4 Guiding Principles Of Effective Marketing Leadership

01 Mar

Tannis Gaffney, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Travel Alberta, shares her journey and guiding principles for leading a premier Canadian destination to compete on a global scale with Kierra Leimert, Campaign and Performance Specialist at Travel Alberta.

Change is constant in the tourism sector, requiring leaders who can navigate rapidly changing markets, unforeseen events, and complex (but beautiful) landscapes to drive visitor growth. In this article, we will explore the principles of effective marketing leadership through the lens of Tannis Gaffney, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Travel Alberta.



Journey to CMO

Tannis Gaffney’s journey to become CMO at Travel Alberta was shaped by her diverse background in the tech and tourism sectors as well as an unmistakably Albertan spirit.

Tannis built a valuable foundation of client service, budget, and channel experience at MacLaren McCann (previously Parallel Strategies) before transitioning into her first tourism role as Sponsorship Manager for the Calgary Stampede. Her journey at the Calgary Stampede ended on a high after leading the marketing team through 9 years of the World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo and collaborations with renowned brands such as Bell, Trans Canada, Coca-Cola, Budweiser, GMC, Old Dutch, and Destination Canada.

Up for a new challenge, Tannis switched to I.T. as marketing leader at Long View Systems. Distilling complex concepts into impactful marketing materials, her team drove impressive software revenues across North America and led 24/7 I.T. support out of their Amsterdam offices. Tannis rose through the ranks of tech, becoming VP of Marketing at Graycon I.T. before eventually making a welcome return to tourism at Travel Alberta.

Throughout her journey, Tannis has shown remarkable marketing leadership. A true entrepreneur, she knows how to build industry-leading marketing teams that challenge the status quo and exceed organizational targets.

Guiding Principles For Effective Marketing Leadership

Travel Alberta is leading the way as Canada’s first destination management organization. Tannis Gaffney’s philosophy that “we will never be the biggest, but we must be smartest”, enables Travel Alberta to compete on a global scale and lead the charge in times of crisis. Tannis shares the 4 guiding principles that have contributed to her success as a marketing leader.

Hire People That Are Smarter Than You

Tannis emphasizes the significance of surrounding oneself with talented people. She believes that hiring a smaller team of exceptional individuals ensures that their collective talents complement each other, bringing out the best in everyone.

Tannis keeps her team smart by staying true to who they are and what differentiates them as a destination. She inspires her team to stay true to Alberta’s warm and welcoming western roots and the rich indigenous cultures that set Alberta’s growing indigenous tourism sector, world-famous festivals, and diverse culinary scene apart. She instills in her team the quiet confidence that Alberta is a playground for the free-spirited unlike any other, including 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites, legendary national parks, dinosaurs, and archaeological wonders.

Keep Your Temperature Constant

An essential aspect of effective marketing leadership is the leader’s ability to maintain a consistent and calm presence. As Tannis aptly puts it, “Leaders are the temperature in the room. Their emotions and energy directly impact the team’s atmosphere.”

Tannis draws inspiration from Liz Wiseman’s book “Multipliers,” adopting a leadership style that amplifies her team’s capabilities and intelligence, contributing to Travel Alberta’s culture of independent spirits and excellent performance. This is a skill she has refined through years of experience and dedication to continuous learning and professional growth.

Zig When Others Zag

To compete in rapidly changing markets, adaptability is key. For Tannis, this goes beyond innovation to being able to tap into opportunities and trends that other destinations may not even be thinking about yet.

At a time when travel was restricted, Travel Alberta leaned into Alberta’s thriving art scene with the campaign, The Art of Winter, which encouraged travellers to experience winter warmth in Alberta through the eyes of artists. When HBO’s biggest new series was filming entirely in Alberta, Tannis’ team was ready with an interactive map of film locations that continues to garner significant media attention for Travel Alberta.

Looking forward, Tannis sees how artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing travel, from trip planning to predicting wildlife patterns in Jasper National Park. She encourages today’s marketing leaders to embrace the change that AI brings as it will make us all even smarter and more efficient in our work.

Know That You Can Do Anything

Tannis’ advice to aspiring marketing leaders is one of resilience and determination:

It’s important that we support each other and lift each other up because there are barriers that exist in every industry. It takes time to build the confidence to go for that job or present in that boardroom. It’s not easy, but if you want to you will. You can do anything if you work hard and you really want it. If someone asks you to make coffee, you make it the best coffee and you wear your best suit.

– Tannis Gaffney, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Travel Alberta

She highlights her personal challenges as the only woman in male-dominated industries and boardrooms, and her perseverance to become a Chief Marketing Officer. Today Tannis is happy to find herself surrounded by strong female leaders at Travel Alberta and actively seeks to uplift those around her. Her outlook embodies the belief that one’s reputation is built through dedication and hard work. Her advice is to be the person who gets things done, put your hand up for the messy project that no one wants, and get it back on track. It will not go unnoticed.

A Final Note On Effective Marketing Leadership

My conversations with Tannis and experiences in the Chartered Marketer Program have shown me that effective marketing leadership demands a combination of strategic vision, adaptability, and the ability to inspire and motivate a team. In a sector where change is constant, Tannis’ perseverance and proactivity have been integral for Travel Alberta to carve a path as a premier destination and compete on a global scale. Tannis Gaffney’s journey and principles provide valuable insights for today’s marketing leaders on what it takes to lead to remarkable achievements and make a lasting impact on your organization.


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