Simon chats with Mandy Hall, Founder and Director of Chiefs and Indians.

Show Notes

Chiefs and Indians help companies to design and deliver transformational brand and marketing projects.

You can contact Mandy here:


Simon Dell: Welcome to the Paper Planes Podcast, Mandy Hall of Chiefs and Indians. How are you today?

Mandy Hall: I’m great. Thanks, Simon. How are you?

Simon Dell: Very well, indeed. Just for everybody’s benefit, let’s get the usual 60-second elevator pitch from you to find out what you do, and who you are, and all those bits and pieces.

Mandy Hall: Thanks for having me, Simon. I am a brand strategist. I run my own business, Chiefs and Indians. I have a very diverse background in marketing, brand and digital across a range of industries, so I’ve never committed to an industry. I’m not a purist brand strategist, I’m more pragmatic in approach and balance the needs of the bottom-line. That’s my 60-second pitch.

Simon Dell: Explain to me the difference between a purist and a pragmatist for the non-brand people out there. Simplify that in baby language. Explain it to a five-year-old is what I would say.

Mandy Hall: I started out in brand under 15 years ago working for Virgin Blue. What branding was there to what I consider it now has changed significantly. Basically, I’ve had to work in roles where you have to balance the day-to-day needs, and the tactics, and the targets. I guess when I started out in branding, there was lots of money to spend in raising brand awareness and driving key brand metrics. But today, branding is all of that plus making sure that you’re driving a dollar. Typically, brand marketing has been difficult to attribute to performance, but these days, it’s balancing the short and long-term needs of business.

Simon Dell: I’ve got probably a thousand questions for you today, so we’ll try and go through those. I also want to point out to everybody who doesn’t know who you are, and you may not want this claim to fame, but I would suggest that your claim to fame is that you are one of the people who worked on the Compare the Market campaign with the very famous Meerkats.

Mandy Hall: Oh, how I miss my Meerkats.

Simon Dell: Do you? We’re going to talk about the Meerkats because we obviously can’t go past the Meerkats. We’ll talk about them a little bit later, because I do have a lot of Meerkat-related questions. The reason I think there’s a lot of good questions is because they are quite an iconic part of the Australian advertising landscape in the past 5-6 years now. I think there’s a lot of interesting questions around them. I want to go right back to the beginning and ask you: You’ve been involved in marketing communications from the absolute beginning, your first day at university. Why that? What was it at school or what was it prior to university that sent you in that direction?

Mandy Hall: I definitely do not have the standard career path that most have had. When I finished school, I actually studied fashion design, believe it or not. I studied fashion design. And this is going back a long way. This is before fashion design was at university. So, I started in fashion because I had this burning desire to follow my creative side. It literally was fashion design or commerce. I can’t even believe that I was like, if I can’t get into the top fashion design course, then I’m going to go do commerce, which is just so random.

Once I got into fashion design, it was a three-year course, I was there about a year and a half and I hated it because I didn’t want to sew for a living. I was just like, “What? I don’t want to be forced to think creatively. I just want to do what comes naturally.” And it was actually through that course where I had the marketing subjects and I had this teacher who I absolutely loved. It was her that really got me interested in the business side of things, specifically marketing.

I ended up leaving fashion design, went out into the workforce, and then went back to university part-time. I completed my degree, really, while working. I was lucky enough, first year of university, to be working at Virgin. Virgin, back in the day, were very big on promoting internally. Because basically, if you were lucky enough to get into Virgin, you had all of the qualities and the traits. That was what really made their brand in the beginning. Because I had been working there, they gave me a shot even without a degree, even when that was part of the requirements. That’s how I got into marketing.

Simon Dell: You don’t ever look back at those fashion days, or watch runway shows and think, “That could be me.” You don’t have the urge to suddenly design some sort of item of clothing at any point?

Mandy Hall: No. I’ll tell you what, I’m a wannabe interior designer now. That’s where my design has gone. I’m one of these people that has a million things that I want to do in life. There’s never a shortage. And I’m like, “Well, maybe later in life, I’ll do some sort of degree or study in interior design, not to take my career down that path, simply out of interest. There is the wannabe designer within me, but luckily enough, in marketing, you do get that creative side, and I have been so lucky to have worked for the brands that I have worked for.

