We discuss their marketing approach for attractions during a time of capped capacity and their approach to marketing segmentation that’s not driven by demographics.
“Whilst the attraction has been sanitised, the experience hasn’t, and there’s still a richness to the experience.”
What will you learn from this podcast?
- Marketing approaches for attractions during a time of capped capacity
- Keeping your existing audience engaged
- Marketing segmentation that’s not driven by demographics
You can also read the full transcript below.
Your host, Kelly Molson
Our guest, Jules Ozbek
Kelly Molson: Jules, thank you for coming on the podcast today. It’s lovely to have you with us. I really appreciate your time.
Jules Ozbek: Pleasure.
Kelly Molson: I always start off these podcast interviews with a few little icebreaker questions, because we haven’t spoken before and I think it’s quite nice to just get to know the real you.
All right. So first one, where is the worst place you could get stuck?
Jules Ozbek:The Tube at rush hour.
Kelly Molson: Yeah. How tall are you, as well, because I have that-
Jules Ozbek:I’m five foot two.
Kelly Molson: Yeah, me too. I’m going to say I’m five, two and a half because that half makes a difference. But I’m at armpit height as well.
Kelly Molson: It’s the worst.
Jules Ozbek:And I suffer a little bit from Claustrophobia, so being on the Tube, under people’s armpits at rush hour, yeah, worst nightmare.
Kelly Molson: I’m with you. I’m totally with you on that one. Okay. What is your favorite movie quote?
Jules Ozbek:Gosh, that’s a hard one. The one that springs to mind first is, “Don’t put baby in the corner,” but I think that’s because I was a Dirty Dancing fan as a teenager.
Kelly Molson: Who isn’t? I mean, still am.
Jules Ozbek:And I’d hate to be put in the corner myself.
Kelly Molson: I think that’s a great answer. I’m an ’80s film fan as well, so that really hits the spot with me.
Jules Ozbek:Definitely. You can’t beat, Dirty Dancing and Top Gun are two of my all-time favorite movies.
Kelly Molson: Yes. My quote is a Top Gun quote. Absolutely, it would have been a Top Gun quote.
All right. So this is the last icebreaker question, but it’s always my favorite one. So can you tell me something that’s true to you, that almost nobody agrees with you on? So what is your unpopular opinion?
Jules Ozbek:Oh, gosh. That’s really a hard one. Breakfast food is the best and could be eaten at every mealtime.
Kelly Molson: Yeah. Are we talking continental?
Jules Ozbek:No. I mean, continental’s great because who doesn’t ever pain au chocolat? But I’m talking like pancakes. You could have pancakes for lunch quite easily. You can make a mid-meal out of breakfast, which is brunch, and who doesn’t love brunch because you can also have a mimosa with brunch.
Kelly Molson: You are my kind of woman, Jules.
Jules Ozbek: Yeah. Bacon sandwich, BLT. You can eat that stuff any time of the day. So if I had to pick one meal time to eat for the rest of my life, it would be breakfast and all its glory.
Kelly Molson: And with the mimosas thrown in as well.
Kelly Molson: It’s a perfect combination. Great. Thank you. Anyway, moving on. So Jules, can you tell us what your background has been in the attractions world and how you’ve come to work with Continuum?
Jules Ozbek:Sure. So I started my career in event management for Northumbria University while I was studying for my master’s, which opened a lot of doors to me and a great experience. And then went on to work for a business called Northern Film and Media, who were the regional screen agency for the North of England. And I was their events manager. So really early doors were all about the guest experience and quality. I sold my soul and went corporate for a period of time. I worked for a company that delivered the Business Link service before the conservative government came in. Massive spending review, was made redundant, and did some of the various bits and pieces before going to work for the National Railway Museum in York, which I fell in love with.
I really enjoy working with people that are leaders in their fields and are passionate and love what they do, and steam train enthusiasts really do fit into that sphere. I had a great time working for them, and then I went on to work for English Heritage, some eight or nine years ago now, at a time where English Heritage were going through quite a big restructure, again, off the back of government spending. And also, they were looking at their brand and how their brand was perceived in the world, and it was very clear that at that point in time, it was perceived as very male, very tweed, very old-fashioned academic and stuffy, and where they wanted to be was in the family arena of fun, engaging, enriching. So they were about to embark on this journey of moving the English Heritage brand from where it was forward. So a really exciting time.
