October 19, 2020

How to make directions idiot-proof.

Whoever thought that watching someone try to follow written directions to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich could be so hilarious and entertaining?  Click the image to watch:

father daughter and son laughing over a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich

The dad’s deliberate insistence on following EXACTLY what was written feels absurd to watch… but only because we all know he knows how to make a PB&J.  His brain can certainly fill in the gaps in direction, and the direction writers just assume that he will.

But what about someone who’s never seen nor heard of a PB&J?  Or even a sandwich?

That’s how guests feel when your directions and instructions aren’t specific enough.  What kind?  Stuff like…

  • Directions from the nearest highway to your property
  • How to control the thermostat in the hotel room
  • How to connect to wifi
  • How to use any sort of mechanical or technological item in the room
  • How to set the *#$%@ alarm clock
  • How to get to various local attractions nearby

Basically, any time you’re telling a guest how to do anything, it’s just so much easier on them – and better customer service – if you’re specific to the point of absurdity.  You can’t assume they will use GPS (or that it will work well in rural areas), or that they’ll use their phone to be self sufficient for everything they need.  So spoon feed them every step of the way.

Because there are so many things you can’t control in their total experience… why risk causing frustration on something you can control?  Need more convincing on this?  See what happens when you don’t make enough chocolate chip cookies.

 

October 7, 2020

Four Ways to Beat Pandemic Fatigue in Tourism Marketing

Let’s face it.  Tourism and hospitality marketing is going through a brutal patch with this Covid-19 pandemic.  Trying to align your marketing strategy with the ever-changing circumstances is like trying to take direction from a Magic 8 Ball.

And what makes it worse is that everyone – even within the same organization – has a different opinion on the best approach to tourism marketing during a pandemic.  Keep spending or pull back to conserve resources?  Talk incessantly about your safety measures or go more for the “business as usual” vibe?  There’s no point in marketing because the pond of fish got too small.  This is the best time to market because even though the pond is smaller, those fish are the ones ready and willing to bite.

But here’s one thing everyone can agree on:  it’s exhausting.  The uncertainty sucks a lot of the fun and satisfaction out of marketing… not to mention the permanent state of tension about our jobs, finances, health, and the state of the economy.  And now that we’ve been in this madcap coronavirus purgatory for more than six months, we’re prime candidates for “tourism marketing pandemic fatigue.”

chris laying across chairs in blue leopard pajamas eyes closed hugging stuffed animals

Me, owning pandemic fatigue.

Characteristics?

    • Loss of purpose (does this really even matter given the state of the world?)
    • Indecisiveness (the future is too unpredictable to choose a path so I’ll just freeze)
    • Box-checking (it’s too draining to be creative and do more than the minimum)

You may not even be aware you’re suffering from pandemic fatigue because it’s a sneaky little bugger.  It’s like an invisible slow leak in a tire…diluting your performance (and that of your marketing program) without drawing attention to itself.  And so you just keep putting one foot in front of the other daily, checking off tasks and trying valiantly to control things beyond your control.

Listen up, marketers.  Don’t take pandemic fatigue lying down or you’re gonna end up as one irreversibly flat tire by the time this pandemic phase is over.  Use these tips as a daily touchstone to patch the leak and breathe fresh air into your mindset.

1. Remember who you are.  Marketing’s job is to be interesting, attractive, engaging, and informative…regardless of circumstances.  Inspiring people is baked into our job descriptions.  When everyone else – from operations and finance to maintenance, HR, and administration – is battered and overwhelmed, it’s our role to stay positive, focus on opportunities, and make people want to travel.  Now more than ever, people want to be entertained while being informed…they want to dream of normalcy and joy…and they want to plan things that will bring fun back into their lives…and they are counting on YOU to give them these gifts.  So yes… what you’re doing matters a lot to people.  Remember that every day.

2. Refill your own cup daily.  Lots of people roll their eyes when they hear the phrase “self care,” but there’s a reason airlines make you put your own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs.  “Marketing” is a thing, but “marketers” are human.  If you don’t refuel and refresh yourself as a human – daily – you won’t have the mental and emotional resources needed to keep returning to the battle of inspiring others.  Being a cheerleader during difficult times takes massive amounts of energy and it’s your responsibility to replenish the depletion constantly.  Whatever refreshes you – coffee, silence, wine, meditation, dogs, exercise, showers, solitude, naps, music, and so on – think of it as an essential part of your job right now.  Make time for it.