They have been a little left of centre. They haven’t been your typical rational day-to-day brands. They’re very much been about building a cult, almost, or a culture internally and externally, which is very, very inspiring and sort of what’s led me to where I am today.

Simon Dell: Just go back to the Virgin piece. Back then, I remember this in the early 2000s when I first got to Australia, which was 2003, the Virgin brand was a fairly convoluted jumble of not particularly well-defined entities, if I remember rightly. When you’ve mentioned it there, I think about that Virgin Blue brand. Coming from the UK, which is where I emigrated from, the Virgin brand was fairly well-identified. Talk me through the Virgin Blue brand, because it never quite sat right with me. When they changed it all to Virgin Australia, it felt it fitted better.

Mandy Hall: I’m the early Virgin Blue days, and this is just from my opinion. I think they were very much about disrupting the aviation industry. I shouldn’t say disrupting the aviation industry, but it was at the time the ANZ went under. And so, there was a monopoly. That provided a big opportunity for the Virgin brand. Now, the heritage of the Virgin brand certainly catapulted Virgin Blue into the market because people had these pre-conceived ideas about Richard Branson. We very much rode those in the beginning, that cheekiness, that playfulness. It was the cheap and cheerful, low-cost, but it wasn’t really considered an Australian brand, which I think is what you’re suggesting. It was a bit misplaced.

What they have done since then is try to transition the brand to be more positioned and placed as an Australian brand, because it can stand down on its own, and move away from that persona that we’ve created in the early days, which really was just a bit of fun. I guess they’ve gone from fun to serious, knowing that in order to create a sustainable airline, that the positioning needed to change.

Simon Dell: One of the question marks for me would be why the colour blue, why that was part of the brand.

Mandy Hall: I wasn’t there at that point, so I can’t answer that. I’ve honestly never asked that question, and we never created any sort of meaning about the blue. But you could think that blue is an Australian term. That could’ve been the idea behind it in the early days. But because we never really focused on the name and such and creating meaning around the name Virgin Blue, it was more meaning around the brand Richard Branson.

Simon Dell: Let’s talk about Compare the market. It is a brand that’s come from relatively nowhere in the past 10 years. As the internet proliferated and becomes an everyday part of everyone’s lives, the ability to compare products online and that kind of thing becomes second nature to most people. I guess my first question would be: Where did the Meerkats come from? Were they there before you got there, or was that something that you actually implemented?

Mandy Hall: Compare the Market actually started in the UK. It’s a very established brand in the UK. And so, the Meerkats were really born in the UK. It was a campaign that was used in the UK. However, the Meerkats coming to Australia was very much adapted to the Australian market because there were very big differences, specifically in terms of comparison websites. In the UK, they’re very well-adopted. There’s a huge percentage of people that use comparison websites. The demand has come from the people to use comparison websites for their insurance companies and other companies to actually work with the comparators.

The market in itself was relatively young in Australia. iSelect had been around for a little while, but comparison in general, aside from flights and accommodation in the financial products space was relatively new. We took the device, let’s call it the Meerkats, and we made them relevant to the Australian market in challenges that we faced at the time. So no, they weren’t my idea. It came out of the UK. We work with an agency that was in Australia and in the UK to create the content and the animation. But the storyline, the narrative, the messaging was designed for the Australian market.

Simon Dell: Talk to me about the difference, then. What do you have to do to a Meerkat to transfer it from a UK market to an Australian market? Where are the differences? Is it language? Is it messaging? Is it look? I mean, different looking Meerkats? What’s those little differences between the two marketplaces?

Mandy Hall: It would be the messaging. Firstly, even if you take a step back, before you can apply the messaging, the product within the market, and the relevancy, and the demand for the product or service, there’s the infancy there. There’s pros and cons with characters. They can be best friend or they can be worst enemy. They are designed to really create salience, to enable recall and memorability of a brand. But you’ve also got to deliver a message that’s relevant to the marketplace, and that message is built on the product or the service, the proposition, and so on.