I also walked into a marketing department that was nonexistent in the York office in the North of England. So I found cassettes from the ’80s with radio campaigns and things on. I was like, “Wow.”
Kelly Molson: Wow.
Jules Ozbek:Yeah. So I had a great time there, built a brilliant team around me, worked for a really, really great lady called Elizabeth Page, who I got on very well with, was a great mentor. And we had a portfolio of 38 sites, everything from stately houses to castles, to bits of rock in the middle of fields, and also Hadrian’s Wall, some 72 miles of UNESCO World Heritage sites. So an amazing portfolio to work with, with a great team. And we grew the commercial side of the business quite exponentially actually, over the four or five years that I was there. So a really great time to be involved in that.
And then I was wrenched away because I loved it so much, but I knew I’d hit that glass ceiling and couldn’t do anymore. So took the leap into Continuum Attractions, where I am today. Quite a bit culture shock, I think it’s fair to say, to go from working for a very historic, very authoritative, very academic English Heritage, with these huge brand values that stand behind it, to a really nimble commercial organization of a diverse portfolio, eclectic mix of attractions spread across the UK. But I’m still here some four years later, so I’m clearly enjoying it.
Kelly Molson: Must have loved it.
Jules Ozbek:Yeah. And again, work with some really great people. Our chief exec, Juliana has been in this business for 35 years. And I’ve got a really great team of sales and marketing professionals within the business as well. So yeah, here I am.
Kelly Molson: And you say about eclectic and it really is, isn’t it? You’ve got multiple attractions, they’re all extremely different. We go from the York chocolate shop, which we’ve all been to, which we love, Oxford Castle & Prison, the Emmerdale Studio Experience, and then the Emirates Spinnaker Tower down in Portsmouth. So, that must be really satisfying to have that kind of variety of portfolio of the attractions that you work with.
Jules Ozbek:It is. And no two days are the same. I think that the things I love most about this role is that I’m working with all the different destination marketing organizations across the UK and they all come with different challenges. So to be part of that agenda and then the ability to take the learnings from each of the DMOs and apply them to others where successes have happened is really great.
But, what that diversity has allowed us to do over the years is when one of the businesses isn’t performing, others are because they’re spread in different cities. If one city is having a bad time, then the other parts of the country tend to be doing well. We’ve got an outdoor attraction in Wales. So, sunny days are great for that, whereas rainy days are better for some of our indoor attractions. So it’s really allowed us to spread the risk and the load both geographically and in terms of product as well. So that’s great.
And then, the diversity of each of the attractions is really lovely. We go from an outdoor adventure park in North Wales to, like you said, York’s Chocolate Story in York. But the thing I love about them is that they all have a purpose. They’re all brands with purpose. They’re not manufactured. They celebrate either the history and heritage of the city that they reside or they tell a story. Even somewhere like Greenwood was built because Steve Bristow, who was the original owner, wanted to conserve the environment and educate children about nature, and the park is still run with very strong green credentials. We harvest our own rainwater, the rollercoaster is people-powered. So the authenticity of each of our attractions means a lot to me. And I think especially now as consumers are becoming more savvy, they’re looking to engage with brands that do have a purpose.
Kelly Molson: Yeah. You’ve just talked so passionately about those attractions. You could see the smile on your face as you were talking about them. I guess today, I really want to look at the road ahead for the attractions and what it means now they’re opening. But I guess to do that, we’ve got to go backwards. So I wondered if you could share what it was like hearing the news that all those places that you love are suddenly going to have to close, and no idea when they’re going to reopen again.
Jules Ozbek:Yeah. Fortunately, we’d got well ahead of the curve and I hate that turn of phrase. We were ahead of the game, if you like, in that we’d been planning for it from probably February. We’d been talking about it within our business of “What if? What if? What it?” And monitoring it daily. But then when that Wednesday… Was it a Wednesday or Friday?… Came, it was devastating to know that we’re going to have to shut down. And it’s something that’s never happened before. We’ve never been positioned where we’re closing our attractions indefinitely. So it was devastating, and fortunately, the furlough scheme was an absolute godsend in that we didn’t have to make those mass redundancies at that point. But to see these places that are full of fun and entertainment and are so dynamic to close that door was, it was really tough. Really tough.