3. Pick a lane and own it.  If uncertainty over the best path is constantly weighing you down, stop trying to plow through despite not being at peace with your choices.  Budgets, content, strategy… the more time and energy you waste second-guessing yourself, I guarantee you, the less effective your efforts will be.  Yes, you need to be nimble and adapt to evolving circumstances, but nothing dilutes the power of marketing like hesitancy.  If you’re still uncertain about spending, sharing your safety measures too much/not enough, hard selling vs. brand awareness, the marketing channels you should be using right now, or anything else… stop, sit back, and think about it until you reach a decision.  Need a sounding board to talk it through?  Just holler.  miranda@redpointspeaks.com.  No strings.

4. Have faith in marketing, even if today’s results seem dismal.   This is a huge test of your beliefs as a marketer.  My experience over nearly 30 years as a tourism marketer is that a consistent voice and presence – through economic crisis, natural disasters, crime waves, weather disappointments, high season, low season, shoulder season… whatever – gets the best overall, long-term ROI.  Your conversion volume may be way lower than usual right now, but you’ve got to keep investing in your awareness equity.  People don’t stop interacting with life because of a pandemic.  They plan and dream and build anticipation.  And once they’re willing and allowed to travel, you want them to think of YOU.  Will you be able to trace just how much your consistent marketing led to direct sales because you stayed top of mind?  Nope.  But that’s where the faith part comes in.  You’ve got to believe it works or that whisper of doubt will sabotage your success.

Listen, I get it.  It sucks to be in this position.  But we’ve all survived other rough circumstances in life and we’ll conquer this one too, as long as we fight the fatigue.

And if you heard James Earl Jones’ voice as Mufasa when you read the words “remember who you are,” I salute you as my humor soulmate and suspect you’re gonna be just fine.

March 3, 2020

Beards and coronavirus: a lesson in fact checking.

If you’re a social media marketer, or your business engages in social media marketing, then last week’s beards-and-coronavirus misinformation fiasco should have been a huge wake-up call for you.

Here’s what happened.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re likely aware that a new coronavirus (COVID-19) has emerged, and it’s causing concern in pretty much all corners of the globe.  Regardless of whether a country has experienced any cases on its own turf, everyone is glued to the media reports to stay abreast of the latest status, advice, and warnings.

On the morning of Wednesday February 26 2020, someone (original culprit unknown) posted an infographic that the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) created in 2017 for workers who are required to use facepiece respirators in their jobs.  It was apparently (and very smartly) timed to align with “No Shave November,” to help those intending to grow beards in support of cancer awareness know what types of facial hair would prevent such respirators from working properly.  The respirators aren’t effective if the hermetic seal isn’t intact on the skin, so this safety message was not only smart but necessary.

The problem is… on Feb 26, 2020, this infographic was erroneously shared as NEW information from the CDC as a warning to the general public about COVID-19.  The dramatically incorrect message?  Men with beards won’t be protected from the new coronavirus unless they shave to one of the styles that work with everyday facemasks.

But wait… it gets worse.

The media, never shy about jumping on new (and especially absurd) angles to fuel a 24/7 news story, seized that nugget WITHOUT FACT CHECKING, and transformed it into headlines such as:

  • CDC Warns Men About Facial Hair Dangers as Coronavirus Spreads
  • CDC: Shave Your Beards to Prevent Coronavirus
  • These Beards May Make You More Likely to Catch Coronavirus

Within 24 hours, dozens of seemingly-credible news outlets shared this incorrect story as fact.  Here’s what the first five pages of a mobile search for “coronavirus beards” returned on the morning of Feb 27:

Now, forget for a moment that we’re talking about epidemics, media alarmism, and the shyster-like use of “click bait headlines” as a marketing weapon.

The lesson for social media marketers is this:  never EVER believe what you read – or worse, share it – unless you’ve checked the facts yourself.  In this case, a quick Google search would have told you that dozens of outlets were reporting on it… but that meant diddly squat, because they were ALL wrong.

