Five cool tourism marketing campaigns that may need post-Covid tweaks.

July 15, 2021

Will marketing ever be the same after we’ve spent so long viewing the world through a Covid lens?  Lingering hesitancy toward close social interaction with strangers adds a new risk element to advertising, imagery selection and especially cool, interactive tourism marketing campaigns.  Yet, isn’t getting to know strangers – and being enriched by the experience – a fundamental selling point in tourism?

This makes all our jobs as tourism marketers just a bit harder.  So, for fun, let’s reminisce about a simpler time…when worrying about portraying germ exchange wasn’t so high up on our marketing radar.   Here are five cool tourism marketing campaigns that may need some post-Covid tweaks if implemented today.

THE SWISS VILLAGE PHONE PROMOTION

Cool Tourism Marketing Campaign Concept:  Swiss villages in the region of Graubünden are so quiet that everyone who lives there can hear the pay phone ring in the town square.  And if you called that phone in the village of Tschlin (population 166) and someone doesn’t pick up…you could win a free trip and other prizes.  30,000 people called in just six days.

Post-Covid Tweaks:  All 166 people answering the same phone without showing it being wiped down and sanitized even once?

 

THE KLM BONDING BUFFET

Cool Tourism Marketing Campaign Concept:  Get 20 strangers to share a Christmas dinner buffet together in an airport.  The catch?  The buffet descends from the ceiling (in its futuristic Star Trek way) in stages, each time a new person fills a seat.  And once all 20 seats are filled, the table laden with food locks in place.  KLM Airlines really knocked it out of the park on this one.

Post-Covid Tweaks: “Tweaks” just ain’t gonna fly here.  Sharing food?  Hugging?  Cozying up for selfies?  This utterly brilliant marketing concept can only reign supreme pre-Covid.

 

EUROPE – IT’S JUST NEXT DOOR

Cool Tourism Marketing Campaign Concept:  French national railway company SNCF wanted to encourage people to take a train journey to other European countries.  So, they placed THE coolest freestanding, interactive doors in unexpected places all around Paris.  People who opened the door experienced real-time interaction with engaging locals in other cities.

Post-Covid Tweaks:  Dude, that door handle needs serious sanitizing, and mesmerized groups of spectators can’t stand six feet apart and still watch the interaction!

 

CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE – THE FAROE ISLANDS

Cool Tourism Marketing Campaign Concept:  This is an incredibly genius idea to both combat and draw attention to the overtourism problem…while at the same time promoting tourism for an off-season weekend.  Visit Faroe Islands “closed” to visitors the last weekend in April.  Instead, that weekend it welcomed volunteers from abroad to help with maintenance and clean-up of the islands’ many natural sites and attractions.  In return, visitors get a free room and meals during their stay.

Post-Covid Tweaks:  Wide open spaces and lots of fresh air working outdoors?  They almost skated through with that.  But the vague “free room and meals” leaves one in doubt:  will I have my own room and is it clean?  Communal meals?  How intimate is the contact I’ll have with strangers?  Ah, Faroe Islands… you were so close with this one!

 

THE GREAT ESCAPE TO GRAUBÜNDEN

Cool Tourism Marketing Campaign Concept:  Wow, the folks at Graubünden Tourism must really eat their marketing Wheaties, because here’s another winner from them.  In this promotion, people at the Zurich train station could interact in real time with a friendly, welcoming, grandfatherly-type gent in the village of Vrin.  He even prints free tickets for spontaneous-minded folks to hop a train and go visit him that day.

Post-Covid Tweaks:  Has that guy been vaccinated?  Have my fellow adventurous travelers been vaccinated?  Because if we’re all going to shake hands, hug, and share a meal in Vrin, I need to know.

 

OK… I’m not REALLY suggesting that we need to see the people of Tschlin wipe down the phone.  Nor am I saying there should have been a bottle of hand sanitizer hanging from the doors in the French railway ads.

The point is, as marketers, we just got a new dimension added to our lens.  How will people perceive our messaging, images, and attempts at interaction in this uncertain world?  There’s no easy answer, and no permanent one either.  This will evolve over time as the pandemic ebbs and flows…and eventually recedes completely.  But for now, we’ve all got to add this to our growing list of “considerations we must factor into our marketing material.”

Still, it’s pretty cool to reminisce, right?  Those were the days.  One time, a group of strangers at a tourism conference even baked me a bunch of homemade cakes!  Yeah… those WERE the days.

