CMO Interview: A look into Sydney Opera House's unprecedented digital transformation

The iconic Aussie landmark’s acting chief marketing officer reveals how a digital transformation journey will take customer engagement to a whole new level

Opera House CMO Chris Erskine says she is enjoying being part of the biggest transformation project she has ever overseen
Opera House CMO Chris Erskine says she is enjoying being part of the biggest transformation project she has ever overseen

The Sydney Opera House is one of Australia’s premiere iconic landmarks. But for far too long, it had legacy marketing systems that were not meeting the demands of its growing global fan base.

Well, not anymore. The Opera House recently canned its old Web platform and a host of marketing tools in favour of collaborating with Adobe on its biggest digital transformation projects to date.

Sydney Opera House acting CMO, Chris Erskine, said the ambition with the digital transformation journey is to take customer engagement to a whole new exciting level.

Unlike many traditional iconic historic establishments that face internal barriers when it comes to embracing digital change, Erskine said the Opera House was quite the opposite.

“We’re in a decade of renewal, which is all about making sure the building and our brand is living up to its original purpose, and fulfilling its role for future generations of artists and customers,” she told CMO during an interview at the recent Adobe Symposium in Sydney.

“That’s a real driving force leading a digital transformation change. So we had to collaborate with a lot of stakeholders across the business to bring about digital transformation. There’s a real thirst for change, and recognising the importance of making sure our digital customers have experiences that are just as bold and inspiring as those having physical ones.

“We were really lucky we had a leadership team that were enthusiastic and passionate about this sort of change.”

As part of the transformation process, The Opera House’s marketing team decided to decommission a 10-year-old website and launch an entirely new one. In 2016, the venue selected Adobe Marketing Cloud to push the wide-scale renewal project and rebuilt the website on Adobe Experience Manager.

“We went from the business first saying let’s digitally transform in 2015, to now 2017, where we’ve decommissioned a number of marketing platforms and implemented the Adobe Marketing Cloud. It’s the first time any performing arts organisation in the world has implemented the platform,” Erskine said. “Along with building a whole new website, this has been the largest technology project the Opera House has ever taken. I have never experienced a project of this scale.

“It’s a massive amount of change in short period of time, but at the same time, it’s a hugely fulfilling opportunity for everyone and has really come to life through the collaboration with Adobe and the organisation.”

Erskine, who began a marketing managerial role at the Opera House in 2014 and was recently promoted to acting CMO in 2017, said she always knew she wanted to be a marketer and was always deeply fascinated with what motivates people, particularly in an emotional sense.

Prior to her marketing role at the Opera House, she held marketing positions for the likes of IMG and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

“Working as the Asia-Pacific marketing manager for Andrew Lloyd Webber was pretty great, I worked on all the major tours of shows like Cats,” she said. “If you have a passion for performing arts, there is no greater place in the world to work for than the Opera House. It’s such a thriving cultural destination and working across its diversity of offerings is incredibly satisfying.”

Moving forward, Erskine sees the digital transformation journey at the Opera House as a constant state of evolution.

“It is not just a project, it’s a fundamental shift in the tools, the platforms and encouraging people to really think about the customer and care about how they experience physically and virtually the brand,” she said.

“We’re at the start of our evolution and thinking about what that will look like for the years to come is really exciting. Knowing we can offer even more personalised and automated experiences that ultimately deliver on a whole new level of customer experience.”

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