Kelly Molson: Yeah. I can imagine. We’ve seen it with our own clients.
Jules Ozbek:Yeah. We immediately went into, “Right, what’s the plan to reopen?” So there was no, “Woe is us. This is devastating. This is awful.” We were really proactive about saying, “When are we likely to reopen?” And we pretty much modeled to reopen on the 29th of June and we were a week out.
Kelly Molson: Great.
Jules Ozbek:So throughout those three to four months, we were full steam ahead daily. We put in plans as a management team. So there’s five of us on the leadership team, and we spend an hour, every lunchtime, 12 to one every day via Zoom, talking to each other. And I think that was really useful in keeping abreast of what was happening and planning daily, changing our minds daily, moving forward daily to get us to a point where we could open our doors.
Kelly Molson: Brilliant. I’m so glad that you’re all open. It’s really good to see. It’s such a positive thing for the industry. Obviously, there was so much work to do whilst you were closed in terms of planning for reopening. That’s a huge task in itself, but how have you approached marketing the attractions throughout that time? And maybe, how did you keep in touch with your existing audience? Because I’m sure you’ve got incredibly loyal fans that come back over and over again.
Jules Ozbek:We have. Our repeat visit market is quite low actually. We reside in places where it’s a day trip market or a holiday market. So we don’t get huge amounts of repeat visitors, but because our subject matter is really rich, we do have a loyal social engagement or following. We planned really early, before we closed. We got all the marketeers around and said, “Right, okay guys. What does three months’ worth of content look like?” And we captured a lot of it up front, and we did a lot of scheduling before the guys all went into furlough. So we had this constant drip of two or three engagements every week across all the portfolio, that were either entertaining or enriching or told a fact or story about the attraction that you might not know. And some of it was just for fun as well.
So we kept that momentum going, which I think has done us really well. It’s stood us in really good stead. We were also really keen to talk to the media about what it means to close, what reopening looks like, what safety measures we’re putting in place to be open. So there’s a B2B side of it, and the B2C side.
And then all along, we’ve had to review our marketing budgets. What do they look like moving forward? And how do we get, really cost-effectively, in front of people in the short term? Because it is going to be short term. We’ve got six weeks to really capitalize on volume before we go back into a shoulder season. And my strategy has been, how do we do it most cost-effectively? Let’s look at our social channels, let’s get those backup or boosting a lot of the activity.
Jules Ozbek:We’ve had really great success with PPC and digital retargeting as well as basket abandonment activity. So our digital is performing really well for us. We went through our websites and made sure they were fit for purpose and that the user experience on them was really easy as well.
And we’ve also engaged a lot with OTAs. I don’t want to use discounts on platforms because whilst it might be a quick fix and a sticking plaster, I think in the longterm, it’s not where we need to be. I think we need to just get through this season. So very much looked at the online ticket agents who can reach the mass market for us at a percentage that’s not going to cost us anything other than a little bit on the yield. So really utilizing those to good effect, as well as PR. But in terms of traditional-type advertising, I think that’s to be on the back burner till next year.
Kelly Molson: Yeah, for sure. It’s difficult, isn’t it? With that capped capacity that you’ll have, and almost that level of uncertainty still about how nervous people are about coming back to indoor attractions specifically.
Kelly Molson: We’ve seen huge demand for outdoor zoos and wildlife parks, but with the indoor there still that, I think the BVA BDRC, they’ve been doing a weekly report, tracking the consumer sentiment of the impact of COVID. And I think it says, “Despite the indoor attractions being able to open, there’s still an average lead time of around about four months,” which seems huge. And like you say, that then takes you into your slightly quieter season, so you can’t really get the impact that you need.
Kelly Molson: What’s the uptake of some of the attractions been so far? Have you been pleased with what you’ve seen?
Jules Ozbek:I was really pleasantly surprised to see York’s Chocolate Story perform really well over Saturday and Sunday. What we’ve seen is that the booking lead time is a lot shorter than we’ve seen ever. Obviously, people are making decisions the day before, or even on the morning to come and visit us. I was pleasantly surprised to see the numbers coming through the door and also, the available spend in the retail area. The spend per head was above where we expected it to be, which was really pleasing.
