CMO profile: How Tourism Fiji’s Emma Campbell is building a sustainable marketing approach based on value, positivity and showing up

Chief marketing officer talks through the six-part strategic plan guiding the destination marketing team's work, and how the lessons of the pandemic are providing the culture required to achieve them

You’d be hard pressed to find a marketing leader who doesn’t get a thrill from spearheading a brand repositioning and disruptive brand-led campaign. But for Tourism Fiji’s chief marketing officer, Emma Campbell, the last three years of the pandemic profoundly impacted her perceptions of how broad a marketing leader’s role can be.

“It’s hard to imagine I’ll ever have a role ever again that feels this important,” Campbell tells CMO. “I have felt so passionately motivated to make sure the tourism industry is ok; my team is ok; that they’re communicating properly and not getting bogged down in speculation; and that we could get the company opened and opened well.

“I remember a point last January when there was a bit of a Covid outbreak and a number of visitors were quarantining in their hotels post us reopening. I remember a feeling of horror about the blip. But because we were ready, we managed it well and leant all in.”  

There’s no doubt it was all hands on deck in Fiji. The Fijian Government tapped Campbell and her team’s skillsets as in as many ways they could, gaining assistance with communicating, health and safety, and driving the vaccination rollout charge.  

Since then, visitor numbers have since been up on targets, and all indicators point to Fiji’s tourism industry recovering with new-found alignment around the country’s brand and next steps.

“It’s just the most amazing feeling we’re getting Fiji and its people back on their feet. I feel blessed to have been here, but it has certainly felt really important,” Campbell adds. “The pandemic has been such a huge part of my story and journey here, and it always will be.”

The strategic plan

Today, Campbell and her team are a set of six strategic objectives to drive Fiji’s tourism growth and resilience. The first is reshaping perceptions of the destination to open up more customer segments.

“For many people who are in our shorthaul markets, such as Australia and New Zealand, Fiji is the place where you go with your mum, then you go when you’re a mum,” Campbell comments. “There’s a whole lost period because we’re seen as a couples or family destination, and a place where you a flop and drop.”

In addition, while almost everyone in Australia and New Zealand can point to Fiji on a map, and would be willing to go, there has been lack of urgency and cache. As a result, Campbell’s team are working to illustrate the depth of experience in Fiji, as well as position the destination as a place where consumers can have a truly authentic cultural experience.

This has led to new brand work released in January, oriented around showcasing Fiji’s living culture. Marking 12 years since the island nation’s first destination marketing campaign, the updated brand platform shifts the focus to local people, the natural environment, rich culture and authentic experiences on offer.

To inform this, the Tourism Fiji team and agency partner, Havas, worked with local Fijians to ensure their culture was authentically and meaningfully represented. The new campaign features imagery by National Geographic photographer, Matthieu Paley, as well as film imagery by Finch’s Kyra Bartley.

The emphasis on Fijian culture has also resulted in the brand tagline shifting from ‘where happiness finds you’, to the new tagline, ‘where happiness comes naturally’. There’s a new logo too, which fuses modern typography with the traditional Fijian art form of masi. This was designed in collaboration with third generation Fjjian masi artist, Wati Maraiwai Talavutu.

“It’s less about the impact on tourism and more about us; the fact Fiji is a place where you come and people share experiences with you,” Campbell explains. “We believe that subtle brand shift is going to make a big difference because it is talking about us and putting Fijian people and culture right at the heart of what we do.”

While reshaping perceptions was priority four years ago when Campbell joined Tourism Fiji, she agrees the approach reflects changing consumer behaviours through the pandemic.

“There’s much greater demand for authentic, meaningful experiences from consumers – we’re seeing this through the quarterly consumer tracking we do,” she notes. “Post-pandemic, all the experience businesses such as the day trips and activities are flying. They’re fully booked, way above 2019 levels, so we’re definitely seeing consumers wanting to do more ‘stuff’.

“It’s not surprising; many have been shut up in their homes for two years and want to do and experience more when they get here. It’s been amazing for our visitor economy and broader community, as there are so many small businesses playing in that area.”

Second on Tourism Fiji’s strategic plan is sustainably growing demand. For Campbell, this means targeting source markets and working to ensure people are staying longer, spending more money and getting more value from visiting. Fiji’s main source markets are Australia, New Zealand and the US. It’s also recently put on new flights from Canada, and flights from Hong Kong and Japan commence in April.

“We will never be a destination that grows to millions of visitors and you’re not going to see massive high rises along the beaches. We will remain a niche destination in many ways,” Campbell says. “So it’s extracting as much value as possible and ensure we’re targeting visitors with the propensity to stay longer and spend more. That’s not necessarily the luxury travel. We have some visitors who spend a month and visits lots of the places across Fiji, and they’re a really important part of the mix.”

In line with changed consumer behaviours towards more authentic experience is supporting experience development through the right product. This requires small businesses to develop new products tourists can access and are easy to find. Tourism Fiji has a destination development officer focused on this.

Then there’s sustainability. Campbell admits it’s a priority area both “big and endless”. To help, Tourism Fiji appointed a sustainability office six months ago to develop a sustainability roadmap. On the agenda is where Tourism Fiji needs to influence; where it can act; and also when is the right time to talk about its sustainability credentials as a destination. Havas is also working with the team on these elements.