It’s not just, “Do the Meerkats work in the market?” The Meerkats are very salient. They’re very memorable. They’re very interesting. They’re fun, they’re lovable. And so, that model works, but you’ve still got to drive a reaction. You’ve got to drive a transaction. You’ve got all these things that it needs to deliver, which is where you have to adapt to the market that you’re talking to. I would say a long-winded answer is, the message is probably more important simply because the mechanism, the Meerkats, they’re so lovable, their characters. They say animals are the strongest advertising tactic you can apply in terms of recall. Meerkats, they’re so cute. I mean, hey, Russian Meerkats, where’d that come from? And there’s a full backstory.

Simon Dell: I would imagine it was from the UK nature programs where they followed the Meerkats. I can’t remember the name of the nature program, but that’s when my memory would be back from… Back when I was in the UK, so that would’ve been a long time ago. And then I think, obviously, the BBC did one where they overdubbed all these animals with comedy voices. I think the Meerkats became quite famous for that as well. You’re right; there’s a real affinity for that animal in the marketplace.

Mandy Hall: Yeah. It’s just really the power of storytelling. It’s just creating a narrative that people can follow. And coming back to my point earlier: Creating these little cults around these brand devices, mechanisms to rally people, it’s really powerful. And not just externally, but internally. When you’re part of a brand that has this sort of exclusive group, or branding, or storyline, you buy into it and you’re an ambassador. You’re an advocate for it, and it just makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger and more exclusive.

It goes both ways externally in terms of winning over the hearts and minds of consumers through this really funny narrative, but the power of it internally in motivation and contribution from employees to take the brand forward is as powerful.

Simon Dell: You said something earlier on that they could be your worst enemies. What’s the danger of using such clearly-identifiable characters within advertising that could possibly backfire on a brand?

Mandy Hall: I shouldn’t have said it so seriously, ‘danger’. That’s probably a bad choice of words. However, with any brand, if you look at characters, I’m coming at it from more of a transformation side. Once you have a character, particularly if the character is so big and well-known… And I’ve had this across a couple of brands that I’ve worked for where they do have characters that they’ve used. It’s hard to evolve those characters. If you’ve got characters that people love, are they loving the characters, or are they loving the brand and what you’re offering?

Sometimes, you can find a disconnect. At the end of the day, and this comes back to the point about being more pragmatic, there’s still a job to be done. We still need to run a commercially-viable business and building a brand is, hands down, my belief, the most important thing you can do, but you’ve still got to approach it with a view of the outcome that you’re trying to drive.

Simon Dell: It’s funny, because when you said that, there’s a couple of examples, one that I’d written down before we started speaking. To me, the characters had gone beyond the brand and become bigger than the brand. There was another one, and I used to work for Forex years ago, another well-established Australian brand.

The problems that they had was that they had four key identifiable male figures that had appeared in all of their adverts for years and years, and the challenge was that the actors who played those characters had grown old and were no longer a good representation of the brand anymore, because the brand wanted to stick with its early-30s, mid-30s demographic. And these characters were in their late-40s, early-50s.

But the one that really stood out to me was ITV Digital who had a monkey puppet. Anyone that wants to see this, if you just go into YouTube and type in the search bar ‘ITV Digital’, the actual monkey character outlasted the brand. ITV Digital used to sell set top boxes and you could get another 50 channels on your TV, early days before Netflix and all those kind of things. And they used to do adverts with this stuffed monkey.

It was a puppet monkey and it had a voice, just like the Meerkats did. It had a voice, and it used to interact with a British comedian called Johnny Vegas. And again, anyone who knows Johnny Vegas. He’s a big, fat layabout. He’s known for being drunk most of the time. But the character itself actually became bigger than the brand. I think the famous story goes is that they did cuddle toy versions of monkey. You could buy your own monkey, and the story goes that they sold more cuddly toy monkeys than they ever did set top boxes.

