Should your brand have a Threads marketing strategy?

July 21, 2023

It’s hard to look beyond the media hype to decide if your brand should have a Threads marketing strategy.  Threads burst onto the social media scene in early July with the kind of massive fanfare that induces FOMO.  And that kind of shiny-new-toy buzz sends marketers – and usually their well-meaning but uninformed bosses – into a tailspin asking themselves:  how can we start using this new marketing channel ASAP?

Y’all, that’s the wrong question.  What you should be asking is:  does my brand NEED to be using Threads?

And the answer isn’t an automatic “yes.”

Is Threads a marketing opportunity?  Of course it is.  But you don’t seize every other opportunity that’s available to you, so why should you give more weight to this one?  Just because everyone is talking about it?  That’s a hard “nope.”

First of all, let’s get one thing clear.  The thirst for Threads is already dying down and it’s only been a few weeks since launch.  Indeed, many are now speculating that Threads might be just another a flash in the pan that will go the way of BeReal.

But it IS owned by Meta (which owns Facebook and Instagram), and it IS anchored by Instagram users. That means there are some chops under the hood.  So while you shouldn’t just dive in blindly, you also shouldn’t just ignore it completely without first asking yourself a few critical questions.

Should your brand have a Threads marketing strategy?  Here’s how to tell.

Ask yourself some questions surrounding these three points:

1) RESOURCES: Do you have, or can you get, the resources required to manage yet another social media channel?  If you’re not doing justice to the channels you’ve already had for years, adding a new one is only going to dilute the effectiveness of them all.  And in social media marketing, success comes with going deep not wide.  It’s better to go “all in” on fewer channels – reliable posting, proactive interaction with followers, tapping into current cultural trends – than just giving a light touch to many channels at once.  Just “having” a channel doesn’t make it effective.  “Working it” does.  This advice even made the list (at #17) of our Top 20 Tips for Tourism PR & Marketing Agency Clients.

An image from the Barbie movie of Barbie and Ken dressed in pink and driving in a pink convertible. Barbie is saying they are deep diving into the new social media channel Threads and Ken is screaming that they can't even keep up with the channels they have now. This is a perfect illustration of the debate faced by companies when deciding if their brand should have a Threads strategy.

2) AUDIENCE: Because Threads is connected to Instagram, when users establish their Threads account they are asked if they want to follow the same accounts on Threads that they do on Instagram.  So when your Threads account goes live (if it hasn’t already), your base of followers will be pulling from your existing Instagram following.  Do you need to be speaking to the same group on two different channels?  Will you share different content on Threads and Instagram, so that the same audience has a reason to follow you on each?  Do you have a plan (and then the resources – see #1 above) to grow your audience on Threads beyond your current Instagram followers?  And most importantly, is your target audience likely to be found on Threads?  It’s too soon to tell what the typical Threads user will be like, but before you dive in and invest heavy resources there, you should see where that lands.

3) GAPS: Does your current marketing strategy have a hole in it that Threads can fill?  Or can tapping Threads enhance work you’re already doing and/or accelerate results?  There’s no point in doing any sort of marketing initiative that doesn’t tie back to the big picture strategy goals.  So don’t let FOMO push you into “doing Threads for the sake of doing Threads.”  There needs to be a legit reason why it’s the right channel at the right time for the right audience and at the right resource level.

So, with all that in mind…SHOULD your brand have a Threads marketing strategy?  Maybe not.  And that’s OK.  There’s no absolute rule book in marketing.  Just remember that the biggest resource drain in marketing – and the one that’s most often underfunded – is time.  If you can’t invest the time to do it justice, it might be best for you to keep Threads on the shelf until you’re ready.

What inspires word-of-mouth in tourism marketing?

June 16, 2023

Here’s an example of what inspires word-of-mouth in tourism marketing.  Say I brought you a box of chocolates from my trip to Connecticut.  That’s nice and you’d thank me.

But say I brought you a box of “single origin cow chocolates” from my trip to Connecticut.

Wait…what?

Suddenly, you have questions.  And the answers will likely make you want to share the story with other people – in person, by text, by social media, whatever.  And some folks who see/hear it may think it’s cool enough to share with THEIR circle of friends.  And so on.  And so on.

And voila.  Word-of-mouth.

The secret there lies in the phrase “make you want to share the story.”  People don’t share boring, ordinary, or typical things.  They share things that are new, cool, interesting, unexpected, funny, poignant, or extraordinary.

Thorncrest Farm & Milk House Chocolates is a Connecticut tourism attraction that knocks the word-of-mouth concept out of the park.  Though, to be honest, I really don’t think they think of themselves as a “tourism attraction.”  They seem to think of themselves more as cow-tenders, which just makes the story even better.

A barn crafted from weatherbeaten grey wood with multiple windows and oversized doors sits against a bluebird sky. This is the home of Thorncrest Farm & Milk House Chocolates, which inspires excellent word-of-mouth in tourism marketing.

At this magical farm – which requires you to leave the paved roads to access – the level of quintessential New England barn and local purveyor adorableness is just perfect.  But that’s not the story-sharing headline here.  The headline is that they produce a variety of chocolates that each use only a single cow’s milk.  Like, you can get chocolates made exclusively with milk from Daydream, Creedance, Supreme, and other special cow ladies so earmarked for the purpose.

Not only that, but the type of chocolates each cow helps produce is determined by the distinctive flavor of her milk.  For example, ONLY Daydream’s milk is used for caramels (I’ve had them and can see why), and ONLY Queen’s milk is used for the “Zesty Lime & Licorice” chocolate (they weren’t available when I visited because apparently Queen had the day off).

At the sweet little chocolate shop attached to the barn, visitors can find out which cow’s exclusive chocolates are available that day, depending on who is being milked.  And there are a variety of other chocolate confections available too… as well as single origin cow milk, with each bottle branded with the cow’s name.

You can build your own box of chocolates by the piece and – this is my favorite part – they put a full menu in each box that fully describes each chocolate and which cow is connected to it.  So if you’re giving it to someone as a gift, they get the whole story.

What was in the box I assembled during my visit?  Clockwise here, from the top left:  Daydream’s Milk Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel, Supreme’s White Chocolate Raspberry Cream, Creedance’s Milk Maid Irish Cream (with a Bailey’s ganache inside, of course), Creedance’s Dark Chocolate Madagascar Vanilla, Vail’s Double Cream, and Valor’s Dark Chocolate Double Espresso.

A gold box with pink tissue paper houses six individual chocolates, two milk, three dark, and one white one shaped like a heart with red designs on it.

There’s also a deep and effective amount of authentic brand integrity everywhere you turn on the property.  For example, they tell their story – amidst fun facts – with a collection of laminated signs arranged on the barn wall.  Kudos to them for that…a high-tech video screen would be out of place here. The laminated signs scream homegrown, slow-paced, personal attention, and loving care, which is precisely the vibe they apply to managing their cows and their entire operation. Indeed, those laminated signs reminded me of the fabulous dairy bar in Nova Scotia that labels their biscuit packaging with masking tape.

So let’s break it down:  why exactly does this particular tourism attraction inspire word-of-mouth marketing?

  1. They built their business around a unique and unexpected story.
  2. They give people something different to talk about regarding their chocolates. It’s not just that they taste good or have beautiful packaging, which many chocolatiers can claim.
  3. They connect the product to its source in a fun, engaging, and interesting way. The one simple act of naming each chocolate after its source cow tells multiple positive stories about their business practices.  Plus, it’s cute.

The result?  I’ll always associate my trip to the Litchfield region of Connecticut with this extraordinary place, I’ll never forget it (out of ALL the chocolate shops I’ve visited in my time – and that’s a lot), and yes of course I told my friends about it.  So naturally, I stopped by the barn after my purchase to thank the ladies for their efforts.

Chris Miranda, dressed in black with multicolored sneakers, stands next to the barn area where a cow sticks its tongue through the gate to say hello.

