Future Fit

with Natasa Zunic- Vodafone, General Manager Brand and Marketing


Marketing love is the thread that weaves Natasa Zunic’s career together. Her experience of marketing is as diverse as a career can be, beginning in pharmaceuticals at Colgate, moving to FMCG at Cadbury, spending time in QSR at KFC and then arriving at Vodafone, nearly four years ago. Each experience has added a new and different piece to her understanding of what it takes to be Future Fit. In FMCG, she learned to control business drivers, manage a P&L and excel in general management. In QSR, she learned how to step into ambiguity and lead her team through it in a very hyper-competitive market. “Lots of testing and learning, lots of experimentation, a lot of in-market failures, getting back in and driving towards a successful business outcome,” she notes.   

Now she sees what has to pave the future in telcos. “I'm trying to drive a more consumer-centric orientation into what has been traditionally quite a product focused organisation industry.”

“Out with the old ways of working, in with the new”

The telco industry has changed significantly in the last three and a half years. The rapid advances in technology of the past are moving into the background. “There's a lot of talk about the advent of 5G but right now, consumer interaction with devices and the innovation side of devices are slowing down. Devices are becoming a commoditised product. What that does is put a greater emphasis on telcos to be innovating, upgrading and differentiating in ways other than the innovation of devices,” Zunic notes.

Zunic’s quest for a consumer-centric orientation is beginning to come to the fore. “Now the telco has to play a larger role in terms of brand love. We need to be building brand equity through a stronger customer experience.”

“Big brand, big challenges”

Vodafone is a massive global brand. Its challenge, Zunic explains, “is our need to constantly challenge the status quo. Telco is a very low involvement category. Consumers usually only think about it when something goes wrong. What we can do to continue to build our global strength is to keep working out how to do things differently, to keep giving Australians more choice and more freedom in how they wish to connect.”

When it comes to building the brand in Australia, the same need applies – challenging the status quo, Zunic notes. “For example, we obviously want to build equity amongst domestic users, but also we're very popular with international students. So, we use the fact that Australians love to travel to reach both. As we build love for Vodafone in Australia with $5 roaming and our IDD minutes proposition, we capture love and spread equity around the world.”

“Embracing uncertainty”

The telco industry moves fast. Its future is unpredictable. For a telco, being Future Fit cannot rely on certainties. So at Vodafone, it relies on trust. “We always have had our eye on trust, but more so now in the context of what's going on in both the corporate and political environment. We know that one of the key drivers in the telco category is trust. We are working day by day to ensure that we have a process and a framework in place. That we are transparent with our consumers. Obviously, that is a marathon, not a sprint. What we're doing is ensuring that the foundation of trust is strong as we challenge the market with products and develop how our brand is experienced.”

“An unpredictable future needs an adaptable team”

How do you train a marketing team to be adaptable? Firstly, Zunic explains, by ensuring that we are always building consumer empathy, “and I do that with a capabilities program that I developed when I came to Vodafone. It makes use of our understanding of what consumers are thinking, how they're feeling and what their needs are.” Secondly, she adds, with a lot of testing and learning. “While we've been doing that now for a while in the digital media space, we're now taking that into all the work that we're doing. Everyone, from the most senior to the most junior in the team is encouraged to test and learn, to fail, to get to a solution and to get that into market, to drive a business outcome.” Thirdly, by finding new ways to understand the changing consumer in the next five years. To keep an open mind across all target segments. There’s a lot of focus on millennials and Gen Z but the older population is growing faster, she notes.


How does Vodafone stay Future Fit?


By relentlessly challenging the big guys. By learning from all industries. By learning from the majors, disruptors and start-ups. In fact, the latest campaign work we did was inspired by Nike’s Kaepernick campaign about standing for something and demonstrating your values. Part of our being Future Fit is finding nuggets like that, which are driving other businesses, and by assessing whether we should be looking at partnership. I think partnerships are increasingly important. We can't do everything on our own, especially as a challenger brand. How we partner will drive new kinds of innovation as the innovation pipeline for some of our smartphones starts to decline.


What does being Future Fit mean to Natasa Zunic?

Firstly, by putting what the consumer wants first. By staying close to my consumers. Secondly, by watching what smaller brands and start-ups are doing, whether they’re in the telco industry or not. They’re often the ones doing really interesting things.


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