Mandy Hall: That’s exactly the point, right?

Simon Dell: Right, and I say that because I have a cuddly toy monkey here as well. I actually bought one.

Mandy Hall: This is where you diversity; you start making toys.

Simon Dell: Exactly. I think they could’ve made a lot more toys. Anyway, is that the sort of thing that you mean, where those characters don’t evolve or take a life of their own?

Mandy Hall: I guess you’ve got to work out because you see many characters come and go in ads. When your character does become famous and you try to do that through your marketing efforts, then you’ve got to look at longer-term where you want to take the brand and making sure that you can evolve those characters to continue or make the decision that you need to pivot using some other device. It’s not that they’re good or bad, it’s just that they present challenges, as you say, if the characters outgrow the brand. And certainly in the UK, Compare the Market, they’ve got movies. They’ve got all sorts of things. And we did toys in Australia. That was the last campaign that I launched. The people are just mad for them. They really are mad for them.

But you’ve still got to balance that. If people don’t want to buy your product, and I’m not seeing this is how it was at Compare to Market. I’m just saying generally, people love the characters but don’t want your product, you’ve got a problem. Because people will be angry when you take away the characters and therefore lose faith in the brand, yet they’re not willing to transact with you. So, it’s just a balancing act. I think at the end of the day, if you know what your true north it, if you’ve got a good vision of the next 5 to 10 years, then you can manage it to work successfully for you.

Brands have to make the decision to walk away from characters and narratives. That happens regularly, too, even without a character. There’s a positioning that a brand is holding, and they realize that they need to reposition to compete, because you know the world, as we know it, is changing. And so, that’s just life for brands.

Simon Dell: I’m interested, now you’ve said all that, to understand where and how you’ve got to with your own brand. You’ve been running Chiefs and Indians for a couple of years now, is it?

Mandy Hall: Yeah. I’ve had Chiefs and Indians for about three years, but it was more of a side project that I was testing a few different ways of working. But in the last 12 months, I’ve been working Chiefs and Indians full-time.

Simon Dell: Talk to me about the evolution of that. Where did it come from? What are you trying to build as a brand there? This is one of those plumbers in their pipes moments.

Mandy Hall: I’ll explain the reasoning behind Chiefs and Indians, because often, people are looking at me like, “What the hell is this all about?” Which I personally like. Thank you, I’ll take it. Basically, Chiefs and Indians was born out of the concept of strategy and execution. Throughout my career, the key learning that I’ve taken away, because it’s repetitively happened, is there’s often a lack of strategy in business of all sizes, not just little ones but also big ones. This follow through of strategy, often we’ll come up with grand plans but the short-term tactics seem to override the longer-term vision, and so we never stick to it.

And conversely, often, a good strategy doesn’t necessarily lead to a good outcome. The whole learning of Chiefs and Indians is that strategy and execution are a function of each other. When one is absent or fails, the value of the other is altered. Conceptually, Chiefs and Indians is based on too many chiefs and not enough Indians, this concept that chiefs are leaders and Indians are the executors. My proposition is very much around bringing both to make sure that the strategy is translated effectively and also, so that the execution isn’t happening without a solid game plan. That’s the whole thinking behind Chiefs and Indians as a brand and very much what we take to the market.

The core offering is brand strategy and execution. We’re very, very specialized in that simply because there are so many agencies out there that are specializing in everything. There’s big shift with companies to bring skill sets in house. So, very specialized in approach and that we simply produce transformational projects, brand projects for organizations who are often experiencing growth or change. That seems to be the key driver at this point, but the deliverable are rebrands, brand evolutions, and revolutions. That’s what’s led me to where I am today.

Simon Dell: Why Chiefs and Indians, then? Where did that come from?

Mandy Hall: The chiefs being the strategy, and the Indians being the executors. It’s a connection between the two and the importance between the two working harmoniously together.

Simon Dell: You made a really good at the start there that I love. It’s about you having to explain it to people. That’s one of the things that I like. We’re going through a process at the moment where we’re rebranding. Our whole business just used to be my name, my business partner’s sick of being asked if he is name is Simon. So, we’ve moved to a brand that we’re going to call Paper Planes, which is where the podcast was named after. 

