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Authenticity: The Key To Destination Marketing

by Amy Paul - November 22, 2017 - 2 minute read

It’s always a treat to hear Roger Brooks speak, and his keynote at this year’s Wisconsin Fall Tourism Conference was no exception. Brooks specializes in travel and tourism branding and marketing and is one of the most recognized experts in the tourism industry. In his presentation, he focused on the role authenticity plays in destination marketing and outlined what it means to be authentic, shared why most tourism advertising is ineffective, and offered tips to successfully market your destination effectively. 

What Is Authenticity? 

In essence, authenticity means being true to who you are and who your core audience is. In order for a destination to be authentic, it has to be believable. When determining what your destination should be known for, Brooks outlined the importance of basing this on local truth and your destination’s foundation; however, he also stressed that authenticity doesn’t always mean history and your brand shouldn’t necessarily be based on your location’s claim to fame. So how does something become authentic? According to Brooks, something becomes authentic when the minds of the community believe it. 

What Makes Tourism Marketing Ineffective?

According to Brooks, 97% of community-based marketing is ineffective. Why? Because the destination plays the main role instead of the activity. While the goal of destination marketing is to get people to visit your location, marketing geography and amenities over activities often falls on deaf ears. Other strategies Brooks advised staying away from?

  • Using generic headlines that can apply to other locations
  • Providing lists of generic amenities potential customers can get closer to home
  • Focusing on things to see rather than things to do
  • Using one activity or festival as the cornerstone of your marketing. 

In addition to focusing on the activity, marketing the experience is also critical. While your marketing efforts will bring people to your destination once, it’s the experience they have when visiting that will turn them into repeat customers.  

Complimentary Activities Matter

Travelers usually spend 14 hours a day doing some kind of activity, but only 4 to 6 hours are spent on the primary activity that drew them to your destination. This means visitors are typically spending 8 to 10 hours on complementary activities, such as shopping, dining and entertainment. 80% of all non-lodging visitor spend comes from these activities, which makes easily connecting visitors to nearby activities and related content extremely important. 

Connect With Your Audience And Make It Memorable

Whether your potential customers are browsing your website, on social media, or watching TV, your ultimate goal as a destination marketer is get them to say “I need to do that” and book their trip. But how do you do this? Use images and videos that focus on people doing an activity to help give your potential customers an idea of the experience before they arrive. When people are used in your advertising, potential customers are more likely to be able to imagine themselves in that same setting. 

Find Your Niche And Tell Me "Why"

Your advertising can’t be everything to everybody, nor should it try to be! Narrowing your focus and being more specific in your messaging will help differentiate you from your competition. So many destinations focus their messaging on Who, What, and Where, when your potential customers really care about Why. They want to know what sets you apart and why they should choose you before they care to know where you are located, who you are and what else you have to offer. Focusing on the Why first will help your marketing cut through the clutter and help your destination stand out among your competitors.

Ascedia has helped various clients in the travel and tourism industry bring new visitors to their destinations, and we can help you do the same!

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