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October, 2019

How is SA tourism bucking the trend?

How SA Tourism competes and wins domestically and globally against bigger budgets and brands with Brent Hill

Adelaide doesn’t have an Opera House, there’s no Barrier Reef, no Uluru, and the City of Churches tag doesn’t always help,  yet tourism is one of South Australia’s economic success stories over the past few years as Adelaide increasingly becomes known and visited.

AMI was lucky enough to speak with award-winning marketer Brent Hill. Read on to find out how he has helped SATC grow the SA Tourism Industry by 36% in the last 4 years.

1. During your tenure at SATC, tourism expenditure has grown 36% in South Australia. Can you tell us about the strategic direction and activities SATC has engaged in to disrupt and drive growth in the industry?

We’ve seen really spectacular growth in tourism expenditure into SA. It’s really exciting for a State and city of our size to see this growth! What’s underpinned this growth is probably a few things:

  • A strong, consistent brand and an understanding that we need to continue to maximise our spend on reach to build our brand.
  • A real focus on ROI which has translated to a really strong digital platform, underpinned with the Adobe Marketing Cloud, which enabled us to quantify our spend, and to drive direct results out to the tourism industry in South Australia.
  • The freedom to be bold and challenge convention in order to grow our brand awareness and drive visitation and expenditure.
  • And, finally, focusing our time and energy on execution.

We value strategy and planning highly, but put a lot of emphasis on executing well and being in market – from PR, to global campaigns, to social media.

2. Can you share some examples of how SATC utilises all the different elements of the marketing mix to create impactful social campaigns that resonate with both domestic and international audiences?

Social media is incredibly important for us. We have 2.4M followers across the main Western and Chinese channels. But, its been a real learning curve.

“We used to spend a lot of time on the ‘community’ and were a little too focused on engagement / vanity metrics – likes, comments and engagement. Since switching our social KPIs to lead generation and driving results for our operators directly, we’ve seen a large uptake in ROI, and at the same time have altered what we are showing consumers via our social media channels,” writes Hill.

Our award winning Tell us Where campaign ran in late 2018 was a great use of social media to drive results. We knew that there were some dated perceptions of Adelaide in the market from our research, and to challenge this we put out a range of spectacular, yet unbranded, images out via social media, transit and outdoor. The CTA was simply @tell_us_where. Consumers guesses on where the locations were included many exotic and remote locations. After 10 days, we revealed that in fact all of the images were in South Australia. The response was fantastic with people looking with fresh eyes at our destination. What made this work was that it was truly integrated across social, traditional media, PR and digital marketing.

3. How has the tourism sector evolved in recent years and which trends do you expect to emerge in the near future?

Tourism is an amazing sector to be involved in, and while trends emerge, we never stray too far away from the core of what we provide – which is giving people the opportunity to relax, discover, explore and reward their wonder. Its an awesome privilege to be able to do that for people!

The key trends and insights we’re seeing in 2019-20 are:

  • Sustainability and eco-tourism – tourists increasingly want to participate in environmentally sensitive tourist activities – taking more out than they bring in, minimising wildlife contact to observation in the wild, and helping reduce our footprint.
  • Off the beaten track experiences and accommodation – tourists are definitely looking for places that are less obvious and less discovered, and are hence more truly authentic. They want to see how the locals live and do what they do.
  • Tiny home accommodation – this is really booming in South Australia! People are definitely looking for the ‘instagrammable’ stay, but also the more off grid, boutique and cool the better!
  • Mobile first – tourists have shunned paper and use their phones for everything – what’s on, where’s good to eat nearby etc. Ensuring our marketing is mobile first and is where the tourist needs and expects the information to be is key
  • Getting back to nature – In South Australia we have very few man made ‘attractions’. What we do have in spades is spectacular coastlines, beautiful and unique Outback, prevalent wildlife and places to really explore. And that’s what people want to do and see increasingly..
  • Brand Awareness is still key. In a crowded marketplace where there is often a sea of sameness in tourism, awareness of your brand and destination is really critical – hence campaigns like ‘Old Mate’ interstate.