I think one of the really great things is when people ask you, “What does it mean?” And you have to explain it to them. That gives you an opportunity to tell your story, which is so much better than not having the opportunity to tell your story. Because if someone’s asking you, they’re interested. And if they’re interested and you tell them, then they’re going to remember. Is that what you meant about yours?

Mandy Hall: Absolutely. The thing is, I could be Mandy Hall essentially because I’m the primary consultant. I obviously have a small team under me, and that would be a great thing from an SEO point of view. It’s much easier to win off your own name than it is something more obscure, something else.

However, I haven’t had one client say to me, “Oh, Chiefs and Indians, that’s really different. I like it. What does it mean?” And I explain my theory. It’s part of my sales pitch, because if people don’t want strategy, they just want execution; or if people want execution, the strategy part, they don’t really value it, then straight away, I’m sifting them out as a player, as a potential customer.

I use it very clearly and upfront with selling my services simply because… And I’m the first person to say we’re not the right fit. One thing that I’ve learned in business so far, is that part of my assessment of whether another business is a good fit for me is understanding whether they have the resources to execute the strategy ongoing. Because otherwise, what’s the point? That leaves a bad taste in their mouth.

So, I’ll do a project, the response has been great. We’ve completed the project. My team have overseen the execution part, but then we walk away. If their experience from then is, “Oh, we’ve just got this strategy dock that’s expensive. They’ve walked away. It hasn’t translated.” That’s not a bad taste for the team and not having the resources. That’s on me and my brand.

Simon Dell: We get the same thing as well from a digital perspective. You can sit there and write a digital strategy for someone, and they walk away and go, “This is great.” But unless you actually help them execute it, you’ll leave a bad taste in their mouth. They’ll be like, “Why did someone create a strategy when we don’t have the resources to actually make this happen? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Back to that story, I think it’s a great story about Chiefs and Indians. We had that same thing. We went, “Well, if we’re going to call ourselves Paper Planes, we better have a bloody good story why we’re called Paper Planes.” I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on the show before. I might have done.

Mandy Hall: I was going to say, I’m intrigued. Talk to me. What’s the story?

Simon Dell: Good segway, Mandy. Thank you for that. The concept is the fact that a paper plane is very easy to make. Anybody out there thinks they can make a paper plane. You give them a sheet of A4 paper, most people will have a pretty good stab at making a paper plane. The challenge is that, invariably, when most people pull their arm back to throw the paper plane, it normally goes plunging straight into the ground.

Our concept is that most businesses are exactly like paper planes. It’s very easy to start one. You can go and get an ABM tomorrow. You can have a tagline. You can go and get yourself a logo created, and all of those bits and pieces. You go sign a lease on a shop. They’re all relatively easy things to do. But unless, like a paper plane, you’ve actually had someone say to you, “Actually, you know what? Maybe you should fold it like this. Maybe you should throw it like that. Maybe you should try and angle it in that direction.”

Unless you actually have some specific advice, your paper plane or your business is going to tend to, most of the time, crash into the ground fairly quickly. We use that metaphor to say, “We’re the people that are going to teach you how to fold it properly. We’re the people that are going to teach you how to throw it in the right direction.” If you have someone doing that with your paper plane, it’s going to float for a long time, go in the right direction, and not crash into the ground.

That was the story behind it. I like it when anybody asks me that because we just rattle that out straightaway. And people are like, “We get that. That’s good.” 

Mandy Hall: I like it.

Simon Dell: Thank you. I’m glad, coming from a brand person, I’m glad to hear that.

Mandy Hall: I’m all about the story.

Simon Dell: Absolutely. And when it’s your own name, if it was, there’s a story behind it, but it’s certainly not as fun and engaging as Chiefs and Indians.

Mandy Hall: Exactly. It’s not a conversation starter. 

Simon Dell: No. I mean, even people like Gary Vaynerchuk, his business isn’t Gary Vaynerchuk Media, it’s Vayner Media. It’s something completely different. I want to ask you some technical questions about brands, because whilst you’re here, I want you to explain to people about brands and why it’s important.

