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Horse's Mouth: Stephen England-Hall, Tourism New Zealand

Horse's Mouth: Stephen England-Hall, Tourism New Zealand

In April last year, Stephen England-Hall took over the chief executive chair of Tourism New Zealand. He brought with him experience from his previous role as chief executive of Loyalty New Zealand after crossing over from the agency side to client side. Having now made himself at home at Tourism New Zealand, England-Hall fills us in on how the company is moving into the future, the role of technology in marketing and how both fit into the C-suite.

On the evolution of the ‘100% Pure’ strategy
For New Zealand, it’s very clear our country brand is based on three core pillars: it’s a beautiful place with warm, welcoming people who do really good things – ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ as a campaign really focuses on telling that story to an audience of international visitors.

We’ve decided to turn up the dial, on the amount of gravity in our content that leans towards the people pillar and what’s really driving that is two things:

The first is we think one of the most impressive and powerful things about a visit to New Zealand is the feeling you have about our people.

The second thing is that our landscape-type strategy over a long time has been very successful for us, in fact so successful, a large number of other countries are copying that methodology. So what we have been looking at with the ‘100% Pure’ campaign is turning up something that is truly uniquely New Zealand.

Although New Zealand’s landscapes are unique to New Zealand because of the diversity and how close they are to each other, we are not the only country in the world with mountains, forests, glaciers, beaches or volcanoes.

On establishing a brand purpose
There’s two parts to doing it. One is looking at what people are already saying about you and looking for the truths in what is being said to amplify those though your brand strategy and marketing. It’s much easier to build authenticity based on something that already exists.

The second is looking at your brand and what it does, how it does things, and how it behaves and acts and determining whether or not those are consistent with the conversations it’s trying to generate and support. If you look at your brand and you go ‘wow none of this aligns with our values’, then you are probably not going to be very successful at being authentic and having that true brand purpose.

If it’s aligned, that gets seen and heard.

On facing criticism
‘100% Pure’ has faced criticism since the day it went live in 1999. What you learn is not all voices are equal and when you are facing criticism there’s a question you need to ask: who is it that’s criticising you? ‘100% Pure’ has always stood for a commitment to a truly unique experience that’s only available in New Zealand – that’s the core essence of it.

From Tourism New Zealand’s point of view, that claim is still true to this day as New Zealand is a beautiful place full of good people doing good things.

We always ask if we are telling the truth and whether we are being authentic to that initial idea and, most importantly, whether our visitors believe us and say their experience of New Zealand has delivered or exceeded their expectations.

We see 96-98 percent of our visitors say that is the case, so when we face criticism we go back to our core ideas and the core language of our campaign. Then we look at the audience we’re trying to engage with and whether or not that criticism is valid.

We all know about the conversation surrounding the environment and how that’s been hooked to it [‘100% Pure’] but if you look at the core brand message, it’s not an environmental promise and it never has been.

If New Zealanders wished to hold that campaign idea in a different light – i.e. they wished to hold it as an environmental standard – then as a country we should align ourselves to that and take action. But that’s not something Tourism New Zealand can do in isolation, it requires the very people and the country that’s criticising it to do something. 

On the intersection of human and digital
I think the role of technology is to make the real world better and when it comes to marketing, the role of technology is to do a number of things.

One is to reduce waste because we should be able to get more efficient and more effective in our targeting, our messaging, our timing and channels. I think it should also enable us to have better engagement with our audience.

But also from a marketing and technology point-of- view, we can use our insights and our improved engagement with our audience to better understand how to evolve our product; how to make better investments; and how to improve the quality of our o er to the world.

At the end of the day, we want people to come to New Zealand and have an amazing time and go back to their homes and tell everyone how incredible it was, and I think technology plays a big role in targeting those visitors, getting them to come here and also improving our o er.

On his background

I ran a digital media and web development agency in London called Razor for a number of years and it got sold to Publicis Group. Then I went into a start-up called Syncapse, a social analytics and social media publishing platform company based in Canada, where I started out as head of Europe and ended up in a chief marketing sales role.

So I’ve been on both sides of the fence – I’ve been on agency side and client side and now I run a business that is largely a marketing company.

On bringing technology and marketing into the C-suite

I think its C-suite position had to be earned and I don’t mean the person, I mean the function.

Now that’s not the case. Technology is literally the enabling capability of almost every organisation on the planet and without technology we would be some degree dysfunctional in terms of our capability today.

Technology is everywhere and it’s pervasive, as well as expensive. Getting it wrong can be fatal to some organisations, and getting it right can be the difference between having a good year and having an outstanding year in terms of performance.

Technology has shifted from being a closet capability somewhere in the finance team to being a core strategic and fundamental part of every organisation. Technology is at the centre of customer behaviour, economic outcomes, organisational efficiencies, and it is now part of the C-suite in most modern organisations.

On the role of the CTO and CMO

In last 10 years, technology, or the CTO or CIO function, has taken on a lot more power in the organisation in the C-suite, while the CMO function in some business has lost that level of credibility and I think, in part, is because we can’t evidence it sufficiently.

One comment that gets me upset is when people talk about marketing being ‘the colouring in department’ – and that’s a shame if we have done that to ourselves because the reality of marketing is, it should be about everything. Marketing is about the customer, products, employees, brand and customer experiences.

I like to think of marketing being the lead and technology being the enabler with people being at the centre, and a people-centric organisation has to have good marketing capabilities. Why? Because marketing is all about people.

There needs to be more thinking about how marketing can reclaim a greater position of influence in the C-suite. 

This was originally posted on StopPress.

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