“There are lots of great things happening and we want to ensure we roll out communications around that in the right way,” Campbell says. “There is still a lot that could be done, and the right point to talk about that is an interesting dilemma all destinations face.

“These are also things we need to work with the government on, as well as learn from the mistakes of other destinations. We don’t want to misrepresent Fiji and what it’s all about.”

Credit: Emma Campbell

At an internal level, another strategic priority is growing the value of tourism. For Campbell, this means making sure the whole of Fiji knows what the tourism team is working on, the value they add and the value of tourism holistically.

Getting to this point requires a high-performing team. At present, Campbell has a local team of 13 and is actively develop their skills to be a world-class marketing team.

“We’re finding they [marketing graduates] are learning at university about TV advertising, Facebook and outdoor. But our guys are international marketers, so there’s a huge upskilling job to do to build the broader marketing landscape learnings,” Campbell says.

Among the latest efforts has been two-day digital marketing essentials training with the whole team utilising Australian trainer, Russell Easther from Digital Brief. “It's been so useful as they’re now putting these learnings into action,” Campbell says.  

A further spoke to the wheel is research and insights. Working with destination consultants, 2031, on monthly consumer research to understand how people were feeling about travel and where Fiji sat during the pandemic has evolved to a new brand tracker. This explores three things on a quarterly basis: Familiarity with the destination, impressions of Fiji, and would you recommend. But it’s also giving Tourism Fiji insights data which, in turn, increases its credibility with partners, Campbell says.

Digital evolution

Hand-in-hand with these strategic priorities is digital transformation and driving better digital marketing effectiveness. Over the last 18 months, Tourism Fiji has orchestrated a digital infrastructure overhaul and replatformed its website.

“It’s something the team can use easily and we don’t have to pay for third-party services, which is where we were when I started,” Campbell says. Tourism Fiji is working with Kentico as well as Havas and its digital team on these programs. From this, the team now possesses a digital roadmap mapping out the next 12 months.

Top of the list this year is email marketing and first-party data. “We have a small database but those on it love us, and whenever we send something we’re getting 45 to 50 per cent open rates. People want to hear from us, so let’s capitalise on that,” Campbell says. “We’re assessing the tech we use to improve in that space.”

As Campbell points out, getting people to further engage with owned channels so Tourism Fiji can provide information or send them them off to a tourism operator is a valuable activity and major KPI for the team.

“Also depending on behaviours on our site, there are some triggers that means we capture them as a lead. We pass that on to Fiji Airways, so they can start retargeting,” she says. “We have followed that through to conversation rates, which is really powerful to see. We’re excited about optimising that.

“We’d love to eventually understand behaviour of people when they click on our operator listings. Some operators are great at digital marketing and will start retargeting one; others aren’t. So there is also a job to do on educating some tourism operators around what to do with the leads we send them.”

For Campbell, the overarching priority is making sure the website is the best place for information on Fiji. “We need to ensure if people are searching for something on Fiji, we have the answer,” she says.

“We did that really well post-covid lockdowns. There were so many questions from things on vaccines to other conditions. We had such a comprehensive Q&A and we made sure we had every answer. Our traffic went through the roof.

“Now, people are searching less about how to get to a destination – they know what to do. Our travel restrictions are completely simplified, so now we need to capitalise on the fact people see us as a trusted source of information and spend more time inspiring, exciting them and ensuring they have everything they need to have a fantastic holiday.”

Sustainable pandemic lessons

As Campbell makes plain, much of the team’s progress and way forward has been informed by behaviours developed during the pandemic. Just take its work to develop the comprehensive health and safety program, The Care Fiji Commitment.

“It wasn’t the sexiest thing I’ve worked on, but it’s probably the most important. We had operating training, consumer comms attached to it, and it meant we could tell people if you choose Fiji for a holiday, everyone is trained up; if you get covid, there is a process in place and we’ll look after you,” she says. “Instilling confidence was a major part of our reopening strategy and it really worked.”

More broadly, Campbell highlights three things consistently done through the pandemic she sees as key to realising Tourism Fiji’s next phase of growth.

“One we developed early on was to always be optimistic. This was so helpful,” she says. “We weren’t being positive for the sake of it, we always had to be two steps ahead. If the Government said at any point we’re going to open next week, we had to be ready. This meant we planned in an optimistic way.

“The other thing we did was always show up. We had a tourism industry freaking out when the borders closed. We started regularly doing webinars and emails. There were times we were sending EDMs every day as there were so many updates and such nervousness, and we wanted to cut through that. Consistently showing up ourselves and for the industry was key.”

The third imperative was adding value where the team could. An example here is the vaccination communications Campbell spearheaded.

“Having those three principles of how we worked were key. And they are permanent – they’ve started shifting the way we work. We will never not be visible for the tourism industry.”

From a marketing point of view, the payoff is significant. “We now have such a strong relationship and such goodwill with the tourism industry. If I’m launching a new brand campaign and asking the industry to align with our messages or share something, they do it,” Campbell says.

“We have a full destination that can be united around one key brand message. Having a consistent brand message across the country is really cool.”



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