The first question that I want to ask you is the age-old question. What actually is a brand? How do you define a brand?

Mandy Hall: A brand really is the meaning beyond your name that is created by people. That’s probably the simplest way to describe it. That’s what a brand essentially is. My perception, based on myself, my family, my friends, my background, my experiences, my interpretation of your business, that is what I take away to being your brand.

When it comes to, from an organization point of view, we call it brand management because the things that shape a person’s perception of your brand are varied. You’ve got products. You’ve got services. You’ve got packaging. You’ve got customer service, all these little experiences combined with their own life experiences create an interpretation of who you are.

When we talk about brand management, it’s all about: What can do to manage to try and control a perception of our customers or people in general?

Simon Dell: The most important thing I say is, a brand isn’t what you said, it’s what other people say is based on their interaction with you. I think a lot of people, certainly small businesses, don’t understand that the way you’re answering the phone is technically brand management, isn’t it?

Mandy Hall: Absolutely. It’s the experience that the customer is having with your business. My approach with all of the businesses that I work with, is… They often think we need branding, which to me, branding is your external expression of your strategy. That’s what it should be. And so, I explain to people that, especially today, there’s this longing for this authenticity.

What that means, really, is that consumers feel like they’ve been taken for a ride by brands, business, for however long now. They won’t stand for it. You can’t just put an ad out. You can’t just make your logo prettier to change perceptions. You’ve got to walk before you talk, and that’s part of building a brand.

Simon Dell: If we know what a brand is, then the next question would be: Why is it so important for a business?

Mandy Hall: Coming back to what I was saying earlier, where every experience, every part of your brand creates the perception, the importance is that, really, if you don’t control it in some degree, everyone will take their perception of your brand.

And so, being clear about who you are, why you’re better than the alternatives, who you’re targeting, all the key foundational work of a brand means that your message, what you take to the market, will be more cohesive and clear, and less ambiguity for the customer or the audience to take it and create with it what they want.

Today, particularly in very competitive environments where it’s a bit of a bidding war, particularly online, when it comes to search, the importance of building a brand is going to save you money. The idea of building a brand is that you invest, and you grow, and you build. Eventually, you’ve got this recognition, you’ve got this awareness, this profile in the market where, ideally, you want to peg back your investment because you’ve been brand building.

Simon Dell: When you said about building a brand and then what it becomes in the long term, I think when you look at some of the famous brands in the world, Coca-Cola and Apple, places like that — A great story about Coca-Cola is that if tomorrow, they sold every bottling plant, every manufacturing plant, they fired every person that work for them, they would still have a business value attached to the intangible assets that are the brand.

That’s not just the logo, but that’s everything Coca-Cola stands for. That’s important for businesses to understand. The brand, in the long term, adds value in the fact that people might come back more, people might spend more with them. It also actually adds tangible value to the business as a saleable entity.

Mandy Hall: Exactly. Back at Compare the Market, we used to work with Millward Brown, a research agency, and they had a brand equity model. It was called Brand Power at the time. It was the combination of all of these brand equity studies and what makes a brand powerful.

I won’t go into the details of that particular model, but the outcome is, based on their research of brands that had a number of these qualities that drove brand equity, drove a higher result, they actually linked the result to the brands based on the number of attributes. It was determined that brands, people that actually build solid brands or high brand equity can demand three times the price of another brand with no equity.

People often think, “Oh, brand building, it’s…” But the value is, as you say, in the bottom-line and how much it can increase the value for that entity much more than their logo or what we see externally. It’s pretty powerful stuff. Today, even if you’re a small business, look at the benefit of building a brand, being different, finding the whitespace for your brand.

We’ve got to find that differentiator in the market and really owning it, and being consistent with it, and driving it forward. That’s not to say always get it right, but optimizing it, not walking away from your brand for a short-term hit.

Simon Dell: You’ve been in the brand space for a while. Tell me some of the brands that you like, some of the brands that you admire, potentially, some of the brands that you aspire your business to be or yourself to be.

