- Check out our feature on Merlin Entertainments’ Nick Varney – the marketer in charge of a £2.25bn business here
- Get an insider’s view of Merlin’s structure here
- Discover Varney’s six point growth driver plan here
- See APR chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America Rosanna Fiske’s response to this feature here
Head of audiences and media for Tate galleries asks/ “Whatdo you think is the most efficient marketing channel availableto you?”
Nick Varney (NV): The most efficient channel for us is publicity. Getting TV and press to cover new rides or investments will often do half our job. We use PR agencies and have our own in-house teams to get the right type of publicity. Recently [news programme] London Tonight did a segment on our penguins’ trip from Weymouth to the London Sea Life aquarium. We had two minutes solid on the programme, which culminated in images of the penguins hopping out happily on the ice and diving into the water. You can’t emulate that even with advertising.
Head of marketing for Laterooms.com asks/ “Doyou have plans to expand marketing for your UK brandsin Europe?”
NV: The UK attractions that appeal to large numbers of foreign tourists tend to be the London-based ones. They generally get 50-70% of their market from overseas tourists who are already on trips to the capital. Outside London, you get very few foreign tourists. At Alton Towers, say, you might get 90% British tourists. If we thought this was changing and there was huge potential there for this to alter we would obviously do more.
Marketing director for VisitBritain asks: “Do you think international visitors’ expectations of UK attractions has changed over the past decade?”
NV: I think everyone’s expectations go up over time. Now certain things are just hygiene factors, like having toilets everywhere. Also queueing without information isn’t acceptable and you can’t have surly staff, what I call ’slack-jawed youths taking your tickets’, at your attractions. Operating at that [higher] level is taken for granted now, whereas 10 years ago, it wouldn’t have been. On top of that, you have to offer people your brand values and regular reasons to visit.