March 10, 2021

Five signs that your tourism marketing strategy is weak.

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.

February 3, 2021

We’re all just suckers for homemade cake.

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.

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.

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. 😉

June 8, 2017

Bathroom branding…it’s a thing.

When you’re walking (hurrying?) into a public bathroom, your mental focus is probably pretty singular:  get in, get relief, and get out…with minimal engagement to the actual bathroom itself.

Unless there is a clever sign on the door.

Then…you smile, and even if just for a brief second…you think about the brand that “owns” the bathrooms. Maybe you even take a picture of the sign and post it on social media.  You might even tag that brand, and give them a shout-out for being fabulous.  Or text it to a friend.

The point is…you notice, and a connection is formed between you and that brand.  If the bathroom doors are simply marked “Men” and “Women,” you don’t even spare them (or the brand) a brain cell.  But when they’re unexpected and distinct, you pay attention.  Case in point:

At the Timber Lounge in Halifax, Nova Scotia…a bar at which you can enjoy a spot of axe throwing:

Timber Lounge

At Weylin B. Seymour’s glamourous event space in Brooklyn, NY, the wheelchair accessible bathrooms inspire festive attitudes:

wheelchair

At an Irving highway rest area in New Brunswick, Canada…the LEAST likely place you’d be inspired to care about a brand:

At the Hotel on North in Pittsfield, MA, which boasts a sophisticated-yet-funky-retro vibe (psst… Redpoint designed these):

Hotel on North Bathroom

The point is, bathroom signs are an easy, inexpensive and non-intrusive way to make a connection with your guests.  You’ve got to put signs up anyway…why not let them help further your marketing goals?

And if you ever need to set up port-a-potties…take a page from the Rochester Lilac Festival and GO ALL IN:

Lilac Bathrooms

Lilac port-a-potties, people.  I rest my case.

August 26, 2014

Surprise! Creating guest surprises is harder than it looks…

Last Christmas, the Canadian airline WestJet surprised a plane full of arriving passengers at baggage claim by delivering fully wrapped gifts they had just specifically requested from “Santa” only hours before at their departure gate.  (If you haven’t seen that video, grab some tissues and watch it here.)

To date, the WestJet Christmas Miracle video has received nearly 40 million views on YouTube, making it the envy of hospitality marketers around the world.  Marketers – and their CEO bosses – watched longingly as the media attention spotlight on WestJet grew brighter and the video view count grew higher, and they all had the same thought:  I want a “WestJet video” for MY brand.

Alas, most of them are likely to retire with “I wish I had a WestJet video” still on their career bucket list, and here’s why:  surprises – especially of that magnitude – are bloody hard work.

Pulling off a surprise like that requires precision timing, which requires a recipe of planning, staffing, money, creativity, and problem solving.  You cannot fumble at the goal line.  You cannot plan a “partial surprise.”  You can’t get the timing “almost right.”  You get ONE SHOT.  So you have to make it count, or every bit of investment you put into it is a big ol’ waste.

This leaves no wiggle room for indecision, executive in-fighting, budget paralysis, miscommunication, or distraction from the focus.  And that’s a lot to ask of ANY brand, at ANY size.  That “little” five minute video required four months of singular planning attention, 150 WestJet employees, an extraordinary budget, and extensive marketing resources in two cities.  Such a level of orchestration deserves every bit of brand-envy it receives, because marketers worth their salt know it’s a rare phenomenon.

To determine if your brand has what it takes to successfully leverage the magic of surprise – at any level – ask yourself…

  • Do we embrace fun?
  • Do all our in-house departments work together harmoniously, and if not…can they?
  • Are we comfortable taking risks?
  • Are we willing to spend unanticipated money if needed to protect the surprise all the way to the finish line?
  • Do we complete our regular, non-surprise-oriented projects on time, and with precision?

If the answer to any of those questions was “no,” then you should think twice before investing a ton of resources into planning a one-shot-deal surprise for your guests.  You will save yourself a lot of misery (and money) by using other tools in your marketing toolbox instead.

Parting tip:  If you ARE planning to create a big surprise, keep this in mind…the bigger and cooler the surprise, the higher the bar is set for next time.  Case in point:  for my keynote address at the Vermont Travel Industry Conference in April, Redpoint surprised the audience of 250 people with beer, pretzels, costume accessories, and a New Orleans style jazz band (watch the trailer).  Two months later, the Vermont Ski Areas Association wanted a similar surprise for their annual conference…but what fun would it be to orchestrate the same surprise?  So Redpoint cajoled the kind folks at Ben & Jerry’s to create an exclusive ice cream flavor – Vermont Powder – just for that conference, and we delivered it to the audience in a surprise moment punctuated by a song we “wrote.” (Watch the Hot Sardines perform that song here.)

It was all great fun, and we had a blast doing it.  But now people start to salivate the moment they hear that I’m the keynote speaker, and (sorry, mom) it ain’t because they think I’m pretty.  Lesson learned:  human nature = “oooh, what’s next?”

Ah, well.  Redpoint is up to the challenge.  Save your pity for WestJet…they have to top way more than beer and ice cream.

July 3, 2012

The golden rule of using social media for business.

Beware of the new illness that’s catching among marketers…and their bosses.  It’s called  irrational fan base envy and when it infects you, poor marketing decisions are bound to follow.

You can catch this illness from even the briefest exposure to ANY social media channel, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.  The infection is often triggered by media reports that sensationalize the wildly positive impact of social media as a marketing tool.  Symptoms, which mirror the frenzied fever associated with a gold rush or get-rich-quick-scheme, include:

  1. Obsessing over how many fans/followers your brand has vs. other brands in your competitive set
  2. Setting arbitrary-yet-super-high fan base targets based on absolutely nothing realistic
  3. Spending money to increase your fan base numbers without spending money to sustainably enhance the quality of your messaging content

Interestingly, social media novices are the most susceptible to irrational fan base envy and they also succumb the hardest.  The more immersed you become in marketing through social media, the greater your immunity becomes.  Why?  Because you discover that having a zillion fans does not impact your bottom line unless you engage them…and engaging them takes time and money, just like any other marketing initiative.  And it doesn’t matter if your competitor has triple the number of fans that you have…what matters is how YOU interact with YOURS.

The golden rule of using social media for business is this:  the success of your social media efforts are in direct proportion to the amount of love you put into them.  If you treat social media like a pesky item on your to-do list (“make post to Facebook today…check;  pin something to Pinterest board today…check”), you can’t expect social media to love you back.  It simply doesn’t work that way.

The only cure for irrational fan base envy is to change your thinking.  Stop focusing on QUANTITY and start focusing on BALANCE.  Engage your current fan base, so that a high percentage of them are liking, commenting, sharing, re-tweeting, re-pinning, and in many other ways becoming a messenger for your brand story.  If you achieve that, it means you’re on the right track to harnessing your fans.

Then…as you add more fans to your community…they have the potential to become more than just empty numbers that look good on a stat sheet.  They can become your brand evangelists, returning the love to your bottom line exponentially.

Just remember…as you start to change your thinking and infuse a little more love into your social media efforts…be mindful of the other golden rule, shared by Redpoint in a previous post:  You Can’t Find Love on a Spreadsheet.  Who knew you could learn so much from ordering dumplings at Buddakan?