In the lead up to the AdSchool Core Strategic Planning course in Perth, we caught up with Marketing Manager Sandra Brewer on working client side, becoming a ‘brand advocate’, and her thoughts on social media for baby boomers.

TCC: Can you tell us about your marketing role at NLV?
SB: I’m the General Manager of Marketing and lead a team of four. It’s my role to define the brand positioning and marketing strategy and successfully execute our activities.
I was really attracted to this role because many of the brands that target older people use stereotyped brand positioning and communications. They use the same formula of stock photos of attractive, smiling grey-haired people offering a testimonial on how they love their “lifestyle”.
In a short time, we’ve overhauled NLV’s positioning and key messages and produced revitalised creative. We’ve just completed a campaign that used an insight into how older people are feeling about downsizing that grew our enquiries by 40 per cent, despite a lower marketing spend.
Good planning skills can be applied in any category to reach any target market and achieve genuine growth, and that’s what excites me.
TCC: What are some of the ways you are adapting brand strategy for the ever-changing digital world?
SB: Despite the perceptions, older people are heavy social media consumers. Our best channel to reach our prospects is Facebook. I think we all have a baby boomer Aunty or Uncle that spends all day on Facebook.  We are responding by delivering long form video content to convey our benefits – after all, they have time to watch it.
We are focused on improving the mood of the residents that currently live in our villages. There’s no secrets in business any more – if you’re failing to deliver a good service or product, the online world will reveal all. I appointed a Content Marketing + Community Liaison Manager to produce video content that lifts the mood of residents and shares publicly the benefits of living in our villages.
TCC: Why is it important to become a brand advocate and leader as a marketer?
SB: I think an enthusiastic brand custodian really provides energy to a business. If you are excited about the potential for your brand, that really rubs off on others around you. When I was Marketing Manager for M&M’s, I became a little typecast as the “M&M’s lady” in the organisation amongst the R&D and Manufacturing teams, and that was a great thing. Implementing your ideas and marketing strategies is easier if people believe your passion.
TCC: You’ve worked both agency and client side – have you been able to apply the fundamentals of strategic planning across both? What are the key differences?
SB: Being careful what I say here…. Both agency and client side are wonderful and I can’t pick a favourite. As an Agency Planner, you can be broader in your thinking and notice trends from other categories to apply to your Client’s particular business challenge. As a Client, you are more myopic and self-limiting based on what you know is feasible for the business to pursue, and what’s not. The best thing about being a Client is being able to “put your money where your mouth is” – to get the chance to fully execute your Planning recommendations and see if they work.
TCC: What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
SB: So much of the work of being in a business is persuading and motivating others around you. Holding a position or a title means little if people don’t agree with your ideas. The principles of Planning – understanding how ideas shape and influence attitudes and behaviour – can be applied in many general business situations, not just in an advertising or marketing context. Think of politics for example. The World changes from ideas.
TCC: What can students expect from the AdSchool course?
SB: A lot of talking! I look forward to hearing of everyone’s day to day challenges in their Agencies or businesses as marketing practitioners. Open discussions about what we think about market research, ads and campaigns will be very enjoyable.
TCC: Why should junior marketers take this course? What will they take away from it?
SB: For people planning their career in Marketing, this course provides a great opportunity to find out the value of Planning and how it is able to deliver genuine business growth. It’s easy to by cynical about some agency services, and there’s always the pressure by Management to cut costs. Understanding the alchemy of Agency Planning will help you defend the value Agencies bring to business.