How a small - but mighty - Auckland tour company took a leap of faith with their strategic marketing partners to change the face of their business and found themselves recognised on the world stage.
Having operated for over 12 years TIME Unlimited Tours had established an outstanding reputation due to great product delivered with exemplary service to international visitors to New Zealand. But they were swimming about as a small fish in the big ‘generic’ pond of Auckland tour businesses.
TIME Unlimited Tours are an Auckland based tour company offering premium Auckland and New Zealand Tours from one day, one way (to/from Auckland), and multi day private tours.
Like many owner operators, husband and wife duo Neill and Ceillhe Sperath, were busy working in their business with faith and passion that hard work would deliver growth. And it was, but not the transformational growth that would allow them to extract from daily operations and get their lives back.
"Shift your thinking, you will transform performance."
They had a need to differentiate but not a solution. They felt the pain but not the reward.
Enter a move towards change… call Blue Ocean for a brand refresh. Their thinking at the time was keep the heritage of the brand so as not to lose recognition but update it to be ‘fresh and appealing’.
Blue Ocean saw the challenges TIME Unlimited Tours were facing, alongside the potential risk for owner operators, of making big changes to a small business.
Our thinking didn't start at rebrand but further up the funnel, "how do we shift TIME Unlimited Tours from the competitive big pond into their own perfect pond"?
Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest international gateway with approximately 70%* of annual international visitors arriving into Auckland and staying on average 2.3** days whether this is on arrival or departure is dependent upon itinerary. The average stay across New Zealand is 8-14
days for international visitors.
With a product offering covering one day, one way and multi day tours arriving and departing into Auckland - how can TIME Unlimited Tours stand alone as the operator of choice?
The common approach to achieving growth is to spend more and add more slices to the marketing mix 'pie'. Investing in new ways to execute marketing and communications activity and expecting better ROI. In all likelihood there will be improvements. But these will be incremental not transformational. Why? Because your competitors have the potential to improve in the same way.
It's a rough Red Sea that TIME Unlimited Tours are operating in with competitors communicating on the same attributes; price, features and benefits (vehicles, access, itinerary). All of these can be easily duplicated.
They do not represent an unfair advantage.
When we talk about value proposition we are not simply talking about differentiation but about developing and gaining an unfair advantage that cannot be duplicated by competition. In order to achieve the transformational growth that would get them "out" of working "in" the business, TIME Unlimited Tours needed to start working differently. Starting with developing their unique value proposition (UVP) as part of a strategic marketing approach.
The technology and design arms of our sister company had been supporting TIME Unlimited Tours for many years. For all intents and purposes, we knew their business but to take the strategic marketing lead we needed to know more. Research, interviews, experiencing product, getting to the nitty gritty of the essence of their business.
Enter the value mapping process. Services delivered vs customer jobs to be done. This is the very clever process of fitting a square peg into a round hole.
What we discovered is that TIME Unlimited Tours were delivering a unique value proposition but at, what could be described as, a subconscious level.
Every stage of their customer experience - once on tour - was an authentic integrated cultural experience. An experience that blended indigenous Maori culture, New Zealand history (the myth and the legend) and today’s Kiwitanga (our unique cultural footprint of warmth, hospitality and relaxed friendly approach).
But this was only experienced once the customer was on the tour. It was not packaged and communicated at all stages of customer journey.
Yes, TIME Unlimited Tours offered the most comprehensive Maori tours in Auckland and advertised those with both trade and consumer marketing. But they were sitting on a UVP gem. Cultural integration across the complete customer experience.
Indigenous cultural experiences are the highest ranked activity among those actively considering travel to New Zealand. At the same time those experiences were more satisfying to visitors when they were authentic and not contrived.
An excellent example of this are the "flavours of New Zealand" provided on all tours (yet not communicated). Spoiler alert: this is an authentic cultural experience that 100% of guests enjoy.
Align business objectives with industry objectives - paddle your canoe in the same direction as the mother ship!
We aligned TIME Unlimited Tours' strategic marketing plan with Tourism2025 framework focusing on Visitor Experience and Target for Value.
The value mapping process identified the customer segment that had the greatest ‘value fit’ for TIME Unlimited Tours and tactical marketing activities aligned to that segment.
With more than 90% of business through international visitors additional leverage was to be gained by aligning marketing and communications with New Zealand Story. Thus, taking advantage of wider exposure and recognition.
Build a new brand identity - fingerprint - that retains the legacy of a long standing highly reputable business but shape it with the unique value proposition and strategic marketing plan that would deliver stand alone performance.
The only operator that integrates cultural experiences through every stage of the customer experience - dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing.
Positioning “Our New Zealand, Your Way”, Kaitiakitanga, Manaakitanga, Kiwitanga woven through every aspect of their identity.
From logo, to image selection, graphic design elements all telling a story of cultural integration, hospitality and welcome.
After roll out of the brand, story and subsequent digital transformation TIME Unlimited Tours could report “more visitors, more often, more bookings and at a higher value”
The ultimate accolade, and validation of strategy, came when TIME Unlimited Tours received the National Geographic Award for “Sense of Place”.
This international award recognises excellence in enhancing sense of place and cultural authenticity; with support for indigenous traditions.
Of the five Category winners TIME Unlimited Tours were the only Australasian winners with entries totalling 150 across 51 nations. Certainly an outstanding testament to the passion and drive of Neill and Ceillhe, Founders of TIME Unlimited Tours.
Alongside bottom line improvements TIME Unlimited Tours gained industry recognition through multiple awards.