Optus CMO on plans to digitise the beach, and why they’re moving away from sponsorships

Nathan rosenbergDuring a talk at Cannes Lions Optus chief marketing officer Nathan Rosenberg said the brand wants to digitise the beach, with the Clever Buoy project the first part of that.

Afterwards he spoke to Alex Hayes about the plans for the brand, creating a technology incubator, why they are moving away from sponsorship, and the brand as a “wingman” for customers.

 You spoke about wanting to digitise the beach. Is Clever Buoy part of that?

Clever Buoy is the first step in that for us. It really came from the discussion around this falling to lifeguards. They’ve got outdated technology they’ve not really kept up with things in terms of technology and it’s one of those things councils have trouble continuing. So the opportunity is to come in and use technology to help them get more informed about what’s going on.

And it’s amazing how much they actually do want that, and our ability to deliver it is easy because we’re doing it every single day for consumers everywhere, so it feels like a bit of a no brainer.

The beach is so core to our psychology. 85 per cent of us live within an hour of the beach and 55 per cent of us have been to the beach within the last 12 weeks, so we know it’s a core part of where we spend our lives, it’s where people are happy, and the core part of our brand is that idea of optimism. If we grab a place where people are optimistic and bring our technology onto that then that’s really awesome.

The Clever Buoy team

The Clever Buoy team

You mentioned moving away from sponsorship, what’s the thinking behind that?

I think we’ve got a different perspective on it now. The important thing for us is what’s our role in that. If we go along and brand things it doesn’t add anything for consumers who are enjoying the event. We’ve actually had a history of supporting events, and when you’re trying to grow a brand and raise awareness that makes perfect sense. When you’ve been around for a long time the challenge for us now is proving relevance and showing Australians that context feels real, and adding value to their everyday lives.

We have had a bit of a switch in sponsorships and a switch in our approach, and how does the brand take moments that are awesome and bring people together so they can have experiences better than the last time.

You’ll see a lot more of that sort of thinking start to come through over the next couple of years. It doesn’t mean we won’t sponsor things, we have partnerships with sporting clubs but we”re really excited about the potential to drive experiences in a whole new way.

To create those moments that are shareable and people enjoy, that’s awesome.

imagesWill Clever Buoy be branded?

You’ll see on the buoy it says Ideas by Optus, and we actually have a thing where people can pitch ideas to us to use the technolgy for different things. This is the first one of those, and we have a couple more in incubation.

The goal is to roll those out over the next couple of years where it makes sense for Australians.

The brand is kind of a wingman for people, we keep people connected and always had their back by being more focussed on customer service and trying to provide great value, and this is about using technology to surprise and delight them in ways we wouldn’t expect.

Will you be putting a media spend behind these ideas to promote awareness for the brand?

I don’t know if it needs one. The whole point is people are already talking and sharing it in the relevant communities, and local councils are interested and we discuss and it makes sense.

I’d rather invest the money into creating ideas and doing something that creates better experiences rather than tell people about the experiences. Let it speak for itself. That will drive a little bit of differentiation between us and some of our competitors as well.

Does this sort of thinking take Optus ahead of competitors in Australia?

We’re so focussed on what our customers want from us and that innovation is being driven by them. They will drive their own strategies but we don’t focus on that.

If in the end it means people see our brand as being more interesting, more fun to be with then that’s a great win.

There have been changes in Optus in the last year, how is the marketing department now shaped, and have you brought in tech specialists?

I have a philosophy on hiring people which is to find people who culturally fit the environment you have as an organisation and then you an teach the skills later on. I’m not too focussed on saying I need this capability, and if they can deliver on it they’re the person I would hire.

It’s about finding a group of people you want to work with every single day.

With the restructure we’ve put brand back at the core of the business so everyone in the executive team is responsible for understanding what the brand is about and that’s a big change as we were quite product focussed in the past and it’s been transformational in how we approach things.

When people understand why you exist it becomes much easier to make decisions on what you should do. For me and my team it’s about people who want to go on that journey, have passion, are resilient as the industry changes all the time and ultimately work out how we get there. We ll work that out together and hopefully they all enjoy being there more.


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