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Former Tourism Australia marketer Nick Baker appointed CEO of RedBalloon

Baker speaking at Mumbrella360

Baker speaking at Mumbrella360

Former Tourism Australia marketing director Nick Baker has been named as the new chief executive of gift experience business RedBalloon.

He will take over next week from Kristie Buchanan who is leaving to start a family.

Baker told Mumbrella this morning he considered “a lot of interesting roles” since announcing his departure from Tourism Australia last October but RedBalloon “was the one I could not turn down”.

He said the entrepreneurial nature of the company and its focus on customers and experiences were among the key attractions.

“RedBalloon an incredibly successful business that has established a great brand and great reputation among consumers,” Baker said. “It’s an Australian start up and there was an entrepreneurial feel that was attractive. They focus on the customer, and putting customers at the centre of everything we do was one of my big things not just at Tourism Australia but at Voyagers Hotels and Resorts before then”

RedBalloon was the brainchild of Naomi and Peter Simson who created the business in 2001 and who now sit on the board as non-executive directors. Its turnover has grown from $70,000 to around $60 million and offers 3000 experiences from around 1000 suppliers.

Among Baker’s first tasks will be to hire a head of marketing before recruiting between three and five staff to strengthen its marketing department.

He declined to reveal any future plans for RedBalloon, stressing he first needs to understand the business, although his remit will include exploring new markets, including tourism.

“Naomi has spoken before about growth and development, but where that goes I don’t know yet. I’ll look forward to exploring that, to look at the customer and see what more we can do for them,” he said. “What I’ll be interested in is some of the things that interested me at Tourism Australia in terms of content, social, story telling and digital.

“I’ll see how they are being employed and work on those programs. But before I do anything I need to understand the business and see how we can go forward.”

Marketing and selling experiences was among Baker’s key roles at Tourism Australia as the agency not only competed against other destinations but against the desire of consumers to buy a TV or car rather than take a holiday.

Baker suggested people were increasingly considering buying experiential products.

“Gathering experiences are more important than possessions and give you longer lasting memories than a TV set,” he said.

“The desire to have experiences is increasing and RedBalloon has been a leader in that space. There is a growing feeling that experiences are something that people are looking for as gifts. How deeply that is embedded I’ll be interested to see.”

RedBalloon founder Naomi Simson is currently featuring on Network Ten’s Shark Tank as one of the business “sharks”, judging the business plans of contestants.

Steve Jones 

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