PetCulture’s first CMO shares her ambitions for achieving growth

Melanie Novacan

A petition encouraging Australian employers to give pet owners the pet vacation, as well as pet personality ratings promoting product recommendations and member benefits, are just some of the tools PetCulture’s first GMO is using to drive aggressive growth.

Melanie Novacan joined PetCulture last week, the first Chief Marketing Officer. The online-only business is a joint venture between Woolworths and Holland Insurance, the owner of PetSure, in a direct response to the growing levels of pet ownership and spending across the country. It is predicted that spending on pets in Australia will exceed $ 10 billion in the coming years.

One of the great things about PetCulture is a tiered subscription-based offering that offers a combination of membership benefits for pet insurance, products and services such as: B. 24-hour support for vet chats, discounts, free delivery and coverage for multiple pets.

It is the first time Novacan has tackled an e-commerce marketing role and she said CMO she was excited about the opportunity and the challenge. Novacan has a wide range of marketing and brand management experience, from well-known companies like Telstra, ING Australia and CommSec to Media Streaming Disruptor, Stan and Startups, Stockspot and AgriWebb.

“This business is launched as a disruptive brand in a crowded market. And it’s one that is ripe and ready for a brand to come in and think about pet health and wellbeing as part of your family, ”she said.

PetCulture’s product offering and platform were originally set up by an incubation team. Work on brand strategy and creativity also began prior to Novacan’s appointment, overseen by consultant marketer Lauren Chapman. Others involved in getting PetCulture up and running include former Accenture Interactive boss Michael Buckley.

Since January, the company has been expanding its permanent leadership team and now has six executives, including CEO Simon Smith, whose résumé includes leadership roles at Ola, eBay and Servcorp. Appointing a CMO is the “final piece of the puzzle,” Novacan said.

“Moving back to a true brand CMO role on a leadership team where there is a vision of where we’re going to take the business next made the role compelling for me,” she said. “This leadership team has high-caliber talent that is underpinned by Simon’s expertise and business acumen. I look forward to learning from these people and growing with them. ”

The experience of building the Stan brand as a new entrant in a new category and engaging a large number of subscribers will be instrumental in how Novacan approaches the latest post. While pet retailing is not a new category, the idea of ​​subscription-based membership is new.

She noted that the top three things the PetCulture CEO looked for in a CMO were proven to be the ability to build a brand from scratch in a short amount of time. A track record of accelerating growth in a competitive marketplace; and digital marketing know-how.

“I’ll be able to use all of this insight, experience, and knowledge, but with the challenge of getting into e-commerce and retail and learning that side of the category,” she said.

Fast way to growth

For the next six months, PetCulture’s priority is to rapidly build brand awareness among pet owners in Australia. Novacan pointed out that there are 29 million domestic animals in Australia, more than the total human population. And during the pandemic, the numbers have thrived.

“Our brand’s mission is to make Australia a happier place by maintaining a great pet community and enabling members to improve the lives of their pets,” she said. “The next six months will be about cracking this market and promoting awareness, consideration and testing of the brand and getting people to get to know the product and service we offer. We have to hit some aggressive targets. ”

It’s not an easy question, as the category ranges from competitors like pure online retailer PetCircle to more traditional brick and mortar brands like PetBarn.

Through her work at Stan, Novacan said that she knows the key is finding the right combination of branding and performance marketing. Novacan is now working with the media agency Performix to create a test and learning calendar to ensure that the company determines an optimal media mix.

She didn’t see much traditional work on the cards across the board. Instead, there will be a focus on digital and social channels, supported by “some clever creative media activations and stunts”.


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One such activation is a “petition” launched last week to encourage companies to offer “PETernity” vacations and allow employees to recognize their pets as family members. PetCulture has already adopted these practices in-house and offers employees two days of vacation when they purchase a new pet.

“We know so many households have pets and consider them part of the family,” Novacan said. “We did a major research with TBWA that found 68 percent of Australians who own pets to be real family members.”

As part of the campaign, the CEO of PetCulture appeared on various media, including the TV breakfast program Sunrise.

Novacan said the brand’s humorous, quirky, and fun identity also provides the tools to address the fun aspects and benefits of having pets in the family.

Given the large number of Australians who own pets, Novacan said personalization will be done by putting the pet first. PetCulture actively encourages subscribers to band together to create a profile of their pet such as name, age, breed type and weight.

“That way, we can provide some of these more personalized recommendations for products that are right for your particular pet. It also means that members who need access to our 24/7 online chat will need information so that the veterinarian can help the owner with their concerns, questions or challenges, ”explained Novacan.

“It also allows us to make recommendations on the level of coverage and insurance law for each pet, as well as product-only recommendations and the right treats for a cat or dog.

“Because so many owners see that their pet has a personality or ‘pet tality’ of their own, it will help build engagement from those owners who are deeply committed to their pets.”


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Only one week in the role, Novacan said she was optimistic about the opportunity. She is actively working with the CEO on the business plan and presenting it to the board this week.

As part of the team, Novacan is also building its marketing team from scratch and is actively looking for a range of skills.

“The combination of the talent of the executive team people and my skills will ensure this is a very successful business for our JV owners and the executive team,” she added.

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