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August 22, 2023
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Tina from Turners: A Marketing Masterclass

Tina from Turners has quickly become a cultural icon.

Played by comedian Sieni Leo’o Olo, Tina is at the heart of one of the most successful advertising campaigns in recent memory. Her blue shirt and peppy attitude have resonated with New Zealanders up and down the country.  

The campaign has won numerous awards, including the Marketing Supreme Award and two gold Effies, and it has helped Turners achieve record profits, almost right away – paying itself off within just one month.

“The Tina from Turners campaign has capped off several years of retail transformation for us. I think it’s a great example of when you create a marketing program that’s 100% aligned with your business strategy and ties in nicely with your organisational culture. We are pretty pleased with the results: big improvements in both our business results and brand metrics.”
- Greg Hedgepeth, CEO, Turners Auto Retail

In partnership with ThinkTV, we regularly ask a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 New Zealanders a simple, unprompted question; “What is your favourite ad on TV at the moment?” The most frequently mentioned favourites make up our list of New Zealand's 10 Favourite Ads.  

Tina sits at the #2 spot for June – an impressive feat given how outspent the campaign is compared to some of the other campaigns on the list. Looking at the top 100 TV advertisers for the month of June, Turners was #83 in terms of Ratecard presence.  

It’s clear Tina has become a loved personality in her own right. In fact, when the news broke of singer Tina Turner’s passing, many mistakenly mourned the loss of the fictional brand character on radio and social media.  

But what is the secret to Tina from Turners' success? And what can other marketers learn from such a successful campaign? Here are a few key takeaways:

Start with insight

People knew that Turners sold cars. However, Turners also buys cars – something that, for many customers wasn’t front of mind. Focusing on a ‘we love buying cars’ message would raise awareness of the business as a buyer of cars leading to more, higher quality cars coming in to Turners.

This message also tapped into customer insight.  

Firstly, car salespeople aren’t seen as particularly trustworthy – so a focus on car buying helped circumnavigate this.  

Secondly, the message delivered a promise: Turners could help take away the pain associated with getting rid of an old car through reducing admin and dealing with buyers. These insights helped differentiate Turners vs. competitors and inspired fresh and entertaining executions.  

Back your creatives

Importantly, the marketing team had faith in the creative as experts who would deliver and gave them the freedom to do what they do best. The team avoided multiple rounds of feedback to instead lean on the confidence and experience of their creatives.

This meant that, with the full support of the project team, Darryl Parsons (Creative) was empowered to give life to a solid platform that everyone backed and believed in.

From target audience to positioning to the concept of the Tina character, all decisions were made in the room and approved on the spot – avoiding a laborious back-and-forth than can often wear down the edges of great ideas until they are no longer effective.

Focus on doing one thing well

“People are busy, and most don’t care about your brand, so you have to make it easy for them. And if your budget isn’t that big, you have to focus even more.”  
- Sean Wiggans, GM Marketing.

Through staying focused on one message, Tina has become a shortcut to both the Turners brand and its message. This frees up space in executions to bring Tina’s infectious personality to life.  

Chances are you will get a halo effect anyway - the campaign is focused on customers selling their cars – but has been a big driver of buying cars as well.  

See the world a little differently

Parsons puts his hilarious scripts down to life experience. He didn’t get into advertising until he was in his 30’s. Before then, he had lived all over New Zealand and had close friends from diverse cultural backgrounds who showed him different ways to see the world.

Because of this, Parsons says he knows what New Zealanders like and can add nuances to the work that only those with real life experience can.  

Think as a team

Leaving egos at the door, the team worked with commitment to bring the campaign to life.  

This sense of teamwork was a big part of the campaign’s success, says David (DT) Thomason (Brand and Advertising Strategist).  

“Nobody was thinking about how they were going to get an award out of it. We were completely focused on creating work that would take the business forward.”  

While Kim Thorp first uttered the words ‘Tina from Turners’, everyone owned the idea together. No one in the team was thinking about what was in it for them individually – instead they focused on collective results.  

Make space for play

There’s no denying that a big part of the campaign’s success is down to the pure talent of comedian Sieni Leo'o Olo. Her portrayal of Tina brings humour and fun to an otherwise relatively boring topic, and the creative working relationship between Leo'o Olo and Parsons takes the work to the next level.  

There’s one key element to note here: the lack of a finalised script on shoot day. This means that Leo’o Olo and Parsons are free to try different things and see what works, encouraging spontaneity, originality and play.  

Invest in fame

James Roberts, Head of Strategy at Lassoo Media & PR, describes the use of TV as a key contributor to the campaign’s success. Roberts explains that the focus was on building fame through extending Tina’s personality over a direct sales message – even in channels like radio and online.  

Numerous executions allow Turners to be in market constantly, creating a cumulative effect across all the campaign elements and enhancing Tina’s fame and salience. This is a great example of smart media planning giving a brilliant creative idea the opportunity to shine.   

Add a bit of magic

You can break down a successful ad into its various components and analyse them – but there will always be an element of ‘art’ to the ‘science’ of advertising.

Using knowledge that is now available about how to create effective campaigns, the team did everything they could to ensure success. But Sean Wiggans is quick to admit that while he absolutely knew the campaign would be effective, he had no idea that it would be just as effective as it has been.  

“Fame was always an objective - but as a BHAG. I think to truly resonate with the public and achieve fame there has to be an element of magic at the end of the day,” says Wiggans.

The team deliberately created the environment for it, but the ‘magic’ of really great people doing what they do best is impossible to bottle.  

“Our team - right from the initial sessions with the strategy, to the creative and production, to the media strategy and delivery - everyone did an outstanding job. And the results reflect that.”  

So, what is the secret sauce that made the Tina from Turners campaign so successful? Is it the humour? The relatable character? The executions across media? Something else entirely?

Ultimately, it’s the combination of all these elements, plus a dash of magic for good measure.  

Perhaps if you create the right environment applying some of these learnings, who knows, you too could create a bit of magic and deliver a campaign as successful as the one-and-only Tina.

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August 22, 2023
Contributed by
Tagged with
Behaviour change
Brand & creative
Customer experience
Cultural insight
Lloyd Thomason
Communication and Brand Strategist
Lloyd Thomason is a Communication and Brand Strategist with years of experience working at some of the best creative agencies in New Zealand. Lloyd has helped deliver highly effective work for government clients including Fire and Emergency and Movember, and commercial clients including The Warehouse Group and 2degrees. He is well-versed in marketing effectiveness, New Zealand cultural codes, and applying behaviour change principles.
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