Mandy Hall: I’m going to be upfront and honest in that the brands, they’re pretty big brands, but… I don’t watch a lot of TV, so I’m not exposed to a lot of new brands proactively. I’m engaging with the brands that I’ve connected with in the past. Netflix is one for me that in the last 12 months has really transformed my point of view.

I’ve had Netflix forever, for as long as it’s been out in Australia, but didn’t really read it, didn’t use it that often. In the last 12 to 18 months, seeing the content, the unique content that they’ve been launching, the original content, it’s just blown my mind. To me, I’m kind of like, “There you go. There’s someone owning their whitespace.” This is TV, essentially. This stuff is not new.

Yes, they’ve recreated it because it was a digital offering and on-demand, but we’ve got other ones like that. It’s the content that they’ve now owned, and all of these docu series, original content, which I really admire them for. I think they’re worth a trillion and it’s very much been in the last couple of years that they have absolutely catapulted. Probably sooner in America, but I’m just coming at it from an Australian point of view.

Again, I just think you find that whitespace, you differentiate, and try and take ownership is the key to building really solid brands. My favourite brand at the moment, and this is going to sound funny, is Aldi. Aldi are killing it. Aldi are absolutely killing it, in my mind. They have just nailed it. They’ve walked before they’ve talked. They’re not about the biggest advertising campaign.

They advertise significantly, but their service offering, the niche that they found in the market, I think, has just worked so successfully for them. The excitement that they’ve created around special buys… Every week, what’s going to come out? Once it’s gone, it’s gone. People are lining up at Aldi every Wednesday and Saturday for these special buys, for snow gear and all sorts of things.

Simon Dell: I’m never doing it again, I can tell you that.

Mandy Hall: There’s lots of people that will do it. I don’t think I would line up, but I tell you what, there are snow gears coming out and we’ve got their last snow gear. People that love skiing… We’re one of those families that loves to go to the snow. When they take to market, they’re good positioning, strapline. I just think that sums it up brilliantly. It’s not aspirational, right? Good different doesn’t make you go, “Wow.” It’s good different, and that’s exactly what it is.

I go to Aldi for a range of organic products that I think are up there better than some of the organic products that I get in my local hill store. I just really feel that they’ve found a niche, they’ve nailed it, and they execute in a way that’s very authentic.

Simon Dell: If I’m going to ask you about brands that you love, I’m going to have to ask you about brands that you hate. I understand you might want to be careful on this one. What are brands that you think could do better?

Mandy Hall: I’m going to base it off an ad. Understand when I say this, that I have not looked at their products and services in this particular space. I have not been exposed to anything other than an ad at a time where I thought perhaps that wasn’t appropriate. Just my point of view, and I believe a lot of people have talked about this ad, anyway.

It  was Westpac’s recently brand campaign. It came shortly after the Royal Commission, the Banking Commission results, which I just think, time and place, doing a big brand campaign — or maybe it was only just a small advertising campaign, I don’t know. I didn’t look into it.

But as a consumer, the Banking Commission’s just finished. There was pretty poor results, and Westpac comes out with an ad that was focused on supporting people going through divorces or something in that space. Firstly, I was like, “I don’t think you should really go to town with something so emotionally-charged directly after what had just happened.” That was just a personal opinion.

Secondly, I just don’t feel an ad campaign that is leveraging the downfall of a relationship, which is so significant, and the visual cues in the ads were all around children. I just felt like it was too much, personally. I’m looking at it now from a consumer point of view, where my family had divorced when I was young.

I’m lucky it was very amicable, no issues, but it’s still actually maybe me feel a little bit like, “I don’t feel like you should really be leveraging that to drive sales in that space, where you haven’t even communicated in a call to action what you offer, just that you support. I’m calling BS.” Anyway, that was just one thing.

Simon Dell: I completely understand. I think it was a little question marks about that where Westpac were positioning themselves in, absolutely.