Take note of the fact that in everything I just celebrated about this place, I never mentioned if the chocolate is tasty.  It DOES happen to be delicious, but THAT’S NOT THE STORY.  Their word-of-mouth story is inspired by their branding and operation, not their chocolate quality.  The chocolate just has to be good enough to not sabotage the joy a visitor gets from the story.  Like, if the chocolate absolutely sucked, it would make the story less impressive and I’d not be inclined to share it.  Happily for them, their chocolate is the very opposite of “sucked,” and here we are talking about it.

The Newfoundland Chocolate Company – obviously based in Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada – also has delicious chocolate, and yet that’s also not THEIR tourism attraction word-of-mouth story.

Visitors to this Canadian province are universally struck by the distinctive (heartwarmingly quirky?) culture, style, and even language…even though they speak English.

The first time I was there and someone said to me “I dies at you,” I definitely had no clue what they were saying.  And as I spoke to more locals, the joy of trying to decipher conversations that included phrases like “who knit ya?” became increasingly charming and hilarious.  I wanted to bottle some of that joy and take it home for family and friends to experience too.

Imagine my excitement, then, when after delivering a keynote speech at the Hospitality Newfoundland & Labrador annual conference, someone gifted me these chocolate bars:

Chris Miranda holds up a collection of chocolate bars from the Newfoundland Chocolate Company. The six bars are in brown packaging with white typeface, and feature a variety of sayings. This is an excellent example of how to inspire word-of-mouth in tourism marketing.

And that’s when I was introduced to the Newfoundland Chocolate Company, who has made a brilliant art out of comingling tourism branding with a scrumptious product.

Believe me, I’m not trying to minimize the thought and care that goes into making their chocolates.  But the word-of-mouth headline here is the packaging and the product merchandising.  Indeed, they have:

A wide variety of boxed collections that align chocolates with tourism locations around the island of Newfoundland, such as lighthouses, places to explore, and this one featuring shorelines with quiet coves:

The left photo shows the exterior of a box of chocolates called the Quiet Cove Collection, and the right image shows a map of Newfoundland with a picture of each chocolate in the box aligned with a quiet cove along the island's shoreline.

 

They also have bars wrapped to celebrate the vibrantly colorful and iconic houses of Newfoundland (like the ones on Jelly Bean Row):

A collection of six chocolate bars in a clear package, each with a picture of a different color house on it: orange, pink, yellow, blue, red, and tan.

 

 

And of course, those signature NL Sayings bars, whose collection includes a multitude of phrases that allow people to tell stories to the folks back home when they gift these bars as vacation souvenirs:

A collection of six chocolate bars, each with a green, white, and pink wrapper featuring black type with a saying on it. This is an excellent example by the Newfoundland Chocolate Company to inspire word-of-mouth in tourism marketing, as each phrase is a distinctive saying by Newfoundlanders, such as "I dies at you."

The really magical thing is the NL’ers take great pride in their distinctive culture, so they ALSO love buying, sharing, and gifting products like the NL Sayings bars.  They’re not just for tourists.

This is a very different approach than Thorncrest Farm & Milk House Chocolates, but this particular tourism attraction ALSO inspires word-of-mouth marketing with their strategy:

  1. They’ve inextricably linked their own story to the destination’s unique story and culture, which will resonate with any visitor who was charmed by it (as I was).
  2. They focus on the things that set Newfoundland & Labrador apart from other destinations, like…you literally can’t get a “Jigs & Reels Collection” of chocolates (nor a chocolate bar that says “arse on dat”) anywhere else in the world.
  3. They make it absurdly easy for visitors to use their products to tell the story of NL to friends and family when they get back home. Why bring home just a map to show where you’ve been when you can show a map that tells a story through chocolates?

When the Newfoundland Chocolate Company was founded, they originally set out to “create great chocolate that tells a story about Newfoundland & Labrador.”  Y’all, they nailed it.

The bottom line is that there’s more than one way to inspire word-of-mouth in tourism marketing.  You just have to give people a story worth telling and make it easy for them to tell it.  Tell them YOUR story in fun, unique ways.  Make it easy for them to take photos and video and remember your story clearly.  Make it easy for them to feel good about you.

I may not yet be fluent in the language of Newfoundland, but when it comes to smart branding that inspires word-of-mouth marketing, there’s one thing I know for sure:  I loves it.

 

Why you should care deeply about SEO.

April 17, 2023

A black business suit and black bowler hat indicates where an invisible man stands, with the letters SEO where the face should be, as a reflection of why you should care deeply about SEO.

 

It may be less sexy than its flashier marketing cousins, but here’s why you should care deeply about SEO:  it’s hands-down the unsung, invisible hero of digital marketing.  If you’re not doing it consistently, you’re putting your business at risk.

This blog post is for all y’all who aren’t digital geeks and would love to understand – in plain ol’ English – what SEO is and why it’s important.  So while the post looks long and scary, it’s actually a brisk read that paints a clear picture without using mind-numbing technical jargon.

SEO’s entire job is to lead buyers interested in what you offer (be it product, service, or just content) directly to your website.  And when done effectively, your website will be found more frequently by these potential buyers…without you having to pay for ads to make it happen.

So what is SEO anyway?  The formal and somewhat unhelpful definition by Oxford Dictionary defines Search Engine Optimization as “the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.”

OK, that sounded jargon-y.  A simpler way to think about it is this:  SEO is a process you use to remove technical roadblocks between your target audience’s questions and your answers.  Or…in even simpler terms than that:  It’s creating content that’s interesting or helpful to humans, while making sure it’s able to be navigated and processed equally well by a machine like Google’s search engine.  Note the difference in wording here, because humans and machines don’t necessarily “think” the same way.  Humans want things to be “interesting and helpful” and machines want things they can “navigate and process.”  Your website has to successfully satisfy the needs of both.

So why don’t all businesses – even ones with massive marketing departments – care deeply about SEO?  Indeed they don’t, and that’s not an exaggeration on my part.  During planning meetings with DIY and small in-house marketing departments, no one EVER asks us about SEO except when they’re building a new website… and even then it’s just a one-time item on the checklist (“make sure it has good SEO”).

And with the larger marketing departments, who have more resources to devote to such things, SEO gets a much lower emphasis (if any) than it deserves.  In fact, most of the SEO specialists I’ve met share a common grievance:  the discipline of SEO has so much marketing power, and yet it’s deeply neglected and undervalued in terms of what it can bring to the marketing table.

So why don’t people care as much as they should about SEO?

First of all, it’s a scary mouthful.  Search Engine Optimization sounds like something you need a PhD to decipher.  Search engines are mysterious enough…add in the word “optimization” and that’s just an extra layer of intimidation.  Its cousin, Pay-Per-Click marketing (PPC), is so much easier for everyone to understand (you pay for every click you get, precisely as it says).

But marketers and other executives often overlook the power of SEO for other reasons, including:

  • It’s misunderstood.  SEO has multiple aspects to it (see below) and most folks are unfamiliar with all the facets involved.  So often they think of it as one-dimensional and dismiss the bigger picture of its usefulness.
  • It’s not a quick fix.  SEO is a program, not a one-time task.  And the results come as a groundswell over time, not usually as instant pops of excitement the way it would happen with PPC ads (you place the ad and boom… clicks start rolling in).  You can see some quick pops of results if you’ve made some dramatic changes that impact SEO, but mostly, it’s slow and steady improvement over time.
  • It’s invisible.  Didn’t I just say earlier it’s less sexy than other marketing disciplines?  SEO works behind the scenes, with multiple small, strategic changes that are largely unseen by the website user.  Together, those often-invisible changes lead to a payoff, but it requires you to have faith in things you can’t see and can’t always directly track.
  • It feels “harder.”  So…it requires faith, patience, and a long-term effort with a delayed payoff?  It’s no wonder so many marketing programs and budgets neglect SEO in favor of initiatives that deliver more instant gratification…even if those cost more.

