Jennifer Horner on how to guide the destiny with data
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Director of Strategy and Research, Tourism WA
Consumption: Skinny Flat White
Seven years ago, Jennifer Horner left the UK for Western Australia with a wealth of experience in financial services marketing. She was looking for a way into the local industry and went on LinkedIn to find people who had made a similar journey. For Jenn and I, this initiative turned into a seven-year friendship.
‘I realised nobody knew me here, whereas in London it was much easier to gain offers and opportunities. I was unfamiliar with the local industry, and a friend suggested government marketing roles. I ended up joining the Department of Tourism, WA.’
I tease Jenn that my layman’s understanding of Destination Marketing circles around TV ads with sunsets on Cable Beach and ‘another shrimp on the barbie’.
Jenn smirks a little, ‘Yes, you could think it’s the easiest thing to market, just talking to people about going on holidays. But it is actually far more complex, and that’s what appeals to me.
‘As a Destination Marketing organisation, we are a collaborator to the industry who delivers the experience to the holidaymakers. We help them to market a proposition, and the industry needs to provide and deliver on the experience people expect; the tour, the accommodation and destinations they visit.
‘There are a lot of moving parts to it and no longer is it only about managing the destination. People expect the overall experience, not just a shopping list of flights and hotels.
‘Destination Marketing has changed much in the seven years since I’ve been involved. Technology now puts the power in the hand of consumers. They can decide and hold all of the information through that device; they plan, search and choose on their mobiles.
‘Years ago, Destination Marketing had the power to influence because we held the information but not anymore. Word of mouth referral is what works with consumers- the ones that come back having had a good experience will pass on to others what it was like.
‘We now market directly to people who are extremely time-poor and who are living “a kilometre wide and a centimetre deep” in information. What I mean is they skim across a lot of information and try to find a particular hook that appeals to them for a more in-depth look.
‘The constant challenge is in building people’s knowledge of the place, which translates into their desire to visit us for the first time or repeatedly. We’ve learnt over time that the best approach is not to sell the whole of WA but to focus on the parts of WA that have immediate appeal to holidaymakers.’
Asked about what will remain an essential truth in all of this, Jenn thinks WA needs to ‘own confidently who we are as a destination.’ She cites Tasmania as an example.
‘They embrace all parts of their story, even the darker elements of people’s perception. I think that authenticity puts any destination in a good light. If you are true to who you are and confident and stay real in your story, then you’re on a winner.
‘Las Vegas is a classic case of what not to do. In the Fifties or Sixties, they tried to sell the Vegas experience as a family destination. Well, we all know what happens in Vegas, stays there and it's not family-friendly.’
Jenn lights up when I ask her about future service innovations. ‘The fascinating part of Tourism is that we have hotels utilising the latest technology innovation in their marketing and accommodation and on the other hand you have small family businesses who need to get on board using social media and booking platforms.
‘Upcoming tracking technology for Destination Marketing is exciting. A tracking system consists of aggregated data that allows us to share the visitor numbers in real-time between the tourism operators and us. A system like that would enable a deeper understanding of how to curate a person’s experience. Technology will have a huge role to play in helping us, for example, with using augmented reality that doesn’t apply today's clunky virtual reality goggles.’
We touch on Jenn’s future aspirations. Interestingly, we’re suddenly talking about creativity.
‘I build creativity into my role now, but I want to be more creative than that. I consciously make an effort in enjoying the process of cooking meals at home. My daughter and I love those mandala colouring-in books, and it’s an opportunity to connect with her. It’s massively therapeutic and calming for me.’
‘Looking back on my career, I cut my teeth on every combination of B2B marketing, B2C marketing, B2B2C marketing, and some of the things I’ve done in that previous life would be still seen as new. Now I do a blend of science and art.
‘I might not have ‘marketer’ in my job title anymore, but I lay the foundation and insight to make the right marketing decision. And without that, it would be the fluffy pink stuff that people typically associate with marketing.
‘When you do it properly by taking a good piece of evidence and insights into the creative process, you have the marketing process sorted. The ultimate creative output should reflect the quality insight you put in. You can’t retrofit that.
She laughs, ‘I had to learn what market prioritisation is and get others on board with it. I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to get information across, so in a sense, I market to marketing what we could do. My team and I unpack the data for our time-poor marketing team and stakeholders, so it focuses their brief.’
Jenn summarises her self-definition with a story.’ I recently shocked someone who labelled me an insights guru and data nerd. I said ‘I’m not a number’s person. I am a visual marketing person; that’s how I describe myself.’
The Common Ground
The journey from uncertainty to confidence is part of finding your self as a creative
There is a whole lot of genuinely creative professionals working under typically corporate job title labels
How you fall into roles and make them your own is essentially your ongoing challenge
What you do as creative may not now (or ever) fit in other people’s boxes and job descriptions
The artistic expression is easy to do, once buy-in, translation of ideas, providing guidance and insight have paved the way
Have confidence in your previous experience so you can draw on it in creative ways.