AustralianSuper’s resident content marketing superstar Holly Jones and Ubiquity Lab’s Matt Allison teamed up at Mumbrella360 recently to unveil how the fund is leveraging emotion and storytelling to bring its brand value proposition to life.
In a whirlwind 30 minutes, the pair traversed the ‘attention economy’, how data is content marketing’s cornerstone, the process AustralianSuper undertook to develop emotional territories, and how these insights can be optimised across all paid, owned and earned channels.
“I loved sharing how focused content strategy and execution needs to be a core element of an integrated marketing mix,” Holly says. “Collectively, this accelerates your ability to deliver business goals.
“Mumbrella360 attracts some of the best in the business and it was great to showcase how AustralianSuper leverages content marketing to connect with people. It really is the catalyst to embed your brand, increase salience and drive loyalty and conversion – ultimately positively impacting the bottom line.”
Since the event, both Holly and Matt have been hit from all quarters for more information. And given that we’re a crew who likes giving, we thought we’d open the kimono and share the deck and transcript.
Our Mumbrella360 transcript
Intro: Olivia Krumel (Mumbrella360)
Hi, everyone, I’m Olivia Krumel Mumbrella’s Managing Editor, News and Analysis. Up next, we have “how to optimise and engage by uniting customer brand and performance marketing.” Joining us for this session is Matt Allison from Ubiquity Lab and Holly Jones from AustralianSuper.
Thanks, Olivia. Hi, everyone, we’re going to crack right on because HJ and I are both pretty partial to a chat and we need to stick to these 20 minutes. So let’s just dive into it.
We live in an attention economy… Yelling has bred apathy and distrust
One of my favourite quotes of all time comes from Joe Pulizzi, who founded the Content Marketing Institute, and he said, ‘Customers don’t care about your products or services. They care about their needs and their pain points’, or words to that effect.
And what he’s really talking about for me, even though he’s from a content marketing background, it’s market orientation, and it’s basic stuff. It’s been around forever, Kotler was talking about this in the 70s and the need to create value rather than just selling.
I think it’s becoming more and more relevant or important today than at any time in our history.
And for me, that’s because we live in an attention economy.
What I mean by that is we’re bombarded by information from the second that we wake up every morning. So 30 years ago, you’d see 2,000 ads a day. Today that’s up to 10,000.
Now, when we think about Ehrenberg Bass research that says 84 per cent of those ads aren’t noticed or remembered, and then we compound that by the fact you’ve got democratisation of content, so there’s more and more of that – emails, work, social, etc.
So how do we win? We need to reframe how we engage with customers so that we’re starting to pull them into our marketing ecosystem willingly. And one of the best ways to do that is content marketing.
The only caveat to that is I’m not here to say content marketing is the be-all and end-all. It’s really important that content and the role of owned sits within the broader paid, owned and earned ecosystem.
We needed to demonstrate WHY & HOW we are a members’ trustworthy guide
I think finding a way to connect through content is a very common challenge. To address the issue at AustralianSuper we started by looking at our core brand purpose, which is to help all members achieve their best possible retirement outcomes.
Obviously, super is something that most people don’t want to think about all or the time, or necessarily have time for. We needed to find a way to connect beyond product and service and engage on a more emotional level.
We know from our owned insights that people make decisions about their super with their hearts and their heads. And we know that trust plays a huge part too.
I’ve just got one point to add. We’re talking about strategy, and for me, AustralianSuper has been so strategic in how they’ve approached this and built an entire integrated mix.
Building long-term brand loyalty and trust: strategic priorities
To catch our brand and content marketing needs, we focused on three core principles:
The thing I love about what AustralianSuper has done is they have a sophisticated content marketing strategy that’s documented. I mean, research shows 30 per cent of B2B or only 30 per cent of the B2C markets and 40 per cent of B2B marketers actually have a documented strategy or content strategy.
But I think even more important is integration. So their strategy extends their broader marketing strategies (i.e. acquisition, retention, etc.). It is not a standalone or a silo.
How to find the nexus of emotional, utility and commercial content
Which sort of leads us to the point of how do you develop a best in class content marketing strategy.
This slide is a bit messy, but we’re trying to show the sort of linear process that we’ve gone through. If we dumb this down, the approach that we took with AustralianSuper to help them capture this was the 3 Cs.
So, it’s focusing on what are the commercial outcomes, the customers and the competitors. And from my perspective, it’s such an interesting conversation.
I’m sitting there and looking at what are the commercial outcomes that the business is trying to drive and then let’s get really clear and weight those. So it could be 70 per cent acquisition, 20 per cent retention, 10 per cent cross-sell to achieve our financial targets for the year. There’s often a lot of debate about that.
But it’s critical because unless you know what success looks like, there’s no way to work out how you’re going to get there.
The next one for me is customers. So which customers are going to drive the commercial outcomes that we’ve just agreed that we’re delivering to? And it’s getting really granular.
Typically an answer we receive with this is ‘our target audience is women.’ And I’m like, yep, sort of useless, to be honest. Like if you’re only doing one ad or one piece of content for the year, are we doing a vanilla piece of content to women, which is half of the population, or are we getting a lot more granular?
