Breaking into the US market: How Tourism Australia tackled its conversion problem

Tourism Australia had a clear conversion problem. While Australia was often on the bucket list of destinations to visit for North American consumers, many weren’t quick to hop on a plane to travel the distance. And even if they did, sometimes the brand lost out to markets such as Japan.

On stage at the Adobe Digital Marketing 2018 summit, John O’Sullivan, managing director and CEO said to tackle the issue, the marketing team had a clear purpose. It was simply to get people on planes to Australia. The purpose needed to be addressed before embarking on any new initiatives.

It is all about having great creativity with clear purpose.

“For us the purpose was to tackle the conversion rate and make Australia the most desirable destination in the world,” he said. To tackle this issue, the lean marketing team at Tourism Australia decided to create a campaign with a movie like experience, staring none other than Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth (most famous for his Marvel movie character Thor) and Paul Hogan in a mock Crocodile Dundee trailer.

The ad spot, which was part of a larger ad campaign, saw the tourism body spending approximately AU$36 million to increase the annual US market spend in Australia to AU$6 billion by 2020. It worked with Droga5 to “bring Dundee to the rest of the world”. Results clearly paid off when in February this year, it launched in the US market with a bang during the 2018 Superbowl, in a bid to reach out to 50% of target audience “in one sweep, which needed a strong idea”, explained O’Sullivan.

Overall, the campaign reached over 890 million people on social media — with 80% of the online traffic reaching US audiences. According to several media reports, the coverage on numerous publications also generated over US$74 million in ad value. Since then, the ad received much recognition, even spurring an online petition to have it made into a move.

Check out the ad below:

Meanwhile, digital has been high on Tourism Australia’s agenda since 2014 when it began its digital transformation journey. O’Sullivan added that data has helped the company become more efficient and effective. Going digital, he added, also requires a cultural shift. For Tourism Australia, it started with putting the customer at centre of everything it does, and empowered the marketing team to use tech and analytics to make life easier – interns included. He added that the cultural journey was all about empowerment and innovation which is at the heart of digital transformation.

“If we know from our data that you are searching for Melbourne, we won’t ask our partners to serve you with ads on other destinations in Australia like Adelaide, as great as they are. And once you are in Australia, we don’t want to keep asking you to come to Australia. We want to help you find stuff to do in Australia and use data more effectively,” he said.

O’Sullivan added that despite the tourism and travel experience being a largely “analogue” in nature, digital experiences still matter. “Tourism Australia itself is essentially a platform for industries back home,” he said.

“New technology such as VR, voice activated tech, AR makes us really excited,” he said, adding that the brand has for a few years been using VR with its travel agency partners. He added that at the end of the day, it’s not about digital or offline. It’s about the experience.

Picking up on the topic of experiencing travel, Brad Rencher, EVP & GM of digital marketing, added that some of his favourite digital experiences include using his mobile phone to check in to Marriott Hotel without getting in line and getting a push notification when his baggage makes it onto a Delta flight. All these might seem seemingly simple to the consumers, but a lot needs to go into the back end to make things right.

“For every single great experience, there are tons of not so great experiences that can be damaging for your brand,” he said. At the end of the day, brands need to make experiences the heart of their business because it is needed to stay in business in today’s competitive society.

Issues faced in creating experiences

But there are two core issues marketers face when looking to create an experience – modernising tech and amplifying talent.

Talent, he says, comes with having empathy to put yourself in customer’s shoes. He urges marketers to grow into experience makers who are customer obsessed. So how do you spot and groom young talents to becoming customer-obsessed?

“They are agitating and infuriating. They refuse to celebrate a web launch, they look to simplify consumers’ life. They become champion of experience to delight people at every turn. As individual that’s their goal,” Rencher said.

Modernising tech, he says, starts and ends with consumer. The modern consumer is everywhere from mobile, to social in your store. Key to creating a unified profile of the modern consumer requires a break in silos.

“Current legacy infrastructure we are using is inadequate,” he said. Experience systems require a break down of these systems. Ultimately, there needs to be purpose-built technology that can have an experience system of record which brings together data-unified profile and content.

To create this new experience system, a data lake with a pipeline of data from various channels and touch points has to be created. This is probably the most expensive aspect of the job, said Rencher. But he is quick to say, that is the “easy part”.

The difficulty sets in when it comes to semantics and control where a common language is needed to connect the data. However if the language is not systemised, many initiatives will fail so it’s imperative to get this right. Next, machine learning is where the magic happens. Most of the time, data scientists spend all their time cleaning up the data. So automating this step is needed because instant interpretation, down to the millisecond, is crucial today.

This leads to the action stage to ultimately delight consumers by understanding their preferences better. But this action needs to come simultaneously from content created, which comes in through its own pipeline from creative brief to design prototype and create a content work flow.

Adobe paid for the journalist’s trip to Adobe Summit 2018, held in Las Vegas.

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