So, you can’t rely on “quantity of stories” to verify facts, which is tempting.  Here’s what you CAN do:

  1. Check the original-named source. In this case, one hop onto the CDC website or their Twitter feed would have revealed that they made no such announcement.  But ANYTIME you see a media report that claims that “so-and-so says”… go straight to so-and-so’s website and social channels to find out if it’s true.
  2. Check the media sources best known for reputable fact-checking. Two known for highest standards in accuracy and credible sourcing are Associated Press and Reuters.  If they didn’t cover the story, it casts doubt on the veracity.  (Note:  Reuters didn’t cover the beard thing at all, and AP did just one story… on Feb 27 refuting the claim, with context and quotes sourced directly from the CDC.)
  3. Check the credibility of the media outlet you’re using. A helpful website, Media Bias/Fact Check, has a handy search tool that evaluates the bias and accuracy of media websites.  While it’s by no means infallible or the only source available for such assessment, it’s certainly useful as an indicator. A quick search on this site reveals things like how often a media source uses loaded language to sway emotion vs. factual reporting, how deeply/accurately it checks its facts, and how often it skews facts/opinion to favor a political bias (either left or right).

You may be thinking “well, I’m a tourism destination/hotel company/attraction/restaurant, and I’m not likely to be sharing coronavirus stories, so this sort of fact-checking thing doesn’t really apply to me.”

Not so.  Weird stuff, urban legends, outrageous claims and more are reported in the media all the time (broomstick challenge, anyone?)… and in your quest to keep your own social feeds interesting and relevant, you may pluck one out to spin with your own angle, and share it with the best of intentions.

So, the moral of the story is:  check your facts and keep your beards on.

Bonus (related) tip:  the tactic of using shock-and-scare to get attention isn’t just reserved for online.  Learn about the time Alamo tried to casually scare me into upgrading to a “safer” car.

February 19, 2020

Tiny design details can make big memories in hospitality.

The bedside table at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh made me swoon with joy.

Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh bedside table outlet

It was such a pleasure to be spared the usual contortions of locating the closest power outlet to the bed: it was directly under the outlet icon.  The fact that it was done in such a clever way was just a bonus…and ensured that I’d remember it.

Design details like that might seem insignificant, but actually they wield tremendous power.  Guests on mental autopilot or simply focused on other things are instantly snapped into focus on YOU.  It cuts through their mental clutter and seduces them into being present in the moment, aware of their surroundings, and with a small zing of pleasant feeling toward you.  Without that design detail, they are perhaps allowed to be indifferent toward you…and in the competitive world of hospitality, that will never do.

I thought the groovy-looking fish on this cabinet in a guest cottage at Basin Harbor in Vermont was simply a decoration…

Closed fish design drawer at Basin Harbor

 

…until I noticed the tiny knob:

Open fish design drawer at Basin Harbor

 

And when I walked into a gas station restroom in upstate NY, this was the last thing I expected to see:

flowers in rest area bathroom

 

Did it make me smile after two hours of grueling traffic?  You bet it did.  Seems silly, but it really did.

You can unleash this design-detail power in literally any aspect of guest touch points.  You don’t have to do it EVERYWHERE at EVERY touch point… in fact, that would create sensory overload and then dilute the power of the surprise.  And indeed, it doesn’t have to be revolutionary or cost a ton of money…it just has to provide an unexpected “ah-ha” moment.

Look at these Do Not Disturb (DND) signs at The Quarterdeck Resort in Nova Scotia:

Do Not Disturb signs at Quarterdeck Resort

Magnetic DND signs solve soooooo many problems, especially for hotel rooms that open directly to the outdoors.  And anyone who has ever been annoyed by their DND sign falling off the doorknob or blowing away in the wind will instinctively – and involuntarily – think “wow that’s cool” the moment they see these.

But bear in mind that while clever design details are guaranteed to leave a positive impression on your guests, #DesignFails are guaranteed to do precisely the opposite.  Behold, this Montauk NY cottage resort, where our ONLY door to the outside was clearly at odds with the DND sign:

Design fail for Do Not Disturb sign

Luckily, I had a bandaid in my travel bag, so we were able to (literally) doctor the DND sign to the glass door.

And here’s a parting tip.  Design not your thing, or maybe you’re afraid of the cost?  You can achieve the same zing-of-joy with clever signs.