But why should people care more deeply about SEO?

SEO is the practice of keeping your website healthy and attractive to search engines, like Google.  And shouldn’t that practice be one of the top goals for any marketer?  (Note, there are several search engines for use out there, but for brevity’s sake in this article, I’ll just say “Google” to represent them all.)

In more concrete terms, here’s why you should care:

  • Healthy website = better results.  Think of it like you would a health regimen for your body.  Diet, exercise, sleep, and other maintenance actions keep your body healthy, and the payoff is that you can live a longer life with fewer restrictions and medical issues.  SEO is like the diet/sleep/exercise health regimen for your website, but the payoff includes things like higher visibility in search engine results and more visitors to your website (without advertising payments for either of them).
  • The results compound over time.  If you keep up the regimen, you may not feel/see the results at first (ahem, just like dieting), but once your efforts start to make a difference, the groundswell begins.  The more attractive your website becomes to Google for certain searches and keywords, the more Google offers it to people searching for those things.  And the more people start to satisfactorily visit your website for those things, the more Google considers you attractive for them.  This cycle keeps strengthening itself over time.  It may take a little while to catch fire, but once it does…the results feel magical.
  • It protects your overall marketing program.  In the long run, the most successful marketing programs are ones with balance.  It’s risky to put all your eggs in one basket – say, going “all in” on social media to the exclusion of email marketing – and this is particularly true when it comes to balancing your paid vs. unpaid marketing initiatives.  If your website isn’t healthy enough to attract its own attention from Google without you paying for ads, then what happens when your budget needs to be cut?  Bye bye clicks.  You need that steady, solid foundation of organically-driven clicks to weather such budget fluctuations.
  • It increases the ROI of your paid marketing.  Without an effective SEO program, your website is bound to have many unhealthy aspects to it, from a user perspective.  And yet, you’re spending the rest of your marketing budget to pay to draw people there.  Every dollar you spend paying to send people to a less-than-healthy website risks sabotaging your overall marketing ROI.  The discipline of SEO forces you to think about your website’s effectiveness and how it’s organized, and that helps improve its quality score for Google Ads by strengthening keyword themes.  And SEO also forces you to focus on improving your website’s load time and page speed metrics (literally, the amount of time it takes for pages, images, etc. to load when someone tries to visit it), and this can help improve conversion rates no matter how a customer enters your website.

At Redpoint, we got a painful lesson in the extraordinary power of SEO when one of our blog posts became insanely attractive to Google for a particular (and apparently popular) set of keywords.  As the post wasn’t related to our core business, that level of attention for the “wrong topic” was killing our marketing goals.  In fact, we had to take the post down.  See why we were sorry we wrote this blog post.

So what are the key aspects of “doing SEO?”

There’s a lot to unpack within a proper SEO strategy, but here’s a high-level summary of three key elements you’ll need to consider if you want to start making SEO a marketing priority.

  1. The quality of your website’s mechanics.  Google cares (a lot) if your site is working smoothly.  Because Google’s entire mission is essentially to provide users/searchers with the best possible results, that means it wants to deliver results that feature credible, effective, and appropriate websites.  If your site is slow, takes too long to load for users, has broken links, has outdated and useless pages, and/or a host of other mechanical issues, then users don’t have a good experience when they land on it…and likely leave quickly.  The more that happens, the more Google notices and says “hey… this website isn’t satisfying people who are searching for (these keywords), so let’s stop suggesting it as a relevant option when people search for that.”  How does this hurt you?  Imagine you’re a family friendly resort in California.  And Google has been trained over time to learn that people searching for “family friendly resort in California” don’t have a good experience on your website…and so it stops suggesting you as a good result for that search.  That would be bad for you.
  2. The relevance of your content.  You’ve got to think of SEO like it’s a matching game.  If you want people searching for “family friendly resort in California” to see your website high up in the search results, you’ve got to have specific and relevant content on your site that satisfies those keywords.  Let’s say that phrase is just mentioned in passing on your home page, and there’s not a lot of rich content on your website that describes all the family friendly activities/amenities at your resort.  Over time, Google will see that folks searching with those keywords who went to your site didn’t really find you to be all that “family friendly.”  And so, over time, it stops suggesting you as a “good match” for those keywords.  Yes, you might be IN the search results, but perhaps below 40 other family friendly resorts in California who have way more relevant content on their websites than you do.
  3. How good your website is at engaging visitors.  Picture a brick-and-mortar retail clothing store, and you walk in to browse.  If you walk in, look at the first display, and then leave… you’re not an “engaged customer.”  But if you walk in and like what you see on that first display, you’ll move in further to explore the store.  Maybe even try on some items.  That definitely makes you an engaged customer, and them an engaging store.  You need to think of your website in those terms.  People will come into your website through a single page – whether the home page or an interior page.  Once they land there…what makes them stick around and explore your site?  Internal links to other pages, prominent and clear navigation, appealing imagery, pop-up windows, “you may also like…” content suggestions, and more… all are engagement tactics used by effective SEO programs to keep people on your website longer.  And when Google sees that people who visit your website stay there for a while, that tells it that you’re satisfying your visitors with good, relevant content.  It’s a mark in your favor with Google.

Each one of those three aspects requires strategy and constant maintenance.  And those aren’t even ALL the aspects of SEO.  There are so many different things you can do to make your website “more attractive to” (or, in geek-speak, “better optimized for”) Google, and a comprehensive SEO program should address multiple facets.  Yes, it takes a while and it feels harder to do than just paying for clicks…but the payoff is worth it.  Google will – without you paying for ads – suggest your website in the higher up in the search results to people who want to buy what you’re selling.  And THAT is why you should care deeply about SEO.

And a final reminder tip:  Don’t think of SEO as a one-time initiative.  You are never “done” with SEO because everything is constantly evolving:  your business, your competition, and Google’s algorithm (the mysterious formula it uses to decide what order to rank websites in search results).  So – just like dieting – forget the quick fix in favor of a slow-and-steady program and you’ll see a more effective (and lasting) payoff.

A brilliant tourism marketing case study.

April 14, 2023

A red British phone box sits among the green rows of grape vines at the Luckett Vineyards in Nova Scotia, which is an example of a brilliant tourism marketing case study.

 

No one ever expects to find a phone booth in the middle of a vineyard…and that’s what makes this such a brilliant tourism marketing case study.  The folks at Nova Scotia’s Luckett Vineyards have scored the brass ring of branding with this creative move.  But it’s no fleeting stunt; it has brand and marketing legs for days.  And spoiler alert…the phone actually works.

Let’s break down just what makes it so brilliant, especially from a tourism perspective.

  1. It’s totally unique…and let’s be honest, very few ideas actually ARE unique.  Most often, ideas billed as “unique” are just riffs on existing ideas.  But this one embodies the very definition of the word unique.  An iconic British phone box (which we call a phone booth here in the US), set smack in the middle of a vineyard in Nova Scotia?  Nobody saw that coming.  And that makes everybody pay attention to it.
  2. It sets their marketing photos apart.  We’ve all seen gorgeous pictures of vineyards.  Many with gorgeous surrounding backdrops.  Often with the light catching the landscape just right, and especially at sunrise or sunset.  Never with a British phone box featured in the scene.  On social media, such photos stop thumbs from scrolling.  And in media relations, it catches the interest of journalists.
  3. It provides bragworthy photo opps for guests.  Guests share in that halo effect of capturing unique photos…and it does the same thing for their own social media feeds that it does for Luckett’s brand marketing.  It makes for a cool photo that a visitor just can’t get elsewhere.  And to be quite frank, in this way, it helps establish their presence as a tourist destination.  Visitors to Nova Scotia who want to explore the province’s wine country in the Annapolis Valley region make Luckett a must-do stop.  And if they stumbled upon it accidentally…they’ll never forget it.
  4. It provides a surprise experience for guests.  Wait… you thought it was just a photo opp?  So might guests…until they go check it out.  It’s actually a working original rotary-style telephone, and guests can make free calls from it to anywhere in North America.  (TBH, just the experience of using a rotary phone is a surprise experience for many of the younger generations… are there instructions on how to dial?  LOL)
  5. OH THE BRAND EXTENSIONS!  Luckett is the only brand in the world who can credibly name a collection of wines Phone Box Red, Phone Box White, and new for 2023, Phone Box Rosé.  Besides the fact that these are delicious wines even for locals, what tourist who’s visited the winery and taken photos and called home on that rotary phone WOULDN’T also want to take home a wine called “Phone Box?”  It’s not easy for a winery to get people to remember the names of all their different types of wines.  These are unforgettable.
  6. It’s an opportunity to have fun…everywhere.  Their website’s home page touts “wines worth calling home about.”  It’s little things like that which make this entire concept so fabulous.  There’s always a way to weave the phone box subtly and cleverly into the brand’s marketing.  And kudos to Luckett, they never devolve into the realm of cheesy with it.  Everything is done with an edgy sophistication.