Three tips for creating engaging virtual tourism experiences.

May 25, 2021

An opened box of Taza Chocolates shows items available in the virtual tasting kit, including bars, discs, nibs, and pouches. These help provide an engaging virtual tourism experience for participants.

As the pandemic fades and travel resurges, you may be wondering…will virtual travel experiences stay relevant?  The answer is YES, and if you’re a tourism provider, here’s the number one reason why you should continue to invest in creating engaging virtual tourism experiences:

They’re a highly effective marketing tool.

Virtual tourism experiences can play a key role in the trip planning process for consumers.  If done right, they can lure people into your sales funnel, upsell services and amenities, and – a critical benefit – provide rich, engaging texture for your various content channels.

Moreover, the pandemic has made people really comfy with online interaction in all aspects of life, business and personal.  This means a turnkey, willing audience now exists…whereas before the pandemic, virtual experiences were much less of a mainstream opportunity.

“Virtual tours” have been around for a while, but largely in the form of online 360° tours and pre-recorded videos.  These can also be helpful marketing tools in a tourism provider’s toolbox… but nothing beats live interaction for making strong connections with guests.

The pandemic has catapulted such virtual, interactive experiences onto a global stage and into the norm. It’s not that they didn’t exist before.  It’s just that the labor and budget resources required to do them justice felt like a heavy lift for a possibly elusive audience.  Now, all that has changed.

If you’re seeking to up your game (or get started) in the virtual tourism arena, here are three tips to help you create effective, engaging virtual tourism experiences that are both memorable and shareworthy:

1.  Include live human interaction.  A live host can create the kind of dynamic experience essential to establishing bonds with guests.  And let’s face it…this gives guests as close to an in-person experience as possible without leaving their computer.  Participants can ask questions – vocally or in a chat function – and converse/interact with the host in various ways as the experience unfolds.  The most effective hosts are vibrant, charismatic storytellers who are quick on their feet and extensively knowledgeable about the subject at hand.  One of the greatest examples of this online right now is WildEarth.tv.  These daily live safaris do an extraordinary job of broadcasting with guides in multiple locations to ensure viewers can always go where the action is.  And the more you watch, the more you get to know (and love) the guides.  They are passionate, funny, experienced, and inspiring.

2.  Optimize real-life elements for virtual settings.  Nothing sabotages a virtual tour like being reminded it’s not as good as the real-life experience.  You never want your host to be forced to say things like “if you were here, you’d be able to see…” or “you can’t see it that well through your screen, but…” or “when we do this in person, we…” A virtual experience shouldn’t be a substandard, repurposed version of your real-life ones.  Even if it’s based on an experience you offer in real life, it needs to be built from the ground up AS a virtual experience.  Also, your hosts should be fully trained on the virtual technology being used (or else you have an experienced crew running point).  And further, they should be specially trained on how to deliver this experience virtually, especially if it’s one they’re used to hosting in person.  Organic, stone-ground chocolatier Taza does a spectacular job of this with their factory-tour-turned-virtual-tasting. Sign up for one to get some inspiration…plus get a delicious virtual tasting kit (pictured above).

3.  Create visual assets that enhance (and guarantee) effective content delivery.  Virtual experiences can’t rely on the rich immersion of real life, nor the chemistry that emerges organically when groups are brought together.  People sitting at a screen need substantive visual interaction to keep them engaged.  It complements the host’s vocal delivery, punctuates the session with visual texture, and underscores memorable moments within the experience. Further, it helps blend education and entertainment, which is one of the best ways to forge connections.  These folks – Airbnb hosts Lucie & David – created an absolutely brilliant online tourism experience taking people on a walking tour of Prague, Czech Republic that follows in the footsteps of a 17th century plague doctor.  The Redpoint gang took this tour together and afterward, every single one of us said “I want to go to Prague.”

All types of tourism and hospitality providers – hotels, resorts, inns, attractions, DMOs, restaurants, cruise lines, tour companies and more – can do this…and continue to do it as part of their marketing efforts.  Tour the area, do interactive kids programs, host cooking demos with chefs, tour grounds and gardens, meet and greet with local businesses, explore nooks and crannies of a lodging property… whatever.  Think of things your guests could experience and bring that to life virtually.

