CMO interview: Building the Australian brand story

Tourism Australia's marketing leader reveals her new content and data reality

Lisa Ronson
Lisa Ronson

Tourism Australia’s chief marketer, Lisa Ronson, believes CMOs require three key attributes: Customer centricity, commercial acumen, and great leadership.

“We only do extraordinary things when we have extraordinary people around us,” she tells CMO. “It’s the place where it starts and ends with me – surround yourself with really talented people. And it’s working cross-functionally that will ultimately deliver on that; no team can do it on their own.”

Ronson arguably has one of the best marketing jobs in the business. She has spent the last 12 months at the helm of marketing for Tourism Australia (TA), a promotional body focused on showcasing Australian experiences to visitors from all over the globe.

Having taken over from another iconic CMO, Nick Baker, after his seven-year run, Ronson says her first priority was winning over the team. “From there, I thought through what the challenges are for the business, what’s the campaign construct and the priorities for the year ahead, then how do I resource the team and skill up to make sure we can deliver on those for the next year to three years,” she says.

In July, Ronson redivided her team into three units: Global consumer marketing, global media and PR, and digital transformation. As part of the switch, TA’s chief financial officer, John Mackenney, became the organisation’s first GM of digital transformation.

“Digital transformation and user experience has been an absolute focus of mine,” Ronson comments. “You can always be better, looking at what the customer is doing and what they need. We have so much analytics now to determine that, so it’s how do we use those insights to improve the customer experience out of sight and continue to surprise and delight.

“The other piece was looking at the consumer. They’re changing so much on a day-to-day basis in terms of how they consume media. We’re constantly evolving on mobile and tablets, so I wanted to look at the media landscape and how we as a global organisation could leverage deeper, fewer partnerships.”

At time of press, TA was in the final stages of a media tender, and Ronson says it’s looking at how media spend can be better targeted through data and technology.

Alongside the restructure, Tourism Australia’s marketing teams are exploring more agile ways of working. It’s a cultural shift led by CIO, David Rumsey, and comes off the back of a large transformational program which has seen TA roll out Adobe’s Marketing Cloud stack, firstly to its Restaurant Australia Web portal 12 months ago, then to its core Australia.com website, as well as add new campaign functionality and analytics. Most recently, Agile principles came into play on a project around TA’s Aussie specialists training program.

“What was absolutely integral to that was the team – marketing working with IT, and the whole organisation around Agile, standup meetings and closer communication,” Ronson says. “We’re looking at taking learnings from that project and applying them in other parts of our business.”

Ronson works closely with Rumsey on a day-to-day basis, something she admits hasn’t always been the case for marketers. “That’s very healthy and it’s very transparent, as you’re getting the information and analytics to optimise and continue to improve the customer experience,” she says. “This is particularly the case in our category, where people are hungry for information and word of mouth and want those recommendations.”

Brand simplification

Ronson’s other priority has been to simplify TA’s brand architecture and make it more customer oriented. “What I found was the team couldn’t tell me what our vision and purpose was – not because they didn’t know it, it said what we did, but it wasn’t simple enough or in the language of the customer,” she says.

TA’s vision is to make Australia the most desirable and memorable destination on earth, Ronson says. “Desirable, meaning they want to come here and enjoy a great exploration of our experiences, and memorable, in that they’ve been and are advocates telling their friends about it,” she says. “Our purpose is to invite people to experience the Australian way of life.”

Ronson worked closely with human resources on TA’s values and how these fit with its brand architecture so there’s a consistent thread through the business.

“People need to understand, live and breathe the brand,” she says. “If staff know the vision, and if what they do is contributing to that vision, it gives them greater confidence in decision making and just as importantly, what to do as what not to do. We need to do fewer, bigger initiatives so they really have an impact on attitudes and behaviour of the customer ultimately.”

Up next: How diversity of experience plays into the hands of marketing leaders

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