And the real gem of a lesson behind this brilliant tourism marketing case study?  There was no grand master branding plan involved when they originally decided to do this.  It was just a fun, cool idea tossed out one day by their vineyard manager, Marcel Kolb.  It just seemed like something whimsical that would give visitors something unexpected to remember.  But the owner, Pete Luckett (a British Canadian who was born in Nottingham, England), loved the idea and immediately started making calls to buy one for the vineyard.

All the other nitty gritty details that make this such a brilliant marketing case study came later.  It all started with “this is cool, let’s just make it happen.”  And then – very wisely – they built upon it to give it brand equity.  If they had just stuck the phone box out there among the vines, and never absorbed it into their DNA, it would lack the branding power it has today.  Instead, they gave it a stronger foothold and made it part of their identity.  Not ALL of their identity.  Just enough to set them apart.  Super smart.

Parting tip:  if you go visit, try their Fizz, which is my fave.  But then again, I’m a notorious bubbly drinker, so perhaps I’m biased.

And here are a few related topics you may find of interest:

Six cool examples of marketing.

The secret to a great tourism photo.

Four brilliant and unexpected marketing partnerships.

 

Five ways tourism marketers often fool themselves.

March 17, 2023

Listen up marketers…we like to think we’re always making wise choices, but sometimes we stick our heads in the sand.  When budget, staffing, or timing is tight, it’s soooooo tempting to cut corners and say to ourselves “it’s fine.”

 

A cartoon image of a dog with a small brown hat sitting on a chair surrounded by a room that's on fire, while he is sipping coffee calmly and saying "this is fine." This is meant to illustrate what's happening as part of the five ways that tourism marketers often fool themselves.

Y’all…it’s really NOT fine, and deep down inside, you know it.  Here are five ways tourism marketers often fool themselves, and how it comes back to bite them in the booty.

1)  We can water down this BIG idea and still get BIG results.

The excitement and energy that accompanies a big idea is invigorating, infectious, and lasting.  This is especially because the magnitude of the potential results makes us star-struck.

Here’s the rub, however.  When – due to budget, operational challenges, timing, executive indecision, or whatever – that big idea gets watered down before implementation, often marketers are super bummed that the results aren’t the ones with which they originally fell in love.  They conveniently “forget” that they dramatically pared down the idea, and never shed that infectious, lasting excitement they had at the start.

If this describes your organization, fear not…you’re not alone.  I can’t tell you how many times clients have asked us for a BIG BOLD IDEA, which they love at first hearing.  And by the time it comes back to us after several washings through their various committee discussions and lengthy decision-making processes, we don’t even recognize it.  This phenomenon is quite common.  In fact, it’s so common that we even have a term for it at Redpoint:  vanillafication.  That’s taking bright, colorful, tasty ideas…and wringing all the flavor out of them until they’re just vanilla.

Folks, there’s no harm and no shame in paring down ideas.  Necessity (and the reality of your situation) often demands it.  But if you pare down your ideas, you must proportionately pare down your expectation of results accordingly.  Not doing so is just one way that tourism marketers often fool themselves…and then they’re disappointed.

2) It’s fine if we just replicate last year’s event as is.

No, it’s not.  Whether it’s a trade or consumer event, whatever tourism thing you’re selling…it’s being sold to people.  And people get desensitized so easily.

It’s essential that you add at least one new element to your annual events each year.  It doesn’t have to be huge or cost a lot of money.  Just something different than your audiences have experienced at that event before.  It keeps the event fresh, makes an impression, and gives folks something to talk about…and maybe even post on social media or share in other ways.

Moreover, if you seek news coverage of the event, you actually need “news.”  If the event is 100% the same as it was the last time they heard about it or attended, there’s literally nothing for them to cover.  They need a nugget of something new to make their editorial coverage interesting and timely.

I know, I know.  Tourism marketers are so busy and often stretched so thin that it’s a relief when you can finally put something on autopilot and not have to invest new creative energy or logistical planning into something that’s already “done.”  Sorry, friends.  This is yet another way tourism marketers often fool themselves.

3)  We can wait to fix this website issue.

There are days when I feel like it would be easier to raise a child than properly maintain a website.  Platforms evolve, things break, algorithms change, content gets stale… the list is endless.

The mission to keep everything current and in excellent working order is so relentless that it’s tempting to ignore some of the issues for a while.  Like… “until I have the budget,” or “until I have the time,” or “until next year.”

Because of this, often tourism marketers fool themselves into thinking, “oh, it’s not that bad if that one part of the navigation is wrong,” or “it’s only a few broken links on pages people don’t use much,” or “yeah, the site is slow to load but it’s not that bad,” or – my personal favorite – “these photos aren’t the best, but they’re fine for now.”

This sort of ostrich mentality does your business grave damage.  Why?  Because it’s quietly and invisibly turning away potential customers…AND YOU DON’T EVEN HEAR ABOUT IT.  Trust me, no one ever calls you up and says, “I was going to book with you, but your website annoyed me so much I decided against it.”  They don’t do that…they just walk away.

Sure, if you look at your website analytics, you can see symptoms of this.  But that’s easier to ignore (if you’re even looking…and many businesses, especially with DIY marketing, aren’t).  Imagine if all those folks who walked away actually DID call you up and say that?  You’d make fixing your website the highest priority instantly.

Your website is your virtual front door. Stop losing business because of it. On both desktop and mobile, it needs to be visually appealing AND fully functional.  That means it’s fast, easy to navigate, informative, and current, with no broken links or wonky formatting.  Users care about all of that, but as importantly…so do search engines.

Tip:  here are six common website issues to look for on your site.

4) These photos are good enough.

I can’t tell you how many times tourism operators have handed me a brochure or a business card (sometimes even at a trade show!) and said, “This is us, but don’t look at the photos; they need to be updated.”

Here’s a story that puts that situation in perspective.  During a website audit, we showed a hotel client that the highest number of people were leaving their site from their photo gallery page.  Sweet lordy.  A photo gallery page should inspire people to check dates and start the booking process, not leave the website.

Investing in a major photo shoot had seemed like something they couldn’t afford.  But that audit showed them that they couldn’t afford NOT to do it.

Photos are an essential selling tool in tourism marketing.  They can’t just be “good enough.”  They have a job to do, which includes things like catching attention among cluttered social media feeds and capturing the imagination of website visitors.  Ultimately, you want your photos to inspire action, whether it’s to read a caption, click a link, or inquire about booking.

Please don’t fool yourself when it comes to the quality of your photos.  You will lose money because of it.

Note:  for tips on this, see The Secret to a Great Tourism Photo and What Makes a Dramatic Tourism Marketing Photo.

5) It’s fine if no one else in our organization knows what marketing is doing.

