CMO50

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CMO50 2021 #1: Jo Boundy

  • Name Jo Boundy
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company Qantas
  • Commenced role October 2019
  • Reporting Line Chief customer officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function Not disclosed
  • Industry Sector Transportation and tourism
  • 2020 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    “The world may have felt like it stopped spinning during the pandemic, but consumer behaviours didn’t,” Qantas CMO, Jo Boundy, tells CMO. “They have changed considerably.”

    Qantas certainly knows first-hand just how dramatic and disruptive behavioural change can be. While the Covid-19 global pandemic might have been a ride we all had to endure over the past 20 months, the marketing team behind Australia’s most iconic brand arguably got a bumpier ride than most. The impact of Coronavirus on the Qantas Group has been severe.

    Boundy and her crew had their hands full keeping abreast of changing consumer sentiment, needs and behaviours as the situation – and even Qantas’ ability to fly – changed on a day by day, state by state and country by country basis. Helping navigate these turbulent times and keeping marketing, communications and customer engagement efforts effective and relevant has been a commitment to listening to the data, she says.  

    “Most historic models are no longer relevant, so it is critical to use real-time insights to inform business decisions and respond to changing customer needs,” Boundy says.

    As a result, one of the most important internal relationships for the Qantas marketing team has been with its research and insights division.

    “Customer insights have informed every decision we’ve made, as we’ve redesigned the product, service and customer value proposition,” Boundy says.

    A combination of skill, resiliency and balance of optimism with realism have also been vital capabilities during this time.

    “The rule book was thrown out and the goal posts moved frequently - sometimes hourly. So problem solving skills, lateral out-of-the-box thinking and creativity were invaluable,” Boundy says. “Beyond skill, ‘will’ was essential. Having a ‘can-do’ attitude. Rolling up your sleeves, getting on with the job, and supporting each other.

    “If you say someone can, they will. If you say someone can’t, they won’t. And leading by example is the only way: Adopting a positive, adaptable mindset, managing negative emotions, not dwelling on problems and being transparent.”

    Confident marketing

    Building confidence, whether it’s to travel, fly or book, has been at the heart of Qantas’ marketing strategy over 2020 and 2021. Boundy and Qantas group marketing have put the emphasis on confidence as they’ve worked to stimulate flying demand during a period of low confidence and anxiety. And they know it’s especially critical as Australia progresses to Covid-19 recovery.

    “We have a much-loved, trusted brand known for its safety, customer experience and care. It has been important customers know Qantas will continue look after them when they travel with us,” Boundy says. Like safety, confidence is a core reason for customers to choose one airline over another and it’s a quality Qantas prides itself on.

    “While confidence is immediate in the sense of recovery, it has always been an important part of our marketing strategy and will continue well into the future,” Boundy continues.

    A range of levers have proven instrumental to generating revenue and contributing to the bottom line, from instructional content and health and safety measures educating customers, to reinforcing generous flexibility offering across all Qantas booking types. Persistent cross-promotion and above-the line-focus, particularly to drive awareness and reassurance over competitors, has been another priority for Boundy’s team, along with re-engagement initiatives including the ‘Rediscover the Spirit of Australia’ and Jetstar ‘Rather be there” campaigns.

    On a tactical level, the team has also orchestrated a range of coordinated and sequenced tactical campaigns to stimulate flight sales, using levels such as pricing, discounts, incentives through points and status credits, bundles, redemption offers, personalised targeted offers and incentives to travel agents.

    Jetstar’s 17th birthday flight vouchers and activations, for instance, reached millions of people, while integrated travel inspiration and short-break campaigns with hotel and tourism partners for both Qantas and Jetstar helped drive incremental revenue and brand preference choice and strength.

    Customer-led thinking

    Improving the customer value proposition (CVP) in response to Covid-19 has been a core priority for Boundy as CMO. At every step, changes have been informed by extensive customer insights, as well as health data, Boundy says.

    Under the mantle of ‘Fly well’, customer data revealed concerns around health and safety when flying.

    “To build confidence to travel and fly, several wellbeing measures were introduced to give customers peace-of-mind. This was branded under ‘Fly Well’, with regular identifiable communication to ensure Qantas wellbeing measures were front of mind at every point of the journey,” she explains.

    With border restrictions creating hesitancy about travelling, Qantas introduced the ‘Fly Flex’ policy, allowing unlimited changes between flights. “Sales data and customer research showed the considerable impact this initiative had to confidence and bookings,” Boundy says.

