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Is Your Destination Marketing in “Hard Mode”?

Destination Marketing in Hard Mode

I firmly believe that we all need challenges in our lives. They keep us sharp and resilient, making us more capable of growing in an increasingly complicated world.

But not all challenges are helpful. Take, for instance, the difficulties we needlessly place upon ourselves. This is what I call working in “hard mode”, a term borrowed from the video game lexicon that describes an option to play a game that’s harder than it needs to be.

Many destination marketing approaches are in hard mode—and I have no doubt that they’d agree. If you want to make sure you’re not one of them, I’ve come up with a little game of my own to help you see where you stand.

With a possible score of 100, add 10 points to each of the tactics you agree with.

There’s one target audience: “everyone”.

It can be risky to limit your outreach, even if it provides a more personal welcome. After all, having full streets, restaurants, and shops is the goal, regardless of their behavior or spending, right?

The best messaging comes from other destinations’ websites.

A lot of thought must’ve gone into the writing on other ads and websites, so why re-create the wheel? It’s always best to take the easy approach and copying other destination marketing materials is a great way to accomplish that. And that “live, work, and play” maxim is such a fresh and inventive way to tie everything together.

Bad publicity is better than no publicity.

Negative reviews and news articles happen to every community, so there’s really nothing you can do about it—definitely not by creating your own positive news to counter it. It’ll always blow over and people don’t remember bad news. And social media commentary is just noise and not a learning experience.

Tourism works best when it works alone.

Collaboration only hinders progress. When you bring other departments, local businesses, or residents into the tourism conversation, it creates needless complications. A singular vision without the meddling of others is the best way to move a destination forward.

Infrastructure is someone else’s responsibility.

When a visitor comes to town, they care very little about things like parking, green space, or pleasant accommodations. They only care about making sure that their experience is “authentic”, whatever that means. Who really knows what a visitor wants, anyway? It’s not like you can find that kind of stuff out.

Ignore metrics and results.

It’s often said that you shouldn’t dwell on the past—for a reason. The numbers that are available to you from your website analytics, email marketing platforms, CRM, and other tools only show you numbers that you can no longer change. They’re also difficult to understand with nowhere to learn about them, so don’t waste time grasping what they mean. You’ve got better things to do, like…

Quantity over quality.

Your destination needs as many visitors as possible, and you’ll need somewhere to contain them. A great solution for this is in large, generic attractions that appeal to the masses. This is a great way to boost short-term tourism and long-term homogenization, creating a seamless visitor experience.

Social media is great for one-way communication.

You shouldn’t put a lot of thought into social media; it’s designed to be easy, so keep it that way. The best practices for social media are to post infrequently, don’t try to engage anyone, avoid mentions and hashtags and at all costs, ignore comments and messages. The only people on the internet that are interested in your destination already follow your accounts, so you also don’t need to bother yourself with growing your followers. Keep it simple.

Other forms of digital marketing are optional.

Google Ads can be expensive. Email blasts get a low click-through rate, so you might as well hang that up, too. SEO is just a scam. Online videos are just too much headache. It’s best to limit your outreach to State co-op programs and whatever destination marketing worked ten years ago. There are agencies that can help with planning and managing destination marketing campaigns but they’ll all be too expensive—don’t bother asking.

Community engagement only makes things harder.

Your community is full of people with nothing positive to say, so why give them the chance? They probably just have a bunch of impossible requests and implausible ideas. It’s also hard to fathom that any locals would want to participate in any volunteering to lighten the department’s load, so engaging the community is really just a headache.

If you haven’t caught on, everything I’ve written in these ten approaches is wrong. I’ll probably get some messages from readers that didn’t catch the irony in this article, so this disclaimer is necessary. Now that you’ve read through these and added up the concepts you believe in, let’s tally your score:

0: You’re a unicorn—a legend, I tell you.
20-40: Not bad. I’d say you’re better than most, but this isn’t scientific.
40-60: This is the mid-point but it’s not average. You need help.
60-80: You’re kidding, right?
80-100: You’re marketing in hard mode! Congratulations, I guess?

No two destinations are the same.

We can help you solve your unique challenges. Schedule a call today.

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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