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Isentia - Isentia unveils NZ’s top CEOs in new Leadership Index

Research First From the 12 Days of Christmas to a multi-billion dollar windfall

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Isentia unveils NZ’s top CEOs in new Leadership Index

New Zealand’s top 10 ceos have been revealed in the launch of Isentia’s new Leadership Index: The Impact of Presence.

Jayne Hrdlicka, of a2 Milk, earned the highest-ranking position for a combination of her share of voice in media coverage and social media, combined with the strong financial performance of the company since her arrival in July.

Innovation and technology dominated the first two rankings, with Xero’s Steve Vamos in second place. Also on the list were Z Energy’s Mike Bennetts (5th) and Air New Zealand’s Christopher Luxon (9th).

Ngaire Crawford, Isentia’s Head of Insights for New Zealand, said: “We wanted to learn more about the way our leaders are portrayed and their comparative performance. We hope this will encourage conversations around the trends and impact of leadership.”

While a woman is at the top of the NZ Index, all of the other nine places were taken by men. Hrdlicka’s appointment in July, incredible revenue growth, and the company’s partnership with Fonterra contributed to her high ranking this quarter.

“Interestingly, New Zealand’s leading CEO is actually an Australian,” Crawford said. “The a2 Milk business has been a strong player during the past quarter and had a high profile. Although Jayne Hrdlicka copped some flak for selling shares early into the role, her contribution to the sustained success of a2 Milk became the dominating theme.”

The first of its kind in an ongoing series, this Index analysed the ceo profiles and media trends of New Zealand and Australia’s top 150 companies since 1 July, then created rankings for each country. Andrew Mackenzie, of BHP Billiton, topped the Australian Index.

Developed by Isentia’s globally-recognised Insights team, the list of 150 organisations was formed from the ASX50 and NZX50, as well as the leading private businesses based on revenue, drawn from the 2018 IBISWorld Top 500 Companies list published by the Australian Financial Review on 5 September 2018, and the Deloitte Top 200 data in New Zealand.

The Index found that women hold only 10% of the ceo roles in New Zealand, faring slightly better than Australia’s 6%.

Crawford says: “While women make up a larger proportion of ceos in NZ, all were appointed within the past 18 months, which is particularly compelling when you consider the increased social media activity around equality, rights and the push for women to speak up.”

“While a woman is at the top of the NZ Index, all of the other nine places were taken by men.”

Social presence

The Index also found that the majority of CEOs are invisible on social media, with 44% having no public social presence at all and 56% having no activity on LinkedIn.

Crawford acknowledges there are risks around using social media and being too accessible online, but says there are also risks to being invisible.

“I was surprised by the lack of personal presence on social media. Generally, when I’m talking to clients, they are focused on making their senior leaders thought leaders, and it’s important to do that through a personal connection. People, rather than brands, are thought leaders, so it seems like a potentially missed opportunity.”

New Zealand leadership trends

Three of the 10 New Zealand ceos in the Leadership Index are from information technology or telecommunications companies, including Xero’s Steve Vamos (2nd), former Vodafone ceo Russell Stanners (4th) and Datacom’s Greg Davidson (7th).

Crawford says this appears to reflect the growing dominance of the technology sector and innovation culture in New Zealand, which is now the country’s third largest export.

“Companies like Xero are seen as New Zealand success stories within our business psyche. While Australian based, Steve Vamos succeeds the iconic former NZ ceo of Xero, Rod Drury. Vamos has also overseen strong global growth, with a great interest in investment and acquisition plans of the company.”

Learn more and download a copy of ED1 The Impact of Presence here.

Ngaire Crawford, Head of Insights NZ

Research First

From the 12 Days of Christmas to a multi-billion dollar windfall

For time in eternity, Christmas has been sold to us as the most magical time of the year. For some, it’s the memory of our father’s painstaking efforts to create something resembling the paws of a reindeer on the deck, or the waft of mother’s gingerbread baking in the oven; or perhaps the tradition of reading The Night Before Christmas before bedtime on Christmas Eve.

But once we grow up, the feelings usually associated with Christmas become very different. Simple childhood delight gives way to feelings of stress and anxiety, and the sense of being overwhelmed by the constant and relentless pressure to buy, buy, buy!

So the question has to be asked, at what point did a really nice story become consumerism out of control? And, why is it that we’ve become incapable of getting off the bandwagon?

Enter consumer behaviour 101 ...

Globally, the advertising industry has created a multi billion dollar revenue stream around ‘selling Christmas,’ through creating needs we didn’t know we had and then offering solutions we didn’t know we needed. The release of annual Christmas-themed television ads with production budgets larger than the royal wedding, the multiplicity of ‘Get Christmas sorted’ brochures, special edition magazines etc. are all designed to sell to us the concept of what a perfect Christmas looks like and create an implicit guilt if we don’t buy-in. The quintessential notion of Santa dusted in snow with a sac full of candy, a rag doll or a wooden train, topped off with an orange and bottle of coke, has given way to jet skis, the latest iphone, a SMART TV or five nights in a luxury resort.

There are three drivers central to the bid to sell Christmas – Pressure, Emotional Manipulation, and Tradition. Without these key drivers Christmas may just pass as it was once intended to – an intimate family affair with very little impact from the outside world – however, when combined they create a whirlwind of fantasy and coercion that ensure people engage with the ideal Christmas (according to the gospel of optimal consumerism).

Starting immediately after Black Friday, the Christmas decorations go up, Christmas advertisements are released to thousands of likes on social media, and the countdown to Christmas has begun. From then on we are bombarded with messaging about the perfect gift for Christmas, the perfect make-up look for an effortless Christmas appearance, even the perfect outfit for your dog to wear in their family Christmas photo. All of these things are designed to create a sense of urgency and to pressure you into purchases in order to achieve the unattainable. And then suddenly it goes from ‘what I need to do’ to ‘how do I compare’ – and voilà – Christmas has now become a competition!

Every piece of advertising produced around Christmas time, down to the Christmas decorations in shop windows and the incessant noise of Snoopy’s Christmas on repeat play, is designed to manipulate our emotions - to make us feel festive, and then lure us into heightened buying behaviours. In recent years annual Christmas advertisements from large conglomerations such as Coke or John Lewis have been hugely popular. Featuring cute pets, a beautiful love story, or a wistful old man, they are crafted to elicit an emotional response from us which then positions these companies and their products front and centre in our view of what Christmas must be.

Perhaps the company who best exemplifies their influence over Christmas is Coca Cola. Since the 1920’s when an a department store advertisement depicted a red Santa drinking a bottle of coke, Coca Cola has been heavily intertwined with Western Christmases. From sponsoring Christmas in the Park, to creating the very image of what Santa looks like today they have huge influence over our Christmas traditions – if you’ve ever wondered how the bottle of coke ever became a thing at the bottom of every child’s Christmas stocking, well now you know! Coke is perhaps the smartest example of advertising over the 20th and 21st centuries.

The question still remains though, why do we repeatedly engage with all this hype around Christmas despite being able to rationalise what’s actually going on?

It is basic psychology that what we grow up with and what we are presented with almost inexhaustibly will shape our view of the world. What Christmas means to us, the big family affair, the beautifully decorated tree and wrapped presents, and the jolly red Santa that visits our children each year are the ‘joys’ we have been skillfully and deliberately trained to want and will go to great ends to achieve.

No matter how stressful or expensive Christmas is, we’ll still sit around amongst unwrapped presents on the 25th of December and celebrate, while the advertising agencies count their Christmas bonuses and companies add up their profit, congratulating themselves on a job well done. 


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