Does this require more logistics and is it more labor intensive than just producing a pre-recorded experience to slap up on your website?  Yep.  But the live, interactive experiences can be more powerful, more shareworthy, and more effective at generating conversions than a recorded video.

Think you don’t have time to do all this?  You do.  Read why here:  Marketing…It’s About Time.

And as a parting gift:  here’s some inspiration to help you in creating and cultivating your own engaging virtual tourism experiences:

Footprints of London does a beautiful job of presenting a blended calendar of in-person and virtual tours, showing how these can sit side-by-side and complement each other.

And the incomparable Laura Begley Bloom created this stellar list for Forbes of some of the best virtual tourism experiences available today

The Hiring Chain video: great idea, brilliant storytelling.

April 23, 2021

If you’ve not seen The Hiring Chain video, get ready for a great idea and some absolutely brilliant storytelling.  And it’s not just because legendary music artist Sting is performing the tune.

Click image to watch:

 

GREAT IDEA

First, let’s talk about the idea as it relates to tourism and hospitality.  As the industry roars back from the pandemic, there’s a definite labor shortage on the horizon. Housekeepers, groundskeepers, gardeners, kitchen staff, maintenance and custodial staff, and so much more will be needed.  It’s entirely possible many of these roles can be effectively filled by people with Down Syndrome (which, FYI, is often written as “Down’s Syndrome” too).

CoorDown, the awesome organization that produced the video, has a helpful website on the subject.  Here’s a link to their hiring page to learn more about hiring in your country.

BRILLIANT STORYTELLING

Second, let’s talk about the brilliant storytelling this video achieves, and why.  Marketers, take note:

  • By using the generic career titles – baker, farmer, dentist, barber, etc. – the viewer gets a feel by osmosis for the variety of jobs possible for Down Syndrome workers.
  • By the time the lawyer hires John, it’s clear how the story is unfolding and the viewer starts to anticipate what comes next.
  • The music tempo and vibe emotionally carry the viewer through this journey.  When the baker walks into the barber and the music slows down, it fosters an “a-ha” moment.  The brain has a chance to stop and realize how that whole hiring chain was connected.
  • The ending sequence is pure magic.  Just the simple act of speeding up the tempo implies quantity and depth.  Without saying it in words, it’s like saying, “You see how many jobs were filled and opportunities given just because of that one first move by the barber?  We had to speed things up just to fit it all in.”

It goes without saying that the video production is spot on…and yeah, it doesn’t hurt that Sting is performing the song.  AdAge said it best… “it’s like a jazzy nursery rhyme.”

When you plan your next video, take a page from great and brilliant Hiring Chain video.  They didn’t spell out much in black-and-white words, yet the combo of visuals, scenes, and music told the story better than any descriptive narrative would have.

BTW, you can use a similar storytelling concept with signs.  See some of our faves here.

Three major changes coming to digital marketing.

April 20, 2021

There are three major changes coming to digital marketing in the next nine months and marketers are rightfully wary.  Actually…scratch that.  Most digital marketers are actually freaking out and scrambling for solutions, and it turns out there’s no easy fix.  All three changes will in some way dramatically upheave habits and strategies that digital marketers have relied on for ages.  And more importantly, they will negatively impact marketing results…from conversion data and targeting options to website speed and search engine results page ranking.

Did I just make you freak out too?  Sorry.  But ignoring these three major changes and/or hoping they don’t apply to you is not a smart move.  Ignorance may be bliss, but when your sales tank…believe me, you’ll be feeling anything but blissful.

Here’s a clear overview of what’s coming.  It’s not EVERYTHING, but it covers the critical highlights and offers links to more in-depth information about each one.  It should be enough for you to check in with your webmasters and marketing folks to be sure you’ve got a plan to address them.

iOS 14 Update – Coming Spring 2021

Biggest headline:  At some point soon (likely with the iOS 14.5 update, and likely the week of April 26), iOS will require all third-party apps to offer an opt-in prompt (see above image) that allows users to choose whether or not they agree to being tracked.  Also, the conversion tracking window is dropping from 28-days to 7-days, which will make your conversion metrics grossly inaccurate.  Hotel decision-to-book processes are not often contained within seven days.

Impact on your marketing:  This impacts Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and more.  Facebook is the biggest worry, especially if you’re using the Facebook pixel or doing any type of targeting or retargeting that relies on tracking in some way.  The wide swath of iOS (iPhone) users who opt out of tracking will now be an unreachable audience for tailored marketing.  This will reduce your advanced targeting options, as hyper-personalization and targeting lookalike audiences won’t be possible.

