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virginaustralia.com

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Founded Year

2000

Stage

Take Private | Alive

Valuation

$0000 

About Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia is an airline company headquartered in Brisbane, Australia.

Virgin Australia Headquarter Location

56 Edmondstone Rd Bowen Hills

Newstead, Queensland, 4006,

Australia

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CMO50 2021 #20: Michael Branagh

Oct 21, 2021

CMO50 2021 #20: Michael Branagh Name Michael Branagh Commenced role July 2017 Marketing Function 62 staff, 6 direct reports Industry Sector Travel and tourism 2020 ranking 13 With all the disruptions and rapid-fire changes Australia’s travel and tourism has suffered throughout bushfires and then the pandemic, it’s perhaps not surprising Michael Branagh sees “a sense of humour” as a key attribute over this past year. “We have been through so much as a team, dealt with an incredible amount of adversity and often had to rely on our sense of humour and taking time to have a little fun to get through the challenging days,” the marketing chief for Tourism and Events Queensland says. Innovative marketing Since joining TEQ in 2017, Branagh has led a complete transformation of TEQ’s marketing strategy, structure and global approach. While Queensland is Australia’s original holiday state and its marketing campaigns well-known, share of market had been declining steadily for several years and an overhaul of TEQ’s marketing operations necessary. Branagh’s list of achievements since then stretches from defining the purpose and remit of marketing a multi-year plan to redesigning the structure of the marketing group, orchestrating a digital transformation program, promoting CX best practice through the Best of Queensland Experiences Program and more. Then along came Covid-19. “Decimating the thriving Queensland tourism industry already feeling the impacts of recent bushfires, the pandemic closed Queensland’s international markets and severely impacted the domestic visitor economy,” Branagh says. “With tourism a major pillar of Queensland’s economy, I identified that TEQ, in conjunction with industry, regional tourism organisations and Government, would need to develop a platform we could all work to in order to find a way to forge ahead and re-build consumer demand for the state. “Against this backdrop, the job was to build confidence in travel by reassuring travellers that Queensland was a safe place to visit and that the state was ready to welcome visitors from regions open to travel.” Queensland is ‘Good to go’ was the response. Branagh took the campaign proposal to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who immediately grabbed hold of the concept and backed the approach. From there, TEQ worked directly with major media from breakfast shows to news media to go beyond advertising campaigning and integrate messaging into content, promotions, travel specials and pledges. A highlight was the one-hour Good To Go TV special airing in peak time on Seven, showcasing the range of world-class tourism experiences on offer in Queensland. TEQ’s Industry Media Agency for Tourism and Events (IMATE), powered by Ikon Communications, was activated for the first time for the project. Its critical role was to provide visibility, insights and media opportunities related to ‘Good to go’. In all, 129 Good to Go aligned campaigns were activated by industry through IMATE. Within this, 13 regional tourism organisations campaigns were designed. Over 2000 tourism businesses got COVID Safe accreditation and used ‘Good to go’ messaging in comms and marketing activity. ‘Good to go’ became part of the vernacular, injecting $7 billion into the Queensland economy and driving 42 million visitor nights to date. For the year ending March 2021, intrastate visitor expenditure was a record $6.1bn, over 30 per cent higher than the same period pre-pandemic. Due to its success, the ‘Good to go’ campaign was extended to June 2021, rolling out interstate and in New Zealand as borders re-opened. “Getting Queenslanders to embrace ‘Good to go’ took a huge, coordinated effort, but it was incredibly worthwhile,” Branagh says. “While tourism remains challenged, the Queensland visitor economy has recovered faster than any other state or territory and remains perfectly positioned to rise above what may lay ahead.” Business smarts Another big project for Branagh’s team over the past year has been a whole-of-ecosystem initiative to define the future opportunity and strategy for Brand Queensland. The aim is to position the sunshine state more effectively to capitalise on future sources of demand. “Queensland’s new ‘travel for good’ purpose-led brand positioning has been intentionally designed to address future growth opportunities and deliver transformational travel experiences by responding to changing consumer needs and values,” Branagh explains. “Put simply, this means travel is good for travellers’ wellbeing and travel makes a positive impact on the world. This is an inclusive invitation for all travellers to participate, contribute and belong – and to ultimately leave Queensland renewed, restored and regenerated.” Branagh cites no greater example of the influence this new brand has had than the proposal submitted to the International Olympic Committee to support Queensland’s bid to host the 2032 Olympic & Paralympic Games. Forecast to deliver and incremental $20bn in visitor expenditure to Queensland over the next 12 years, the Games are the perfect platform to elevate the ‘travel for good’ brand purpose, he says. Branagh consulted heavily with the Brisbane 2032 Games Taskforce to ensure the tourism opportunity and desired brand outcomes informed the final IOC submission. The link between TEQ and the taskforce was so tight that on the evening of the announcement, Branagh orchestrated Busby Marou to play TEQ’s new campaign soundtrack, Days Like This, to a national broadcast and live site audience just prior to Tokyo announcing Queensland’s successful bid. Data-driven approach Branagh has also been overseeing development of another future-focused program, this time to build TEQ’s data and technology capability. He says the capability introduced will allow the agency to personalise experiences seamlessly across touchpoints, generate better value from existing marketing investments and extend the reach of advertising to a wider global