And this is where you have to get granular and look at the different stages of people’s lives, or if it’s in a B2B sense, you know in careers, where you can actually add that value.
And then it’s examining competitors, and this is really, really important. I think a lot of people often look at category competitors. If we think back to the attention economy, I mean, your competitors are cat videos. So it’s thinking a lot more broadly than just your competitors.
For AustralianSuper, if they’re talking about finances, you could have a bank as a competitor who isn’t within that category.
You know, you could have the financial section of the newspaper. But by mashing all of this together, we can start to develop what we call hypothesis territories around what the business wants to stand for and find that nexus of what customers actually care about.
And we’ve got the chops and the proof points to talk about.
Data unlocks intent-led emotional territories
Next part for me is data. We could do the whole 20 minutes on this slide and the role of data, but we won’t.
But effectively, we need to validate the hypotheses that we’ve developed during the previous step of developing a strategy to actually make fact-based decisions for a B2C brand.
This is often around search data to understand the true intent of what people are looking for.
From a B2B perspective, particularly for niche players search isn’t as important from a mass audience perspective.
So it might be a mix of qualitative and quantitative data that we’re looking for. But I think for me, the key is just being really clear that we need to make data-led decisions instead of gut feel.
Permission to speak: emotional territories and storytelling marketing
And this leads us really nicely to AustralianSuper’s territory, so obviously we’ve got a couple greyed out because it’s commercial in confidence and Holly’s going to talk you through gender equality.
But this for me is what we’re able to formulate from that nexus, from validating it through data. These are the conversations that we want to own, the conversations we want to lead and conversations that should be atomised.
So, if we look at gender equality, that’s a conversation that AustralianSuper has with government, that it has with the ASX, it has with B2B, it has with B2C – you know it’s different in terms of how we communicate it in the message. But it’s a platform that we can build around.
The other point to note with this is navigating super is overarching, and there’s a fundamental reason for that.
Even though we might be engaging initially based on intent or other factors, we’re focused on super.
As we move through this, the target audience is critical. If we look, you can see that primary female audience, 85 per cent of that is mums or women who are planning for retirement.
This is a lot broader target audience than we would normally have. AustralianSuper’s a little bit different because obviously by law, everybody has superannuation. So their target market, they are one of the very few companies whose target market is all Australians over 18.
But it’s still quite a niche within that. Then we marry down. We’ve got segments and proof points, which obviously aren’t listed again for commercial reasons. But it’s really important because the segments have to marry up with the target audience for the content and the proof points are our permission to speak.
So while it’s condensed, I think this becomes a really, really clear blueprint for the territories that we’re then going for, or the consumers we are going after across all paid, owned and earned channels.
The territories under that give us the space to deepen the conversations and allow for creative thinking. So, for example, as Matt said, gender equality is a focus for us. It’s an area that we’re really passionate about as a fund.
We want all Australians to have a dignified retirement. But the issues represented by a lack of gender equality in Australia means that this isn’t always the case, especially for women.
So women get paid on average 14 per cent less than men. Still, they typically have 42 per cent less than men when they retire. And we know that super’s not paid on parental leave or cares leave. Both of these things are also commonly carried out by women. But as a fund, we can help shine a light on the issues in the content we develop.
The challenge for us is: how do we get women – especially parents, single women or women who don’t work – to connect to their super, find time for it and also take financial control of their futures?
And that is a wonderful segue. So, how we do that is through the data.
When we start to really map intent and analyse what people want, we’re able to have much more nuanced conversations with them through content and other activity at all of the different stages of the sales funnel.
A content-led stand: gender equality isn’t tokenism
Diving into the data really allows us to rationalise our thinking and put some proof points behind it. If the data is not there, again – is it the right conversation to be having?
So for us, we already had some assets which spoke to this topic. We had a white paper, we had webinars, we had thought leadership articles. And this really is an always-on topic for us.
Integrated owned storytelling marketing and utility
We also were able to lean on national days like Equal Pay Day, for example, and be part of a broader conversation when people were already listening.
And I think that’s a really great way, and it’s another way to get your brand into a conversation that you want to be part of.
Why emotional connection matters
I feel like we just spoke to this one and I forgot to say, yeah, all my fault. So Les Binet and Peter Field have been the star of this conference. I mean, particularly on day one.
This slide’s been shown before, so, look, I’m not going to labour it except to say when I read their research, which a lot of people will go, it’s advertising. It’s actually about seamlessly integrating paid, owned and earned channels.
And when I look at this slide, in particular, it’s around the role of emotional drivers to drive growth. And for me, one of the best ways to do this is content marketing.
Content allows you to become a storyteller, particularly through video and longer-form, in a much deeper way than the 30 second TV spot is ever going to do.
It lets you build these long-term brand associations with people. It actually helps you win hearts and minds rather than just talking on a functional level; it makes you more profitable and insulates you from price sensitivities and the like.
And it goes back to me to the very first light around the attention economy is people care about people.
How do we be not more human as a brand, but how do we better understand their intent and leverage that so we can have different conversations that aren’t completely functional?
