“I’m the delivery manager,” said Dick van der Lecq, whose actual title is director of client services at Amsterdam-based Etcetera/DDB. “People ask me if I’m downgrading but “delivery” is what I do.”
The background of tough economic times in Europe has meant that Etcetera/DDB’s clients haven’t had the luxury of extra time, money and resources. “The approach is necessary more than anything else,” said Lecq.
The agency has brought this mentality to work with TNT, the global logistics company with over 65,000 employees. The starting point was an aggressive 100-day plan to deliver a new global positioning, identity and campaign that would reach into the core of the business.
Previously, TNT had focused on its process and service, giving less attention to communications and marketing both externally and internally. Tex Gunning, TNT, CEO had a bold vision and a sense of urgency to activate the brand’s latent energy.
“You need a leader that has the ambition to plant a flag somewhere,” said Leeuwen. However, beyond that there was no brief in the traditional sense and Lecq and creative business partner Peter van Leeuwen had to “dive into the company” to find one.
Immediately, they set up an office inside TNT and got to work. According to Lecq, the Etecetra/DDB and TNT agency contract currently has no time restriction and will likely last a few years.
“We started with their business model and committed to hard results and putting available resources to good use,” said Lecq. When asked if 100 days is always a crucial factor, Lecq answered: “Sometimes it’s thirty days. But time is really a focus and it’s the only thing we don't worry being polite about. ”
Lecq cites authors Barren Sharp, Adam Morgan and philosopher Sun Tzu as inspiration for this rock-and-roll marketing approach and “force-the-flow” philosophy to getting brands in motion and turning them into challengers.
To lean down the communication process, Etcetera/DDB reports directly to the TNT board and works with key people in the company to avoid the slow cascading effect that “plagues companies and paralyses big agencies and consulting groups that try to implement ideas” on a project of TNT’s scale.
“We work like we’re TNT’s marketing team rather than external agents. We draw people to us rather than force it down people’s throats. In the morning we look at the social dashboards we created for TNT and see what’s working and what’s not and we fix things proactively instead of wait for them to tell us,” said Leeuwen.
During the initial stages of the 100-day plan, Leeuwen set out to understand the company and discovered the energy of TNT employees. After interviewing and gathering the stories of 25 employees from all levels and functions across the globe, “it was obvious that what TNT’s people really needed was a way to share their energy with the outside world.”
An important strategic decision was to start the campaign internally and to firstly activate TNT’s 65,000 employees, 250,000 subcontractors, existing customers, and prospects totalling a network of around 800,000 stakeholders.
Damien Tan, marketing director, TNT Asia-Pacific said, "We're on a brand journey now and the impact has been huge. I can't say that all 65,000 of our employees down to the drivers can articulte it yet but we are moving quickly in a short period of time and it is coming together well."
In terms of brand positioning, the old strapline “sure we can” has been changed to “the people’s network”.
According to Leeuwen, research showed that TNT employees were helping customers even when it was outside of their duties. Driven by the idea of “sure we can” this came at a cost to operations. “The new strapline captures and refocuses TNT’s greatest asset: it’s people and humanised service. They’re different to competitors like UPS, which are more process driven with its strapline ‘we love logistics’,” said Leeuwen.
The change comes at a turning point for TNT as it reported a quarterly loss due to restructuring measures, loss of market share, and provisions to cover potential costs from an investigation into alleged anti-competitive behaviour in France. Last year, UPS also terminated a €5.16 billion bid for TNT amid opposition from Europe regulators, which further destablised earnings.
Since releasing the ‘Human Truck’ TVC late September, Etcetera/DDB has launched TNT’s internal social network and sent 40 “Selfie boxes” that are making their way around the company’s global offices. Over 10,000 staff selfie photos have been shared on the network. Employees have also received "brand passports" to deepen their involvement.
In addition, a personalised version of the human truck video that uses B2B data and a special 100-kilogram free-shipping offer is being promoted to businesses across Europe to “provoke trial”, capture prospects and publicise the fact that TNT has the largest and most robust road network in Europe.
Tan said an "augmented version" of this offer will be available in Asia in November, citing that Asia has more water than land and that "the industry simply doesn't have a road network like it does in Europe." More focus will also be given to developing imports, interasia trade lanes and business with SMEs.
Etcetera/DDB are currently working with TNT’s Asia regional heads to plan localised campaign rollouts across Asia with a focus on digital and social media strategy as well as resource planning. Conveying TNT's new universal "people's network" message consistently through localised conversations are among the top priorities for the brand in Asia-Pacific.
"We've been shy on this in the past, " said Tan, "but watch out for us in the social media and digital space in 2015."