5 Questions with Telstra CMO, Joe Pollard

Nathan Birch, Interbrand CEO Australia interviews Joe Pollard, Telstra Chief Marketing Officer. Joe talks about how Telstra is increasing its international investments and the importance of the Asia Pacific market in driving growth for its Enterprise business, in particular.

Where is Telstra at in its brand journey in the Asian region?

Telstra Q&A Interbrand

Telstra is on a journey to strengthen our global brand and bring to life what it means to be a world class technology company. In July 2016, we took the step to evolve our brand with a promise to create better ways for everyone to thrive in a connected world. Our new brand work and clearly articulated vision was specifically designed to help us become a truly global brand. This was, and continues to be, important for our business, and our enterprise business, in particular, to help unlock new growth opportunities, to continue to evolve our business portfolio and transform towards a scalable and global enterprise platform.

Asia is an especially important region for Telstra as growth in our enterprise business is increasingly coming from our international portfolio, especially in Asian countries. We have come a long way in the last few years, from 8% awareness across Asia in Dec 2014 to 33% in March of 2017. Asia, however is a not just one homogenous market for us, so the awareness and consideration levels differ considerably across countries, with some as high as 71%. It is worth noting that we have increased our investment in the region, with the acquisition in 2014 of the Asia-based telecommunications provider, Pacnet, which owns data centers throughout the region—including China—and a 46,000 km undersea cable network. Along with its undersea network and 109 access points globally, Pacnet is the first and only foreign company licensed to provide IPVPN (internet protocol virtual private network) services and data center network services in China.

In the 2017 Gartner Critical Capabilities survey for Network Services, Asia Pacific, Telstra maintained leadership in both High Capacity Network and Low Latency Network categories with a significant lead over our closest competitor. These results are an affirmation of our leadership in network services, in both traditional and disruptive offerings, as well as our commitment to creating differentiation through customer experience. 

How important is brand engagement in the Australian market?  Is this different in the APAC region?

Our services outside Australia are B2B, so engagement is primarily enterprise-based. We also have a substantial wholesale service so it’s important that our brand is reputable amongst our industry peers. Because we are not as well known in Asia as we are in Australia, the importance of consistency in messaging and brand attributes and drivers is critical. Competition is extensive and customers have considerable choice.

More and more Australian companies are either dealing with suppliers or distributors internationally or opening their own operations outside Australia. Many of our international customers are also customers within Australia, so it is extremely important they know we offer solutions beyond Australia and that they will receive consistent service no matter where they operate.

How are you changing the Telstra brand strategy for the APAC region?

We are focusing our strategy on key audiences in preferred markets and developing marketing activity to drive either awareness or consideration, dependent on priorities such as geography, capability, and industry. All marketing activity folds back up into our brand architecture framework so that everything we do is consistent with this model.

Are there any insights about customers’ behaviors and expectations between Australia and other APAC countries that Telstra operates in?

Australia is very different from any other country in Asia, and each country in Asia is different from the next. We draw insights from our sales teams, from industry bodies such as the Pacific Telecoms Council, analyst reports, our brand health studies, marketing data, and a number of other sources.

We’ve heard lots about the value that “Made in Australia” carries for Australian brands in Asia. Why do you think this is true for the Telstra brand? 

In general, our Australian heritage provides a sense of honesty, a “can do” attitude, and directness. In the carrier market, we are seen as having integrity and a deep history of experience and quality in the telecommunications space. I believe our financial strength and years of operation are also a positive for the Asian market.

There is an emerging theme we see in the APAC region: There are winners and losers in sectors across Asia, and those brands that typically score low on engagement are experiencing declining brand value. What is Telstra doing to drive engagement in Australia?

We work with our Australia-based sales teams to ensure our customers are aware of what solutions we offer internationally and how we can assist their business growth and digital transformation. We also have certain relationships in place in Australia, such as with the Australia China Business Council, to promote Telstra to organizations dealing with China from Australia. Last year, we also extended our Telstra Business Women’s Awards into Asia to reflect our focus on the region and our diversity and inclusion profile.

We are also building on the connectivity service we provide by leveraging our technology capabilities to offer customers more unique, engaging services and experiences. Smart Home is a good early example of this approach to engagement and differentiation, supported by a campaign “any house can be a smart home.” We are also a significant provider of entertainment services, be it through TelstraTV, our streamed video aggregator, or our apps for AFL, NRL, and Netball, which are giving sports fans new digital experiences. We are also driving strong engagement with our business-to-business software solutions.