Personal finance and KiwiSaver columnist at the NZ Herald

Executive Success: Branding right at home with technology

These days, every campaign must include social media, says Vodafone's Louise Kuegler. Photo / Nick Reed
These days, every campaign must include social media, says Vodafone's Louise Kuegler. Photo / Nick Reed

It's been a world of firsts for Louise Kuegler since she joined Vodafone a couple of months back.

The head of brand and insights has never worked for a telco, and despite marketing some of New Zealand's best-known brands, she has never been in an organisation the size of the 3000-strong Vodafone.

It's even the first time she has needed to wear a security pass every working day.

"Things like that, in a small organisation you don't do, but the overall transition has been pretty easy and overall I think it has been helped by the fact that I've worked in a variety of organisations throughout my career," says Kuegler.

A advertising agency background has made her adaptable and the transition to the New Zealand wing of the global telecommunications giant has been relatively easy, she says.

"I think the biggest learning curve for me going into Vodafone is I haven't worked in telecommunications before.

"I'm four months in and that's been my learning curve - understanding the products and how the business works.

"The principles of marketing and branding and advertising, they effectively remain the same really, no matter what brand you're working on."

Dunedin born and bred Kuegler, 44, was head-hunted by Vodafone from clothing brand Icebreaker, where she had been global chief marketing officer since returning from working for advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather in Singapore.

"When that role came up it was really interesting to me because it was running a global brand from New Zealand and I have a big love of travel, so I was able to travel quite a bit and lead a brand from New Zealand."

Being New Zealand-based is an important factor for the mother of three boys - a 9-year-old and 7-year-old twins - as she strives to give them a Kiwi-style upbringing.

The eldest child of entrepreneurial parents, Kuegler spent school holidays in what she calls her spiritual home of Central Otago.

Pocket money was earned working in her parents' businesses - her mum ran a travel agency and her dad had a string of ventures including a chain of video stores, a bakery and a paper products factory.

"Business was quite normal and hard work was my normal," she says.

Kuegler says she spent 10 years in marketing before realising it was the creative side of marketing rather than the analytical side that was her passion.

Her career took a "pivot" into the world of advertising agencies for the next 10 years, and taking on branding at Vodafone is another pivot on her professional path, she says.

"My career hasn't taken a linear straight line but what has been consistent throughout is a love for brands, a love for marketing and a love for creativity."

The principles of marketing and branding and advertising, they effectively remain the same really no matter what brand you're working on.
Louise Kuegle

She says the Vodafone role immediately caught her attention, in part because of the way Vodafone was a technology-centred business, but also because of the scale of resources available to her, both locally and from the wider Vodafone group.

As long as she is working consistently within brand guidelines, Kuegler has the autonomy to make decisions about the creative work and advertising used in New Zealand.

"In a lot of roles now, New Zealand has to do what works in Australia, and in other companies it comes down from other places in the world as well." Coming in new, her biggest challenge in a big company is where to focus her attention internally to have most impact, she says.

Externally, the Vodafone brand has gone from being a young challenger to now, nearly 20 years after it arrived in New Zealand, being an established player in a vastly different marketplace.

It's not unfamiliar territory, she says, having encountered the same scenario at Icebreaker, a company created in the mid-90s.

"Now, 20 years later, there are over 300 [merino clothing] brands available all around the world, so the market changes and good brands and good brand strategy needs to evolve with that change, but do it in a way that it's really authentic to where your roots are and where your brand has come from."

The technology business has also changed immeasurably since Vodafone launched texting in 1999, as has the advertising world.

There's still a place for the traditional ways of connecting with consumers - print and TV advertising, billboards and the like - but now, every campaign will contain a social media element, says Kuegler.

Effective campaigns in the digital environment can be inexpensive, turned around quickly, tested and tweaked, she says.

For example, An Easter egg hunt using a 360-degree video shared on Facebook had 250,000 people vying for a prize over the four days it ran.

"It's definitely a super-exciting time to be working in marketing and branding and creativity.

"It's one of the reasons I personally love it because it's never dull and it's constantly changing.

"It's a great way to keep learning and for me it's a great way to keep feeding my natural curiosity."

- NZ Herald

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