February 5, 2020

Is “chaos marketing” right for your brand?

Popeye's Chicken SandwichIf you’re a marketer, there’s a good chance you watched the debut of Popeye’s chicken sandwich last summer and salivated over more than just the chicken.  The viral headlines were fast and furious, and the escalation of customer demand was ABSURD.  And when the sandwich sold out of all stores in less than two weeks, with no new inventory projected for at least another month, you’d have thought people in the world were being deprived of oxygen.  The clamor both online and in real life hit a fever pitch.

The upshot to Popeye’s?  Sure, people were upset.  But Popeye’s scored $65 million in earned media value in just two weeks alone, and desperate chicken-lovers downloaded the Popeye’s app to “be the first to know when the sandwich is back.”

So, was it an inventory miscalculation and total disaster…or a bold marketing move designed to create demand and engagement?  This comment by restaurant consultant Aaron Allen sums things up beautifully:  “Marketing is high-fiving each other and supply chain is getting dirty looks and management is in between trying to weigh out the pros and cons of what’s happened with it.”  (See this awesome story in Vox for the juicy details on how it all went down.)

I lean toward the belief that Popeye’s knew it was going to happen (come on…sold out nationally in less than two weeks?… no one could be THAT far off projections) and did it anyway.  This is a form of “chaos marketing,” when a brand deliberately chooses a marketing tactic or position that it KNOWS will make consumers unhappy, taking the risk that the upside from all the attention will be worth the negativity.

Now, lest you think this is exclusive to American brand marketing extremism, the US in no way has the market cornered on such outlandishness.  In Scotland, popular Irn-Bru soda made a billboard that featured a cow saying “When I’m a burger, I want to be washed down with Irn-Bru.”  And in Argentina, all Burger Kings don’t sell Whoppers on the day that McDonald’s donates money to charity for every Big Mac purchased (does this make people feel warm and fuzzy?…no, they are royally pissed that they can’t get a Whopper on the day they want it.)  The list goes on.

Using chaos in marketing isn’t exactly a new thing.  What IS new, however, is how frequently marketers are proactively reaching for it as a tool…and how comfy brands are becoming with embracing the negative onslaught to garner the upside potential.

You can thank the increasingly cluttered digital landscape for that.  With more digital channels to fill than ever, media outlets are constantly looking for viral moments to feed consumer appetites.  And as social algorithms get more stringent, it’s the most outrageous, thumb-stopping, and jaw-dropping tidbits that get the holy grail of unpaid shares.  The media may not be creating these viral moments, but they’re catching the ball thrown to them by brands and then fanning the flames of conversation around the subject.  And nothing catches fire faster than chaos.

So, as a marketer…do you have chaos envy?  If you get stars in your eyes over the lure of results like “$65 million in earned media,” and think you should dip your brand’s toe in those seductive waters, consider these points first:

  • Recovering from chaos requires a confident brand.  How deep are the bonds with your customers?  How loyal are they?  Can your relationship withstand some disapproval or frustration?
  • The stakes are intense for luxe brands with high price points.  When a greater share of their wallet is on the line, consumers are less forgiving and hold brands to higher standards.  It’s tough to reclaim that trust once it’s broken.
  • Frequency of purchase plays a starring role in rebounding from chaos.  Do you really want to mess with someone’s once-in-a-lifetime purchase, vacation, or experience?  You may only have a small window of time to make an impression on a potential (or one-time past) customer.  Squander that precious moment with a negative touch point and you might never get a chance to reap the upside.
  • “Real” chaos – natural disasters, epidemics, violence, travel bans, etc. – can strike without warning at any time, making “planned” chaos akin to borrowing trouble.  You spend a lot of time and money trying to prevent chaos and crisis from harming your business.  So is there ever a good, safe time to cultivate it deliberately?
  • Your skin (and your executive team’s skin) needs to be thick enough to weather the negativity.  Listen, you asked for it…don’t freak out and lose your nerve when all goes according to plan and people are trashing you on social media.
  • Besides the marketing and social teams, the operations and guest service teams need to be on board and fully prepared.  You’ve got to ALL be in it together.  I’m sure Popeye’s didn’t expect customers to threaten employees at gunpoint or sue for false advertising, but things went there because the world is unpredictable.

