RedBalloon CEO, CMO depart as part of organisational restructure

Company founder, Naomi Simson, confirms executive changes and says the business is being realigned to better focus on the changing needs of its customers

Naomi Simson
Naomi Simson

RedBalloon’s CEO, Nick Baker, and first CMO, Rapthi Thanapalasingam, have left the online gift experiences business as part of a wholesale restructure of the organisation.

Founder and high-profile Shark Tank star, Naomi Simson, confirmed the two executive departures and told CMO the company has also done away with a dedicated ‘marketing’ function. She described the changes as part of efforts to future-proof the organisation and better focus on the changing needs of customers.

RedBalloon is holding a special event on 27 July in Sydney where Simson will announce the future direction of the company, as well as its new-look executive structure.

However, she stated a change in CEO in April triggered a new strategy and evolution plan at board level that has seen a realignment of people across the business. Baker joined RedBalloon as CEO in March 2015, after spending the previous seven years as CMO of Tourism Australia.

Simson also confirmed Redii CEO and RedBalloon board member, David Anderson, assumed wider CEO responsibilities across the group in April. Redii was founded as a spin-off business by RedBalloon in 2014 and focuses on helping other SMEs grow.

According to a post on RedBalloon’s website, Anderson extended his partnership with the Big Red Group (BRG), the holding company and management entity for RedBalloon, Redii, Wrapped and other subsidiaries, in April, signalling an ownership restructure. ASIC documents from 9 March 2017 show both Simson and David Christopher Anderson as joint directors of Big Red Group.

“The business I started 15 years ago is not now the business we’re now in, and being responsive to customers and altering one’s business model is very important,” Simson said. “One of the reasons we have sustained our position in the market place is that we have continued to respond to customers.

“We now longer have a marketing function in the business, which is fascinating.  If you look at online and SaaS-based businesses, you can argue that everyone has to be a marketer. Historically, marketing has been about product, price, distribution and promotion, but when people have talked about marketing, they often end up talking about the promotion piece. We are a pure marketing company. We have aggregated an industry, given it a brand, and a go-to marketplace.

“We have restructured our approach to market around demand and grow, on our business partners [product], then also on customer experience. We have a creative team to serve promotional activities.”

Baker told CMO the new owner's subsequent desire to get closer to the business led him to the decision to resign from RedBalloon. He will announce his new role shortly.

"I've continued to work closely with the new leadership to support the transition across the organisation. I wish RedBalloon the best of luck with an exciting new chapter that I understand will be announced very soon," he said.

Thanapalasingam was recruited as RedBalloon’s first CMO just six months ago along with CTO, Brett Raven. At the time, Baker said the two executive-level appointments were key as the company looks to expand outside of traditional gift experiences and into travel and tourism.

But rather than “having a CMO or CEO”, Simon said the approach now is about making sure the RedBalloon team is responsive in each of those core go-to-market capabilities.

“That was a decision made at a board level, in terms of the new energy required in the business,” she continued.  

“Unfortunately it’s not about the people, it’s all about the customer and always will be at RedBalloon. We are customer-centric at our core. Change is afoot – more changes are coming down the line, which will keep people interested, as we continue to grow and hold our place at the table.”

Speaking to CMO, Thanapalasingam said her departure stemmed from a change in ownership structure at RedBalloon.

“With this change, we made the mutual decision to part ways. I'm excited about my next move, which I'm not at liberty to discuss just yet,” she said.

Raven, meanwhile, remains with the organisation as CTO.

“It’s been a wonderful experience for him to get truly focused on the customer experience and sorts of resources we are able to put behind some of the projects he’s working on,” Simson said. “He’s doing a tremendous job and we’re very glad to have Brett as part of the team.

“Change is sometimes a bit surprising, but there is no business that cannot change. We have disruptors coming from everywhere, and commercial pressures, and we’re staying focused on what we’ve always been great at, which is listening and responding to our customers.

“All that will be revealed on 27 July.”   

While Simson remains part of the “DNA and entrepreneurial spirit” of the company, she added she does not have an operational role.  

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu    

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