The iOS update will also result in inaccurate conversion data.  A large portion of your audience will now be untrackable, both because of the opt-out AND reduced conversion tracking window.  Note:  you likely won’t see the impact as instantly as flipping a light switch.  People update their settings on their own time – many take months before doing it – so expect this to feel like a quick slap and then a slow burn of increasing opt-outs over time.

Learn more here:

 

Google Page Experience Update/Core Web Vitals – coming Summer 2021

Biggest headline:  Page speed, which measures how fast your website loads and is ready for interaction when a user first tries to access it, will play an even greater role in a website’s Google search engine ranking.  A new suite of metrics called Core Web Vitals (CWV) will measure the elements of your site that are impacting its speed (see the three CWVs in the image above).  If things are out of whack, the report on your Google Search Console (also available at PageSpeed Insights) will tell you precisely what needs to be fixed in order to pass the CWV assessment.

Impact on your marketing:  Google plans a staggered rollout of this update starting mid-June 2021, with full completion by the end of August.  This is important, and you absolutely should correct any issues that are causing your site to fail a CWV assessment.

However, if you don’t have this done by June 15, the world won’t end.  Page speed is definitely a prominent factor in how Google ranks your website (because page speed impacts user experience, which is of top concern to Google), but it’s still just ONE of many factors used to determine that ranking.  Your site won’t get buried instantly because of a CWV fail.  In fact, Google has made it clear that relevant content still beats page speed in terms of ranking.  So even if your CWV are subpar, if you have excellent, interesting, unique, and effective content for searchers, your website can still rank high in search results.

However… do pay attention to your CWV because Google makes it crystal clear what you need to fix if you don’t pass.  Why allow fixable items to drag your page speed down?  Pro tip ->  check your CWV after you do any major content update to be sure nothing uploaded knocked your CWV out of whack.

Learn more here:

 

Cookies Changing to FLoC on Google Chrome – coming 2022

Biggest headline:  In 2022, Google Chrome will no longer allow websites to use third-party cookies, and it intends to replace them with a new approach called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).  This means you’ll be able to track individuals ONLY while they’re on your own website.  When they leave and go elsewhere, you can’t follow them around and lure them back with retargeting ads.  Instead, you’ll be able to target “cohorts,” which are interest-based groups (sorted as such by Chrome) sufficiently large enough to maintain individual anonymity.

Impact on your marketing:  If you’re doing any sort of tracking and retargeting on Google, this will impact you greatly.  Google hasn’t released any information yet on how FLoC will work.  We don’t know what advertising tools will be available, nor or any specific details that would help you gear up for the tactical change.  But at the very least, this is going to force you to learn new methods/tools, upheave your conversion patterns, and disrupt formerly reliable marketing channels.

Google says its preliminary trial data shows that using cohorts leads to similar results and advertisers can expect to see at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.  But so far, they’ve shown no proof and leading digital marketing authorities are rightfully skeptical.  So basically…we don’t know much but we know it’s coming.

Learn more here:

There’s only one article here because concrete info isn’t available yet, but here’s the most up-to-date overview (at the time of this posting) of what’s going on with FLoC.

 

OK, that’s a lot to absorb. These three major changes coming to digital marketing are a BIG deal and can be daunting to consider.  So if you need a quick palate cleanser for your brain, check out our past blog posts about the marketing power of biscuits and bunnies.

Five signs that your tourism marketing strategy is weak.

March 10, 2021

If you’re responsible for tourism marketing in any way, do you recognize any of these five signs in yourself or your organization?

  1. You have no written document that correlates your big picture business goals and marketing’s role in achieving them.  Or, you have one, but it’s collecting dust on a shelf and you’re not using it to make day-to-day marketing choices.
  2. You have no tactical goals for each marketing channel you use…meaning you post on socials because you’re just keeping to a frequency calendar, or send out hastily-prepared email blasts monthly because it’s your “monthly newsletter” or because you have rooms to fill in the next few weeks.
  3. You are often undecided about where and how to spend your time and money.
  4. You disrupt your marketing plans often with “shiny new toys” you read about or hear about when a conference speaker touts them as the best marketing tool ever. (I’m lookin at you, TikTok, Clubhouse, and all your shiny new social cousins as examples.)
  5. You plan a lot of tactics that you never have time to execute well, and a mismatch between resources and planned activities constantly sabotages your success.

