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The Innovator 25:
Jemma Wong rose to prominence earlier this year through the launch of AFL Women’s league, helping to radically reshape perceptions of a male-dominated sport. The 15-month process saw Wong oversee a team of 15 covering brand strategy, visual identity, content, creative and retail — building a successful brand from scratch in a fiercely competitive marketplace. Wong also created Girls Who Brand — a network and community for young women in marketing to learn and disrupt the field, in a bid to break gender stereotypes in marketing and help women accelerate their careers.
How do you define innovation?
Innovation is about human artistry. There is an art, craft and alchemy to how we solve problems that progress consumers and marketplaces. We can't ever lose that application and complexity. I fundamentally believe that breaking paradigms and rebuilding new ones requires context for the present and past, a futurist lens and a whole lot of bravery.
Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
I am in awe with R/GA's 'CindyBot' which they launched on International Women's Day. Women could access and interact with the bot to find out how to ask for a pay rise and demonstrate value. Perfectly designed and automated 'cindyisms' in her tone and voice to give women a competitive edge and fierce spirit when they walk into pay reviews. Utterly brilliant.
What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
LEGO understands its customers and co-creates openly with them. AirBnB has become a major game changer in building a community of purpose and influence (there's a lot of power to mobilise all hosts and visitors for common social value). In terms of agencies; loving what R/GA continue to do in breaking models and convention - they're influencing the entire industry!
Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
Building the brand and audience strategy for AFL Women's, the first national women's competition for football. This was a game changer for me and one of the most rewarding step changes to be a part of. It’s a marketer’s dream to ignite brand change or have the opportunity to kickstart a movement. We were in many ways working against traditional grain and rhythm. We were building a new league, driving a new vision, and actively chasing new audiences with a start-up mentality. There were so many unknowns, in fact there still are. We were making the seemingly ‘invisible’, visible, which means there were expectations for sponsors, fans and the playing group too. We had to help rewrite this. Crafting a story and positioning that is both respectful of 150 years of history, legacy and the DNA of our game, and that also creates a space for difference – was difficult. We had to encourage fans to not only understand, but appreciate the difference - perspective and perception. AFLW was still our game, but with modifications and innovations. We broke the agency model and worked with independent female creative leads. We told micro stories not one major macro narrative. We grew our social audience to 190,000 community size in 5 months and hit 196,000 attendances and 5.5 million cumulative TV audience over the 8 week competition period. Every aspect of this was new terrain and measured risk-taking.
In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Content & creative.
How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?
About the same as other marketing disciplines.
Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Content & creative.
Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?
CTO (or equivalent).
Who is your mentor and why?
Some are known and some are invisible. For those that are visible: Michael Scott, executive general manager for marketing and brand at Myer who encourages me to be courageous in the pursuit of purpose. I have another mentor who is a start-up founder and he provokes me to think about problems laterally, literally and keep drilling to get to the source.
How do you find inspiration?
Creativity is driven from diversity, and diverse lenses come from a sincere curiosity of the broader world state. I look to high art, writers like Murakami and theatre to stimulate my senses. My greatest inspiration comes from my industry girl tribe (three friends living in New York, London and Los Angeles) who are championing the space of media, literature, music and content right now. I also immerse myself in start-ups and spend time with founders and inventors to help me simplify thoughts and problems. Right now I've been reading a lot about workplaces of the future, agile leadership and podcasts (Sincerely X Ted, Design Matters and Future2)
What is your advice for people seeking to bring new ideas and ways of doing things to their organizations?
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