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Five Minutes With Jan Hutton

February 18, 2017 Business News No Comments Email Email

Chief Marketing Officer for Gold Coast Tourism, Jan Hutton fronted a team of passionate marketing professionals to launch ‘We Are Gold Coast’, a bold new brand platform seeking to attract the growing market of travellers seeking unforgettable memories over more iconic monuments.

Jan Hutton is the dynamic Chief Marketing Officer of Gold Coast Tourism – where she is leading the evolution of the destination’s brand and marketing strategy.

Jan is a highly-regarded performance marketer whom has driven outstanding results in the past two decades at organisations such as Deloitte and South African Tourism – where she led the strategy as CMO.

It is fair to say she is passionate, people-centric and ambitious for optimised success.

Jan combines her global influence with local capability, to redefine and achieve effective destination marketing. Her approach recognises and takes full advantage of digital, social and mobile to gain a meaningful competitive advantage and puts the traveller at the centre of disruptive inbound marketing to realise success.

Can you walk us through the thinking behind ‘We Are Gold Coast’?

‘We Are Gold Coast’ isn’t a tagline with an expiry date. Nor will it pigeon-hole our evolving city. Rather, it’s a confident statement, a competitive and relevant destination identity in a world of unprecedented choice for travellers.

It marks a definitive shift away from the traditional product-led approach towards forward-thinking experience marketing. This new brand paves the way for the remarkable people of the Gold Coast to tell their story. And, I don’t mean just locals.

The distinction between travellers and locals continues to blur with travellers increasingly seeking deeper connections with the people and places of a destination.  They want to experience the destination in the same way locals do.  From our perspective, we’re all locals; some are temporary [our visitors are guests] and some are permanent [our residents are hosts]. Together we are the faces, personalities and attitudes that bring our new brand to life.

For this reason, ‘We Are’ becomes an expression of the collective.  A genuine collaboration between our industry, residents, influencers and travellers to ensure that real story of the Gold Coast is told. Beyond an invitation, ‘We Are Gold Coast’ is a collective promise to both first-time and repeat visitors of what they will experience and how they will feel when they’re on the Gold Coast.

The Gold Coast has become synonymous with ‘Famous for Fun’. What is the philosophy behind the new brand position?

We respect the role that ‘Famous For Fun’ played, but we also recognise that any destination brand can showcase beaches, blues skies and top-10 attractions – and up until this point, that was precisely what we did to the best of our ability. However, according to research conducted over the last two years, the thing that defines our destination in the minds of travellers and locals, that makes us stand out from the crowd in an ever-increasing world of choice, is our distinctive energy. And that energy is the connection to our people.

There is an unmistakable, life affirming energy that lives here on the Gold Coast- an energy that promises to ignite, inspire, re-connect and to make you feel alive.

Marking a decidedly new approach for Gold Coast Tourism, the ‘We Are Gold Coast’ brand platform will see the destination’s infectious energy shared with the world. It will be a unique invitation to travellers to immerse themselves in our energy and to celebrate a lifestyle unlike anywhere else.

What will set the ‘We Are Gold Coast’ proposition apart from other destinations around the world?

Our redefined brand is absolutely competitively focused, and we believe its defined based on the future of travel, with more focus on humanity than binary. It’s a winning platform built on a simple truth, it’s about sharing – sharing experiences and stories. We’re a boutique destination with big stories. It’s a step away from the previous promise of turquoise water and overly edited blue skies.

Why was a new brand direction for the Gold Coast needed?

There were several factors that inspired the shift in the brand position for the Gold Coast.

Firstly, the context for destination marketers has shifted. Consumers are changing, technology is developing at rapid pace and we’re competing against more destinations worldwide than ever before. The reality today is that driving competitive advantage and genuinely enhancing the traveller experience means adopting a fundamentally different approach to destination marketing towards destination enabling. Today we’re all marketers, we’re all creating content.

Our consumer research also uncovered a number of perception issues, meaning our brand needs to work harder than ever to make sure the updated story of the Gold Coast is shared.

A new destination brand was needed to re-position the city, attract the growing market of travellers seeking memories over monuments, better represent our evolving city and maintain our relevance in an increasingly competitive landscape.

How important is it for the Gold Coast locals to get behind this brand?

It’s essential.  We’re all storytellers at heart and the people of the Gold Coast are the heart of this campaign platform. They are the welcoming smiles, the warm customer service and engaging hosts.  Our stories will create conversations instead of pushing campaigns; our stories will build relationships instead of just promoting a brand message. Day after day, potentially without even knowing it, our locals will continue creating remarkable moments for our travellers.

What’s more, they are our storytellers.  ‘We Are Gold Coast’ is locally-led and features a collection of local characters sharing what they love about their home. This will speak not only to our domestic and international visitors, but also resonate with the many locals who proudly call the Gold Coast home.

The support of our locals is paramount to the success of this new direction and we are confident that they will be proud to get behind the campaign and help spread the word about the incredible energy that lives here.

We have also collaborated with a team of passionate local influencers who will shine a new light on the Gold Coast by capturing the city’s remarkable experiences and moments and sharing via social media using #WeAreGoldCoast.

What research was undertaken to inform the brand direction?

The insights underpinning our new destination positioning were gathered over two years of committed research and consultation. We have assessed the brands of other destinations, including our global competitors; we have spoken to thousands of consumers through in-depth research projects and visitor surveys; we have gathered rich insight from hundreds of industry stakeholders; consulted with partners from both Government and private sectors and; importantly, because this brand belongs to all of us, we sought input from locals.

The new positioning has also been the subject of consumer testing by one of Australia’s leading research agencies, Colmar Brunton. Encouragingly, for 81 per cent of respondents, the new positioning made them re-think the Gold Coast. Anyone in marketing will tell you, this is a phenomenal outcome.

What were some of the perceptions uncovered by your research?

Our research told us that travellers to the Gold Coast leave with positive perceptions that tend towards friendly, beautiful, vibrant and fun. However, as we’ve known for some time, the traditional Gold Coast holiday is losing appeal for travellers who are seeking richer and more immersive experiences. The research also uncovered some perception issues across key domestic markets. We’re not hiding from this; if anything, it’s showed us that we need to work harder than ever to update and correct perceptions to ensure the true story of the Gold Coast is fully expressed.

For me, ‘We Are Gold Coast’ is a brave challenge, “we’re not the place you used to know or think we might be”.

What else will ‘We Are Gold Coast’ involve?

Creating memories is the ultimate marketing currency of our time and the essence of our industry.  So, true success for us means ensuring that every touch point that a traveller experiences with our destination is remarkable.

The television commercial is just the beginning.  Our marketing strategy is digital-first with a compelling visual and distribution strategy to engage the modern traveller. More than just a single campaign, ‘We Are Gold Coast’ is a springboard from which over time, storytellers will be encouraged and mobilised more and more to share their Gold Coast story through digital and traditional channels.

How has ‘We Are Gold Coast’ been translated within the culture of Gold Coast Tourism?

We understand that a strong brand starts from the inside, but much more than this, we also acknowledge that our team are our most potent brand advocates.   Our brand has become the thing that connects our team not only with our traveller, but with each other and with our valued partners. We are all in this together.

How does the re-brand tie in with the 2018 Commonwealth Games?

Without doubt, the 2018 Commonwealth Games presents immense opportunity for the destination. We engaged extensively with the organising committee during the brand development process and we continue to work closely, weaving in the destination message. However, we do see the ‘We Are Gold Coast’ brand extending far beyond the curtain call on the closing ceremony.

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