CMO50 2022 #26-50: Caroline Ruddick – chief marketing officer, CMO role, marketing leadership, CMO50, CMO50 2022 – CMO 50- CMO Australia

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It’s funny how careers work out sometimes.

Caroline Ruddick, currently general manager of marketing for Maurice Blackburn (MB), at one point in her career was offered a transfer to South Korea.

“When working in the packaged goods category I was offered a transfer to South Korea, in a sales leadership role, but it was not my dream job or location. I went instead to work at George Patterson Bates for three years, which set me up perfectly for my next step, which was my dream job and location.

“I spent almost three years living in New York City and working in advertising at Grey Worldwide. I had the time of my life personally and professionally.”

This personal career bravery now is translated into brand bravery – something she knows all too well in her current role.

“Bravery is leaning in and making the right calls for our clients and our business, even if they are not the most popular calls. Bravery is not being sucked into the politics, but managing the expectations of those around you, bringing them on the journey and supporting your decisions with data and a great rationale. 

“I want my team to make the best calls in whatever they do, and if they make a call that turns out not to be the right call, to learn from it and not be afraid to keep making the best calls every time.”

Innovative marketing

In 2020, Ruddick led a brand refresh program to support delivery of the three-year business strategy. As a result, she embarked on a comprehensive research program to better understand MB client needs, its brand positioning, and brand health.

“The refreshed brand is key to defending our leading position in core businesses. It provides a platform to extend access to justice through innovation, and provides a platform for digital legal services,” she explains.

All elements of the program were validated extensively through qualitative and quantitative research, and were based on client-led insight.

The program includes:

A category-leading new campaign platform that researched in the top 95% of performance for neuroscience-validated campaigns;

Broadcast and activation media to support new positioning; and

A new brand identity and improved tone of voice.

“When we were researching our new campaign platform we had a moment in creative strategy development when we could have taken a different direction. I had a call at 5.30pm on a Friday night with Howatson+Company and told them the work was good but it was not great,” she says.

“I wanted something with more cut through which would get noticed. By 5pm Monday we had our new ‘Upside Down’ concept, which is based on the premise when people have a life changing injury or incident happen to them, they feel unsettled and as if their world is turned upside down. It is unique as an advertising concept and breakthrough for the category.”

Ruddick explains the new, disruptive brand platform turns category norms on its head, and was grounded in consumer insight. She says when people seek a law firm, it’s often because something had turned their whole world upside down.

“This insight was subsequently used as a visual metaphor, with video assets commencing with footage which  has been flipped 180 degrees horizontally, before being rotated back to normal.”

After two months in market, the expectations from Kantar modelling were brand health would decline before stabilising within six months. However, brand health did not decline as expected.

Data-driven maturity

Improving the client experience is a foundation of Maurice Blackburn’s strategy. The firm had fallen behind client expectations and competitor capabilities in its digital experience.

“Our website had poor conversion, high bounce rates and clunky user experiences. Client expectations are set by their experiences with the likes of Uber, Netflix, Spotify and banking apps,” Ruddick says.

They expect all organisations will offer the same digital capabilities and experiences. Clients expect a simple, easy, personalised and frictionless experience. MB needed to not just catch up but to leapfrog the competition and improve our speed to market.”

Ruddick led the digital experience project (DXP) as executive sponsor to achieve the step-change in digital capabilities needed to meet today’s client expectations. The objective was to set the firm up for success by improving its ability to convert people seeking legal services into potential MB clients. 

The DXP is critical to laying the foundation for a digital and needed to be best in class. Customers needed the ability for personalised contextual experiences, improved user journeys, the ability for language translation, and the ability to seamlessly complete free claim checks and do web submits, which are seamless and easy. In short, they needed smart mobile-optimised experiences.

Through an RFP process, Deloitte Digital was selected as a vendor to implement the Adobe DXP as the platform of choice, and the Board endorsed the selection. The project was delivered on time and under budget. 

“Early results are extremely encouraging, with the new brand website version launching in May 2022. Web enquiries, click-to-call and ’get in touch’ forms are at an all-time peak,” Ruddick says. 

Customer-led value

Ruddick explains, when she arrived at Maurice Blackburn, it had siloed areas to support communications with different stakeholder groups, unclear target audiences, inconsistency of messaging, unclear ownership of channel, and duplication of effort. 

“If we were to succeed in transitioning our new strategic positioning, we needed to get a lot better at how we went to market and needed strong and clear messaging, not only at a brand level, but at a product and service level,” she says.

She established a project which reached across Business Development, Public Affairs, Internal Comms and Marketing and developed stakeholder engagement plans, which asked:

Who were primary and secondary owners of all communications channels?

Who were the target audiences within each channel?

What were the key messages delivered to the primary audiences in those channels?

In addition, she developed a key messaging framework which not only covered brand-level messaging, but key messages by product and service areas, so messaging could be strong and consistent across all channels.

“We held workshops to refine the messaging and timing to market the brand positioning transition, with influencer groups, such as unions and key referrers of legal services briefed in advance of the new campaign going to market,” she says.

“The result was we had clarity of roles cross-functionally, clarity of key channel ownership, alignment of messaging and a successful launch of the new brand transition. We have delivered a major strategic brand change with minimal impact to all stakeholder groups, no issues in understanding or clarity of messaging and, most importantly, every channel is consistent in message for brand and practice area.”

Commercial acumen

In the last Financial Year, Ruddick established five key priorities for the marketing team:

1. Building a highly engaged and high-performing team;

2. The foundations – key strategic projects;

3. Delivering practice area targets -‘the what’ and ‘the how’;

4. Evolving media performance; and 

5. Step changing stakeholder engagement.

Each priority had key goals and objectives to be achieved. Everyone knew what they were, and had bought in and aligned their individual goals to these projects and initiatives. 

“We developed marketing plans which had not existed previously. We defined the key goals and objectives which enabled the team to proceed and execute with excellence, knowing what they needed to achieve, by when, and who was responsible to achieve it.”

To be ‘highly engaged and high-performing’, all agreed the following were essential and initiatives were established to ensure these were in place: Clear accountabilities and goals; clear development plans; defined operating rhythm; focus on engagement and fun; and define ways of working/processes.

“We had a focus on culture and agreed as a team on the three initiatives we would own to take our engagement to the next level. The team took accountability for the following:

“Initiatives: Role clarity – owned by the leaders who ran a process to resolve ambiguity; Wellbeing – we formed teams to take part in StepTember and competed, did meditation, and walking meetings; and Flexibility and work balance – people could work their own hours when they needed flex around family, friends, and lifestyle commitments such as the gym, hair appointments, massages or taking their grandmother to lunch.

“We delivered a brand refresh and a DXP implementation on time and under budget, with an engagement score of 78 per cent above best practice and a ‘recommend my manager’ score of 95 per cent.

“My team and our partners have done an outstanding job researching and developing all the work, and it was executed seamlessly, on time, under budget and has outperformed expectations. I am so proud of them all.

“I believe truly great marketing can’t exist without gut feel and is based on the accumulated knowledge you have about your business and your category and most importantly about your clients. Data is the foundational layer – all the insights and knowledge to develop your strategy and your plan to go forward. Data helps you to execute and operationalise your plan. 

“However, no matter what category or vertical you work within, the really great magic comes from your gut. The brand identity development we did was based on gut, the campaign platform we developed was grounded in data but developed and evaluated based on gut. I think in today’s world data plays a bigger part than it used to, I would say it’s 70 per cent data and 30 per cent gut feel. Without the gut feel, the magic doesn’t exist.”

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