How does a new meal kit delivery company break into the New Zealand market: they call up a handsome Kiwi fireman who we can all relate to.
Jaco Kluts is an astonishingly normal man. He lives in an ordinary house in a steadily gentrifying suburb in Auckland, just near Penny Bright’s old place. Outside on the lawn is a white dollhouse salvaged from the neighbour’s scrap heap – building it was like Lego for adults, he says. Parked outside that is a plastic buggy saved from the inorganic collection, and behind the buggy is a bike that Jaco rides to work at the fire station in Parnell. He’s been working there for more than a decade. Together with his wife Dom, Jaco has three little girls, and today they’re off to Raglan for the weekend. He is a genuine, real-deal Kiwi bloke – and that’s why HelloFresh, a new player in the New Zealand meal kit market, made him their face.
In a market awash with manicured and massaged influencers selling skinny tea and modern-day corsets, it’s a rare move for brands to aim for relatable over aspirational. But the ebbs and flows of family life rarely look like cocktails in Kuta; day by day, things tend towards the average, if not the easy.
“There’s always a place for the Dan Carters and whatever out there, but there’s also this shift in our habits and what we relate too, and people are looking for something more personable,” says Jaco. “I’m really just a standard guy, making dinner. What’s more everyday than dinner?”
Sharing a meal is a small act in itself, but across the years it forms the cornerstone of family life. Finding the time to make it happen, however, is increasingly difficult. Especially when his work as a firefighter requires strict nutritional balance. Often nutrition and convenience can seem like an insurmountable either-or, particularly when you’re at the mercy of toddlers. HelloFresh bridges that gap, Jaco says, and he was a faithful customer long before he became an ambassador. In fact, the impact the service had on his family was the main reason he was keen to get on board at all.
With three girls under five and a full-time job, Jaco says it was a daunting proposition to take on the role at first. Real influencers spend hundreds and hundreds of hours perfecting their brand: engaging with fans, networking, polishing and burnishing their image to create the glossy facade of your average Instagram account. It’s a truism at this point that on the internet we see only highlights and in life we live mostly bloopers. But Jaco wants to be the antithesis of that, he says.
“We’d just had a newborn, and so I wasn’t too keen; it sounded like a lot of work. But they insisted they were looking for a standard, average bloke,” he laughs. “I don’t know whether that’s a compliment or not, but they were. When it came about I was like ‘far out, this is going to be messy,’ but I thought about it and you know, everything on Instagram is perfect, and I’m really not – but that’s what they wanted.”
The campaign launch video of HelloFresh Guy follows Jaco almost voyeuristically, peering around corners and over fences as he prepares for work, hangs with his family and jogs in the park. Jaco is good talent: bemused, natural, a bit confused. For this kind of campaign, being utterly inexperienced was an essential key strength.
“It was quite genuine, I didn’t really know what was going on, and that’s the way they wanted it. I didn’t ever feel like I was acting even though it was all new to me,” he says. “We’re really busy at the moment so it’s kind of funny, if I had more time to sit down and think about it it might be difficult, but my outlook is that they want the chaos. They don’t need the picture-perfect thing, I can just be myself and have fun.”
Influencers by definition gain the authentic trust and goodwill of their audience and through that are able to recommend goods and services in ways no billboard ever could. And it’s precisely because of what they reveal about themselves and the people around them that customers are encouraged to buy. There are always ethical considerations, especially when children are involved. But Jaco says his role is as much a test pilot as a marketer, and for a meal kit there are few gauntlets more stringent than dinner for toddlers. He’s not just there to endorse a product, he’s providing essential feedback about how functional it actually is for his family and what’s working and what isn’t. The proof is quite literally is in the pudding.
“I think it’d be very hard to do something that I didn’t believe in,” Jaco says. “And because it genuinely helped our lives, there was still a discussion to be had with my wife, but we decided that on the balance of it, if we can have a positive impact on people, getting them together and eating together, that’d be really cool. Nutrition and family time is something that really has meant a lot to us.”
“The boys at work laughed about it. They said ‘mate, they’re trying to make you into the Briscoes lady,’ but I’m not getting ahead of myself. I think the Briscoes lady is probably on par with the Kiwi Onion Dip lady – they’re about as good as it gets.”
For now there’s a car to pack and three girls to rustle up: they’re off for that greatest and most pedestrian of Kiwi traditions, a trip to the bach.
This content was created in paid partnership with HelloFresh. Learn more about our partnerships here.
Subscribe to The Bulletin to get all the day’s key news stories in five minutes – delivered every weekday at 7.30am.