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Current as of 09/12/16 07:39PM NZST
Personal finance and KiwiSaver columnist at the NZ Herald

Executive Success with Clive Ormerod: New industry, same ambitions

From Nike to Spark, marketer says his move isn’t really such a big leap.
Clive Ormerod says success will come when people see Spark less as a telecommunications and more as a provider of digital services. Photo / Nick Reed
Clive Ormerod says success will come when people see Spark less as a telecommunications and more as a provider of digital services. Photo / Nick Reed

From running gear to digital downloads, Clive Ormerod doesn't think it's a huge difference.

Nike's former head of marketing in Britain, Ormerod is now in charge of how the world sees telecommunications player Spark.

Although the products may be different, the ambitions are the same, he says. "The mission statement at Nike is 'athletes unleashing their potential' and at Spark it's about helping make New Zealand a better place."

The 37-year-old took charge of Spark's brand late last year, overseeing a switch from long-standing advertising partners Saatchi & Saatchi to a pairing of Colenso BBDO and Shine.

It meant flying back and forth between Britain and New Zealand, before bringing his young family to this country and officially starting at Spark's Auckland HQ in November.

Family was the big drawcard to get the South Africa-born Kiwi back home, but he says the opportunity to join a New Zealand-owned company was hard to turn down.

"Anyone in any role has a responsibility, I think, to help lead and to help change and to help the outcome.

"Here it is awesome.

"You're so close to home you can do it, you can make the calls.

"Nike was a bit tougher because you were part of a business that was probably four times the size of Spark in terms of people and you were quite removed at different points in terms of their original strategy.

"Whereas here we are helping create the strategy."

It's exactly two years since Telecom became Spark.

"I think a lot of people think we've rebranded and as a result we're done," says Ormerod. But he says the reality is that Spark is just getting started.

Following a new brand strategy and the ad agency reset, Ormerod says there has been a focus on what is happening within the company to get the culture right, with an internal platform introducing a new way of communicating, and rewarding and recognising staff launched in April.

"Because you've got to believe it.

"When you're at 5000 employees, if the team doesn't feel that, you're not going to show up the right way to customers. It just feels like a campaign or it just feels like wallpaper.

"That's been a huge part of our focus as a result."

He says that is why the company has been "totally straight up" about call-centre wait times stretching into the hours.

"We know it's not good enough, we've got it as a No.1 priority, we're working hard to fix it ... and we won't rest until we get it sorted, but internally it's also about creating an environment so when we've got that right, the outcome and how we actually present ourselves to New Zealanders is good."

As long as there is thinking or debate - good, bad or otherwise - as long as people are discussing it, I think good brands make people think something.
Clive Ormerod, Spark

In the background, Spark has added more staff and just finished a four-year, $200 million programme retiring 52 legacy systems, consolidating 41 systems and migrating more than 100 million customer inventory records to one platform.

Ormerod says if Spark doesn't get on top of what he calls "our Achilles heel" it has no hope of becoming the digital company it aspires to be.

He says weaving a complex suite of digital products into a brand comes back to people ... Nike's strong people-culture established it as an innovative, forward-thinking company in the eyes of its customers.

"It's not a small ask, but so rewarding when you get it right."

And the payoff is not only a culture that is hard for competitors to copy, but a business that attracts better candidates for jobs, he says.

Some of the first advertising under Ormerod's watch has been revealed with a series of ads based around moments of connection - a dad schooling himself up on his daughter's music tastes; schoolgirls giggling together as they use a Wi-Fi connection; a couple skyping family back in China.

Feedback on the ads has been mixed, with the father-daughter ad drawing criticism that it looked as though it was about domestic violence or health and safety, not streaming music.

Ormerod says powerful brands - whether that's Nike, Apple or a small start-up - connect with customers emotionally.

"I think that's a big opportunity for us too and our recent work has very much been around that 'hmmm, I didn't expect that to be Spark' or 'hmmm, that doesn't really ring true with what I know Spark to be'.

"As long as there is thinking or debate - good, bad or otherwise - as long as people are discussing it, I think good brands make people think something."

Success for Ormerod will be when people refer to Spark less as a telco, more as a provider of digital services.

The other piece of that will be creating the workplace environment that fosters motivated and inspired staff who are producing great work, he says.

"Regardless of what gets thrown at us ... there's going to be way more challenges than that over the years to come; we'll get through it and we'll do it in a way that shows up right for New Zealand, so I'm excited about it."

- NZ Herald

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