audience. “Delivered over three financial years from 2018-19 to 2020-21, the purpose of the program was to increase TEQ’s digital maturity and overall competitiveness through the implementation of a best-practice marketing technology platform and uplifted website, email and analytics programs,” Branagh explains. “The outcome has provided travellers with a seamless and personalised online experience that encourages more travellers to book a Queensland holiday. The program has also provided a consistent marketing experience across TEQ’s digital channels, Web, email and digital advertising.” An integral part of the program was launching the refreshed Queensland.com portal, redesigned and rebuilt using the Adobe platform. TEQ is also providing rich insights to regional tourism organisations via a monthly report on insights specific to their region, providing in-depth analytics around content consumption, geographic spread, industry lead performance and purchase funnel behaviour. TEQ is also piloting a data sharing arrangement with Virgin Australia to share audience segments that have shown a predisposition to travel to Queensland, based on Queensland.com site behaviour. These are then used by Virgin Australia to retarget segments with Queensland flight offers. In preliminary results, Branagh says audiences shared with Virgin are proving to convert at a higher rate that Virgin’s own data sets. Leads to industry has been a further outcome of better data utilisation and technology. Through a focus on test and learn, Branagh’s digital experimentation team have increased leads to Industry from Queensland.com by over 15 per cent in the past year. Customer-led thinking Another example of working to a broader tourism remit is Branagh’s work to create a customer experience practice within his marketing team. “This practice supports TEQ and the tourism industry through initiatives including education, training and understanding around CX best practice, the ‘World First’ Best of Queensland Experiences program that encourages tourism operators to exceed consumer expectations and deliver exceptional experiences, ensuring that every visitor becomes an advocate for Queensland,” he says. “It’s pleasing to report over the past year, Tourism Australia has worked with TEQ to take our ‘Best of Queensland program’ model and look to adopt it as a national best practice approach.” This CX work has led to the Ultimate Transformational Experience Guide and industry mentoring program. The guide was developed to help support operators design and deliver exceptional transformational experiences for guests in line with the ‘Travel for Good’ Queensland brand direction, Branagh says. The pilot program commenced in February 2021 and will run through until early 2022, targeting more than 110 operators across Queensland’s 13 tourism destinations. Adaptability It’s clear adaptability in approach has been instrumental to the way TEQ has adjusted to meet ongoing disruptions of the global pandemic. Just look at the success of the ‘Good to go’ campaign. “The flexibility within the ‘Good to go’ platform ensured it was easily adoptable by partners and able to be activated at short notice when travel restrictions changed,” Branagh says. “This was the case at Christmas 2020, when last-minute border closures could have meant trouble for Queensland operators. My team were able to react within hours and stand up a ‘Last Minute Holiday Deals’ activation, working with industry to get them to upload cancelled bookings to Queensland.com, which was the campaign call to action.” Holiday dollars is a second example of adapting to changing market conditions. For the first time, the Queensland Government offered travel vouchers and various marketing and distribution initiatives have been trialled across regions to encourage visitation and bookings. TEQ worked closely with its partners to create and tailor campaigns specifically to address the challenges facing operators in each region. After each rollout, TEQ assessed the effectiveness and performance of each campaign and applied learnings to future rollouts. “For example, we found after the first rollout, voucher holders were not in a rush to use their vouchers and waited until last minute to redeem,” Branagh says. “We shortened booking periods and delivered marketing to create a sense of urgency to voucher holders to book.” The program required operators to seek reimbursement from TEQ for vouchers used. To make the process seamless, TEQ developed an operator portal that connected the voucher redemption, invoicing and payment systems together. “This meant the operator only had to use one system and most importantly, allowed for same-day payment of invoices,” Branagh says. People and capability With a change remit and goal to create a modern marketing function within TEQ, Branagh has spent the last four years pulling apart an historically siloed marketing structure built around team hierarchies and individual budgets and created a new marketing system. “Output-based teams have been replaced by disciplines and a ‘way of working’ developed in such a way that collaboration becomes the requirement for getting things done,” he says. “The last year, as challenging as it was, provided the stimulus to continue influencing the future shape and direction of the organisation. With the impacts of Covid-19 biting deep into the visitor economy, TEQ was asked to find measures that could ensure the organisation was right shape and sized for the future.” The task required an overhaul of structure and the need to find efficiencies in the operating model. Areas of operation including international operations, aviation development and trade development that previously sat outside of Branagh’s responsibility were integrated into marketing. “The result is a leaner overall organisation structure for TEQ, a small reduction in total FTE and the opportunity to realise sizeable annual savings that could be reinvested back into supporting priority projects across the business,” Branagh says. “Change is always going to be challenging and nowhere more so than in an environment that had undergone very little if any in the preceding 10 years. While the transition to this new way of working wasn’t without its challenges, it’s pleasing to report based on the most recent staff engagement survey results the FY20/21 marketing group outcomes, from NPS to team retention, are all up.” Share this article

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