Yeah, I mean, our voice of customer insights told us that our brand and reputation was strong, but we didn’t really have an emotional point of difference or an emotional direction to lead our content development, which is one of the reasons for us that we started this project.
On the surface, super is not an emotional topic, but actually, when you hear stories from members and you look at the work that we do as a fund to advocate for better outcomes, it actually has really strong emotional elements that translate well to storytelling. So it’s a big opportunity for us I think.
It is. And I think we find this so often that people say it’s not, you know, our industry or our category isn’t emotional.
But when you actually start to unpack it, in many instances, it is. Because I look at, and this is how it’s being promoted internally now, and how we’re starting to leverage it. When I look at super, it’s about your parents. It’s about, you know, how do people enjoy the best years of their life? It’s actually about living life to the best as opposed to the product.
The product is how you get there, but it’s around enjoying those great issues. And it’s a subtle shift. But I think that this is what we’re talking about with looking at things from an emotional perspective. And that’s people’s intent is wanting to have the best possible retirement.
Needs-based content powers performance marketing
And then we get to how do we start to integrate it. So, this to me again, is about building up free leads, as I call it, organic traffic. And AustralianSuper’s doing this really well.
They have really clear data. They’re starting to rank on page one and they’re seeing massive increases in the organic traffic coming through.
And if we play this out in real life, it lets us start to optimise the mix like this. So, you know, AustralianSuper knows exactly what people are searching for, and that’s going after discrete, intent-based searches like the gender pay gap, obviously with superannuation in there, as opposed to big generic keywords with massive volumes in competition. But then the intent’s wrong.
We’re pulling people into the marketing ecosystem. They’re engaging with content. We’re able to serve them similar content (i.e. nurture the journey and move them deeper down the funnel or direct them to tools or product pages).
When they do leave, we’re able to be far more effective in our performance marketing. Now, the insights that’s able to generate, as well as the data, means that you can be a lot more effective.
And if I look at this with another client, recently, we were pulling together some of the data by understanding intent, and their SEM increased by 500 per cent in terms of sales. And this is in a six-month period, its cost dropped by half.
And it was all because they were able to make their performance marketing a lot more efficient. We were able to streamline landing pages, etc.
Owned sophistication: it’s bloody hard
This is a great slide for me and really for anyone who is embarking on their content marketing journey. It’s really a roadmap to content marketing maturity excellence, and I want to give the stages some context based on my experience.
If we look at the REA Group, for example, they are sprinting. They’ve monetised their editorial and video content, which they did a few years ago now. They’ve got an amazing content set up in-house. They’ve got chief economists, native content editors, they’ve got journalists. It’s such a great model to aspire to.
But it started with a team of just two or three people and a very low budget.
For AustralianSuper we’re probably more around the jog stage in our journey. Content and execution are still fairly new to the business, but we’re working on a few elements of run too, and some are more achievable than others. I think the important thing to remember is that it really is a journey.
That connection doesn’t happen overnight, and it does need people to drive it. But ultimately it’s going to be worth it because good content will offer your business evergreen and long term value.
I’d personally say that Holly’s being a bit modest, saying they’re at jog. I’d say they’re straddling jog and run.
I think it’s really interesting that most organisations in Australia are at walk to jog. When I look at sprint it’s more aspirational than realistic for a lot of organisations. And a lot of organisations don’t actually need to be at sprint.
But as Holly said, this provides a really clear roadmap. And if we go back to people not having a content marketing strategy document, then you are unequivocally at walk.
You cannot get the internal buy-in. You’re not able to leverage the data, you know, you’ve got to start there. And then it’s how you start to progress through each of these stages in a really linear fashion.
And I think that’s where obviously it’s too high level. We could do the whole 20 minutes on this. But Holly and I often sit here and reflect on where AustralianSuper started and how quickly they’ve moved through.
It’s not this simple, but you could almost sit here and just tick all items off, and you see the results that you’re able to generate and everything associated with that improve immeasurably each step further across that you get.
I think the other key point here is that your strategy doesn’t have to start at sprint either, sometimes starting simple and just really doing something that everyone can grab hold of and align to is a much better place to start than just going straight to run and sprint, which I see a lot of people doing.
Learnings to win at content marketing and digital storytelling
Yes, I completely agree, and I think given we’re two of the chattiest people in Australia. The fact that we’ve finished pretty much bang on 20 minutes is a testament and probably more good luck than anything else.
The final slide that I was going to pull up with this was just the key learnings. And this for me, if we reflect on it, is:
Questions / five 30-minute strategy sessions
This is the last slide. It’s not a gratuitous self-plug. We’re just figuring if you’ve been here this long, you probably are interested in strategy.
Our free e-book on the website will help you break this 20-minute session down into a lot more information. And look, I’ve said if there’s a couple of people who want to explore this more, just contact us, and I’m happy to chat through your problems and how content can help solve them. And that’s us wrapped.
Conclusion: Olivia Krumel
Well, thank you both for those insights. Highly valuable as someone who’s been in those shoes before, I completely agree with what you’re saying. Leading the people to the content and making sure that it’s relevant to them is just so important and increasingly important. So thank you both.