Queensland tourism’s marketing transformation journey

Looking to modernise its marketing remit, the state’s tourism body embarked on its own journey of digital transformation

A handful of years ago, Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ) commenced a complete review and overhaul of its marketing strategy and operations under incoming CMO Michael Branagh.

The newly installed marketing chief started by “pulling things apart and looking for opportunities” in the first 365 days in the role for where the tourism body could find growth and “ensure it had a modern approach to the marketing operations, system and strategy".

“We commenced the process with a maturity audit around our digital capability to really see where we stood. We had a hunch we hadn’t advanced a lot, although we were doing a lot,” Branagh told CMO.

While the tourism outfit had been engaged in lots of activity, it hadn’t been all that adventurous when it came to platforms and technologies supporting its marketing operations. Discovering TEQ was in the lower quintile of maturity when it came to digital marketing and digital operations, the team realised there was a huge opportunity for it to advance and develop its digital capability, technology, infrastructure and environment.

“And certainly the way in which we use digital as a core platform for marketing,” Branagh said. “With that, we embarked on a program that touched lots of parts of our business - our people, technology, how we work and our approach to content. We were looking to build out a really connected environment around that."

Finding the high-vis view of customer

The audit gave the TEQ a good view of its standing and revealed it was missing one of the most integral pieces of the puzzle in the modern marketing remit - a single view of the customer.

"From a platform point of view, the marketing technology platforms weren't integrated - they sat very separate data, and the data sat in silos. There was no single view of the customer and it was really hard to measure and track the impact of anything we did across websites, social channels, email or any other concept in the digital environment,” Branagh explained.

The engagement data, for example, was measured within silos across divisions, meaning there was low visibility about performance of marketing programs and how to benchmark and measure the outcomes. “Our skillset, in terms of people skills, was lacking too,” he noted.

“There was an opportunity for us to really develop better digital skills and knowledge sharing in that digital space across the organisation.”

Before taking TEQ on the journey of modernising its marketing approach, Branagh need to buy-in at board level about what was involved - cost-wise and operationally. “The business case that sat behind it, in terms of numbers, was really important, as was the financial discussion with the board,” he explained.

This was a significant investment over three years to go on this journey, and Branagh needed to be really clear on the type of outcomes and deliverables of the project would look like in order for it to be endorsed. A supportive board, which included members who came from organisations that were on similar journeys, saw the rationale behind the transformation project.

“We also had some supportive partners by our side on this journey,” he said. 

Queensland.com launches

TEQ tapped CHE Proximity (CHEP) to deliver the UX, design and development services for the new digital experience built on Queensland.com. An existing TEQ partner, Louder, was tasked to deliver data strategy, tagging and analytics, building on an existing engagement consulting relationship with TEQ on marketing transformation.

TEQ chose Adobe as its technology of choice for the enhanced, multi-channel marketing experience capability across email, addressable media, social and Web channels. CHE Proximity and Louder worked hand-in-hand to define and set-up the personalisation strategy, which allows the ecosystem to adapt to different user needs based on interests, demographics, interaction behaviour and place of origin.

One of the focuses of the transformation was activation of “experience pillars”, which allows TEQ to communicate and customise the experience to users while gathering rich data and insights. It relies on a fluid content delivery and personalisation framework, which in turn, relied on the content team having the curation capability in the content management process while also ensuring personalisation operations were manageable.

The ecosystem delivers an immersive experience where each component leads to another so users can explore at length the various destinations, activities, accommodation, special deals and events on offer. The component library of the website includes maps, road trips, articles and tips, special deals, personal bookmarks and other search functions. 

From multiple to unified

No journey of transformation is achieved without bringing the people along on it too. Here, the TEQ team adopted new tools and new ways of working, embracing different technology and data. This fed into how it makes decisions about future campaigns and the ways in which TEQ interacts with customers across all different channels.

“The change out of all of this is to truly build a global digital environment on a common platform across the world and then develop capability and support for that across the teams in different markets as well,” Branagh said. “It’s really pleasing to see the teams embrace the change and recognise the opportunities and advantages which come from having a global approach to our digital marketing technology, along with localised and regionalised activities on the platform.

“Everybody recognises the world of travel and tourism is changing, and consumers are driving that change much more towards the power they have around seeking inspiration, planning and booking and getting new ideas about where they want to travel. And digital and online content plays such a huge role in that.”

Before and after COVID-19

In more recent months, TEQ has been hit hard by the impact of COVID-19. Branagh cited been a gradual but consistent uptick in metrics in recent weeks after having to turn off marketing activity in the height of the coronavirus travel restrictions.

“We then turned to looking to maintain a voice in the marketplace through our own and earned channels to just talk to the world about the fact that Queensland is still here and then the rest of the world was locked down,” he said. “We have this amazing nature and spirits that continues to thrive and is still going on here and that resonated really well with the audience's that we were reaching.” 

TEQ has now switched into recovery and is looking to increase its marketing activity in line with lifting of restrictions. An interstate campaign started about a month ago with the message to Queensland to get out there and explore Queensland far and wide.

“It's not very often you get the state to yourself. So get out there and take advantage of it,” he remarked. "And the response to that has been fantastic.”

The next steps in the transformation journey will be building out a much more connected tourism ecosystem, working with its data and its audiences alongside different partners like Tourism Australia. It's about using the personalisation capabilities of the platform to start to talk to site visitors or known audiences on a much more one-to-one basis based on where they've come from or when they have come back to the site to try and take them further down that path to purchase,” Branagh said.

"We're looking to build out all different use cases and campaigns that offer much more of a personalised experience and integration of that across multiple channels. This is about ensuring we really take advantage of that single customer view across all channels.” 

The ultimate ambition is to talk one-to-one with the customer, whether they're interacting via social channels, website, email and the various other platforms.

"Using the analytics to refine what we do, whether that's campaign-based or content-based and then how do we start to work with third parties and look at sharing audiences and those types of things to lead prospects further down the funnel to conversion and purchase, to their ultimate end goal.” Branagh added.

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