These are five key signs that your tourism marketing strategy is weak and – brace yourself – that underlying weakness is plaguing your entire strategic marketing foundation.  Further, I’m willing to bet on the source of the weakness:  lack of clarity in your big picture “why” and lack of fortitude to stay singularly focused on achieving that “why.”

Here’s what I mean by that.

You may be frustrated when your tactical marketing initiatives don’t work as you had hoped.  That ad campaign… that social media channel…that PR program.  That “thing” you did.  You checked all the right boxes and got the technical logistics right.  So why didn’t it yield strong results?  Or perhaps it yielded results that looked good on paper (i.e. lots of clicks) but didn’t impact your business through conversions or deepened, valuable connections.  Either way, it’s frustrating.

Simply put, marketers (especially DIY tourism marketers) all too often jump right to the “how,” when they think about executing a marketing plan.  I’m gonna post on Facebook five times a week, do a monthly email newsletter, and place ads with my regional chamber and in state/provincial tourism guides.  They’re not taking the time to back up and say “why am I doing marketing…what are the business goals I’m trying to impact the most with my marketing choices?”

Why do I know this is true?  Because Redpoint has done marketing and consulting for hundreds of tourism businesses of all shapes and sizes and we see it every day.  Tactical choices made out of habit, or because they fit someone’s comfort zone, or based strictly on budget… choices which keep marketers busy but don’t actually move the needle on the organization’s business goals.

Here’s a quick, simple example.  Let’s say that you’re a hotel that realizes your customer base is heavily dependent on families and you want to diversify more, to protect your business from seasonal imbalances in family travel patterns.  So, yes…you can absolutely consider using all the channels you have in your current toolbox, such as email, PR, Instagram, and Google adwords.

But the WHY (diversify our customer base) should inform the HOW, meaning how you choose and use each channel and tool. You might be posting on Instagram all the time…but are you using it strategically to diversify your customer base and deliberately attract couples with no kids, or groups of friends traveling together?  That requires more than just doing your obligatory daily post…it requires a strategy that ties back to the overarching business goal of diversifying your customer base.  And then…bigger picture:  is Instagram even the right channel for that, or should you be looking elsewhere to achieve that goal?

None of this is easy because it requires the one precious resource that’s most scarce for us all:  time.  We lack the time to sit and think about our big picture strategy goals, and then further to think about how various tactics can be engineered to achieve those goals.

We see this especially with DIYers in tourism – the innkeeper who does marketing in his/her spare time, the marketing coordinator or executive director at a destination that has no budget to hire an experienced marketer or agency, etc.  So, don’t beat yourself up if any of those five signs your tourism marketing strategy is weak describes you or your organization.  You are not alone.

Here are some further resources that will help you get on a path to strengthening your underlying strategic marketing foundation.  Grab a beverage and a snack and just sit and read them…and think about how you can use the insights to recast your own strategy.

Why you should spend more time developing your marketing strategy.

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

The strategic plan no one ever saw coming for the Vermont Attractions Association.

How consistent, singular-focused marketing in Kennebunkport ME made off-season way less “off.”

Just remember:  awareness is the first step toward solutions.  So if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need a sounding board, I’m here for ya:  miranda@redpointspeaks.com.  Just holler.

Pop-ups are a smart, fun business and marketing idea.

February 18, 2021

woman holds a blue colored drink at the pantone cafe

If you own or market a hospitality or tourism-related business, you should explore and embrace the concept of pop-ups… especially in the pandemic era.  Here’s why.

First, they couldn’t be more aptly named.  In the world of business and commerce, a pop-up is a temporary business venue that appears in a specific location and remains for a limited period of time.  This could be a single day, a week, months, or even a year.  The point is that it’s clear from the start that this place isn’t meant to be permanent.  And with pandemic uncertainty casting a shadow over business plans and financial stability, we are all wary of investing in anything permanent.

Pop-ups are a business strategy and marketing tool that’s been used for years in a wide variety of industries, not just hospitality and tourism.  Some examples:

The appeal of pop-ups to the brands that create them are easy to see:  they’re flexible, temporary, come with low/short-term (if any) overhead, and they foster a sense of urgency for consumers.  And if you’re popping up within the location of another brand (like Bandier and NuFace above), you also get the halo effect of aligning with that brand, as well as an introduction to its own customers…who, if you’ve chosen your brand partner wisely, are likely to be interested in your own brand as well.

