Appointments: Grand old trustee switches on to 'sexy' image
By Graeme Kennedy
Mention the Public Trust to most people and the overwhelming perception will be of a boring, old-fashioned and irrelevant government department populated by civil servants wearing walk shorts and sandals.
DRIVING CHANGE: Marketing surveys showed a low regard for the Public Trust, says Trevor Hockley
But that frumpy image is changing with a campaign designed to instead present the 127-year-old trustee as a switched-on, highly competitive commercial business focused on New Zealanders' property, asset management and estate needs.
Trust sales and marketing manager Trevor Hockley has been driving the change for the past year, a seemingly impossible task after market surveys showed the low regard in which the public held the 127-year-old organisation.
"We did some advertising last year to try to correct the image and point out we were about property conveyancing, mortgages, life cover and insurances as well as wills, estates and asset management," Mr Hockley said.
"The television ads used old sepia tones, which was trendy but research showed only reinforced the perception as old-fashioned and boring.
"We got no returns from that campaign because of the perception block about the brand - we were not on people's shopping lists, we were not being considered although those dealing with us knew it was different.
"We then had a database of 300,000 but only two-thirds of them were real customers. The others had done business with us then gone away - we have had hundreds of thousands of people deal with us as beneficiaries of estates, but converting them to customers was very difficult even after the trust did an outstanding job for them.
"It was purely the perception which put them off."
Mr Hockley sent teams of "brand advocates" on to the Wellington streets with microphones and cameras to ask people what the trust meant to them - and the responses were damning.
"They said the trust was boring, grey, dull and irrelevant," he said. "That hit home and showed us the challenge we faced to move people from the perception which was far different to reality and from where the Public Trust wanted to be as a market leader in the core trustee business.
"By mid-1999 we knew the brand was in serious trouble and that its image was costing us business."
Mr Hockley took the problem to Wellington branding specialists Design Works and even considered re-naming the organisation but instead followed a philosophy that while perceptions can be changed, enduring values such as trust and integrity would always remain.
Branding, he said, was not just a logo and colours but all about the organisation's core values and what it did best. However, the trust would never become a market leader with its old brand and dusty image.
"We are technology leaders in New Zealand and are world-class in how we have adopted it to our estate-management systems," he said. "The brand had to be about how we act, giving straight-forward, good quality advice and taking the complexity out.
"But our big advantage is that people trust us - if they want something done, they need the certainty that it will be done."
The new logo, "Your word is law," epitomises the total control the customer has in dealing with the trust - "A powerful promise, there for all to see," Mr Hockley said.
Backing the message is a series of after-8.30pm television commercials which are anything but dusty and boring - nasal hair and premature ejaculation, a pregnant daughter and gay son and US presidents Nixon and Clinton are used as counter-points to highlight the trust's key qualities of control, trust and easily understood advice.
The campaign was launched to staff late last year and after TV screenings from early last month call centre contacts increased by 100 a day and website hits rocketed.
The trust is the country's single biggest will-maker and as well as handling all estate business offers added-value products such as term deposits, managed funds, mortgages and insurances as a "one-stop shop" for all asset needs.
Mr Hockley joined the Public Trust in 1975 as an estates cadet but left after six years to run an indoor cricket centre before being recruited to head a similar operation, Cannonball Cricket, in the UK which was successful until the 1987 stock market crash and venture capital evaporated.
Back in New Zealand in 1990, he worked briefly on a building site before rejoining his old firm as a senior trust officer and graduating with an MBA from Auckland University in 1995.
He worked on a restructuring programme to increase customer focus and in 1997 became South Island manager for a year until he was appointed sales and marketing manager at head office.
His re-branding and image-changing work this year earned him the service portfolio to add to his responsibilities which now include customer, service and call centres and specialist trustee services.
Position: Sales, service and marketing manager, Public Trust
Marital status: Married, one son
Pastimes: Golf, rugby
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