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Destination Marketing Campaign

For a while now, I’ve been watching a homogenization among destination marketing campaigns – a movement of sameness that’s spreading through a lot of the industry. You can see it on display on many destination websites.

With minor variations, the layout of the homepages look like this:

  • You’re greeted with a large photo of a skyline (if you’re a city) or a scenic outdoor photo/video (if you’re a town)
  • Next, a text blurb, with/without accompanying graphic
  • Next, big blocks with white text over background images that point people to “Dining”, “The Arts”, “Outdoor Fun”, and so on
  • Next, spaces for news, upcoming events, Instagram feed
  • Finally, a CTA for a visitor’s guide, newsletter signup, etc.

This repetition isn’t limited to website homepages. Tourism print advertising all seem to follow the same predictable formula: a scenic view (with or without models), white text overlay, and logo. While these formulas may have been effective in the past, we’re at the point of diminishing returns.

Oh, and hikers. So. Many. Hikers. A quick Google image search for tourism advertising (here, I’ve done it for you) makes it painfully obvious that if a destination doesn’t have a beach or a river to promote, then literally everyone is hiking.

I’d like to see this trend shaken up a bit, and I have one idea to get things moving toward more variety while promoting authenticity. Here’s a destination marketing campaign for anyone that wants to try something different.

Make the focal point of your campaign the real people in the community – the shop owners, staff, people that have chosen to call your destination home. They’re already your advocates, your mascots, your welcoming party, and the people that your visitors can expect to meet in town.

Nowhere in any of the aforementioned trends is a point where a reference is made to a person they’ll likely meet when they visit. And that’s a lost opportunity. The ultimate goal for tourism is to compel visitors to call your destination home. So naturally, you want your visitors to feel at home as early in the journey as possible, right?

Of course! So, get them to feel at home before they even book the trip. Introduce them to the locals so that, when they do dine in your restaurants, they’ve already been introduced to a bartender, chef, owner, or neighboring shopkeeper. With this approach, you’re able to tell the stories of why they’ve set up shop and decided to plant roots in your destination. That type of genuine storytelling can feed a unique content marketing strategy – one that goes beyond a clever headline.

This isn’t a groundbreaking concept. Throwing the occasional entrepreneur into a video – or even using business owners as the focal point – isn’t uncommon on the economic development side. We’ve dabbled in that approach as well, but it’s seldom – if ever – seen in tourism marketing campaigns. Here’s one example I found from Singapore that uses their locals as spokespeople (found on the Expedia Group blog):

In your next destination marketing campaign, give your potential visitors the initial face-to-face because perhaps the easiest way to show your unique personality is to actually show unique personalities.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

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