In so many of the organizations we work with, marketing lives in a silo.  And it’s sooo tempting to keep it that way.  No scrutiny, no one chiming in with opinions, no questions about how budgets are being spent.  We hear that a lot: “I just gotta keep my head down and churn out the marketing stuff.”

If this is you, hear me out.  This is a major way in which tourism marketers often fool themselves.  In the tourism industry, the relationship between marketing and all the other departments is crucial.  Our product is experiential, and its delivery is dependent on operations, guest service, human resources, and more.  It’s an ecosystem that needs to be in harmony at all times.

Because of this, EVERYONE needs to know what marketing is doing.  Marketing is bringing in the guests who fuel the engine that delivers the experience.  So, that engine needs to know what marketing is doing to make that happen…especially so they can live up to those promises.

Distribute a monthly update, make periodic presentations, even go door-to-door Erin Brockovich style and tell folks what’s happening.  One business I know hosts a monthly “snack time,” at which they lure folks from other departments in with free snacks and share the upcoming marketing tactics while soliciting input for the future.  Figure out whatever works for your organization’s culture and just do it.

~~~

Overall, it’s likely that time poverty and budget constraints are the two biggest culprits behind many of these unwise choices.  So I get it… it’s not easy.  But awareness is the first step toward change, so grab yourself a beverage and think about where YOU might be fooling yourself in your tourism marketing activities.  Feel free to make that an adult beverage… you might need it.  😉

 

What makes a dramatic tourism marketing photo?

March 16, 2023

Your personal photos serve to capture a scene and a memory, but a marketing photo has another job:  it must persuade and entice.  But before it can even do those things, it has to catch someone’s attention.  That means your marketing photos need to be arresting enough to stop thumbs and stand out among the sea of clutter that barrages people every day.  Which begs the question:

What makes a dramatic tourism marketing photo?

By “dramatic,” I mean it evokes emotion, piques curiosity, and/or makes a bold statement.  This is done through strategic use of angle, lighting, perspective, and subject choice.  A dramatic tourism marketing photo can tell a story in one glance.  And it can also get someone interested enough to stop and read the caption or other accompanying message you want to convey.

In that latter sense, the photo is just a lure.  It’s bait, if you will, that hooks your audience into hearing what you have to say.  So for a photo to hook as many people as possible, that bait needs to be nice and juicy.

A picture can indeed be worth a thousand words.  Here are five dramatic tourism photos I’ve come across in the past month, and what each one says to its audience.

Destination British Columbia

A brown cabin sits amidst a white snow-covered forest, as an example of what makes a dramatic tourism photo.

 

This says:  private, remote, solitude, peace, quiet.  It also says, “Breathe fresh air in the wilderness and get away from the noise and clutter of your daily life.”

In this sea of snowy bluish-white, your eye is drawn to two things:  1) that little patch of brown, where the cabin sits nestled in the woods, and 2) the blurry branches in the left foreground.  And the rest of the image is just natural, uninhabited, snow-blanketed forest.  In this photo, the perspective distance from the cabin and the upward angle that still allows the cabin to peek through the trees really nail the emotion here. The cabin alone or the blurry branches alone wouldn’t create the same impact.  But they work together to hold the viewer’s attention, and that in turn communicates a message that viewers don’t even realize they’re receiving: this is literally “getting away from it all.”

Tourism Tasmania

A woman walks on an uninhabited beach with swirling turquoise water and white sand, as an example of what makes a dramatic tourism marketing photo.

 

This says:  unhurried, no decisions to make, no responsibilities.  It also says, “Be alone with your thoughts and slow down your speed.”

The curves and swirls that juxtapose white and blue are enough to stop someone’s scrolling thumbs, but then it’s the lone human walking near the water that really makes this photo.  The aerial perspective, coupled with the person, convey the scale and context of the landscape in a way that neither a close up, nor the same photo without the person in it, ever could.  And even though there’s a light frothy surf where the beach meets the shore, the timing of this photo evokes the feeling that everything on this beach is still and calm…and so the only movements are the ones YOU choose to make.  The person in the photo is clearly walking, which is essential to the emotion of the photo.  If the person were standing still, it wouldn’t create that same compelling dynamic.

Switzerland Tourism

A bride and groom dressed for a wedding sit high up on a ski lift chair with the white snowy Alps in the background, as an example of what makes a dramatic tourism marketing photo.

This says:  unforgettable, breathtaking, Instagrammable wedding memories.  It also says, “If you’ve got joie de vivre and a fun spirit, we’re the right place for your wedding.”

A quick glance at this photo catches attention because the couple on the ski lift is clearly NOT wearing ski gear.  And the “white space” around that couple ensures that they really pop…it makes a viewer want to stop and zoom in for a closer look.  What helps here is that the background is SO majestic.  It screams “classic Swiss Alps” for a wedding backdrop, and yet the mountains don’t dominate the scene.  Moreover, the perspective looking up from the ground, and the simplicity of what’s captured in the frame, evoke the feeling that the newlyweds are high above and away from everyone… alone together, far removed from anyone and anything.  I mean, could it get any more romantic than that?

Klahoose Wilderness Resort

A brown wood shed with a silver pipe on its roof that is billowing steam sits on a doc surrounded by calm blue water, with a ramp leading down to the dock in the foreground. This is an example of what makes a dramatic tourism marketing photo.

This says:  unusual experience.  It also says, “Whatever that is, it looks cool.”

It looks like a shed sitting on a dock, and that might be enough for someone to stop and check it out.  But then, it has steam coming out of the roof, so…what IS that?  It’s the steam that really makes this shot because it piques curiosity.  Then the caption tells you that this is a work-in-progress shot of the resort’s new wood fire cedar sauna and just like that…you want to be in that sauna.  The downward perspective from an elevated viewpoint shows just enough context for the viewer to understand its cool location, and that super calm blue water surrounding it adds to the allure.  BTW, you can see the finished sauna here.

Inn by the Sea

Long rows of burgundy and oak wine barrels stretch as far as the eye can see, giving an example of what makes a dramatic tourism marketing photo.

This says: “You want wine?  We’re not playing around.  We’ve GOT wine.”

Landscape and nature aren’t the only subjects for dramatic tourism marketing photos.  Look at these wine barrels.  The way the rows curve at the back, along with the perfectly aligned strips of oak and burgundy coloring, really nail the drama for this photo.  They draw the eye and give the impression that the barrels continue on to infinity.  And nothing says “we’ve got plenty of wine” like a seemingly unlimited supply of wine barrels.  Even better:  this photo was used to promote inn’s wine pairings and menus for Maine Restaurant Week.  Why is that better?  Because it’s soooo different than the usual photo used to promote such an event, like a glass of wine next to a plated dinner.  This stands out.

What’s the bottom line?  What makes a dramatic tourism marketing photo isn’t necessarily having a dramatic subject.  It’s CREATING a dramatic feeling by choosing how the subject will be photographed.  It may take a little more investment on your part – time, money, expertise – but it’s well worth it to invest in this kind of marketing bait.

For more (undramatic) tourism marketing photography tips, find out the secret to a great tourism photo.

ChatGPT tips for tourism marketers.

February 13, 2023

Here’s why tourism marketers need tips for using ChatGPT, an online program that engages in human-like dialogue based on a prompt:  because we’re all too damn busy to waste time.  And messing around with a new tool we’re not sure we’d even use feels a lot like wasting time.  Is it worth it?  Should you invest the time to get familiar with ChatGPT because that investment of time will pay off?

Short answer:  yes.  You need to know what this tool can REALLY do before you decide to embrace or reject it.  It has some uses that may surprise you.

So let’s jumpstart your learning curve with some practical tips for how tourism marketers can explore the benefits of using ChatGPT.