Hospitality businesses – restaurants, attractions, hotels, and more – can use the concept of pop-ups in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Hotels offering pop-up shops for retailers/attractions in their lobbies and public spaces: this could be great for community relations partnerships (with, say, a local craftsperson, bookstore, or museum) or a more high-profile brand partnership (a major clothing line, beauty products company, liquor company, famous chef from the city where you draw most of your guests, etc.).  It’s a meaningful guest experience enhancement, and also allows for some effective cross promotion.
  • Hotels producing their own pop-up shop, whether it’s a pop-in boutique with exclusive deals and experiences (like Away and Nordstrom), or an actual, physical pop-up shop located in a city you wish to target for potential guests.  This pop-up could be a stand-alone storefront, or nestled within a retailer that makes sense for your brand.
  • Restaurants trying out new concepts before making a full-fledged leap into a permanent location, or popping-up in a new city before settling there.  Lots of restaurants/chefs are teaming up together, to produce pop-up concepts within established restaurants for a win-win:  restaurants get paid for use of their space when they’d otherwise be closed (i.e. a dinner-only restaurant allowing pop-ups at lunch) and chefs/owners who want to do a pop-up get a fully-equipped location for it.  See how the Boston restaurant scene is absolutely thriving on pop-ups during the pandemic.
  • Attractions hosting pop-ups in the form of mini-experiences of their offerings… wherever they can reach groups of potential guests who might be lured to their main location:  grocery stores, highway rest areas, large retailers or parks in cities where their potential guest base lives, etc.

The point is…this temporary nature is precisely the reason why the concept of pop-ups is well-suited for pandemic-era business strategy.  You can try things, be playful, and test the waters without heavy, permanent investment.  It could open up the freedom for you to experiment with things you might not have considered during “normal” times…by now, consumers are well accustomed to the concept of pop-ups and eagerly embrace them.

For more inspiration – and I mean fabulous, creative inspiration – this article gives some sound advice on what to consider when creating a pop-up, as well as 15 of the most imaginative and successful pop-ups produced in recent years, like the Pantone Café in Monaco which offers menu items aligned with the signature Pantone color chart (like the Pantone blue drink above).  The Organic Valley pop-up is a particular fave of mine…fun, sassy, and brilliantly done…and I don’t even use half-and-half!

We’re all just suckers for homemade cake.

February 3, 2021

I speak at tourism and leisure conferences around the world and I gotta be honest:  I can’t recall the food I’ve eaten at any of them.  It’s not that the food was bad… it just wasn’t memorable.

Except for one time.

At the Annual General Meeting of the Miramichi River Tourism Association in New Brunswick Canada, the desserts served after the meeting were all homemade by the committee members of the Miramichi Folksong Festival.   Naturally, my colleague Gina and I had to pose for a picture with the bakers:

Redpoint staff and the Miramichi Folksong Festival committee pose at the dessert table.

And please drool for a moment over one of the cakes:

Picture of chocolate cake with white icing and kisses on top    Close up of slice of chocolate cake with white icing

Now…why is this so fabulous and what can you learn from it?  Three things:

  • It was unexpected to find such a deeply personal touch at a large business conference, so it not only made a memorable impression, but it also warmed my heart.
  • Cakes and pies are all made by SOMEONE, so even when they are purchased and served en masse from a bakery or your catering kitchen, they can still be considered “homemade.”  But the fact that these were made in home kitchens by the very ladies (and gent) who served them spoke to a level of effort and care that made me feel extraordinarily welcome.
  • Seeing all the attendees flock around the dessert table chatting with the bakers about what they baked brought a special warmth and sociability to the event.  It made guests (and especially me, the out-of-towner) feel more connected to both the event and the organization hosting it.

So, hospitality businesses, I’m not saying you need to start baking all your cakes at home and having Ethel and Barb serve them.  But think about how you can bring that level of personal touch, effort, and care to your guests.  Can you tell the story behind a special dish made in your restaurant?  Hand deliver something unexpected to a room?  Give them a small treat at checkout made by your chef (or better yet…your housekeeper, because it’s unexpected?) to enjoy on the ride home?  Have one of your chefs, gardeners, or housekeepers hang out in the lobby one day to chat with guests and answer questions about their job?  You get the idea.

