CMO50 #20: Kent Davidson, Mantra Group

  • Name Kent Davidson
  • Title Executive director – sales, marketing and distribution
  • Company Mantra Group
  • Commenced role May 2013, with the company since July 2002
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 90 staff, 8 direct reports
  • Brand Post

    Digital Foundations Essential for Optimal Customer Engagement

    Mantra Group’s executive director of sales, marketing and distribution, Kent Davidson, says the hotel management company has a long-held corporate vision to become the ‘favourite’ within its target market.

    “It’s one we draw closer to every day,” he says. “We don’t believe consumers have a favourite in the hotel space and we are striving to take that position. That translates across the many other areas that marketing supports throughout the business.”

    Mantra Group is an ASX-listed company with a market capitalisation of more than $1 billion. It’s the largest Australian-based manager of hotels, resorts and retreats, with a network of 120 properties operating under three brands: Peppers, Mantra and BreakFree.

    Davidson has been with the organisation for 13 years, working his way up from group GM of sales for the Peppers brand to his current position as marketing chief.

    Empowered and long-term thinking

    Davidson says he’s focusing on several areas of the business in the next 1-2 years to achieve Mantra’s corporate vision. This includes the expertise and professionalism of its sales and marketing teams, working with owners to maintain product and inventory, and collaborating with shareholders on building value, he says.

    “We’re also working with employees as a preferred employer, and among consumers for the spectrum of our product and our attention to experience from ideation to post-stay engagement,” he says.

    As a CMO, Davidson says he must have a willingness to evolve his thinking through the experiences and the intelligence around him.

    “While being a thought leader is important, a big part of that process is to take the perspective of others to enhance your own,” he says. “I also advocate embracing adventurous initiatives knowing that failure is one of the potential outcomes; embrace failure when it comes, learn from it and evolve your thinking once more.”


    Davidson takes a similar approach to innovation, suggesting it is about harmonising the technical and creative aspects of strategy.

    “It’s about understanding the commercial imperatives of your business through analysis is the first step to realisation of where opportunity lies; only then can you release the creative aptitude of your people,”he says.

    “Innovation should always be about building capacity for a business by understanding where the business can evolve to, and creating and environment for your people to take you there.”

    From the CMO50 submission

    Business contribution and innovation

    One of the recent business-led initiatives Davidson has worked on in the past 18 months is an organisational re-engineering of marketing to present a more united and strategic front.

    Critical aspects included integration of marketing and communications, digital, PR, sales, ecommerce, pricing and revenue management and distribution teams into cohesive teams with an aligned strategy, he said in his CMO50 submission. He also enacted an agency review in order to form more collaborative third-party relationships.

    Key outcomes from the work included a double-digit increase in campaign ROI, revenue target achievements and overall revenue growth, he said.

    Modern marketing and customer engagement thinking and effectiveness

    Like many CMOs in the CMO50, Davidson is spearheading a program of work to drive multi-faceted customer engagement. This is aimed at both lowering customer acquisition costs through more targeted digital and physical strategies and activities, as well as improving re-engagement efforts with existing customers in its database.

    The work will see the integration of Mantra’s various customer management systems, as well as new initiatives around customer journeys and personalised content and services. The process also required a structural evolution and workflow mapping, along with investments into new digital marketing skillsets.

    “Ultimately, this project will facilitate interaction with an organic group of targeted customers and will offer them benefits to follow more intuitive customer journeys,” Davidson said in his submission.

    Data and/or technology driven approach

    On the data front, Mantra Group has recently implemented a customised channel management system that feeds real-time rates and availability to all distribution channels.

    This has provided the foundation of the group’s marketing and distribution strategy, Davidson said.

    “It means that consumers are able to find our inventory at a consistent rate across all distribution channels and that our revenue management team has visibility on all inventory movements and pricing capabilities,”he said in his submission.


    Relevancy is the key word across all of Mantra’s channelsto market, and Davidson said creative concepts are custom developed based on a range of factors:

    • Who Mantra’s consumers are, what do they do, what their preferences are, geo-location and demographic information
    • When are they most likely to see and engage with the brand
    • Where they are and how Mantra ensures they see messaging
    • What Mantra is trying to tell them and what it wants them to do as a result
    • How Mantra best utilises which channels for communication

    On top of this, key elements now include real content, inspirational destination images, personalised audience targeting and messaging, embracing new ad platforms to deliver content and creative in a more engaging way, A/B testing, and utilising blogs and destination information to enhance the holiday experience and encourage bookings, Davidson said.

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