Banking is a big spending, competitive sector. NAB’s new CMO Andrew Knott joined from McDonald’s six months ago and has lofty aspirations for the bank. Sarah Homewood sits down with him to talk about his digital focus, putting customers first and if the brand is set for a pitch.
Six months in as chief marketing officer of the National Australia Bank, Andrew Knott, already has lofty aspirations for the organisation.
Knott, the former VP of media and digital for McDonald’s APAC, Middle East and Africa, has thrown down the gauntlet to his team to ensure NAB is the “best marketing organisation in Australia, if not globally.”
No small challenge.
With the tenure of marketing directors and CMOs ever-shortening, many are there to make waves and use the post as a steppping stone to the next thing. It’s often the new CMO’s modus operandi to commence a role, shake things up, and often call a pitch. That’s not Knott’s plan.
NAB works with Mindshare and Clemenger BBDO and talks about a code of honour between clients and agency partners. He is open about the fact that often the fault in poor relationships can lie with clients. While he added the caveat “never say never” this new CMO isn’t plotting a review any time soon.
He is focused on building partnerships and enabling his team to make brave decisions to ensure both parties get the most out of the relationship.
“I am very resistant to the idea of a new CMO changing the agency, redoing the brand, restructuring and then leaving,” he explained.
“I’ve seen a lot of situations where the agency is bearing the brunt of lack of transformation on the client side. Generally there’s no one sitting on the other side of the fence who has the capability, the seniority or the ambition to be prepared to buy bold thinking.
“We’ve got some fantastic talent in our team; what I want to make sure is that they’re empowered to try new things; not afraid of failing; and can constantly push and learn through that process. I think in doing that, hopefully we’ll get even more out of our agency partnerships than we are today.”
When Knott came on board one of the many things he was tasked with was driving customer centricity at the bank – something he says fits very much with his style of marketing.
“I consider myself a customer-driven marketer as opposed to a strategic brand marketer,” he explained. “What attracted me to NAB was that there is an absolute top-down commitment to the customer. The way in which our senior leadership is incentivised is very much aligned with customer advocacy, so we’re already on the journey.”
Being customer-focused doesn’t mean he isn’t brand-focused, rather he sees where the true control of the brand lies.
“I don’t see the two as being mutually exclusive, but my starting point is with the customer rather than the brand. I had the revelation about 20 years ago that the customer is in control and I fundamentally believe that we don’t own our brand, our customers do. Our customers build their perception of our brand from every interaction they have with us.”
These interactions are only getting more and more complex due to the shifting nature of the customer journey, but for Knott it’s an exciting challenge for the bank to be as agile as its customers.
“Our customers and consumers in general are moving their behaviours and life experiences far more rapidly than brands are; it’s beholden on us to get a move on otherwise that gap is just going to get larger,” he said.
Knott reckons it can be done by ensuring the bank gets one thing right.
“It comes down to one simple truth, which is talent,” he said.
With a digital background at McDonald’s and before that agency side with Havas in Asia Pacific, he’s keenly aware of the shortage of digital talent, particularly with an analytics and mobile focus. But luckily for him as banking is one of the biggest sectors in Australia, it can offer opportunities other sectors can’t.
“One of the key focus areas to attract the top talent is to give them opportunity and in a market like Australia it doesn’t really come any bigger than the banks,” he said.
“The short answer is we need to evolve to ensure that we’re continuously relevant, that we have the right skills focusing on the right things and that we’re structured to be able to do that efficiently in what is an increasingly complex way of going to market.”
Banking brands are growing rapidly in Australia according to Brand Finance’s Banking 500 survey and while NAB sits in the top four in the rankings given by the study, it’s behind Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, and Westpac and faces some stiff competition.
Knott however believes NAB has been able to differentiate itself with its ‘More give. Less take’ positioning, but he’s already asking how the value behind this positioning can be evolved.
“I’ve never believed in going head to head on a spend basis, but finding ways where you can tell your brand story in the most compelling way and what your brand stands for and that’s what we’re continuously looking at doing,” he said.
When it comes to spend, Knott revealed that 40% of his budget already goes to digital channels adding that as more media formats become addressable, he wants to ensure the bank is using its data in the right way so it can become increasingly targeted with the messages it puts out there.
“So, thinking about how we connect with our customers through the right channels at the right time with an appropriate call to action – and I think inherent within that – is actually moving from marketing being seen as a support function to actually really representing the customer into the enterprise,” he said.
While this all appears like a very long to-do list, Knott said he’s going to use an old adage to help him through.
“How do you eat an elephant? A little piece at a time.”
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