4. You bring a lot to the role as Executive Director of Marketing with your background in advertising, branding, digital marketing, eCommerce and sponsorship. How has your experience in corporate social responsibility and public relations complimented this and why is it important is it that they be aligned?

Having a diverse industry background has really helped coming into tourism. I’ve always been focused on commercial returns, and I think that focus has helped working for a destination marketing body. Also, understanding the important role that PR plays has been critical, as SA can’t compete on money terms alone, we have to generate a lot of our reach through earned media. And we’ve done that really well by being bold and adventurous, but always with a focus on ROI.

SA can’t compete on money terms alone, we have to generate a lot of our reach through earned media. And we’ve done that really well by being bold and adventurous, but always with a focus on ROI.

I’d say though that the key thing I’ve brought to this role is to really integrate what we do. Tourism is rife with many disparate campaigns and branding, all for the one destination, and I think what we’ve been able to do over the past few years is tell a more consistent, coherent story, and have gotten the results we have by combining our team’s resources and ensuring we maximise our campaigns by not only putting out large scale brand campaigns, but backing them up with effective PR, digital and social media, and working with our partners, to ensure we capitalise on the interest.

5. You have an extensive list of accolades under your belt – Twice nominated for the CMO50 List of Australia’s top marketers, winner of Mumbrella Award for best Social Campaign of the Year and two-time finalist for Marketing Team of the Year along with Executive Leader of the Year. As the Executive Director of Marketing at SATC, your organisation also took home an award for the Creativity in Brand, Product or Service Marketing for South Australia at the 2019 AMI Awards for Marketing Excellence.

What value do you derive from entering awards and what advice would you give to marketers and organisations who are hesitant about putting themselves out there?

Awards are really important for us for a number of reasons. First and foremost for the team to have external, qualified validation is important in a space where we are very public about what we do, and everyone typically has an opinion on how we should do our jobs! Its great for morale to know that what we’re doing matters, and esteemed judges are seeing that and rewarding our efforts and results.

Its also great PR for us and helps attract really talented people who want to work at a place that is producing great work and results. And it also is fantastic recognition of the hard work, creativity and results of the team and our agency. Its always nice to be rewarded for effort. So, I would have no hesitation in saying to organisations to put themselves into the process and see what happens.

You don’t always win, and it can be onerous putting it all together, but its also great to reflect back on the great work you’re doing, and if you crack a win – its great to share a drink and reward the effort of the team!

About the AMI Awards for Marketing Excellence

Each year the AMI Awards recognise campaigns from a diverse range of companies with varying resources, innovative strategic approaches and campaigns targeted to a wide range of local and overseas audiences. Celebrating the best marketing campaigns in Australia, in 18 categories and 8 special categories, AMI Award Judges assess the merits of each entry, taking into consideration the different B2B and B2C metrics and success factors and the linkage between strategy, execution and outcomes achieved.

Awards submissions close 5pm AEST, Friday 28 May 2020

Submit your nomination

About the Author

Brent Hill
Executive Director Marketing
South Australian Tourism Commission

Brent Hill joined the SATC in November 2015 as a marketing specialist with senior experience across a number of industries.

During Brent’s tenure tourism expenditure has grown 36% in South Australia. Brent oversaw the launch of a new global brand for tourism in South Australia, a number of global advertising campaigns and a digital program that now sees attracting over 5.5 million visitors annually. Brent also oversaw the successful partnerships with Chinese megastar Huang Xiaoming, the Project and Masterchef Australia. In 2018, Brent was recognised as #21 on the CMO50 list of Australia’s top marketers, and in 2019 won a national Mumbrella Award for best Social Campaign of the Year and was shortlisted for Marketing Team of the Year twice and Executive Leader of the Year.