In the good ‘ole days – a mere 30 years or so ago – destination marketing was a relatively simple affair: figure out your major selling features, maybe add some positioning spin ( a “snazzy byline or contemporary looking logo), print some brochures, run an ad campaign; ensure there was a “call to action; ” wait for the phone to ring; mail out the brochures and hope for the best.
The Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) had an important role to play in creating awareness and desire among national and international markets on behalf of its small businesses simply because the latter, acting alone, could never develop the same reach, influence or impact. The role of the DMO was “to extend the invitation” on behalf of tourism suppliers and residents.
The Internet has, of course, changed all that and the marketing task has mushroomed in complexity requiring new and unimaginable skill sets and generating a constantly changing set of acronyms. It’s also having a profound impact on the roles of the various members of the tourism ecosystem.
While the role of the DMO used to be to “show, tell and persuade” it is now becoming facilitate, orchestrate and enable. That’s because the same tourism suppliers and residents, who were unable to reach out to international audiences some 20+ years ago, can now enjoy instant contact with anyone 24/7. So while the DMO used to lead from the front with glitzy, push-style campaigns based on a brand, customer and product database they considered to “own;” wise DMOs are learning to lead from behind by allowing and encouraging others to do the persuading for them. Utilizing the power of Web 2.0 (notably open source) and social media, smart destinations are encouraging their residents, local businesses, visitors and third party suppliers tell the destination story. The acronym for this is UGC – user generated content- and is finally capturing the interest of several tourism offices.
Here are just five interesting examples:
1. Visit Britain - According to this press release,
Visit Britain will formally launch their new social media initiative at
the Travel Distribution Summit being held in London today.
Using software developed by Digital Visitor, Visit Britain enables visitors and residents to upload videos, still images, and make reviews on their own and others’ contributions.
2. Vancouver 2010 – in February next year, Canada will host the Winter Olympic Games. Bell Canada – a major Games sponsor and one of Canada’s largest telecoms company has endeavoured to show the host destination through the eyes of residents. A great idea and one we have been promoting for years but, and I hate to be negative, one that suffers from poor execution. Instead of mashing up a range of easy-to-use, well proven software modules that provide the easy-to-use functionality enjoyed by Visit Britain, Bell had to develop its own proprietary and, may I say it, clunky interface that inhibits exploration. Take a look at Canada Code: That’s if you’ve got the time to fill in all the forms. Too bad that they don’t appear to have been working with the tourism agencies – Tourism Vancouver, Tourism Whistler or Tourism British Columbia (Hello BC)…see below
3. Tourism British Columbia – if prizes were to be awarded to individuals who changed the way destinations are marketed, then it should go to Wilhelm Bakker at Tourism BC. What’s most endearing about Wilhelm is his willingness to share his thinking, his trials, tribulations and triumphs with little or no sense of ego – see these posts. Here’s the link to Tourism British Columbia’s approach to User Generated Content in the run up to the biggest tourism event to be held in the province since Expo 86.
The significance of this would be lost on the average reader if I didn’t share this observation – Tourism BC is an organization that likes to do things very thoroughly and professionally. They like control over the final product and message. So it takes courage to include the less polished, perfect content supplied by non-professionals. The traditional approach would be to produce a high quality, expensive video but, thanks to Wilhelm’s efforts, they are now including the “right stuff”.
4. Philadelphia – this tourist board embraced the idea of blogging very early on. While they may have got it wrong to start by creating false blogging personas, whose profile happened to correlate to their major market segments, they quickly learned by doing. Uwishunu is a major destination blogging community and success story – Go for it, Gophila.com!
5. Disney – thanks to blogger Josh Hallett, we can follow Disney's experience with Social Media. I’ve paraphrased the key points from his blog post below:
The next project was the Walt Disney World Mom's Panel. They launched a search for some of the most passionate Disney moms. Once again the response overwhelming. They received 10,000 applications over the weekend, but turned away over 30,000 applicants. That was the one major mistake they made. As the program evolved, the internal issue was once again giving up control of the marketing messaging. The mom's panel has helped them overcome the two largest barriers they've faced, affordability and age. That is, what is the appropriate age for a child to first visit the theme parks. The honest, open advice of the mom's helped break down this barrier.
The women that did not make the Mom's Panel became part of the Mickey Moms Club. One major step was allowing the club to select their own logo. Once again, for Disney to allow somebody outside the brand to do design and select a logo was a huge leap of faith. But, it worked. Their work with the moms made them look at how they consume media. To help promote the new What Will You Celebrate? campaign they created a viral video campaign. The program allows consumers to create a uniquely branded video to 'celebrate' an event such as a birthday or an anniversary. These videos can then be sent to friends and relatives. This builds the standard pass-along/viral effect, spreading the video even more. The site has had an 85% click-thru rate and paid for itself in just over 18 hours from launch and has gone on to blow past all expectations for views and revenue.
I am confident that there are many other great examples of the use of User Generated Content by Destinations to attract visitors so – I invite you, please, to add comments so we can learn quickly from each other. In later posts – we’ll look at UGC to enrich the visitor’s stay at the destination.