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From Mitre 10 to PAK’NSAVE, FCB NEW ZEALAND is a resourceful creative and media partner for some of the country’s biggest retail brands. Its impressive integration model and deep understanding of Kiwi consumers has allowed the agency to build successful client partnerships that stand the test of time. The team at FCB are committed to understanding Kiwis better than anyone, and here, they share what they use to achieve this. FCB IS KNOWN FOR HAVING SOME OF THE FIRST BRAND ADS FOR RETAILERS BACK IN THE DAY – WHAT ARE SOME OF THE FUNDAMENTALS THAT HAVEN’T CHANGED SINCE THEN? In a nutshell: good storytelling, and the ability to entertain people and connect with New Zealanders in relevant ways. One obvious but essential ingredient that’s always had success in driving brands is injecting a bit of that Kiwi humour we all love and can relate to into our advertising, and the other fundamentals that haven’t really changed are having presence, momentum and a consistent point of view. That point of view doesn’t have to always put a stake in the ground or be polarising – it’s about having a fundamental belief that people can identify with, then staying true to that and expressing conviction around it. THE INTEGRATION MODEL IS KEY TO FCB’S SUCCESS – WHY? Integration is so entrenched in the way we operate with clients that it’s become second nature. We don’t consciously see it as a ‘way’ to operate – it’s just what we do, and it works. We approach things holistically as a group of problem solvers and try to avoid working in silos or in isolation from each other, and that pertains to our clients too – they’re an extension of our agency and vice-versa. There’s a real ‘one team’ mantra and recognition that all contribution is equally important, and that ideas can come from anywhere or anyone in the team. We certainly work best when we all get in a room – clients included – and work to both define and crack a brief together. Of course, there are the obvious benefits from an integrated model, like time, resource and cost efficiencies; closer, more impactful alignment of delivering the right message in the right moment; and a greater understanding of how the environment and context can powerfully influence our activity. FCB ‘UNDERSTANDS CUSTOMERS’. WHAT MAKES YOU, AS AN AGENCY, SO GOOD AT THIS – WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE? Understanding consumers happens on a spectrum – the need to understand the more macro cultural codes at one end, and then hyper-personal motivations, fears and aspirations at the other. Although the root of cultural phenomenon tends to be enduring, it’s been equally important for us to recognise that culture morphs, changes shape, evolves – and that to unlock growth, we need to adapt with it. At FCB, understanding people, their underlying motivations and what really drives them doesn’t happen by sitting behind a desk. We have some amazing proprietary tools that we use to help validate hypotheses and substantiate decision making, but tools are only as good as the people who use them. Intuition, logic and common sense are often undervalued and overlooked in the industry today, but we believe these three things are instrumental to helping crack solutions. Getting to a killer insight is about immersing yourself in the social, cultural and category environments where our audience exists. Mitre 10 is a great example of that thinking. DIY and Kiwis have long gone hand in hand. It was one of those things that was just a given – every Kiwi could execute a bit of DIY. It’s been ingrained into Kiwi culture and, as a brand, we’ve embraced and celebrated that. For a long time, we’ve been able to successfully hold on to this position and still be relevant, but we’ve been witnessing a cultural shift, and we knew we’d be doing Kiwis a disservice if we didn’t acknowledge the changing make-up of our population, new life stressors and a reprioritisation of what’s important to people. In the research, we came across a confronting truth – that DIY was perhaps no longer at our core. People in New Zealand weren’t all ‘weekend warriors’ ready to take on their next project single-handedly – they wanted help. The way they expressed wanting help varied in a number of ways – DIT (do it together), DIWM (do it with me), DIFY (do it for yourself) and DIFM (do it for me) – and what became glaringly obvious was that the core of our business and brand was really about partnership. When you think about it, making that shift from DIY to partnership was quite a bold move for one of New Zealand’s most-loved brands. UNDERSTANDING CONSUMERS IS ONE THING, BUT HOW DOES FCB TRANSLATE THIS INTO CAMPAIGNS THAT REACH CONSUMERS ON A PERSONAL LEVEL? There’s no denying that emotional storytelling performs well, both in regards to engaging audiences and driving brand growth, but when you dissect what it is about storytelling that hooks and keeps audiences entertained and eagerly asking “What’s next?”, characters and character development are often at the core. Characters serve as the backbone and driving force in our stories and in bringing our brand platform to life. Think about PAK’NSAVE’S Stickman – he started as a stick figure, appearing here and there, but now he’s a fully developed character that people can’t get enough of and has become the embodiment of the brand. When you think about all the most successful, addictive TV series that viewers become emotionally attached and invested in, it boils down to really good character development. Sure, a nice plot entertains us, but how characters react to that plot and how they interact with each other is what elicits an emotional response from viewers, and that feeling we provoke is what endures and helps create positive brand associations. In fact, one study out of the US saw that when people become attached to a character, they may end up changing their own behaviour and thoughts to match that of the character. So our goal is often not just to tell a great story with a fun plot, but also to create memorable characters that New Zealanders want to see more of. FCB HAS MANY LONG-STANDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH CLIENTS – SOME THAT EXTEND FOR 40 YEARS. WHAT’S THE SECRET TO THIS LONGEVITY? There’s definitely recognition and acknowledgment between us and our clients that we all have an equal role to play in fostering a successful relationship. When you think about your own personal relationships, the ones that are most important to you, they take work, commitment and dedication. And that’s how we view all of our partnerships. It’s not just about getting work out the door – it’s about creating an environment in which we’re comfortable enough to constructively challenge and push each other; it’s about really listening to each other, not just hearing each other; and it’s about mutual trust, integrity and accountability. One of the key things we’ve learnt and built over the years also is resilience – and that’s fundamental to a thriving long-term partnership. There’s such a high level of transparency and honesty among us that we can have the hard conversations and bounce back, because at the end of the day, we’re both wanting the same things and working towards the same goal. To be honest, it also helps that we genuinely really like each other and get along. Chemistry definitely goes a long way.