The most pleasing thing for me was that everybody enjoyed their experience. So they came and they felt looked after, they knew we had the right safety measures in place. So whilst the attraction has been sanitized, the experience hasn’t, and there’s still a richness to the experience. They’re still able to engage with that story and take something away from it, and be entertained and have some fun. And gosh, we’ve not had that ability other than tuning into Netflix for the last four months. And I think the thing that we do really well is we tell a really good story, but that rare commodity of being told by a human being, that human interaction that we deliver across all of our attractions, I think is really rare as we move into an ever more digital landscape. So I think people have really enjoyed that. And who doesn’t want chocolate? So that’s always a win.
Jules Ozbek:Oxford Castle & Prison have done okay, as have Spinnaker Tower and the two non-UK sites, so Greenwood in Wales, and Mary King’s in Scotland will open it on the 18th. They’re a little bit behind. So we’ll wait and see what they bring as well. But I’m optimistic. I think there is a demand. I think people are looking to get out of the house and do things, and I think we have delivered an experience that is manageable and controlled within this landscape that we find ourselves in.
Kelly Molson: It’s a really positive to hear. I love that phrase that you used as well. I’ve heard that a few times recently about sanitizing the site, but not the experience. So I think you’re so right. And the feedback that you’ll be getting now and the testimonials that you’ll be getting now from the visitors, that’s the important thing. That’s what really matters and that’s what’s going to drive more people to come.
You talked a little bit about digital there. Did you have to implement anything prior to opening that you didn’t already have in place?
Jules Ozbek:Yeah. Our summer periods, a lot of our attractions run at capacity, so we’ve had to rebuild all of our ticketing system, all of our backend to reflect the opening times and also the time slots, so rather than running every 15 minutes, they know we’re running every half hour. So there was a lot of infrastructure build that had to go on behind the scenes. The website’s needed adjusting, et cetera.
But that’s been it really, other than a lot of hard work going on with our operations team at attraction level to make sure that, we spent a long time looking at how we could make this work, what does it look like? What does it feel like? Does the experience still feel rich enough? Is it still good enough if we do this, this and the other? Or actually, if we go too far in that direction, that really does take a little bit away from it. So let’s bring it back.
And then we had our audits last week and the week before, and they came out really well. We didn’t think we’d be able to do the lolly and chocolate making that you’d do at York’s Chocolate Story, but actually, the auditors said that that’d be okay. So that’s a great bit of a product that we could put back in. So I think operationally, we’ve done a lot, digitally, other than a lot of just annoying administration of having to rebuild stuff.
Kelly Molson:Yes. I hear your pain. I’ve been on the build side, so I know exactly how you feel. It’s just been so much work all round for everybody.
Jules Ozbek:And we have asked people to pre-book in advance as well. That just makes our lives easier, both operationally, but also we know what we’re dealing with rather than just people walking up off the streets.
Kelly Molson:Do you think that’s something that you’ll continue as well?
Jules Ozbek:I don’t know. We do a lot of our attractions do rely on, on walk-up trade. If you look at Spinnaker Tower, it’s the biggest advert it could possibly be. This huge tower coming out the landscape of the South Coast. So to say that we’re not going to take walk-ups, I think would cut a huge amount of our market. Especially again, places like Edinburgh, where if they’re wandering the city and people are looking for things to do, and I happen upon us, I’d hate to be turning people away. So, no, I don’t think we’ll get to that point. I think we’ll still open our doors and welcome people in with open arms.
Kelly Molson: Yeah. So we saw you speak last year at the Annual National Conference of Visitor Attractions, last October. It was brilliant. You talked a lot about the subject of marketing segmentation, and I think one of the quotes was that, “Demographics are no longer as reliable as the boundaries between them are blurring.” And I really appreciated your talk because sometimes you get put in a box and I sometimes don’t necessarily fit that box. I’m a 40-year-old woman, actually, I don’t have children. So where do I fit when it comes to attractions? And it really stuck in my head. How have you implemented your segmentation so that it’s not demographic driven? And is this something that is going to have to change post-COVID?