Mandy Hall: I’m all for pushing the boundaries, I really am. I’ve shown in my career, that’s what we’ve done a lot. But time and place, and message, and coming back to authenticity. On an ad campaign, that is just the last thing you do. 

And again, maybe I’m not in the target audience, which is why they could have a whole range of activities that actually reinforce or build the proposition that was in that ad, but I personally, without looking into it, it didn’t make me want to go to Westpac, but it didn’t make me want to do anything, which comes back to the substance.

Simon Dell: Last three questions for you, some little short, punchy ones. How do you stay motivated? What keeps you going every day?

Mandy Hall: A range of things. Exercise is a big one. Just keeping in touch with what’s happening around the world. I love podcasts. I love audiobooks. I’ll often work with listening to an audiobook. Podcasts are really motivating, hearing what people are doing around the world. I truly love what I do. So, getting to do what I do is very motivating in itself.

Simon Dell: I’m a big podcast fan, but I’m really getting into audiobooks these days. I drive around a lot, so I have 20 minutes, 30 minutes in the car. Getting into a decent audiobook, whether it’s science fiction, or whether it’s business-related, it’s changed the way that I digest information in the last year or two years. It has an amazing effect in terms of your capacity to learn and your capacity to understand more.

Mandy Hall: It really is a sign of the times, that we’re all time-poor, but when we do have car time, I can’t sit and do work and read a book. I just can’t. You can’t. But the fact that I can sit here and listen to an audiobook while I’m doing work is efficiency. It’s really a sign of the times.

How much can I jam into this small amount of time I have available? And as you say when you’re on the road, there’s nothing better. It makes a car trip somewhat enjoyable.

Simon Dell: The other funny thing for me the last year, two years, with audiobooks, is I’m listening to things I would potentially have never, ever picked up in a bookstore, or in a library, or a second-hand book show, anything like that. I wouldn’t have touched it. I’m listening to, at the moment, the classic Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces, which is an old book, but it’s a benchmark in human storytelling. It’s written by an academic.

So, I’m kind of lost about 75% of the time in the book. But I’m going to plough through it because it is an important book. I may not digest all of it, but I’m digesting so much more than I would’ve done if I actually tried to read it. Next question. On that subject, books that you read, books that you recommend, or even podcasts that you recommend as well. What are the things that you like reading or listen to?

Mandy Hall: A range. In terms of podcasts, I have been listening to Marketing School by Neil Patel and Eric Sue just because I really like Neil Patel. I like to stay across tactical stuff, even though I’m more strategy and execution but they’re all inter-linked. Brand plays just a bigger role when influencing transactions, and actions, and SEO. I like to stay across that. That’s one podcast that I actually enjoy.

In terms of books, I’ve got a couple on the go at the moment. There’s one by Jamila Rizvi and it’s called Not Just Lucky. It’s actually about the differences between women and men in organizations, and in life, and how we approach things differently. The language that we use is somewhat different to men in certain cases. That’s a great book. That’s what I’m focusing on at the moment.

Simon Dell: Final question. If people want to get a hold of you, if people want to talk to you, ask you a question, be it about brand strategy or about Meerkats, what’s the best way of people getting a hold of you?

Mandy Hall:, or you can find me on LinkedIn, Mandy Hall. That’s it.

Simon Dell: Cool. Thank you very much for your time today. It’s been excellent. There is probably another dozen questions I had, but otherwise, we will be here all day.

Mandy Hall: Another time.

Simon Dell: Thank you for your time. Thank you for your insights, and thank you for your ideas. I appreciate you being on the show.

Mandy Hall: Thanks, Simon. Thanks for having me.

Featured episodes

Hunter Johnson podcast


Hunter Johnson

Simon chats with Hunter Johnson, CEO of The Man Cave.

Listen Now


Importance of Multicultural Marketing with Sergio Alcocer

On Episode 90 of the Cemoh Marketing Podcast, Simon chats with Founder of Rest of the World, Sergio Alcocer about the importance of multicultural marketing.

Listen Now
James MacGregor podcast


James MacGregor

Simon chats with James MacGregor, Co-Founder of Biteable.

Listen Now