Tourism Australia CMO on defining Brand Australia and why we don’t want to be a bucket list destination
Marketing speaks with Tourism Australia CMO Lisa Ronson about the Australia brand, and how the organisation’s focus is on delivering fewer, bigger and better initiatives.
Marketing: What is Tourism Australia’s current definition of the Australia brand?
Lisa Ronson, Tourism Australia CMO: It’s really a combination of a couple of things. It’s very much about the unique nature of Australia. Our amazing beaches, our unique wildlife, our indigenous culture, our food and wine. They’re the really important things. There’s obviously some sub points under that. It’s that combined with the unique nature of Australians.
The combination of those two factors: what we’ve got to offer from an experiential point of view – the depth and diversity – plus the unique nature of Australians is really what Brand Australia is about and how we market ourselves overseas. Those are the two things that really make us unique on a world stage.
Tourism is very competitive. Obviously, consumers have a lot of choices when they’re traveling, so we have to make sure that we can try and really push through that uniqueness of what we’ve got that nobody else has. That tends to be how we define the Australia brand.
Do you have to view other countries as competitors?
Yeah, absolutely, like you would in any other category. In banking, you define your competitors and you do a lot of analysis and review. We run data on different countries, but we look at mainly the USA, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and some parts of Southeast Asia.
We look at what brands are doing some really interesting things in tourism and we measure trends constantly. We have a very big market research program that we’ve been running for five and a half years, and we really deep dive into finding the drivers of consideration for each of our competitors as well. So we’ve got a lot of data. Not just on those countries, but on a lot more countries, so we can understand how we fit compared to our competitors, where we’ve got strengths and where we may need to do a little bit more work.
It was interesting. That research has thrown up a lot of things. From a food and wine point of view, being in Australia, we all know our food and wine’s fantastic. But when you looked at people’s perceptions before they come to Australia and what they think of Australia after they leave, I think about a quarter of people had a good quality perception of Australia with food and wine. But then after they left, we’re second only to France.
It throws up some really interesting opportunities like that. We’ve launched our food and wine program that we’re continuing because perceptions take a really long, long time to change. That’s why we focus on things like food and wine.
We looked at a lot of different factors from a lot of countries around the world and that’s how we define where we fit and how we’re going and what our brand health is at any given time.
Is most of your campaigning work made up of large projects or smaller-scale work with partners and stakeholders in Australia?
We get a portion of money from government and we operate in between 13 and 15 markets. That’s a lot of markets with the operating budget that we have. We’ve done a full market prioritisation in the three key markets: the US, the UK and China. That’s where the biggest impact on the Australian economy is currently coming from, from a tourism perspective.
We want to look at fewer, bigger, better initiatives. In the example of the Super Bowl, we did the whole Dundee movie remake piece and then we worked with a whole lot of different partners underneath it. We worked with airline partners, with key distribution partners, those that sell Australia to Americans over in the US. We worked with our states and territories, so that it could all line up under that big halo that entered the Super Bowl.
We started selling as soon as we went into the Super Bowl. So it does vary very dramatically by market and then by our focused areas.
So we don’t have a form or such to say, ‘well, we spend x percent on brand, x percent on partnerships.’ It really comes down to the power of the idea and then what partners make sense to work with on the different ideas.
One of the global campaigns we launched two and a half or three years ago was aquatic and coastal. We focused on the aquatic and coastal experience and working with the states and territories to identify what some of those great experiences are, like swimming with wild sharks or the seals in Port Lincoln in South Australia. So it does vary depending on the key thing that we’re focusing on and then what partners we draw into it depending on the creative idea.
How do changing consumer trends influence your marketing?
Very much so. As I was saying before around the market research that we do, we also get a lot of insights from our social channels. We have the biggest social following of any destination marketing organisation in the world. We’ve got around 12 million between Facebook, Instagram and our China social channels. The level of engagement we get from our social really gives us a clear understanding of what’s resonating with our different audiences.
We’ve got a very clear target audience in what we call the high-value traveler. We focus on those people that are going to come to Australia and spend more in the Australian economy. We define that high-value traveler as those people that will travel long haul. They like what Australia’s got to offer, they’ve got an affinity with the Australian brand and they tend to spend more on their holidays because they prioritise it as a bigger part of their life.
We’re not a mass market destination. We never will be a mass market destination, so we look at that high-value traveler and how they’re changing what they’re seeking out, what barriers they may have for coming to Australia and how we can overcome some of those things.
We’re constantly looking at consumer trends and it’s something that we’re very, very focused on so we can make sure that every dollar we spend is targeted to that high-value traveler with the message that’s going to get them to act. Right message, right customer at the right time.
What are the main barriers?
Time, distance, cost. A lot of tourism destinations would find the same thing. It’s about making sure we can debunk any myths. A lot of the time, people think it takes longer to get here than it actually does, so we do a lot of aspirational messaging. We do a lot of functional messaging, as well, around how long it takes, the weather here, those sorts of things.
Our digital channels and our platforms play a massive role in that to help people break down more, can I get from here to here and what’s the typical itinerary, because the last thing we want to be is a bucket list destination.
We want to have people come and come back again, because we know that from an advocacy point of view, with Americans, we are quite far down from a visitation point. We’re high up in the aspirational. They want to come here, but then they tend to go to Europe. But after they’ve been to Australia, we’re number one from an advocacy point of view.
So once they’ve been here, they absolutely love it and they come back. We don’t want to be a someday destination where people think, ‘oh, I need five weeks to do it properly.’ We want them to come and do it in different chunks and understand that, they can come and do the east coast, they can come and do the west coast, or a combination of both, and they can achieve all of that in a two week holiday.
What’s the approach to understanding and communicating to widely different markets around the world?
We look very closely at our market research, the insights that we get from our digital channels and platforms and also social, but effectively at the end of the day, Australia is Australia and that is what we are selling. We obviously adapt our messages on the basis of cultural variations and language, so translations is a big part of what we do. That sounds like a really obvious thing to say, but it’s really important that we make sure that we’re getting our messages to our target audiences in the way that they can understand what we’re trying to say to them.
But really, we can’t market Australia completely differently in every single different market, because we are what we are. We’re a package of experiences. We’re a unique destination. The diversity of the destination plus that Australian-ness. We might bring it to life in slightly different ways based on cultural nuance and things like that, but that’s when we work closely with our end market teams to make sure that we’re getting those subtleties right and incorporating those into our messaging so that we can take those messages that are consistent, but we can deliver them with that cultural nuance.