And that’s really the whole point:  it’s unpredictable.  You may think you’re engaging in controlled chaos, but once you ignite that spark, the fire has no master.  And not every chaos story ends up as a hilarious skit on Saturday Night Live.

January 7, 2020

The best marketing lesson from The Princess Bride.

This ridiculous & clever, slapstick & intelligent, goofy & hilarious story is probably the last place you’d look for a brilliant marketing lesson.  And yet there’s a hidden gem in there too good to miss.

If you don’t know The Princess Bride (book published in 1973, movie debuted in 1987), it has thoroughly earned its fanatical cult following.  The movie has an absurdly all-star cast, and they do a magnificent job of bringing to life this (at its most basic) plot:  peasant boy tackles numerous obstacles on a quest to rescue princess from evil prince and achieve true love.

Here’s the scene all marketers should worship.  In this scene, Westley (blond dude and the story’s hero) is just brought back from the dead by a pill from a Miracle Man (duh), and he’s instantly tasked with figuring out how to storm the guarded castle.

Click the image to watch:

Westley and Inigo solve a problem

Here’s the line that matters:  Why didn’t you list that among our assets in the first place?

See, in problem solving, it’s human nature to reach for the tools we know best and the ones most commonly employed for that job.  It never occurred to Inigo to list “wheelbarrow” or “holocaust cloak” among the available assets because in his mind, he pictured the solution to the problem as a typical one:  three men storm the castle using their own personal strengths to fight their way inside.  His version of problem solving has this anchor:  we use the tools we know how to use, and hope for the best even if there’s only a 50/50 chance of success.

Westley’s version of problem solving is:  what’s a solution that will DEFINITELY work, and then how do I acquire the tools to make it happen?

Here’s why marketers often solve problems more like Inigo than Westley:

  • We’ve made assumptions that tools aren’t right for us, even if we actually know very little about them other than their existence.
  • We’re unaware of the existence of tools that could be useful to us because we’re not always on the hunt to learn about new things.
  • We’re in a hurry, so we choose the easy (known) path instead of taking time to apply strategic thought and creativity to pursue possibly-unfamiliar options.
  • We are wary of risk-taking…and in general, we prefer to do things we’re good at because it feels unsettling to act with uncertainty.

But as a marketer, it’s your responsibility to inject a bit of Westley-like thinking into your approach on a regular basis.

This doesn’t just mean embracing new tools (true, a TikTok strategy may not be the right fit for your brand, but how do you KNOW that unless you understand how it works and how other brands like yours are using it?)…it also means looking beyond the traditional approach and usual tools.  Launching a new restaurant and want to get the locals to become regulars?  Inigo toolbox:  local newspaper/online/radio ads, start an Instagram/Facebook/Twitter, send a press release.  Westley toolbox?  Go door-to-door at local businesses with baskets of free food and special offers.  Send personal invitations to individuals in the community for complimentary tastings.  Offer a different item on the menu free each night for the first month of opening.

Do those things cost money?  Yes.  Is that just a different way to spend your marketing budget?  Yes.  But in certain circumstances, initiatives like that might be a more effective way to reach your goals.  At the very least, they’re worth considering.

Traditional and familiar tools will always have their uses, so don’t throw them away entirely.  Just remind yourself to look beyond them constantly and learn more about what you don’t know.  Then you too can find true love in marketing and live happily ever after.

December 20, 2019

Marketing: it’s about time.

Recently, I saw a stat in Marketing Week that gave me – a marketing counselor – a headache:

More than half (54%) of digital commerce projects are deemed unsuccessful.

Further details on this stat turned the headache into a migraine:

The main reason for this is a lack of customer alignment (34%), poor logistics (29%) and insufficient investment (29%).  Some 51% of digital commerce leaders don’t believe their organization invests enough in commerce, while 28% say digital projects move too quickly and lack strategy.  (Source: Wunderman Thompson Commerce)

Know what all of that fancy-stat-reporting really means?  People are not spending enough time thinking about, researching, and planning their marketing efforts before taking action.

Oh wait… did you just gloss over that last sentence without stopping to really absorb what it means, and what you should do about it?  As if that was just another piece of blah-blah advice from a marketer?  “Spend more time thinking about your marketing before taking action.”  Duh.  Of course that’s good advice, you say.  So basic.  I knew that.  Give me something REALLY meaty to chew on, like something I didn’t know before.

