Why is Trade Me taking the humor route for its storytelling?

Trade Me, a leading classifieds website from New Zealand, is ready to remind its customers about its importance in their lives and it has chosen humor as the strategy. The Drum finds out why the funny tactic is the best creative solution for the brand.

The brand claims almost 700,000 New Zealanders trust it every single day to buy, sell, search or simply dream. Rather than rest on its size, the brand decided to look at humor to tell this story. It launched an integrated campaign, conceptualized by Clemenger & Colenso BBDO, that depicts the myriad reasons why Kiwis trust Trade Me to get them through all of life’s moments – some regular and some quirky.

The challenges of finding relevance for a legacy brand

For a brand that prides itself on having a New Zealand-based team of 500+ people creating the place where Kiwis look first for everything, Trade Me has an interesting task cut out for itself, shares Sarah O’Leary, head of brand, communication and community at the New Zealand based company.

According to O'Leary, the campaign needs to remind people of its proud legacy. But it doesn't stop at great advertising, she has to make sure the product and experience it offers are relevant to its consumers.

Kiwis are a tech-savvy bunch and, accordingly, they have high expectations from brands when it comes to tech platforms, user experience and customer experience. Thus, any brand has to work hard on these parameters to remain relevant.

Brand journey and evolution since its 1999 launch

Trade Me has had an interesting journey from the time it was founded 22 years ago by Sam Morgan and disrupted the online and second-hand goods market.

As per the folklore, the frustrating experience that he faced while buying a heater for himself was the inspiration behind Morgan launching the classified site at that time. Since then, it has evolved to become a loved portal for property, motors, jobs and new goods, shares O’Leary. Trade Me was listed in 2012 as a public company.

In the early years of its existence, the brand had to work hard in cutting through the consumer barriers, as viewing a car, job or property online was still a foreign concept to most New Zealanders. Fast forward to now, with evolving consumer habits and digital adoption, the number of categories it operates has been growing - ranging from property, motors and jobs to all things weird and wonderful in the new and used goods space.

Evolving marketing playbook

The brand, interestingly, has evolved organically, for a large part of its life with very little marketing for many years. In fact, it was not until around 2015 that the company started investing in above-the-line brand marketing, shares O’Leary. Along the way, it also refreshed its visual identity, brand personality, tone of voice, and developed a new brand architecture.


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Unusual solution: deploying quirky humor for a classified category brand

Humor cuts through category and brand, and it often helps the brand recall among an attention-starved consumer base. Trade Me, as a brand, does not take itself too seriously, shares O’Leary and for its recent campaign, it decided to show a wide range of people using Trade Me for a wide range of things, in a fun and engaging way.

"Getting the balance right, between emotional connection and rational proof-points and between humor and credibility, was possibly the toughest part of the campaign", views O’Leary.

"The creative output of Clemenger & Colenso BBDO teams was helped by the film director, Wade Shotter’s vision for the ad and the way he balanced humor and quirkiness with scale and credibility", she adds.