‘Business, but better’ at the heart of Xero’s transformation, says marketing director

"We have a bit of fun and we don't take ourselves so seriously as a brand. I think accounting software can be largely perceived as boring, but it doesn't have to be." Marketing director Vladka Kazda talks to Mumbrella's Calum Jaspan on the brand platform at the heart of everything Xero does, and how the company is planning on dishing out a tax rebate on some of small business owners biggest emotional tolls.

Accounting software firm, Xero, is moving forward with its ‘Business, but better’, brand platform, and by doing that wants to give back to customers that have felt the strain over the past 18 months.

Vladka Kazda, marketing director of Xero Australia tells Mumbrella that this brand platform underpins everything Xero is about these days since the switch from a business-to-business, to a business-to-user model.

“‘Better’ is actually engrained in everything that we do, if you think about our purpose, which is to make life better for our communities, their advisors, et cetera, and then ultimately… You are never really done when it comes to better. There’s always a desire to improve.”

Founded in New Zealand in 2006, the online accounting platform made for small businesses now has over 2.7 million users globally, with 1.12 million Australians signed up.

Part of Kazda’s work at Xero has been focused on a pivot towards a more customer facing approach, and this has been aided by the company’s willingness to enjoy themselves and expressing a bit of personality along the way.

The ability to do this is facilitated by Xero running its own in-house creative agency, responsible for the  ‘Business, but better’ campaign, something that makes the campaign “even better” according to Kazda, who joined the company in 2019.

“We have a bit of fun and we don’t take ourselves so seriously as a brand. I think accounting software can be largely perceived as boring, but it doesn’t have to be. And you can see that we are having some fun with ‘Business, but better’.”

The campaign features two ‘hero’ ads, featuring a tradie and a hairdresser, showcasing the assistance Xero’s services offer clients, making bookkeeping and accounting for small businesses easier. It also highlights the company’s own creative spin on things, and the individual personality that is grounded in each small business.

Along with the campaign, Xero ran several ‘behind the scenes cuts’ as part of the social campaign, one of those featured Uncle Friendly, director of the two video spots as part of collective group Airbag, and a Xero user himself.

“We discovered in the preparation process that a lot of the people behind the ad were actually already Xero customers. So we decided to send a crew of our own to actually hear their stories, and then we packaged that up and made an ad for small business by small business. It’s quite a well rounded campaign in that sense,” said Kazda.

Sharing the stories of Xero customers is part of this move towards forging direct relationships with users, and now Xero wants its users to share more of their small business owning experiences.

“We are now working really hard to build that relationship directly with our end-users. In our early growth period, we focused a lot on really winning the hearts and the minds of our accounting and bookkeeping community. This was after all a massive transformational shift in the product.”

And with such a strong community of members now active users of Xero, the company is now intent on showing a bit of love back, through the ‘Emotional Tax Return’, which will see Xero try to make up for some of the biggest emotional taxes that come from owning a small business over the past year.

Partnering with Clemenger PR, Xero’s ‘Emotional Tax Return’ campaign and competition comes off the back of a tough year for small business owners globally. In conjunction with the campaign, Xero also published a survey with insights into the emotional toll owning a small business can have on its customers, carried out by Lonergan Research.

The survey, which included responses from  more than 500 small business owners (businesses with fewer than 20 employees) across the country, reported that 81% said that running their business is taking away from their personal lives.

Small business owners are also generally under-holidayed, with 53% of respondents sacrificing family holidays for their business, under-romanced, with 39% of singles not able to remember their last date, and overall lacking sleep.

Despite this, Xero reports that the majority of Australians running a small business (77%) say they wouldn’t change anything, showcasing the passion the small business community has for what they do.

“End of the financial year is the peak selling period for Xero. It’s probably the most active time for our category. But for our customers it can be a stressful time. They’ve got deadlines that they have to meet, that includes both our accounting and bookkeeping customers, as well as actual small business customers.

“We were looking to just have some fun with it, give a little back and celebrate some of those moments that perhaps they missed out on.”

With a $50,000 prize pool, small business owners have the opportunity to claim back “some of those emotional expenses or taxes”, by telling Xero some of their best stories about how their small business forced them to miss out on some of life’s other riches.

The ‘Emotional Tax Return’ also sees Xero back working with TV personality Sam Mac, who worked on the platform’s end of financial year execution last year, serenading accountants with a love song.

Moving forward, Kazda says that the challenge is just to keep getting ‘better’,  as is the ethos, there is always room for improvement, whether that is with the software itself, or in engaging with Xero’s consumer base.

“I think the main thing for us, and for me as a marketer is actually standing out and cutting through, because accounting software can be a bit boring, but then you look at the category and a lot of the conversations being had are about the features. Some of us think we do it better than others, but at the end of the day, we’re talking about the same thing. So this is about actually cutting through and owning our space.”


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