Folks…there’s a difference between knowing and doing.  As a rule, we humans aren’t that accomplished at just sitting quietly and thinking for extended periods of time.  If we have a marketing plan to write, we want to sit down and “just bang it out”… hopefully in the 93.5 minutes we’ve allotted in our schedule for it. The moment we sit down to just think, we get antsy about wasting time…and so our fingers seek out the keyboard so we can feel productive.

But just look at those stat percentages above, detailing the reasons why digital programs were deemed unsuccessful.  ALL OF THEM could be solved by spending more time planning… even “insufficient investment,” because more time up front can help you 1) spend the same funding with wiser choices, 2) figure out how/where to get more funding, or 3) decide NOT to spend in that arena and invest the money elsewhere to get a better return.

Sitting down and thinking for an hour is not wasting time.  Taking a full day off email and away from work to mentally explore strategy options, while curled up in a comfy chair, with your favorite snacks, beverages, and – dare I suggest it? – pajamas… is not wasting time.  Blocking an entire half-day each week to seek solitude and reflect on marketing progress is not wasting time.

Carving out time to just be still and think is never going to be easy.  Never. The business world moves at a fast pace, and we have colleagues, supervisors, and clients/guests who actively and passively demand our attention.  But if we don’t find the fortitude to MAKE the time, we’ll all be doomed to live with some pretty sucky stats forever.

December 3, 2019

Seven terms they didn’t teach you in budgeting school.

budgeting meme from elfIt’s budget season, y’all.  This means many of you are armed – or are scrambling to get armed – with that pristine, oh-so-buttoned-up spreadsheet that will guide your marketing spend choices for 2020.  And while it may be pretty and precise enough for your mom to put on her refrigerator, there’s only one thing that should matter to you:  is it sound and will it work?

Here’s how you can ensure that it is and it does:  be aware of the silent – but often deadly – influences that shaped the foundation for your choices.  Here are seven vital budgeting terms that will help you evaluate your budget’s potential for success with a realistic eye:

The Plus Ones.  Marketing plans and budgets have history, and the longer the business has been operating, the more opportunity for a budget to be sabotaged by plus ones.  These are things invited to be on the budget by someone else – perhaps someone who was in your shoes years ago, or perhaps YOU years ago, when you had different priorities or goals.  They are not relevant to the current marketing party you’re planning, but it’s the path of least resistance to keep them…and maybe even bend your plan a bit to accommodate them, even if that’s not really the best move for your goals?  Tip:  identify your plus ones and if they aren’t a good fit, show ‘em the door.

Shiny New Toy Syndrome.  Oh, if I had a nickel for every time I watched a tactic, initiative, or direction get added to a plan/budget because someone in charge (of marketing or of the company) read an article or attended a workshop at a conference on a hot new “thing” emerging in marketing.  “THIS IS THE COOLEST THING EVER AND WILL SOLVE ALL OUR PROBLEMS!” Er, no.  It won’t.  Because Shiny New Toy Syndrome is cousin to Get Rich Quick Syndrome and Lose Weight Fast Syndrome, and we all know how THOSE work out.   There is a place for adding shiny new toys to your efforts, but unless you integrate them properly into your overall plan and – in many cases – adapt your entire culture to make them a success, they’ll just throw your money and time out the window.  Shiny new toys just don’t work when you dabble.

The Invisible Sledgehammer.  There’s no line item called “time” on your spreadsheet, but it’s an invisible force best not overlooked.  Lack of time to do things properly has destroyed the effectiveness of many immaculate budgets.  For each line item on your budget, do you have enough staff/time/bandwidth to perform research, decision-making, planning, setup, execution, follow-through, evaluation, and evolution?  Because if not, you should reduce the number of tactics you’re planning, and redirect those funds into the remaining ones.  You’ll see a greater ROI both short- and long-term with this choice.

Half-Pregnant.  A spreadsheet of tactics and costs is only half the picture, and yet I can’t tell you how often I ask new clients – sometimes multimillion-dollar businesses – for their marketing plan and get handed a spreadsheet, full stop.  Folks, this is “half-pregnant” … it ain’t gonna give you that ROI baby you so deeply desire.  You need marketing goals (aligned with your business goals), and a thoughtful strategy to achieve them, carefully selected for the purpose, and integrated to produce results.  A spreadsheet just details how you’re going to pay for it all.

