Trade Me are a true kiwi success story built on attitude and connection. We talked to Roxy Huntington, head of design, about their recent rebrand and the 'why' behind it.
How can companies build a strong brand and why is it important?
In a nutshell you need your brand to connect emotionally to your audience to survive. Nothing surprising there.
New Zealand is a really diverse and changing market. What people wanted ten years ago isn’t what they want today and it certainly won’t be the same ten years from now. A strong brand can hold the attention of people throughout these changes and grow.
We couldn’t help but notice that the NZ online market was changing rapidly, and our competitors were challenging us in new ways from many different directions. That’s the problem with covering such a range of services; you’re relevant to many but also open to attack from those smaller, niche players.
Last year we embarked on some pretty comprehensive brand research that involved asking our audience (and staff and stakeholders) what they thought of us. Their response was that Trade Me is just always “there”, taken for granted; they hadn’t noticed us evolving. That meant we needed to remind our members of what Trade Me is now and how we’ve moved with the times. We needed to tell our story.
We then asked ourselves if that was all we were, all we could be? And from that question we found a central theme running through all we do and create. Each transaction, each connection is a new story, a chapter in someone’s life – from your first car, to meeting your soul mate, and buying your house. Trade Me is there for those big and small moments in life. We’re the one company that can truthfully say, hand on heart, we are relevant to every Kiwi’s life no matter your age, gender, location or interests. There’s something for everyone across our range of products.
Once we had that realisation we could build our brand strategy and unify ourselves, build on the equity behind a single master brand that supported everything we did, while still allowing our sub brands and group companies to do what they needed to do.
What to consider when building your brand
A brand is much more than a logo change, it touches every product, market, transaction and interaction. The product that people use every day is your greatest brand ambassador.
At Trade Me that means injecting excitement and energy into everything - from our logo, to our icon set and our future products. My background is in brand creation so I knew that after the hard work of defining a brand comes the journey that embeds it into your culture.
Once you have built your brand you have to keep going, keep telling your stories, keep testing that you are aligned with its values and personality. One of the ways we have done that is by creating a brand governance group that examines large pieces of work and asks – “Is this consistent with our personality? Is this good for the Trade Me brand?”
That can be really hard with a company as diverse as ours. Our brand needs to work for someone selling their childhood toys, selling their house, recruiting staff, or looking for affordable insurance.
What is emotional branding as opposed to data driven marketing?
Data driven marketing helps us understand what our customers are already looking for. We can use that information to give them the services and products they need and to improve our marketing’s effectiveness over time.
Branding and marketing with emotive goals can still be data driven, but are a reverse approach in that they seek to influence emotion first and behaviour as a consequence.
The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Doing both well will become the price of entry and a competitive edge in a marketing landscape with duelling tech and content prerogative’s.
What do customers respond to well in a brand?
For us, I think it’s honesty and consistency. A brand that behaves in a consistent way, that builds and delivers on its promises, and is in line with its audience’s expectations. What you see it what you get goes a long way.
When is it the right time to rebrand and why?
Firstly, I wouldn’t consider our recent work to be a rebrand. We feel it’s a refresh that builds on our history and the ownership that New Zealanders feel towards Trade Me. We weren’t looking to reinvent the wheel; simply to bring our visual brand and marketing in line with our members expectations and our intentions for the future.
Trade Me has grown healthily for a long time and we hadn’t considered marketing ourselves overtly. We were focused on what we did, rather than why or how we did it. We were not as vocal in some places as we could have been; just getting on and getting things done rather than always crowing about it.
In a strange way, we were kind of like a friend who you take for granted. We’re just reminding people that we’ve always been there for them and we’ll continue to be.
That realisation gave us the energy and drive to do better for our members and ensure that we became part of their lives rather than a portal for transactions.
It’s different for every company, but at some stage there will be a challenge that asks why. For Trade Me the answer is because life lives here.