First, let’s get one thing straight.  ChatGPT is just a resource and a tool.  You’ve got a lot of tools to help you do your job.  Google is a tool.  Adobe Illustrator is a tool.  Semrush is a tool.  But the relentless media frenzy around ChatGPT has given it near-mystical properties that make it seem more potent than that.  Chill out, y’all.  It’s just a tool.  It’s one more resource in your toolbox to potentially help you do your job better, smarter, and faster.

And like all tools [she says sheepishly, aware that she barely knows how to use 5% of the available apps on her iPhone], its usefulness is only as powerful as your knowledge of how to harness it.  I’ll never forget years ago when an accounting mentor said to me, “If you’re doing any manual calculations whatsoever or taking a long time to manipulate data in an Excel spreadsheet, then there’s a shortcut, command, or function you just don’t know about. Excel is designed to make life easier.  If it’s making it harder, go learn more about Excel.”

ChatGPT is the same.  When you first try it out, you won’t be savvy at knowing how to coax the most effective results from it.  So you’ll plug in a few basic things and the outcomes will be unimpressive.  And then, because you’re super busy and there’s no mandate that says you need to use ChatGPT, you’ll dismiss it as unhelpful and go back to the familiar tools in your toolbox.

But what if I told you that…

  • You could paste a particularly legalese-sounding section of a vendor contract into ChatGPT and say “explain this to me like I’m an 8th grader”…and it does?
  • It could produce a style guide for all your team members to follow, after you feed it several samples of a brand’s voice to analyze?
  • It could take your 400-word bio and make it fit that directory listing’s 100-word requirement in just one click?
  • It could give you a substantive list of story ideas for your content calendar…and then organize them into a seasonal schedule…and then create first drafts of each piece of content, in different formats for social channels, blog posts, email newsletters…and even website copy that’s optimized for the keywords you require?

It can indeed do all those things and more…if you know how to prompt it effectively.

Janette Roush is Executive Vice President, Marketing and Digital, for NYC & Company, which is the official DMO/CVB for New York City.  And she’s one of ChatGPT’s early adopters and passionate champions who is learning to master the “art of the prompt.”

“If you want to get ChatGPT to give you useful answers, the key is in how you formulate your prompt,” Roush told me.  “I was once advised to think of it like an omniscient three-year-old.  It knows everything under the sun, but it doesn’t know who YOU are, WHY you need to know, and WHO you’re trying to talk to.  You need to prompt it with details like that for it to return a result that’s written in the context you need.  Otherwise the result will be very generic and way less useful to your purpose.”

Roush has honed her prompting skills through persistent trial and error.  In fact, she even documents her journey with ChatGPT on LinkedIn, making regular posts about prompts she’s tried for a wide variety of uses and the results they’ve produced.  (Pro tip:  Connect with or follow her there.  You won’t regret it.)

Inspired by Roush, I took ChatGPT for a three-hour test drive one morning, just giving it prompts for various tourism-marketing-related things.  One thing I quickly learned is that a generic prompt yields a generic answer and specific prompt yields a specific answer.  Case in point:  Look at how it adjusted its responses for social media captions based upon my specificity:

A screen shot of a ChatGPT dialogue about Lucy the Lobster in Nova Scotia Canada, as one example of ChatGPT tips for tourism marketers.

 

A screen shot of a ChatGPT dialogue that shows how it creates a caption to describe cider donuts, as an example of ChatGPT tips for tourism marketers.

 

And it did the same thing as I sought its help to generate story ideas for Northern California:

 

A screen shot of a ChatGPT dialogue that gives five general story ideas for travel to the region, as an example of ChatGPT tips for tourism marketers.

 

A screen shot of a ChatGPT dialogue that shows how specific prompts can yield more effective results, as part of ChatGPT tips for tourism marketers.

 

Are those story ideas all perfect with no need for tweaking?  Perhaps not.  But did it give me threads to follow where before I had none?  Absolutely.  And some good ones too.

So, in addition to writing copy, one use of ChatGPT is to think of it like you would a sounding board.  Or a brainstorming partner.  It can’t ideate on its own (it’s not designed to innovate) but it can work with the prompts you give it to hit you back with starter threads.

Roush shared some spectacular direction on how to prompt ChatGPT as a sounding board in one of her recent LinkedIn posts:

 

A screen shot of a LinkedIn post by Janette Roush that instructs how to prompt ChatGPT for the most effective results.

 

You may be thinking “well, why can’t I just Google stuff like that instead of using ChatGPT?”  And you can.  But Google (“regular” Google, not the emerging Google Bard version that’s trying to infuse AI into its experience but not quite succeeding as of this writing) will give you a slew of different links for you to go explore and assimilate all the information on your own. And ChatGPT will just…answer you.  Not with “here are ten sources you can read to find story ideas” or “here are ten sources to see how other destinations are making themselves an attractive esports destination.”  It delivers YOUR story ideas, and tells you how YOUR destination can achieve an attractive esports destination profile.

And then – mind blown – you can direct it to actually WRITE that story about ice skating in Northern California or OUTLINE that strategic plan to develop esports tourism in NYC.

Again…will they be final drafts that need no tweaking?  Absolutely not.  They will be FIRST drafts, but if you’ve prompted with care, they’ll be pretty damn good first drafts.

And THAT saves you time, which is the whole point of using ChatGPT for marketing assistance.

But wait, you say.  When I use Google as a resource tool, I can handpick from among sources on the results pages that I feel are legitimate and credible.  Without such references, how do I know the information I’m getting from ChatGPT is accurate?

Folks, I remind you again that ChatGPT is not supposed to be a mystical tool that sees all and knows all.  You’ll need to check your facts, just like you would using any other source.  Do you really think that something is accurate just because you got it from a source on Google that you consider “credible?”  News outlets get details wrong, websites have outdated information, and inaccurate stuff has a way of floating around and perpetuating online.  So, ChatGPT is no more nor less credible than any other source you use.  And you should do your due diligence on its output when necessary.

And while we’re at it, I should also remind you that most of the output you get from ChatGPT will need tweaking and polish.  Even with the absolute best of prompting, there will still be nuances and phrasing you’ll need to infuse.  So it can’t hurt to brush up on your writing skills, and these tips will help.

If you want to explore how ChatGPT can potentially help you with your tourism marketing needs but you’re not sure how to begin, Roush offers these four tips to get started:

  1. Commit to a finite time period for practice.  You won’t learn how to use any new tool unless you devote time to using it.  Roush recommends setting a challenge to yourself, with some kind of accountability built into the period.  Take two weeks or a month or whatever, during which you commit to prompting ChatGPT on at least one topic every day.  “I challenged myself to post a new ChatGPT insight on LinkedIn every day for a month, and it forced me to think of that tool daily,” she says.  “It didn’t come naturally to me at first, but after a while, as various needs arose throughout the day at work, I’d automatically say to myself ‘let me see how ChatGPT would handle that.’ And then I’d dive into prompting.”
  2. Don’t think of it just for help with writing.  With accurate prompting, ChatGPT is an excellent resource for organization, explanations, curation, and more.  Roush says it’s helped her structure her lesson approach for her work as an Assistant Professor at Hunter College, and it’s helped flesh out her vacation itinerary in Montreal by finding cool things to do nearby to her already-planned stops.  “I’ve also used it to help it explain things I don’t fully understand,” she says, “like when I understand 80% of a technical proposal and I want to understand 100% of it.  I can ask ChatGPT to explain it to me in layman’s terms.”
  3. Learn to become specific in how you prompt.  You won’t be good at this right out of the gate.  It takes time and practice to master the art of prompting.  When Roush first dabbled in using ChatGPT, she – like most folks – prompted it with “silly things,” just trying out generic questions and commands, and receiving lackluster responses.  “It wasn’t until I stumbled upon how to start being more specific that I began to see the possible uses of ChatGPT,” she says.  “I had asked it to create an itinerary for my vacation in Montreal and it was pretty vanilla, just hitting all the major tourist sites.  But when I fed it my existing itinerary and asked it to suggest enhancement additions using the right prompts for specificity, it really impressed me.”