Approval Purgatory This one’s not easy to combat because its origins vary dramatically by business (too many cooks, indecisive owner, cumbersome process, etc.), but there’s a good chance that several tactics within your plan/budget won’t move forward because no final decision will be made…and you probably know this in your heart from the get-go. Approval purgatory is the bane of a plan/budget’s existence because 1) you waste an absurd amount of time talking about things with no resolution, 2) stuff sits on your budget/plan falsely creating an expectation of results, and 3) these items weigh you down by injecting negativity into the mix AND distracting you from focusing on the good stuff.  Tip:  scratch items likely doomed to approval purgatory off your list.  When they’re ready for baking, I guarantee they’ll resurface on their own.

JOMO.  You’ve heard of FOMO?  How about you embrace JOMO, the Joy of Missing Out?  You can’t do it all… truly, you can’t.  Your budget probably isn’t unlimited.*  So if you try to cram too many things into your plan/budget, you’ll end up scattering all your resources for little ROI.  Tip:  deliberately choose to NOT do certain things, until you can devote the labor and financial bandwidth to do them properly.  You will not go out of business by doing fewer things well, and you will be pretty giddy at the success that comes from deeply harnessing the power of the tactics you choose to deploy. Choose wisely, for sure, but I hereby bless you to strike a bunch of stuff from your plan AND FEEL GREAT ABOUT IT.

Initiative Envy (healthy & unhealthy).  It’s healthy – and smart – to look at what your competitors and colleagues are doing in marketing, and to evaluate if such things could benefit your business as well.  It’s not that you identically copy their effort, but rather, you see how well an initiative is performing for them and you explore the use of that tool for your own purposes.  What’s UNHEALTHY – and yet happens sooooo often – is adding an initiative or tactic to your mix (summarily and without strategic thought) just because a competitor is doing it…and you don’t want them to have an edge on you.  If your competitor is getting tons of press (for example), that’s not your must-do cue to go out and hire a PR firm.  Your business culture and operation may not be currently well-suited to handle a PR effort, and therefore, without adaptation, you’ll be disappointed in the results.  So, be thoughtful:  get ideas from what others are doing, but don’t automatically assume those things will work well for you too.

Lastly… a bonus tip, pulled from our way-back blog archives, but still as true as ever today.  The scrumptious dumplings at Buddakan taught us that you can’t find love on a spreadsheet.  And love – the hospitable magic that endears us to guests – is essential in travel and hospitality marketing.  Make sure your plan/budget isn’t so tight that there’s no room to give love to guests.

* PS – if your budget IS unlimited, here’s my email: miranda@redpointspeaks.com. Have I got a marketing agency for you. 😉

November 19, 2019

These two popular hashtags on Instagram are actually pretty useless.

don't use nofilter and tbt hashtagsFor marketing purposes, you can just stop using #nofilter and #tbt on Instagram right now.

When I proclaim this bold statement while teaching seminars on social media, many people in the audience literally seem to lose their minds. If that just happened to you… take a deep breath and hear me out.

There are basically four strategic reasons to use hashtags on Instagram:

  • Foster post discovery (people search for or follow hashtags and can find your posts that use them)
  • Draw in followers (people find you through a hashtag you used, check out your profile, decide to stay connected)
  • Develop a community (rally people around a united theme, event, brand, location, etc. with a hashtag everyone can use to share news about it)
  • Analyze content (tracking hashtag use and success, learning how people are finding/interacting with you)

If you’re using hashtags on Instagram – and you should – you’re probably using them for some or all of those reasons, even if you’re not aware of it. Many DIY marketers aren’t taught the mechanics of hashtagging… they just dive right in using whatever seems to make sense to them. And often, the ones they choose – whether consciously or not – lean into one of those strategic reasons.

But here’s a critical fact that many either don’t know or forget: Instagram only lets you use 30 hashtags per post and 10 per story. This means that every hashtag you choose is precious, because it comes at the expense of potentially using another, more valuable, one.

