The Insider: Jaguar Land Rover CEO on having a brand with purpose

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Rugby legend Stephen Donald played a key role in JLR Defenders of Tomorrow.

Rugby legend Stephen Donald played a key role in JLR Defenders of Tomorrow.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) CEO, Steve Kenchington on the importance of modern automotive brands driving their business with purpose. 

Jaguar Land Rover NZ CEO Steve Kenchington.

Consumers are becoming increasingly discerning, and brands that don’t adapt now will experience negative repercussions in the long term. 

It’s all well and good designing beautiful products or offering better services than your competitors, but research by Ernst & Young reveals that 42 per cent of consumers will only buy from brands that align with their values. Similarly, according to Deloitte: social impact and corporate purpose have been shown to drive purchasing decisions as it helps consumers identify with their values and can impact their loyalty. This resonates with me on a personal level and I often reflect on a brand’s greater purpose, when making purchasing decisions, especially on higher ticket items. 

Ernst & Young goes on to advise brands to explore partnerships that create collective value – at JLR we do this with purpose-driven strategy. This stems from a collaboration of the individuals who work at JLR in New Zealand and globally, and is something that I instil in everything we do. 

For example, last year we embarked on a long-term partnership with Mitey, the evidence-based children’s mental health curriculum founded by Sir John Kirwan that provides free teaching and mental health education across New Zealand. Together with our retailers and customers we raised $1million to enable Mitey to reach even more young children and their families. Collectively we supported the fundraising efforts through hosting events and donating time and money. To this day we continue to support the foundation and we’re currently planning our next activity to help raise even more vital funds. 

I am truly passionate about the work Mitey does to support our tamariki. Not only is it well-documented that no one is immune to poor mental health, no matter where you are from or the experiences you have lived, but Mitey offers services at the earliest stages of life to help prevent more and more New Zealanders from going through mental health battles. 

The charity targets primary school students from year one to eight, providing age appropriate skills to learn and nurture their own wellbeing. It aligns with the New Zealand curriculum and provides ongoing coaching and support to ensure every Mitey school has the best possible resource to support the development of their students. 

With each year group, the classes and teachings progress so that the children can continue to build on their understanding of how to prevent and deal with unsettling situations. In fact – and I am incredible proud to say – that the latest evaluation of Mitey showed that students make an extraordinary progress within just 18 months of the programme. 

This wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated Mitey team, the nationwide group of schools and teachers, and donors. Together we are and will continue to radically change the mental health of Aotearoa. 

As an extension of our dedication to support young Kiwis, this year as part of our sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup we launched a mascot programme – Defenders of Tomorrow. 

Defenders of Tomorrow got four deserving young people to France for the World Cup.

The inaugural Defenders of Tomorrow, launched with a nationwide search to find four young people to represent New Zealand as Land Rover Defender mascots at the Rugby World Cup in France. 

Knowing that thousands of children in our communities have been through hardship and showcased huge strengths in character and resilience in recent years, we aimed to provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give something back to those courageous New Zealanders. 

We were able to use Defenders of Tomorrow as a platform to identify and celebrate children who have given so much, despite being in incredibly tough situations themselves. 

We joined forces with rugby legend Stephen Donald to search for tamariki, aged 7-13 years old who showcased incredible character and represent one of four behaviours, – Bravery, Innovation, Positivity and Aroha. 

Each behaviour defines the meaning behind Defenders of Tomorrow and links back to our purpose as a brand with a strong focus on social responsibility. For me personally, these also represent the building blocks for incredibly kind and forward-thinking individuals, which is something as a nation we should all strive for. 

The four incredibly deserving children who were chosen ran onto the pitch with the world’s best rugby players in front of stadium fans and millions of viewers from around the globe. 

It was a truly incredible experience for them, and an excellent way for us to activate a brand sponsorship beyond traditional advertising methods. 

Throughout this activity, we continued to reflect on what our corporate social responsibility was and reminded ourselves of our ‘why’. These are just two examples of how JLR strives for a better future. 

JLR is more than just a house of luxury automotive brands. We – the people behind the brands – want to give back to communities, support good causes and offer what we can to improve the wellbeing of those around us. 

As our brands continue to evolve with new vehicle launches or customer experiences, so will our social purpose, and I’m looking forward to the future of JLR and the support we can provide to our local communities. 

For our industry colleagues, I challenge them to consider what purpose-driven activity they are doing to make a difference. And to you, the reader, think about your favourite car brand and what they are doing to support the world outside – it could be anything from tackling social causes, supporting grassroots sport or aiming for a more sustainable future. 

While JLR’s focus has been on supporting the youngest people around us, which doesn’t directly increase sales or our bottom line, I have no doubt that our continued efforts will bode well for our brands in New Zealand in the long term. 

Further insight from world-renowned brand strategist James Hurman, shows that consumers are more likely to gravitate toward brands that we are familiar with and feel good about, rather than those we have never heard of or feel negatively towards. It is our job to create positive memories of our brand as this will influence future purchasing decisions. 

So, while New Zealand may not have brought the Rugby World Cup home, I am positive that Jaguar Land Rover create positive memories for the children involved. And who knows, one of the Defenders of Tomorrow or Mitey’s students may go on to work within our business or become a customer one day as they remember the brand that wanted the best for them when they were in need. 

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