One of New Zealand’s most high-profile and well-respected CMOs, Annemarie Browne, is moving to Lion NZ to manage some of New Zealand’s most iconic and loved brands. We sat down with her to learn more about a role she describes as a “marketer’s dream come true”, what she sees as the key challenges for marketers in 2024, and who inspires her.

Q.    What makes marketing the best job in the world?

Being a Marketer truly is the best job in the world. Every day you learn something new about people, our culture, and the communities around us. How they are changing, what is influencing their behaviour and new trends or developments that may affect them in the future.

We also have the privilege of working with every team across our organisations as well as exceptionally talented partners across a wide range of industries including technology, research, product development, creative and media.

Marketers are constantly challenged to think about how our brands fit into this changing world and how to deliver meaningful value. We have the ability to influence society, and a responsibility to ensure we do this is a positive way that supports a better future for everyone.

Q.    What do you think will be the key challenges for marketers in 2024?

With so much happening, it is easy to get lost in the clutter. So, the big challenge for 2024 and beyond, is how we can reach and engage with people in a meaningful way in what is an increasingly fragmented and ever-changing world.

New Zealand (and the world) is changing at an exponential rate; impacts of global issues economically and socially (war and climate at the top of those issues), the changing make up of New Zealand society and its citizens, and the accelerated change of global platforms are the top of mind. For marketers, these changes are significantly affecting our ability to reach audiences, driving up costs and challenging the financial viability of local platforms. They are also making it difficult to manage the constant movement in the value exchange and expectations of people and brand – so much change and so much to consider.

With so many things out of our control, we need to go back to the fundamentals and prioritise what is important for our brands, really understand our target markets and have clear measures around our objectives. We also need to be prepared to try new things and pivot if things aren’t working.

And most importantly, we need to remain relevant and authentic in everything we do.

In a world where many brand attributes are similar, having a strong brand purpose is critical for differentiating your brand with consumers.

However, your brand purpose must be authentic, and unique to you. It also needs to strongly resonate with customers and be communicated in a way that is relevant and meaningful. If you can deliver all these things, then your brand purpose will help you to gain a competitive advantage.

My only watch out is the risk of ‘purpose washing,’ where you will very quickly be caught out. Consumers will see straight through a brand purpose that is not authentic. Let’s face it, none of us wants to be in that position and the negative impact can be hard to come back from.

Q.    How can marketers best deliver value to the business?

Marketing roles have evolved significantly over the last ten years. Never have marketers been more embedded in company strategy, product innovation and technology. Now it is up to us to take up the challenge and show how we can deliver true value to the business.

This evolution means that some of us may need to upskill in certain areas. I for one, have been having a masterclass in technology for the last few years and I am sure there are plenty of marketers who could do with a shimmy up on financial analysis.

If we want to be taken seriously, we need to do the work and not fall into the trap of “just” being the communications team.

From my experience, other senior leaders in the business and industry are very generous with their time and can really help you to increase your knowledge in new areas. In addition, there are a plethora of places at your fingertips where you can access great information and resources (including the Marketing Association website) on any relevant topic.

Q.    Who inspires you – and how?

One woman who I have been incredibly impressed with is Anubha Sahasrabuddhe our Group Chief Growth Officer. Unfortunately, I missed last year’s Marketing Association Brand Summit, but the industry was buzzing about her great presentation and luckily for me, I will now be able to draw on her incredible knowledge every day.

Anubha has done a great job at raising the challenge ahead of us and highlighting the significant cultural changes occurring around us. Changes that will have an impact on the types of products and brands we create and that our customers will consume in the future.

She has also raised the need to evolve our teams to have gender and cultural diversity that reflects our customers. This is a challenge that many companies are facing, and it is great to know we have strong representation and commitment at the most senior level of the organisation to drive this change through.

In December 2023, I was very privileged to hear Indra Nooyi speak at the Bold Steps Empowering Woman’s Conference. Indra was the first woman to lead a Fortune 500 company, PepsiCo, in the United States and if you haven’t read her book, ‘My Life in Full’, please go and buy it.

I came home from the conference and told my husband that I had just seen the most impressive woman I had ever met. I don’t want to get political, but she would make a great US president!

Why so impressive? Well Indra managed to bring humanity, business success, future focus, and community all together in a way that made incredible sense. She puts it down to combining what she learnt as a child and teenager in India, with the incredible mentors and peers she worked and studied with in the US. She is one in a million and if you want inspiration, you won’t need to go much further.

I also listen to two great podcasts – ON Strategy with Fergus O’Carroll, where marketers tell the stories behind strategies that led to amazing marketing campaigns and ON with Kara Swisher. Kara interviews power players across business. Tech and media. She has a no holds barred approach and you learn something new every time.

Q.    What are you looking forward to the most in your new role?

Lion NZ has some of New Zealand’s most iconic and loved brands. Brands that have an incredible history and are embedded in the NZ way of life. Lion’s extensive portfolio of world class brands is a marketer’s dream come true.

Lion NZ is also the market leader in innovation, with a clear goal of meeting New Zealanders evolving beverage occasion needs. This had led to a much wider product portfolio, including their winning non-alcoholic and low carb products. The focus on understanding and meeting the diverse needs of our changing society, both in New Zealand and across the world, is an area I am incredibly interested in and excited to be working on.

Meeting the team, you can’t help but feel their positive energy and motivation to deliver the new company purpose – “to make the moment mean more.” There is significant opportunity ahead and I am delighted to be part of the team that will embed Lion NZ brands across New Zealand for many generations to come.

Q.     What role do marketers have in keeping customers safe?

When you work in an industry category where there is potential for harm, the responsibility for protecting customers should be a key focus and responsibility of everyone in the company. Organisations love to talk about putting their customers first, but to build valuable long-term relationships with customers, you need to do everything within your power to keep them safe.

Government and industry regulators set guard rails for us to work within, but I believe regulation is the absolute minimum level to which we should adhere.

At Lotto NZ, minimising potential harm to players is a core pillar of the strategy and a key consideration in every business decision.

Over the last few years Lotto has invested heavily in educating the internal team, retailers, and customers; empowering them to make more informed decisions. This work has been supported with wider communications, such as the recent ‘Did you Know’ campaign, aimed at dispelling some of the myths that can encourage players to spend more. Last year we also co-designed specific Māori and Pasifika communications to be more relevant to at-risk communities, and soon, new technology will allow the team to track behavioural data and proactively support players in real time to prevent harm before it occurs.

I have been incredibly impressed to see how strong Lion NZ’s commitment is to their customers and communities and how firmly it sits within their overall business strategy. There are a lot of synergies across the categories, which will I hope will enable me to add value in this area and empower our customers to make good decisions.

Interview conducted by Marketing Association. Big Thank you to Annemarie for her participation.