And this is why #nofilter and #tbt must go. They simply don’t add value, which means they are poaching space unnecessarily, as follows:

#nofilter: As of this writing, there are 262,000,000 posts on Instagram using this hashtag. The likelihood of anyone finding your post within that jumble is basically zero. Also, lemme ask you this: when was the last time you said to yourself, “gee, let me go on Instagram and search #nofilter so I can see all the pictures people posted that are filter-free?” My guess? NEVER. Because no one does. The idea behind #nofilter is to “prove” that your photo is pure and untouched by editing, but a) there’s no trophy for this, and b) most people either don’t care or don’t believe you anyway.

#tbt: As of this writing, there are 509,000,000 posts on Instagram using this hashtag. Same story applies here… no one is going to find you by searching #tbt, and really… who searches #tbt anyway? Does anyone say “lemme see what people are throwing it back to today?” Doubtful. Using throwback photos might be a valuable, rich part of your brand story…but you can post them without using #tbt. In fact, you can just say “TBT” and people will get that it’s a throwback post…no need to use the “#” and squander one of your limited hashtags.

Bottom line: is the hashtag police going to slap you with a ticket if you use either of these? Nope. So if they bring you joy and don’t put your per-post limit at risk, feel free to indulge. Just know that from a strategic perspective, they’re not adding value to your marketing, AND…why add more things for your audience to read if they’re not bringing value? #dontshootthemessenger

November 5, 2019

Here’s what “living the brand” really means.

There’s a store in Brooklyn called The Superhero Supply Co, which sells – among other things – a fine selection of capes, cans of antimatter (sizes: large and small), and sidekick utility belts (assorted colors).  It’s not a party/costume store, where you’d go to buy a signature Captain America shield or Wonder Woman golden lasso.  It’s where a REAL superhero would shop for his/her OWN gear.  Quite literally… a supply store for superheroes.

Until you get to the shelving on the left side of the back wall.

Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co hidden doorOne section of the fully-stocked shelves actually swings out (if you know the trick) as a secret door.  What’s behind the secret door?  A classroom, where kids can experience workshops to foster their creative writing and imaginative thinking skills.  There are evening and weekend sessions for kids aged 6 – 18, and they also offer after-school programs, host school field trips, and more.

Think about this:  the entire purpose of this business is to inspire kids to release and cultivate their imagination.  Would this be possible in an ordinary classroom?  Sure.  Is it 10,000 times more effective in a hidden classroom that’s the secret identity of a store that sells supplies to superheroes?  Duh.  Their imagination is sparked before that hidden door even finishes swinging open.

THAT is what “living the brand” really means.

It’s not about having a carefully-crafted mission statement and/or brand positioning written down on paper…it’s about how that mission and positioning come to life at all touchpoints of interaction with your audience.  It’s not saying you’re something.  It’s being that something.  As the ol’ saying goes… walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

Let this magical place inspire you to evaluate your OWN state of “living the brand.”

We see brand-disconnects all the time in the tourism industry, such as…

  • Hotels that say they’re gracious, yet nickel and dime guests with fees at every turn.
  • Destinations that say they’re artsy, yet feature boring, standard wayfinding tools onsite and online.
  • Ski resorts that say they’re edgy and epic, yet offer typical F&B options and vanilla interior design.
  • Attractions that say they’re fun, yet make ticket-purchasing and parking acutely painful.

Listen…I get it, it’s hard to live the brand.  Who wants to give up fees?  Or convince owners to invest in renovations?  Or fight town councils on signage regulations?  Or – WTF, Chris? – figure out a way to make parking fun?

But “living the brand” makes marketing’s job less expensive and more effective.  Your marketing dollars will have to work less hard to keep guests tethered, and – even better – transforms them into ambassadors, inspired to share your story with the world.

You may think it’s no big deal if you’re not living the brand at every single turn, but each off-brand touchpoint is sabotaging your trust with guests.  And an erosion of trust sabotages loyalty.  And a lack of loyalty ultimately means…buh-bye.

So, even if the step-by-step impact is intangible to measure and impossible to trace, living the brand is vital to your business goals.  Strap on your own cape and find a way.  The ROI is worth it.

For more information about the creative engine behind the Superhero Supply Co, click here.  Superheroes in Brooklyn, big foot hunters in Boston, secret agents in Chicago, time travelers in LA, and many more…the business concept is just pure magic.