Jules Ozbek:Yeah. It’s really good question, which I’ve thought a lot about recently. We use a segmentation across all areas of the business. So I was really keen when we brought this in that it wasn’t just a marketing tool, but actually, we used it in our business planning, we used it in our buying for retail, we used it in our offer of our F&B and of the business planning process in terms of product development as well.
And I was also determined that we weren’t going to put people into boxes of, “You are a 40 something person, therefore you’ll be married and therefore you’ll have 2.4 children, and you’ll probably have about this much disposable income.” It doesn’t work anymore. I was more interested in people’s motivations and behaviors. So what’s motivating them to leave the house? How do they want to spend their leisure time? And boxing people up in that way, rather than, “You’re X-age female from blah, therefore, this is what this all means.” Actually, age and the way people behave is blurring, and therefore, what I was really interested in is people’s motivations and behaviors for wanting to leave the house and spend their leisure time. And the research that we did was really interesting. It talked about the main motivator for leaving the house and then how we segment that up into different sections.
So how do we use it? We use it really well, especially with somewhere like, and I’ll use York’s Chocolate Story again, by way of example, in that we have this beautiful product that tells this beautiful story, that celebrates the history and heritage of confectionery and chocolate making in York. And actually, the way that we sell that to different people is really interesting. So it’s great for a family market in that we can sell it as enrichment for your children. It’d be fun for all the family. You can take part in the fun with your children, rather than having to be the fun maker, if you like. But also similarly for a couple, no matter what age that might be on holiday in York, it’s a great way to spend an hour learning about the city that you’re in.
And then our contemporary socialite segment that we use is people that are looking for the unique, so that they can then own that story and go and tell it themselves. So we’ve used it really cleverly about hitting different markets and telling different stories and spins on very much the same product, ultimately, what they will want to take away from that experience.
Kelly Molson: I love that. It’s so refreshing to see this approach. I’ve not experienced that with any other kind of people that I’ve been speaking to about this topic.
Jules Ozbek:And we do tend to pigeon hole. And like I said, I was just determined. I fit very much into two different of our segments. I’ve got two wonderful stepchildren, so with my family head-on, I fit very much into this segment. My motivation is how do we all go and have fun as a family? And I’m determined that they engage with quality products that they learn something. Yeah, so they’re not just filling their faces full of sugar and going mad for a few hours.
But then also, when we don’t have them, I very much fall into one of our very different segments, which is that contemporary socialite one that looks at I want unique, I’m looking for the adventure. I’m looking for something different. I don’t mind paying a little bit more for something that’s really different. So I find myself switching between the two. But again, it’s not about the fact that I’m a 39-year-old woman that does this, this and this. It’s, what’s my motivation for leaving the house today? And I think that’s been the difference. And we’ve seen some really good success off the back of it.
Kelly Molson: It feels like that won’t change post-COVID then, because that’s the strategy that you work with.
Jules Ozbek:I’ve been looking at kind of putting this veil over the top of our segments, which is the COVID veil. And what does that mean to each of our segments at the minute? Well, some of them will be more resilient to others. Others will be a little more uncertain about leaving the house. I was looking at some data the other day that says millenniums are going to be the most resilient. They’ve lived through a recession. And I’m going to use the younger demographic, they’re just in their attitudes and behaviors, more resilient to things than perhaps different segments. So we’ve looked at that in terms of our marketing and thought, how do we get in front of these guys? How do we show them that we can start a really great time? So I’ve just overlaid our segmentation and our marketing with tissue paper that I’ll hopefully be able to whip away very soon.
Kelly Molson:I’ve got this vision in my head of this COVID cloak,
Kelly Molson: …which is gray and miserable, covering everything. And soon, we’ll be able to tear it apart.
Jules Ozbek:Tear it away. Yeah.
Kelly Molson: I love this. So what does the next few months look like? The question is what does it look like for the future of attractions? It’s a big question and a tough one to answer.
Jules Ozbek:Sure. There’s something that we’ve been wrestling with recently, which is we’ve had to limit the amount of people that we can put through our attractions, so there’s going to be limited supply. What does that mean for demand? You look at basic economics where how do those things pan out? We’ve made a really conscious decision to hold our price. We haven’t discounted our attractions because we know their quality, we know we offer great experience. It is costing us more to operate than at the minute, but there is limited demand. So hopefully, when people start moving around again in the next six weeks, when the summer holidays come, we’ll see people coming through our doors.
