing smart players and it was just completely different to what I thought it would be coming into Cricket. I felt like I’d found my peeps which was quite good, and I think that’s why I loved it so much there.
And I think there’s a hell of a lot more that needs to happen certainly in leadership positions and senior leadership positions. And I think if we think about where we are today and flexibility and how that shifts how we live and what we value and all of those sorts of things, there’s more we need to do to give a leg up, I think and support the women around us to make sure that there is more there standing beside us.
I think I’m bringing this conversation full circle, because we’ve gone way over time. You’re just interesting to talk to, Natalie.
Bringing this conversation full circle, I think there’s a massive role for sport, and I’m sort of talking ground roots up. It’s been really interesting to see, and there’s been some horrendous mistakes and horrible things along the way. But the improved perception of women’s sports, the WAFL, women’s cricket and the exposure that they’re getting now is slowly, slowly, slowly getting there.
And I think if you think about young girls coming up through that, I think sport can play a really good role in inspiring leadership and getting them to understand what it is to be a leader.
Totally, but also just role models, just good role models. And cricket has so many of them and I’m proud of cricket as a sport in what it’s done to really put women in sport on the calendar and knowing a lot of the initiatives that they’re working on even at a grassroots level and how do they address some of the perceptions that girls have when they come into sport?
Like a good example is when girls are young between that age of five and seven, they like the individual sport, whereas boys like team sports. So, that’s why boys play team sports. And girls are getting into gymnastics and all of those sorts of things because they like the individuality of that.
And girls coming into team sports, they have a whole different raft of insecurities and concerns about being in a team sport. Whereas a boy just sort of goes in and he does that. And cricket’s going, “How do we actually bring down some of those barriers? How do we change the game of cricket? How do we make it more inclusive and welcoming without worrying about changing the sport?” Because they’re actually changing it, but it’s to actually bring more people in and to bring more girls in.
So, yeah, I think cricket’s done some great stuff, but you look at soccer, you look at just sport in general, and even just the recent Olympics, like the women are killing it.
It’s interesting you talk about young girls. My daughter’s nine and and she has been quite reticent. And I think for some of the reasons you mentioned, and we’ve really, really tried to encourage her without being too pushy about it, to try a team sport.
And she’s just taken on basketball and she is absolutely loving it, just loving it. Loving being in the team, loving when she gets made captain for the day, loving when she’s calling some of the shots in training and stuff. Honestly, really, really loving it. And that’s the role of sport right there. She’s going to learn from that, right there.
It’s just about building confidence. One of the things is girls find it intimidating walking out onto the pitch to bat because you’re going out on your own. And so, as you’d never even think about that. And well, as a woman, I’m like, oh yeah, I probably would too, if I was a young girl.
But how do we actually bring the batters out together, so they’re not alone … so just all of those little things to just try and address some of those challenges to get more girls into sport, it’s really important.
Awesome, and I’ve loved talking to you today. It’s been great. Let me just very quickly ask you about the future of marketing within the business. We sort of touched on quite a lot of this, but everyone seems to have an opinion on what a CMO or a head of marketing should be doing. And that makes a laundry list. Everyone has a different opinion.
What do you think? If there were three things that marketing should focus on in the future, marketing leaders should focus on in the future, what are the biggest things that you need to get your head around.
Yeah, the biggest thing to get your head around for me, is certainly GDPR and these new data protection laws.
It is, it’s massive and it’s quite dry.
Just profound implications.
But significant implications. And I think just that growing individual control of your own data is absolutely going to change the way marketers think about how they market. And I think that there’s a lot of, again, education. Marketers really need to get in underneath it and actually understand what those implications are for business.
But I think there’s that element of building the trust with your customer and providing that value because it’s the only way you’ll be able to have access to the first-party data that customers are going to hold on themselves. And with the click of a button, it could be, see you later.
So, that is on the horizon. All marketers need to be having that at the forefront today, because that will quickly happen over the next sort of 12 to 18 months here in Australia.
Trust only comes with time. And therefore, you can’t kick the can down the road, because when it’s honest and that’s it.
Yeah, totally. The other one for me that I grapple with ─ not grapple with, it’s because I’m not a kid anymore; is just the youth of today.
The youth of today-
Are you not down with the kids, is that what you’re trying to tell me?
Well, I’ve got a couple of kids, but engaging with kids of today, like a nine-year-old or a 12 or 14-year-old kid today is very, very different to what we were at that age. And their influences are so significantly different. The way that they spend their time is so different to us. Like we just used to be out on the street, playing cricket, riding our skateboards, whatever it would be. I might read a book before I go to bed.
Now, there are a hundred other things that these kids are influenced by. And just the rise in gaming, the rise in online time and what they’re doing and their influences, who influenced them ─ it’s really hard to get to them. You cannot get to them as a marketer unless you really actually understand them and know them, and then tap into what they’re interested in.
So, that for me is one that I’m actively learning more about. Obviously, I have two children at home that I see everyday how they are, but I think as marketers and particularly older marketers, we really need to get a handle on that younger generation. They’re conscious, they’re all about brands for good. It’s all about social causes, participation in sport, like traditional participation in sport is declining.
Their interests in gaming, their interests in pop culture, music, fashion, all of those things, they’re far more influenced by that today than what we ever were. So, it’s about finding how to get to them in those areas in a relevant way. Yeah, good luck.
Yeah, good luck. I believe that children are our future. That is a good place to end.
It’s been an absolute pleasure. Thanks so much.
Thank you. Yeah, no worries. Thanks, David.
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