Case study: How Kernel tripled brand awareness through the Make It Happen campaign

October 8th, 2022

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Elly Strang
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Kernel Wealth is on a mission to improve the financial literacy and wellbeing of Kiwis.

The business was founded in 2019 as an index fund manager, but has recently expanded into an all inclusive personal finance platform. Its product range now extends beyond investing in index funds, offering New Zealanders a high interest savings account and KiwiSaver plan, too. 

Seeing as both the wealth management and KiwiSaver categories are hotly contested in New Zealand, Kernel has been using Tracksuit to measure the impact of its recent brand-building efforts – and keep an eye on competitors. 

Kernel’s Marketing Manager Christine Jensen says having access to Tracksuit's data and tools has helped evolve Kernel’s marketing approach to champion brand building. 

“Tracksuit gives our team a reference point for measuring long-term brand building,” Christine says. “Until now, we haven’t been able to track the impact of the bulk of our brand building activity – out of home, print, radio – and how this trickles down through the funnel, from awareness to preference.”

Kernel’s Digital Marketing Manager Luke Kavanagh says having hard data to refer to has been helpful to review the success of their brand marketing efforts. 

“I am a numbers and data guy as a digital marketer, so being able to directly see the fruits of my labor is important to me. Having a way to be able to track performance from traditionally non-trackable placements with Tracksuit is key to growing our brand building efforts.” 

Kernel was one of the first users of Tracksuit’s Marketing Budget Calculator. The calculator is based on the research of globally renowned experts Les Binet and Peter Field, and the recommended marketing mix for the wealth management category is heavily weighted in brand marketing (80:20).

This was reaffirming for Kernel to see, as the brand had decided to invest more into brand marketing and explore new channels through an Out-Of-Home and TVC campaign they worked on with agency Contagion called Make It Happen.

The campaign ran from July to September and encourages people to make their goals a reality – however ambitious they might be, from leaving the corporate world to road tripping through Europe – by growing their money with Kernel.  

Christine says one of the main purposes of the Make It Happen campaign was to broaden the audience they were speaking to.

“We tried to take more of an emotive route and create aspiration. Our aim was also to build credibility and trust in the market as more people got to know our brand through this campaign. Being on TV and on billboards puts us alongside well known brands, which elevates people’s perceptions of us.”

Luke says Kernel’s digital activity also reached a large audience in a cost-effective way.

“If you factor in total spend and total reach, our overall CPM (Cost Per Mille) works out at just under $1, which is very competitive. For us, that means that we were able to very cost-effectively achieve our goal of reaching wider audiences,” Luke says.

Kernel’s TVC ads were also accompanied by a digital video sequencing that had almost 2 million impressions and 200,000 view-throughs, helping spread brand awareness further. 

Brand investment  🤝  Share of Voice growth

Tracksuit data shows that off the back of this brand building activity, Kernel was the only business in the financial services category to nearly triple brand awareness from June to October, moving from 3.2% to 9%. At today’s category size, that’s an extra ~178,000 humans that have become aware of the brand. 

These metrics are a helpful point of guidance that can be shared with the wider Kernel team so that they understand the results that brand marketing campaigns can drive.

“Through Tracksuit’s various pieces of data, we’re able to communicate with our wider team the value of brand-building, plus identify opportunities with new audiences, locations or additional messaging that might resonate with our target customers,” Christine says.  

Nielsen’s Media Competitive Expenditure Data also reflects strong growth, as Kernel’s Share Of Voice (SOV) against key competitors grew from 0 to 10% from June to September. 

Alongside this improvement in key brand metrics and SOV, Kernel had an increase in conversions and new users to the website, as well as word-of-mouth. Raw response data from the brand’s Imagery tab shows several people mentioning ‘Saw them on TV’ or ‘saw them on a billboard’ as brand associations. 

Kernel’s Imagery data also shows that their marketing activity has been building awareness of what the brand does, with ‘Investment’, ‘Money’, ‘Shares’, and ‘Investing’ coming through strongly.

Christine says her favorite feature of the Tracksuit dashboard to use is the timeline view, as it gives her team the ability to see how Kernel is tracking against specific competitors as well as the competitive average. 

“This helps identify whether our advertising efforts are average or above average in terms of effectiveness, or whether it’s larger macro events that might be influencing the outcome of our metrics,” she says. “This is something that is particularly important within the financial services industry, and the economic environment we find ourselves in!”

Digital marketing 🤝 brand marketing

The cliché in a marketing team is a Digital Marketing Manager and Brand or Marketing Manager going head to head to battle it out for who gets the bigger chunk of the overall marketing budget, but this couldn’t be further from the truth at Kernel. 

The plan for their 2023 marketing budget is to continue to build on this success and keep investing in brand marketing, with digital marketing complementing these brand-building efforts.  

An example of how this worked with the Make It Happen campaign was digital billboards were geo-fenced paid social activity so if you saw a billboard, you saw Kernel’s advertising pop up on Facebook on your phone, too. This helped reinforce who the brand is and what Kernel does on multiple channels. 

Luke says a large portion of Kernel’s marketing spend will be going towards brand in the next quarter.

“What’s interesting is most businesses will scale up in digital significantly next year as costs are a bit more controllable, results are a bit more predictable and in some ways guaranteed. We’re taking the opposite approach and scaling down our digital spend and looking at other avenues,” he says. 

“It’s easy for me to see the value in that, as long-term brand is way more important for Kernel than short term sales activation. As Tracksuit might point out, we weren’t a nobody, but we were a very small fish in our category. The only way we’ll win is investing so we can take more and more of that Share Of Voice.”

When pointed out that this is a very accommodating attitude for a Digital Marketing Manager to have, Luke and Christine laugh.

“Christine probably thought I might be her biggest challenge,” Luke says. 

“I found it really easy to get Luke on board,” Christine says. 

“There’s been talk that justifies the action. We saw what happened with Airbnb when they moved away from immediate activations to longer term brand building, and we don’t want to lose the brand capital we’ve been building,” Luke adds. 

2022 momentum 🤝 2023 gains

As for Kernel’s channel mix for 2023, Christine says the brand is continuing to explore new avenues for their marketing. 

This includes everything from press releases that have gained news coverage on Stuff and grown into discussions on Reddit, to advertising on radio channels that are relevant to their target demographics, to continuing with their successful financial guidance podcast, It’s No Secret, which has had over 85,000 downloads to date.

“People are taking our opinions more seriously as we’re driving the discussion on multiple channels – even if it’s sometimes a controversial opinion,” Christine says.  

Learnings from where they had the most impact through their Tracksuit data are also helping inform Kernel’s marketing strategy for the coming year.

“Through Tracksuit, we were able to identify that we had the most uptick in Wellington in terms of awareness, which we have now learnt from and used to influence parts of our upcoming summer campaign,” she says.

Tracksuit data shows Kernel grew brand awareness in Wellington by 11.2% from June to September while running an OOH campaign in the city. At today’s category size, that’s an extra ~36,000 humans that became aware of the brand in New Zealand’s capital. 

One thing’s for sure if their marketing plan is anything to go by – it’ll be an exciting year of brand building for Kernel in 2023. 

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