Do these things cost time and money?  Sure.  But if they make a lasting – and perhaps Instagram-worthy – impression, the investment will pay you back in spades.

Need more convincing?  Check out how these tiny design details make a big difference and how even accountants can have fun with marketing.

Hershey’s Kisses fell prey to Satan in 2020.

December 3, 2020

If you’re like me, you had NO IDEA there are people out there whose sanity and well-being rest on the annual appearance of the Hershey’s Kisses holiday commercial.

But not just ANY holiday commercial.  It must be the original commercial that launched in 1989 and has basically remained unchanged, with Kisses doubling as bells that ring out “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”  If you haven’t watched TV during the holidays in the past 31 years, you can see that original spot here.

This year, Hershey’s updated said commercial with a twist, like so: (click on the image to watch)

Apparently, this change ruined some people’s lives.  Snippets on the subject from social media:

  • “I’m emotionally scarred.”
  • “Nothing is sacred anymore.”
  • “There was once a time when I loved the holidays and now I feel terrible.”
  • “FIRE THE PERSON WHO SUGGESTED TO CHANGE IT!!!”
  • “2020 wasn’t the year to change it, we’ve been traumatized enough.”
  • “THIS YEAR CAN GO STRAIGHT TO HELL.”
  • “It fills me with primal rage.”

And those are some comments I *didn’t* have to censor.  Naturally, mainstream media seized on the backlash and made national news out of Hershey’s’ evil decision to ruin the holiday season.

Am I the only one fascinated by this situation?  If you’re a marketer, it’s likely your brand’s recognition is far less than that of Hershey’s Kisses (she says in the understatement of the year).  But if we zip up to the 30,000-foot view of this whole debacle, here’s what you can learn from it:

Consistency and frequency matter.  People are fickle and have short attention spans, and it takes a long time to penetrate their awareness and create meaningful connections.  Your own audience may be proportionately smaller than that of Hershey’s Kisses, but that doesn’t dilute their potential for loyalty.  Keeping your annual marketing campaigns fresh is always a good idea, but keeping a few select elements the same year after year after year can form a bond of repetition that becomes tradition.  Whether this is your “opening for the season” video, or a holiday campaign, or an anniversary message… there are things your loyal guests recognize that strengthen your relationship with them every year.  Marketers often get swept up in the idea of creating new campaigns in order to reach new guests, but don’t be so quick to summarily drop all “old campaigns.” You’ve built equity there that could be harnessed.

Change will always scare some people, so don’t freak out when it happens.  Humans resist change, and yeah…sometimes they can get dramatic about it.  But you’re doing your business a disservice if you lose your nerve every time people complain about a change you’ve made, because you KNOW some will.  Whether it’s a change in hours, name, staff, product, programming, marketing campaigns, or whatever… if you’ve thought it through and it’s the right move for your business, then prepare yourself properly to address (or ignore, if appropriate) any negative reaction.  Related note… if you’re certain the news will be unwelcome, this might help:  Five Tips to Deliver Bad News Gracefully.

Audiences can be unpredictable.  Between the dual social groundswells of gender equality and Black Lives Matter, it’s a safe bet that Hershey’s thought enhancing this commercial with a black father baking cookies with his young daughter would only bring them a flood of positive feeling.  Well…nope.  I guess nostalgia trumps social change in this case?  So, take note:  be prepared for surprises. There’s simply no way you can 100% predict how all people will react to your decisions.

And perhaps one BIG takeaway here is:  just don’t mess with nostalgia during a pandemic.

In closing, however, I leave you with this thought.  Surely the ad agency of the globally-recognized Hershey’s brand has enough research and data in its pocket to know how staunchly loyal audiences are to this commercial… after all, they haven’t changed it in 31 years and I’m sure that was a deliberate choice.

So, did they do it on purpose in 2020 knowing it would cause controversy and therefore get a wider audience and more coverage?  Or did they predict some backlash but felt the upside of the change would be worth it?  Comments on that are welcome… and I’m just gonna sit here and eat an entire bag of Kisses while I ponder it.

Four Ways to Beat Pandemic Fatigue in Tourism Marketing

October 7, 2020

Infographic showing the four elements of tourism pandemic marketing fatigue.

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.”

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.

Beards and coronavirus: a lesson in fact checking.

March 3, 2020

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.