  4. Let ChatGPT create a style guide for you, so it learns to deliver responses in your own voice.  Roush fed it around 40 of her previous LinkedIn posts and asked it to create a writing style guide for her… which it did shockingly well.  Now she can instruct ChatGPT to use that guide when asking it to write stuff on her behalf.  “It was surprising how well the style guide captured my voice,” she said.  “If I had tried to analyze my own work and write up my own style guide, it would have taken forever and probably been less accurate.”

The bottom line is that the more you use it, the more uses you’ll discover for it.  And with practice at the art of prompting, you can make ChatGPT something akin to a full-service virtual assistant who brainstorms, writes, organizes, and educates.

Or… not.  You may end up hating it, but until you REALLY take it for a lengthy and diverse test drive, how will you ever know?

Related reading: Issac Asimov’s I, Robot.  It was written in 1950 and well…here we are, folks.

Here’s how to stop being an impatient writer.

February 8, 2023

A woman wearing a black sweater with grey cuffs and collar holds up a clock and points to it, implying that time pressure is one factor in how to stop being an impatient writer.

If you’re a marketer, you can’t afford to be an impatient writer.  You think you’re saving time by just zipping through your writing, but actually you’re wasting time. So if you’re an impatient writer, you need to stop.  Here’s why and here’s how.

WHY?

Because a well-crafted piece does its job on first exposure, and a piece that’s been produced with cut corners needs further explanation and follow up.

Impatient writers often choose ineffective words because they came to mind first.  Something may not feel *quite* like the perfect phrase, but it’s “good enough” and the next task is calling.  So, they don’t take the time to better articulate their meaning.  What happens?  The audience is left to interpret the meaning however they wish.  Two examples:

  1. This weekend hotel package is great for families with kids of all ages.
  2. This weekend hotel package will have your toddlers laughing from wake time to bedtime, your teens producing TikToks their friends will envy, and your whole family making experiential memories together that last a lifetime.

Sure, example #2 is longer…but it’s also richer and more vibrant.  It paints a picture in someone’s mind. It gives a parent an aspiration:  That’s the kind of vacation I want to give my kids.

So why do we say that writing example #1 is “wasting time?”  Because it’s not descriptive enough to do its job, which is to inspire busy, scattered parents to click, ask, or engage to find out more.  That means you need to either write MORE copy to further explain your story (in which case, that first sentence is useless), or you need to bombard those parents with supportive and more descriptive marketing from several other channels and angles.  Lovely…so now you’re wasting money too.

If you’re a marketer, every sentence, phrase, and word you write should pull its weight in the persuasion department.  And it can…if you’re willing to employ the patience to make it happen.

HOW?

Patience is often in short supply, especially for a task we don’t like or a skill we lack.  And when we’re overstretched and crazy busy, patience feels like a luxury we can’t afford.  Here’s how you can transform yourself into a more patient, and therefore more effective, writer in four steps:

  • First, concentrate on changing your mindset. Treat writing like you would any other habit you’re trying to change…dieting, hydrating more, exercising, quitting smoking, whatever.  The first step is being committed to changing your writing impatience, and to surviving that uncomfortable phase when you’re acting differently and it feels weird.  The first few times it takes you 20 minutes to write something that would have previously taken you five…you’re gonna hate it.  You’ll feel frustrated and (yes) impatient, and you’ll be distracted by all the other things you know are awaiting your attention.  And you’ll feel like you’re wasting time.  This is normal.  Just like you should expect to feel hungry when you first start dieting, so too you should expect to feel uncomfortable when you set out to curb your impatient writing habits.  You’re acting differently, so naturally you’ll be feeling differently.  I repeat:  this is normal, so expect it to happen and you’ll be less frustrated when it does.
  • Second, adjust your planning to build in more time for writing.  We marketers tend to overfill our to-do lists, which handcuffs us before we even put fingers to keyboard.  That list – that you created, btw – forces you to crank through 47 things today (or else feel like a failure at the end of the day) and so drafting that email copy on your list has 16 minutes to become “good enough.”  Stop that.  You must acknowledge that effective writing needs time.  Allow yourself the freedom to spend that time.  If you’re an impatient writer, you might not even be forecasting how much time writing needs will take.  Rather, you just assume you’ll fit them in between more important things like – ahem – meetings.  Again, I repeat:  stop it.  Give your writing projects the space they need on your dance card.  And as someone who’s been there, take my advice.  Whatever time you think you need?  Double it.
  • Third, temporarily mute all distractions.  If you want to stop being an impatient writer, you’ll need willpower to ignore distractions.  Not forever.  Just while you’re writing.  Whether it’s an important three-sentence email to your boss, a marketing-oriented blog post, a newsletter blurb, ad copy, or whatever… surely the world can wait for a bit while you focus on that? Give your willpower some help. Turn off email, Teams, Slack, social media, and any other notifications on your desktop.  Put your phone on silent.  Even if that bit of writing only takes you 15 minutes, the seductive power of those dings and notification bubbles makes it challenging to focus.  This is especially true if you dislike writing or it’s not a top skill for you.
  • And finally, start using thesaurus.com or another online resource for wordsmithing.  I guarantee that even if you completely ignore the first three steps, just making this ONE simple change will completely transform your writing.  You will find more powerful, descriptive words and phrases than the ones your brain initially dumped out.  Your writing will be – as in example #2 above – richer and more vibrant.  And it will do a better job of achieving your objective on the first exposure to your audience.  See what the power of changing one simple word in a phrase can do here.

For more tips to help you stop being an impatient writer – and become a more effective one – check out these additional resources:

The power of 15 minutes in writing.

Five opening lines that sabotage your email’s success.

Four quick tips to strengthen your writing.

Take the “No I” challenge to improve your writing in one week.

 

 

Hotel amenities can have marketing value.

January 13, 2023

Travelers expect a lodging property to have a bed and a shower, but hoteliers should look beyond that to offer hotel amenities that also have marketing value.  What do I mean by that?  I mean the type of things that make a lasting impression.  The kind that guests want to photograph and share on social media, and text to friends with an “OMG ISN’T THIS THE COOLEST THING EVER?”

The type of things that transforms guests into ambassadors.

Let’s face it.  Travelers in 2023 will STILL be itching to make up for their pandemic travel pause.  Call it revenge travel, rebound travel, or restorative travel…no matter the name, it means they’re seeking experiences memorable enough to feel like several vacations in one.

And extraordinary, unexpected amenities are one small yet meaningful way for hotels to deliver such standout memories.  Better yet, they don’t have to be expensive or extravagant for either the hotel or the guest.  They just need to be unusual enough to make an impression.

Here are five spectacular examples from around the world of hotel amenities that have marketing value:

The Toilet Paper at The View – Lugano, Switzerland

A roll of pink toilet paper sitting on a wood ledge that shows hotel amenities can have marketing value.

Credit: The View Lugano

With its breathtaking setting up on a hill overlooking the Lake of Lugano in Switzerland, The View Lugano already offers a lot in the “making memories” department.  But with the hotel’s “Tailor Made Services” program, guests can customize nearly every aspect of their stay prior to arrival.  And while there are plenty of the usual customizable amenities on the list of options – pillows, champagne in the room, breakfast choices, etc. – one thing is SO unusual, it’s likely a guest will never forget it:  you can choose from among five different colors of toilet paper to have in your bathroom.  It’s a small detail that makes a huge impact.

 

The Bookmarks at The Betsy – Miami Beach, Florida

A white colored bookmark (embedded with flower seeds) with a poem written in black sits on a white background, showing that hotel amenities can have marketing value.

Credit: The Betsy

