26 50

CMO50 #26-50: Darren Wright, Flight Centre

  • Name Darren Wright
  • Title General manager P.A.C.E (products, advertising, customer experience) Australian leisure brands
  • Company Flight Centre
  • Commenced role September 2014
  • Reporting Line EGM Australian leisure and CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 189 staff, 9 direct reports
  • Twitter @littledaz
  • Related

    Brand Post

    The CMO50 series: Lisa Ronson, Tourism Australia

    Flight Centre operates in 11 countries with 30 brands including Flight Centre, EscapeTravel, StudentFlights and Explore Holidays.

    According to its marketing leader, Darren Wright, being a retailer today is about understanding the customer experience as well as the service-centric processes making up the travel purchasing process.

    “My focus is very much targeted towards supporting Flight Centre’s MD and CEO, Skroo Turner, on our ‘Destination 2035’ vision, which is all about person-to-person travel retailing in an 'experiential' way, selling experiences rather than just products,” he says.

    “We identify with the notion that travel is ageless, baby boomers are backpacking and gen X or Ys are river cruising and small group Europe touring. Our role is to capture, refine and design experiences that cross age and demographics to the benefit of all parties."

    From the CMO50 submission

    Business contribution and innovation

    As travel moves more into the digital landscape, Flight Centre’s intention as a business is to reorient its brand proposition from travel agent to being a retailer of travel.

    For Wright, this is about recognising that a retailer can’t just open its door to sell travel and expect people to buy. Instead, Flight Centre must become a retailer that provides a more experience-led process to customers. To do this, it must make sure the systems, processes, products and content are ready from a resource point of view.

    The other key attributes are providing a retail area where different types of transactions can happen – whether it’s online, over the phone or in a retail store, Wright said.

    To make this a reality, Flight Centre restructured its core leisure marketing functions to align with key drivers for change, and to create an emphasis on sales and marketing effectiveness. Core marketing functions now sit within three pillars: Product, Advertising and Customer Experience (PACE).

    The move to a PACE structure is all about establishing personalised customer engagement and making Flight Centre more relevant to the many different ways people book and progress through a travel-making decision. The change was implemented across all leisure brands.

    Wright said defining the PACE role has allowed the company to unbundle marketing functions into clear business units with the ability to work collaboratively across channels, as well as independently. This, in turn, allows a greater focus on key issues within the business. Each unit can also own outcomes independently, driving greater productivity, reporting and measurement.

    Modern marketing and customer engagement thinking and effectiveness

    In April 2015, Flight Centre launched an innovative customer engagement strategy aimed at creating relevance to younger demographics in the online booking space.

    ‘Flight Club’ is a digital program of work targeting key online market segments with deals that are a mix of Flight Centre's widest choice of airfares, multi-stop journeys and short breaks.

    Wright said recent research had shown that while Flight Centre is a trusted, well-known and highly respected travel brand, it was seen as a little aged. Flight Club is one of the key shifts created in the retail environment to change this view and sees the marketing team bringing further personality into the brand while targeting new audience segments.

    Flight Club had been up and running for four months at time of CMO50 judging, and Wright cited strong improvements in several key metrics including consumer engagement, traffic numbers to the site, page views, email enquiries leading to sales and EDM subscriptions.

    Data and/or technology driven approach

    To better help retail stores create compelling customer experiences with every transaction, Flight Centre recently undertook a buyer persona project using the Roy Morgan Helix Personas segmentation model.

    The objective was to provide Flight Centre Travel Group’s leisure brands with a deeper insight into who customers are and how they behave. Wright said working with buyer personas has enabled teams to take a deep dive into the needs and behaviours of customers, allowing the brand to understand each buyer’s motivators, drivers and influencers across their buying journey and decision making.

    The project has already helped the email and direct mail space, with shopfront location selection and defining the suite of product zones that stores display.

    Applying Helix Personas and conducting a range of tests has resulted in better performing campaigns for all leisure brands, Wright said, and from May the teams have moved to a data-driven execution strategy. The personas are also actively being used in local marketing initiatives.


    Supporting the new PACE structure is an in-house 40-person creative studio to ensure Flight Centre continues to produce interesting, exciting and engaging advertising for customers. The studio has also been integral in re-examining creative assets to better service customers in a relevant context.

    Using Web-based TVCs as an example, Wright said a primary goal was for completion rate to be high, with clickthroughs second to that.

    “We knew that we were interrupting their viewership so our strategy was to acknowledge this and also to be entertaining so people would watch the whole way through,” he said.

    As one example of success, developing YouTube specific videos improved the view rate by 35 per cent and users watched for longer when compared to traditional TVC commercials run as YouTube Pre-rolls, he said.

    Share this article