Openness will triumph over secrecy and stealth, says Helloworld marketing chief Kim Portrate

Kim PortrateThe marketing boss of travel retailer Helloworld has warned senior executives not to adopt a secretive approach to change within the business as she urged them to be flexible and to admit when they are wrong.

Kim Portrate said openness will “triumph over secrecy” and ultimately lead to a better outcome for any business that is undergoing transformation.

The remarks came as Portrate outlined the key lessons she learned as the company spent $40m merging four retail brands into one new brand – Helloworld.

The company, formerly called Jetset Travelworld, operated Harvey World Travel, Jetset, Travelworld and Travelscene American Express.

Portrate, speaking yesterday at Mumbrella’s Travel Marketing Summit in Sydney, said Helloworld made the same mistake that many companies make when undergoing a restructure or transformation – it kept everything behind closed doors.

She described the secretive approach – designed to prevent the leaking of information – as “flawed logic”.

“Communicate, communicate, communicate,” she told delegates.

Portrate, a former Tourism Australia marketer who joined Helloworld shortly after the creation of the new brand in 2013, said marketers embarking on change need to shed their naturally secretive approach.

“Make sure you have a good vision of what you want to accomplish. We were clear about what we wanted to deliver,” she said.

“But at the same time be flexible because you’ll learn things along the way that will absolutely surprise you. Anyone involved in a transformation or a new launch should act on knowledge but stay flexible with information that will come your way.

helloworld“The other thing I learned was that stealth and secrecy will be triumphed by transparency and openness all the time. It’s a natural reaction of marketers to not want to tell to anyone what they are up to until it’s perfect.

“But don’t worry about perfect. Get to 85 per cent and then share because ultimately, if you let go of stealth and secrecy, you’ll get a better program, you’ll get a better brand and you’ll get a better customer experience. Knowledge will come to you in the most unusual of places.

“Take something that’s half cooked. It’s ok to be wrong.”

She said the transformation from JTG’s four retail brands into Helloworld – a move which saw the demise of Harvey World Travel, Australia’s second most recognisable high street travel brand – was different as it was led by marketing.

“The transformation we have been on really was a marketing-led market restructure and that is a complicated thing to undertake,” she explained. “Typically, in other business and industries that I have worked in, the brand or the marketing don’t lead the transformation.

“Our transformation also involved the consumer. They were at the heart of what we were doing. First and foremost, if you are going to spend $40 million of someone’s money you want to make absolutely certain that the transition is going to deliver for the Australian traveller.”

Portrate also warned that it was impossible to keep everyone happy, adding it was the the “little things that make people most unhappy”.

“That was an interesting learning,” she said. “The big ticket items people will debate but what you will find is that is that it’s the small things that irk people and I had 1,000 examples of that as we moved through this process.”

When someone asks for something for promotional purposes, you realise there is nothing, she added.

“When someone calls you and asks for an umbrella you realise there is no umbrella. There is no merchandise, there is no business cards, there is nothing at all.”

Portrate also told marketers they need to “toughen up” and “be brave” in the face of criticism and to adopt a demeanour as “regal as the Queen of England”.

“People are resistant to change and if you are cool and calm it will inspire confidence,” she said.

Steve Jones



Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.