Mumbrella360: ‘The desk is a really dangerous place to do marketing from’ – Telstra’s iconic campaigns thrive on grassroots strategies

“The desk is a really dangerous place to do marketing from,” warned Telstra CMO Brent Smart during an interactive panel session at Mumbrella360 last week.

Reflecting on the telco giants’ award-winning platform, This is Footy Country, Smart stressed the importance of “getting out into local communities” to get creative.

Smart and the agency behind the iconic campaign embraced a grassroots approach to developing their strategy, immersing themselves in regional communities and engaging with footy clubs.

“When I was in those communities, I noticed the role local footy clubs played. I found that people watch it more than the AFL or NRL.”

He also noted the challenge for this particular campaign was finding a distinctive niche within the realm of footy.

“If you look at the AFL landscape, it’s incredibly cluttered. Lots of brands are sponsoring it, but they all do pretty much the same thing – get a famous footballer and put them in an ad.

“Our challenge was finding a clear space we could own.”

Brent Smart and Nathan Thompson (Live Nation)

By actively engaging with the local community, the Telstra team gained insights into the impact of regional footy clubs in building community resilience after significant events like floods or bushfires, as well as the vital role played by volunteers in sustaining the sport.

Following the campaign, Telstra introduced Footy Country Grants to support AFL clubs to grow volunteer capacity and participation and improve club environments.

Smart also highlighted the importance of going beyond performance marketing to forge genuine connections with customers, claiming creative brand advertising is “the only way” to truly captivate non-buyers.

“In a big organisation like Telstra, there’s a whole bunch of people who are great at converting existing demand – they are in the sales department, call centres, or stores,” he said.

“There is one department that can create future demand, and it’s called marketing. We can make this really strong emotional connection with someone who is not in the market, that no technology can target, and turn them into a future buyer.”

Highlighting another of Telstra’s iconic campaigns, Hello Christmas, to drive home his point, Smart claimed brand marketing is more effective with non-customers than performance marketing.

“Brand advertising is a multiplier that makes your performance marketing work even better,” he said.

“If we can make an emotional connection, we can create future buyers. I think that’s an incredible thing only marketing can do.”

To watch this session recording and more from Mumbrella360, head to Mumbrella Pro.


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