And I do believe that people will start moving around as soon as the summer holidays break. You’ve just got to look at booking trends for some of the big holiday areas. And we’re seeing an influx, especially into places like North Wales, Cornwall, Scotland, et cetera. So I’m hopeful that we will be able to capitalize as much as we can during the next six weeks. We’ve got experiences that can operate pretty safely and pretty COVID compliant. And I think we’ve proved that over the last weekend. So fingers crossed, we see people returning to us over the next six weeks.
And then as we go back into that shoulder season of September and the beginning of October, we’re really going to have to look at the days in which we’re operating I think, and see whether we can still operate seven days a week, whether we need to cut that down.
Next big opportunity will be October half term. And then our Christmas offering. Quiet January, February, and then I’m hoping we’re back to somewhere near at least 70, 80% of our normal operating by next Easter.
Kelly Molson: That feel about right, doesn’t it, in terms of-
Jules Ozbek:That’s what I’m really holding out for. I think it’ll be really interesting to see what happens with the international market over the summer, but also over the autumn as well. If things aren’t as bad and people are flying and they’ve missed that on their summer holidays, will there be an opportunity for long weekend breaks during the September time? So I’m really interested to see what happens then. And in consumer confidence, as soon as people start flying again, it’ll naturally snowball if it goes well. So we’ll see what happens there.
We took a lot of learnings from retail when they first started opening and watched that really carefully to see how they were operating, how consumers were behaving, et cetera. So the international market would be an interesting one and I hope we start to recover. But also, the opportunities around staycation. Our attractions do well during staycation. We’re at that really lovely price point, we’re not expensive were a really lovely treat type experience for an hour or two and a really great price point. So we tend to do well during times of recession and during a boom in the staycation market.
Kelly Molson: Good. Sounds like there’s lots of positives coming.
Jules Ozbek:I hope so.
Kelly Molson: I feel like we’re on the cusp of it. We’re coming to the end of the podcast. And I always like to ask our guests if there’s a book that they’d recommend, that’s helped shape their career in any way. So have you got a recommendation for us?
Jules Ozbek:I’ve got two.
Kelly Molson: There’s always two.
Kelly Molson: I give these away as gifts and you all keep blowing my marketing budget.
Jules Ozbek:I’ve got two.
Kelly Molson: Okay.
Jules Ozbek:The first book, I read the Innocent Smoothie books years ago. Years and years ago. And I was completely inspired by these three chaps and their entrepreneurial style and how they set the tone of the way that brands spoke to consumers. And I can remember being just hugely inspired by them and also the culture of the business that they set. And I can remember thinking, I want to work in a business with that kind of culture, that’s entrepreneurial, that’s fun, that’s not frightened to take risks, that’s happy to push the boundaries a little bit. And I think that really set the tone for what I was for in the workplace. And I’ve chased that all of my career, I think. So that really shaped what I was looking for, and I think that the culture that I try and set within the marketing community that I work in.
We’re never frightened to take risks, and I think that’s something that my guys will hear all the time, “Let’s try it. Let’s see what happens. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Kelly Molson: Exactly.
Jules Ozbek:Yeah. And if we get it wrong, what have we learned from it? That’s probably worth more valuable to us than spending money on huge amounts of data and insights. So that really set a cultural tone for me. And then I read a couple of years ago, a book called Turn the Ship Around by Captain David Marquet, who was a US Submarine Captain who was given a submarine to mobilize within three months. He didn’t know how to work it, and he had some very much rely and put his trust in his team to get them to a position where they could become ship worthy or could set sail. And again about culture, I’m all about people and culture. The way he went about doing that and really putting his trust into his team has inspired me as well.
Kelly Molson: That is a great book choice, and I’ve not read that one as well, so that’s going to go top of my list.
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Kelly Molson: Jules, thank you so much. It has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. I think there are many good things just about to happen, and it’s been really lovely for you to come on and talk about the things that you’ve been doing and talk really openly and positively and share your experiences. So thank you so much.
Jules Ozbek: No, it’s been great. Thanks for having me.
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