AUCKLAND, Today: Rockit Apple global marketing GM Julian Smith – fresh from collecting Rockit’s Gold, Silver and Bronze at the Best Design Awards at the weekend – gave M+AD the lowdown (via a lively Q+A) on his company’s high-energy rebrand, and the key role played by Designworks and Special Group.
Why did Rockit need a rebrand?
“Following global consumer research we discovered that the Rockit brand had little recall and no real connection to global consumers.
“So there was an opportunity to try something different and really stand out in our category as a disruptive brand from New Zealand.
“We want to become the world’s most loved apple brand so we knew we had to make significant strides with a new design system, identity and a new approach to our marketing and brand to make an impact in our category.”
How did you select Designworks and Special Group as your partners for this exercise and what did they bring to the table?
“I used to sit with Jef Wong at Designworks in the art room at Mount Albert Grammar School and thought he was an incredible talent and we’ve always kept in contact and worked together on a number of brands throughout our careers, such as Orca, Les Mills International and early parts of the New Zealand Story.
“So we have great creative chemistry and there’s a lot of trust when you know what a creative partner can bring.
“We had seen Special Group’s x-factor work for AllGood and Tourism New Zealand and so we wanted to bring in the best we could find in terms of world class advertising and communications approach to the Rockit work. The combination of the two agencies has been incredible for Rockit.”
How did the rebrand process unfold from there?
“It was really important to connect the entire business to the work and many of the ideas were developed from our internal team and our distribution network.
“From the team in the orchard and packhouse right through to the value chain, we involved our growers, sales partners and stakeholders.
“The resulting brand work has a real authenticity and our unique personality comes to life in our brand and design.”
How have global markets responded to the new brand?
“It was really important to involve global markets in the project at the beginning, so many of our buyers and partners contributed to the creation of the brand and the design elements.
“Our brand engagement score amongst global consumers has gone from 69% to 89% in our latest survey in Qualtrics so we are seeing significant results.
“We launched the brand in China with a partnership with Pac-Man and had over 150M click-to-views on Tik Tok for the Rockit brand campaign featuring our character Rocki – so it’s been incredible.”
“We want to become the world’s most loved apple brand.”
How is the brand used in different markets – e.g. ads, digital, social?
“Designworks developed a full roll out plan including new design for over 200 touch points across point of sale, merchandise, event, digital and social assets.
“It’s been a massive effort from the entire business to update every aspect and drive out the impact that a rebrand can have.”
Rocki is a fantastic character – why create him?
“Rocki was created to personify our unique attitude and to appeal to a global audience.
“We looked at brands with characters and unique IP like Comme de Garcon, M&Ms and Human Made and were influenced to try something that fitted our business with that same iconic design.
“You’ll see a lot more of Rocki this year and over the coming years.”
Rebranding is an exercise any business undertakes only very periodically. How have you ensured the longevity of this new branding?
“The new brand has a lot of flexibility and can be seasonally interpreted.
“Special Group created a great design system that allows us not only to use different elements to remain fresh, but can be localised by individual markets around the world.
“We know as a team that we have to work hard to stay ahead of our category and look to great brand partnerships like The Tiny Chef in the US, or Pac-Man in China, to keep the brand relevant and strong.”
Rockit says it’s taking on the world one bite at a time – what does this mean?
“Our goal is to be the world’s most loved apple brand, and we’re already some way towards reaching that target. We’ve done this through creative executions that suit the demands of different markets, and storytelling that is high energy, playful and innovative.
“We’re not a commodity apple – we’re a snack apple, sitting happily in gym bags and tucked inside kids’ strollers, and alongside nuts and crisps in vending machines and service stations around the world.
“It’s crucial that we differentiate ourselves from the crowd with marketing and branding that appeals to families, upwardly mobile professionals, active consumers and the health conscious.
“We do this bit by bit – or bite by bite – with exciting seasonal projects, such as our Chinese New Year gift box execution, which saw our beloved miniature apples ranged in retail and online within a box that transformed into a tiger mask for kids to make.”
What were your expectations going into the Best Awards this year?
“We knew the work was special, but we also knew that the Best Awards represents the top work in the country, many from much larger brand’s budgets.
“So we were not making any assumptions and were really happy just to be a finalist with five entries. To get a gold, silver and three bronze awards is an amazing achievement for our entire business and talks to the quality of our partners and their work with us.”
What’s been the team’s reaction to bagging five awards?
“It’s been a big surprise and we’re very proud. It’s not every day that a commodity sector like apples pulls in a clutch of awards, but we always knew our rebrand differentiated us from the pack and we’re thrilled the judges saw that.
“We’re all smiles here at Rockit HQ, and delighted for our talented design partners, Designworks and Special Group. The wins are reward for months and months of hard work.”
What does 2022 hold for Rockit’s domestic and international marketing efforts?
“We have some really exciting new brand partnerships this year, and we will be going even bigger!
“We’re expecting more growth, so we need to stay hungry and look to make an impact in the Middle Eastt and Southeast Asia.
“And, we’ll continue to bring our unique attitude so we Rockit every day!”
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