26 50

CMO50 2022 #26-50: Tony Quarmby

  • Name Tony Quarmby
  • Title Executive director, marketing
  • Company Tourism Northern Territory
  • Commenced role October 2017
  • Reporting Line Deputy CEO, Department of Industry, Tourism and Travel
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 39 staff, 5 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Travel and tourism
  • 2020 ranking 26-50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    In December 2021, the Omicron variant had spread nationally and the Australian travel industry yet again shut down.

    “We had a choice to pull back on our domestic media budget and save it for when travel opened up or take a risk and remain visible in market at a time when no one could convert,” Tourism Northern Territory executive director of marketing, Tony Quarmby, explains.

    “At a time when most of our competitors took the conservative approach and withdrew their domestic promotional presence we stayed in market, we even became the top spending destination for the quarter. The gamble paid off as the moment state borders opened up, we immediately achieved two very strong quarters back-to-back.”

    Innovative marketing

    It’s this willingness to be bold, responsive and take risks peppering Quarmby’s CMO50 submission. Just six months earlier, he and the team faced a similar false start created by the pandemic as the Delta variant crept its way across Australia.

    “The subsequent outbreaks in Greater Sydney, Victoria and Adelaide meant we had to respond with perseverance, agility and innovative thinking to prevent teetering tourism businesses from declaring bankruptcy,” he says.

    In record time across the entire travel industry, Tourism NT created tactical retail marketing campaigns underpinned with emotionally connecting awareness creative to drive immediate visitation to the Northern Territory from the few Australians able to still travel.

    “Rallying the internal team, NT tourism businesses and Australian travel retailers when they were ‘on the ropes’ and demoralised, we succeeded in what we considered was a long shot bordering on the impossible,” Quarmby says. “The ‘Seek different’ creative was designed to create a point of difference for the destination and emotionally connect to consumer’s individual needs at a desperate time in their lives. To generate the necessary awareness coverage it was advertised across TV, digitally and on social media.”

    As airlines were almost all grounded, the focus was on travel intenders with the ability to undertake road trips. So a drive creative element was designed to inspire Australians to fly-drive where and when possible but also to just drive. The events campaign component, meanwhile, promoted events on the brink of cancelling and directed potential audiences towards the events information and booking windows on via a digital media buy.

    Retail partner campaigns combined with the awareness elements of this ‘quick to market response’ over-indexed on the media awareness for the Territory and drove 10,000 visitors to book their Northern Territory holiday,” Quarmby says.  

    “Following industry consultation, not one NT tourism business went under over this period and every event was held across this challenging period.”

    Business smarts

    By February 2022, NT was facing a major issue well outside the tourism body’s remit of destination promotion and holiday sales conversion: Skills.

    As international borders reopened, Quarmby and his team worked to target specific markets, buddied up with airlines, and pushed travel trade activity with the aim of attracting foreign workers to the NT. To urgently drive interest and job applications from a viable workforce, a number of campaigns both in Australia, the UK and Germany specifically targeted international backpackers and working holiday makers.

    Tourism NT partnered with local organisations, Tourism Top End, Tourism Central Australia and Hospitality NT, in its efforts to build the workforce and gear up for the Territory’s peak season to help replace some of the lost revenue from the last two years.

    An innovative partnership with a backpacker hostel created The Job Shack NT, allowing Territory businesses looking for workers to advertise jobs for free on a new website. As an added incentive, working holiday makers taking up a tourism or hospitality job via The Job Shack NT were eligible to receive a $500 NT Work Perks incentive, redeemable through Tourism Top End, Tourism Central Australia on tourism experiences. This then funnelled spend through these local businesses instead of multinational corporations, Quarmby says.    

    The work delivered, with significant numbers of tourism and hospitality workers placed in jobs across NT.

    Data-driven maturity

    Another project spearheaded by Quarmby, through an arguably longer-term lens, is Tourism NT’s data strategy. As global privacy policies tighten, there’s no doubt it’s impacting the effectiveness of all paid digital marketing, he says.

    To respond, a Privacy and Data Strategy Project Group has been formed. “The strategy proposes not only new marketing technology solutions but also new processes and approaches to how we work across all teams with privacy, data management, audience integration and digital governance top of mind,” Quarmby explains.

    “The new strategy provides us the ability to organise, access and personalise marketing content, which in turn improves the customer experience and therefore, delivers a stronger ROI through all digital media activities and cost savings.”  

    Tourism NT is now sharing data with partners such as Tourism Australia (TA), Qantas and Virgin Australia to create more personalised user experiences based on interactions with partners and its owned digital touchpoints. This data acquisition has increased potential travel intenders exponentially, resulting in increased engagement and improved customer satisfaction.

    “We can better measure the ROI across all campaigns with digital components more accurately and optimise activity more effectively,” Quarmby says.  

    Customer-led thinking

    Triggering this kind of investment is Tourism NT’s broader ambition to provide consumers considering a visit to the Northern Territory with a personalised and improved experience when interacting with any digital assets. The aim is to move consumers through the marketing funnel from ‘considering’ the NT as a travel destination, through to planning and booking their holiday.

    Quarmby notes a series of marketing campaigns, strategies and content development activities implemented through a reimagined digital, eDM and social media approach providing users with an optimised experiences when searching for things to do, holiday experiences and travel deals for the Northern Territory. The approach uses a combination of channel specific creative, adaptive messaging aligned to monitored consumer behaviour, A/B tested creative, external partner data collaboration and integration to refine the communications.

    Overall, optimised communications saw visitation to from those dreaming of and planning a Territory holiday increase by 122 percent from June 2021, nearly 24,000 Northern Territory itinerary downloads, a 34 per cent increase, and a 27 per centre list in operator engagement.

    A subsequent national digital customer experience study, which analysed all State Tourism Organisations (STOs), showed the highest performing was Tourism NT with a 515 per cent increase in leads to industry conversion partners and 148 per cent increase in leads to tourism operators.

    Audiences retargeted from data sharing partners and through owned assets drove 91 per cent of conversions of all programmatic activity, Quarmby adds.

    Commercial acumen

    As things began to normalise, and with research indicating a growth in pent up demand to travel, Quarmby and his team knew they needed to convert demand in sales over the NT’s traditional summer low tourist season between October and March. At the same time, weekly changes to Covid rules and vaccination status kept marketers on their toes.

    “Changing all the communications and legal parameters, we managed to launch the campaign offering ‘fully vaccinated’ consumers $200 off for every $1000 spent through the campaign partners. Partnerships had to be renegotiated and reorganised at the last minute to offer discounts on bookable flights, accommodation, tours and attractions or hire vehicle,” Quarmby says.  

    The campaign ran nationally but targeted areas not designated Covid-19 hotspots. Marketing was continually adjusted as hotspots were removed throughout the campaign period. Industry partners were encouraged to get involved by downloading the Industry Toolkit to access imagery, logos and incorporate summer-based messaging in their own promotions.

    To encourage travel agents to sell as many NT holidays as possible, every eligible booking made put agents went in a draw to win one of 15 NT prize packages valued at $5000.

    Overall, the NT Summer Sale delivered over $4.9 million in increment revenue growth for the Northern Territory over the low season during the national Omicron outbreak.


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