It’s pretty cool (so says this bookworm) that each room at The Betsy in South Beach has its own library, but then there’s the bookmark at turndown.  Each night, guests receive a bookmark on their pillow made from recycled paper and wildflowers.  Take ‘em home and plant them in your garden, and voila:  you now have a tangible and lasting memory of your visit.

 

The Podcast Booth at The Sinclair – Fort Worth, Texas

The interior of a podcast booth with two chairs, a microphone and other recording equipment, showing that hotel amenities can have marketing value.

Credit: The Sinclair Hotel

Every hotel is looking for ways to make it easier for guests to share their experiences with others.  The Sinclair takes it to the next level with a fully-equipped podcast booth for rent during a stay.  Open to both guests and the public, this quirky (but brilliant) amenity rents for $50 per session.  So, from the hotel’s perspective, over time the investment they made pays for itself.  But even if it didn’t…the press coverage alone upon opening earned them a worthy ROI.  This is DEFINITELY a hotel amenity that has marketing value, on multiple levels.

 

The Coffee Maker at the Marriott Hacienda Belen – San Jose, Costa Rica

A traditional coffee maker with a wooden arm and white mesh strainer, showing that hotel amenities can have marketing value.

Credit: Marriott Hacienda Belen

Paying homage to the glorious thing that is Costa Rican coffee, the Marriott Hacienda Belen provides some elite guests with a traditional drip coffee maker to use during their stay…and then gifts it to them to take home.  It’s such a startling difference from the “tech-ification” of the typical in-room coffee amenity at hotels that it stands out in a lasting way.  Not only is it highly Instagrammable and TikTokable, it also taps into the extreme passion of serious coffee enthusiasts.  A win-win.

 

The 3D Cocktails at Fairmont Le Château Frontenac – Quebec City, Canada

A cocktail in an opaque black glass with a 3D model of sugar in the shape of a building sits next to a cocktail glass filled with ice and lemon.  This shows that hotel amenities can have marketing value.

Credit: The Fairmont le Chateau Frontenac

Heaven knows that people LOVE snapping and sharing pictures of beautiful cocktails.  Indeed, at the time of this writing, the hashtag #cocktails on Instagram had 36 million posts.  The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac takes it one step further by making some of their cocktails video-worthy as well.  The 3D cocktails feature a small model made of sugar and natural flavors (the one above is a miniature of the hotel itself).  Once the liquor is added, the model slowly dissolves to create a perfectly blended cocktail.  Delicious drink…delicious marketing.

The point is…not EVERY touchpoint of a guest’s stay needs to provide a snap-to-attention, memorable “wow.”  Too many of them would just be desensitizing anyway.  But strategic pops of surprise can capture a guest’s heart and make a lasting impression.  Hotel amenities that have marketing value can be a low-cost way to do that.  I mean, you have to give them toilet paper… why not offer it to them in pink?

For other ideas on how to make a lasting impression on guests, check out these two other resources:

Tiny design details can make big memories in hospitality.

10 Unexpected and fabulous guest service stories.

The use of experience guarantees in tourism marketing.

December 12, 2022

With a looming recession in a post-pandemic world, you may – should? – be considering the use of experience guarantees in your tourism marketing.  Why?  Because travelers will be less willing to risk their precious dollars on an unpredictable experience.

A rare black Amami Island rabbit sitting nestled in the forest in Japan, showing how the use of experience guarantees in tourism marketing can be successful.

 

But offering a REAL guaranteed experience of any kind could be risky for you.  Sure, you can say “we guarantee you’ll have a great time” (and by the way, here’s why you should never say someone will have a “great” time).  But that’s quite different from “we guarantee XX will happen or we’ll give you a refund.”  So much of the hospitality experience is subjective that it’s hard for you to TRULY guarantee that certain things will happen.

So what CAN you money-back guarantee without exposing yourself to excessive risk?

First, embrace these two key factors:

  1. Most consumers don’t have a clue how much risk is involved to you. All they’re thinking about is the guarantee to them.  So your low-risk guarantee – which may seem like a “duh” to you – still has marketing value.
  2. The bolder the guarantee, the higher the risk. And the higher the risk, the more powerful the marketing proposition.  You need to decide your comfort level on the financial-risk-vs-marketing-power spectrum, and it’s different for every brand.

Second, remember that tourism experience guarantees serve a MARKETING purpose, not an operational purpose.  Indeed, marketing and ops departments often have polar opposite views of guarantees:  marketing would love to guarantee everything, and operations would love to guarantee nothing (because they aspire, but what if circumstances don’t allow them to deliver consistently or are completely beyond their control?).

And since these guarantees serve a marketing purpose, they must be marketing-worthy…or else what’s the point?  Such guarantees set you apart from your competitors and, if they’re cool enough, can attract hefty attention in both traditional and social media.

Gather food for thought from these examples:

No Brainer/Low Risk

  • There are so many whales in the Juneau, Alaska, area that Princess Cruises can offer a whale sighting guarantee on their paid shore excursions. You can spend 200 bucks on your ticket, knowing that if you don’t see a whale, you’ll get $100 back.  VERY attractive for travelers, VERY low-risk for Princess.
  • Also on the wildlife front, tours on the remote Amami Island in Japan offer guaranteed sightings of the island’s rare black rabbit, an animal exclusive to that area. If you don’t see a rabbit, you’ll get a 50% refund.  If you’re up for some light reading, check out this deep scientific study that assessed the benefit of these guarantees on both the tourism economy and the conservation of the rare Amami Island rabbit.  The punchline:  that guarantee is good for everyone…the tour operators, the visitors, and the rabbits.
  • A few years back, thanks to some crafty fine print, Priceline promoted a Sunshine Guarantee for its packages. The promotion covered a shockingly wide variety of destinations (really…July in Seattle?) and the bottom line is that if it rained more than the expected amount on your vacation, you get your money back.  You’re probably thinking… were they nuts?  No. They just had great lawyers that mitigated their risk:

Bolder Options with Financial Bite

  • One of the boldest and riskiest tourism marketing experience guarantees I’ve ever seen actually hails from Redpoint’s own client portfolio. Years ago, we launched a Sleep Guarantee for The Benjamin Hotel in NYC as part of its comprehensive sleep program that included a 12-pillow menu, a Sleep Concierge, and rooms specially designed for an ideal night’s sleep.  The guarantee, which offered a full refund if you don’t sleep as well or better than you do at home, added MAJOR strength to the hotel’s sleep positioning and attracted the attention of high-profile media from Good Morning America and The TODAY Show to The New York Times (multiple times… here are two), The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and more.  It was a strategic component designed to attract media attention and you know what?  In the ten years we worked with them, fewer than 10 guests asked for that refund.  So let’s say that total refund cost was (generously) $10,000.  The PR value of the sleep guarantee easily exceeded $1 million in that same 10-year period.  ROI:    The hotel knew their high-end clientele wouldn’t be out to make a quick buck on this offer, so in reality it wasn’t as risky as it seemed.
  • And the Uzbekistan government also did the math. In summer 2020, they offered US $3,000 to any visitor who contracted Covid-19 while staying in the country.  This seems like a hefty financial risk to them but 1) were people even traveling internationally at that time?  And 2) It sounds mercenary but that potential $3,000 per person was definitely way LESS than the value of the marketing attention they gained.  So, even if they ended up paying out the money, it was a sound investment.
  • Aruba also realized how skittish folks would be about booking travel amidst a pandemic, so they offered a “Happily Ever After Guarantee.” Billed as “the first postponable pandemic destination booking policy,” it allowed bridal couples and honeymooners to reschedule without penalty for up to a year if Covid-19 wrecked their travel plans.  A bold move, for sure, as multiple properties had to agree to honor the policy.  But it worked, and it set them apart from other Caribbean destinations.

If you’re considering the use of experience guarantees in your tourism marketing, heed this advice:  be playful, be bold, and be strategic about your fine print.  For example:

When you evaluate carefully and do the math, such guarantees may not be so risky after all.  Consider any claimed refunds as a “marketing investment.”

And hey, while we’re doing math and looking at your P&L, see here why you can’t find love on a spreadsheet.