    Frequent Flyer member engagement has been the third pillar to the approach. Qantas Loyalty and the Frequent Flyer program is the number one value driver for Qantas.

    “The most coveted reward in the program is flights, with a strong preference to international, so maintaining member engagement during a period of no international flying and limited domestic services was critical,” she says. “A range of status support initiatives including status extension, on-the-ground status earning and new redemption opportunities were introduced to keep members engaged.”

    These initiatives have delivered a more positive customer experience and rebuilt consumer confidence to travel and book while normalising flying in this unprecedented environment.

    “We have also maintained member engagement and program confidence at pre-Covid levels,” Boundy adds.

    Adaptability

    Keeping the Qantas brand strong during a rapidly changing, yet enduring crisis, has been a mantra for Boundy. One of the biggest examples of the flexibility required to achieve this was around Qantas’ 100-year birthday celebrations.

    A multi-faceted, 12-month, national campaign had been planned, stretching from activations to events, above-the-line campaigns, partnerships and exhibitions. The Australian bushfires delayed this activity initially, but Covid ensured such celebration was no longer appropriate.

    “The rapid spread of COVID-19 and its impact on travel meant the Qantas Group was facing the biggest crisis in its history. The luxury of well-considered marketing plans had gone, and we needed to be creative and resourceful,” Boundy says.

    Boundy’s group of marketers focused on creatively keeping the ‘Spirit of Australia’ alive while planes were grounded, and the workforce was stood down.

    “Qantas had to rapidly manage customer disrupt comms at a global scale while also introducing changes to the customer journey in line with Covid protocols,” she says. The Fly Well program was a key response to this.

    Then focus shifted to protecting the Qantas brand. As was seen through media commentary, factors such as consumer macro trends, industry union pressures, supplier challenges and the constantly changing state-by-state lockdowns and travel cancellations could have led to brand damage and eroded future brand value.

    “With no budget to spend, extensive customer communication via direct channels and creative activations kept brand metrics high,” Boundy says.  

    These included ‘I Still Call Australia Home @ Home’, Qantas care kits, farewelling B747 planes with sky art, scenic flights and the sale of B747 bar carts.

    As domestic travel returned, building confidence to book (flexibility), fly (health) and travel (inspiration) took centre stage. Educating consumers on the network including 47 new routes and using commercial levers to stimulate demand was vital here.

    The fourth stage of recovery, preparing and pivoting market-by-market strategies for international return, considering timeframes of re-entry and the evolving impact of covid on each jurisdiction, is now very much a work in progress.

    Innovative marketing

    A recent standout campaign for Boundy and her team and one that again highlights efforts to rebuild confidence and positivity has been Qantas’ vaccine reward program. The campaign was aimed at driving attitudinal and behavioural change at a national level.

    To accelerate vaccine adoption, Qantas created a ‘Vaccine recognition program’ rewarding those who had been vaccinated with travel incentives such as flight vouchers, points and status credits. In addition to micro rewards, 10 winners received a year of free flights, accommodation and petrol from Qantas partners.

    Boundy led a multi-faceted working group to deliver the highly complex, global-first customer engagement program in record time. Marketing was tasked with devising the national campaign based on brand, awareness and conversion objectives. With limited funds, they leveraged media relationships to access FOC media.

    The digital team then faced a complex build using the Qantas App to deliver a seamless user-experience, with member verification, vaccine certification and reward fulfillment all in real time. Qantas legal worked with the Therapeutic Goods Administration to develop a new instrument to the Therapeutic Goods Act, giving permission to reward vaccinations. It also ensured activities were compliant with regulations around capturing and using customer health data. Finally, Qantas has worked with government to create a vaccine certification and ‘digital health passport’ strategy.

    “The campaign helped normalise the vaccine, putting a positive perspective on a polarising topic,” Boundy says. “Qantas obtained first-mover advantage - with many following - and received global media recognition.”

    It was clear Qantas was seen to be taking a leadership position to help the nation recover from Covid. Benefits from the campaign included lifts in Frequent Flyer members and engagement, increased app downloads and incremental revenue growth. What’s more, the campaign positioned Qantas as a trusted destination for travel health advice, critical as Australia’s international travel recovers.

    Through all of these efforts, Qantas has remained number one brand positioning in terms of consideration and preference and is the most preferred airline.

    “The level of trust in Qantas as a brand continues to be strong and ahead of our competitors,” Boundy says. “Qantas is rated number one most trusted airline to manage COVID and keep people safe and healthy and we maintain strong levels of trust and advocacy.”

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