My god, time flies doesn’t it! Once again it’s that time when we do some chin scratching about what has gone before and take a look at the year ahead. I like this time of year. The days are getting longer. Spring is not too far away. Above all, you get the chance to focus again. So, what stuff am I watching in the non-stop, always on, occasionally exhausting world of digital marketing?
Responsive web design
Responsive, adaptive … whatever. The point and exciting thing is that we shouldn’t need or want to distinguish between desktop, tablet and mobile anymore. Our users don’t. Changes in our audience’s consumption habits and expectations is driving a fundamental shift in the way we develop websites. Providing a seamless experience across multiple devices should be on this year’s must-do list.
Using paid media to scale owned and earned
Dare I say it, having now figured out how to drive business through owned and earned media, we need to figure out how we can be smart in our use of paid media to help scale those efforts and the stories we are trying to tell. But we are not there yet. Despite the buzz around native advertising formats and the delivery of high quality content in stream it still feels like a fairly blunt instrument. Maybe it’s not the toolset but the way it is used. Regardless of what you think it’s time to be less precious about paid media and work out how we can make it work for brands and our customers.
Shaping up to deliver in the converged media space
We’ve been talking about paid, owned and earned media for a while now. Like a lot of models we digital folk create it provides a useful framework for understanding the world we work in and helps us deliver effective and integrated marketing programmes. Like most models it is there to be challenged. This year has been dubbed the year when everything converged and, whether or not you call it converged media, the dynamics of different types of media are coming together. All this raises the bar even further in terms of delivering integrated marketing and a joined up customer experience. It’s going to push our traditional marketing structures to breaking point and demand that we get a lot better at working across organizational boundaries. It’s going to push the existing skills shortage further and create even more demand for those people that can be true specialists at being generalist.
Measurement and evaluation
Let’s not underplay the opportunity. Last year saw a renewed interest in attribution analysis and models that derive the true value each channel creates. Then came ‘big data’, the mashing up of multiple datasets to create mega datasets that have the potential to change the future of business, technology and the internet. Add to that the development of always on measurement and the rise of real time listening and marketing platforms – an exciting and insightful year of number crunching lies ahead!
The business of selling places. A particular interest of mine and the subject of my future gazing this time last year. If content, mobile, integration and finally putting that campaigns led mentality to one side represented the focus of our efforts last year I think we have largely risen to that challenge. But if we don’t change the Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) from the inside out they will become obsolete. Defining a clear role that adds vale and sits alongside the commercial and social, especially in more mature markets, defines the biggest challenge. I still believe that becoming a fit for purpose content platform; one that supports the destination brand and facilitates the distribution of destination content across those networks that are important to help achieve specific marketing objectives, is a big part of the answer.
I have been talking a lot recently about the value of taking a content led approach and the role that plays in delivering successful digital marketing programmes. Not exclusively but especially around destination marketing and putting content at the center of what you do.
Those of you who know me will already know that I am endlessly fascinated by how people and organisations work. Sometimes extremely successfully but unfortunately often hideously unsuccessfully! Achieving success in digital is often about the sum total of many small parts. The way clients and agencies work together is changing. Getting the right people on the job and creating the right environment for those people to thrive is more important than ever.
In pursuit of achieving that I have become increasingly interested in models around organisational maturity with respect to content marketing. They come in many flavours. Some feel more applicable to larger corporate business. For example, the one outlined as part of Content – The New Marketing Equation developed by the consultancy Altimeter. Others feel more practical and actionable in smaller organisations or individual business units. The one covered in the white paper Content Changes Everything by Ariad is a good example. Worth downloading.
I’ve interpreted this one around the kind of business problems I am facing within the specific organisations I am working. There are five stages to achieving content maturity and they go something like this:
One. You realise you have a problem
You have invested in technology and channels but your focus is still very much on the products and services you provide. You are still in sales mode rather than figuring out how you might be genuinely useful to your customers. Your social feeds might be quite sparse and have little engagement across them.
So, what content do you need to produce?
Two. You start testing and learning
You try fixing some of the business problems you face with content – often kicking off in the marketing or customer service area. The results are inconsistent and you start looking across different departments to try and improve them. You experience that penny dropping moment when you realise that the way you are organised is fundamentally misaligned to the way your customers see things.
So, how do you align yourself to the customer journey?
Three. You start mapping content to the customer journey
You start understanding what the content requirements are across the customer journey. The process of doing that keeps you focused on content and the customer rather than technology and platforms. You start seeing the value in customer centricity and working across channel and product silos.
So, how do you put content at the heart of strategy?
Four. You start managing content properly
You are organising yourselves around the need to plan, develop and manage content across multiple channels. You hire new skills and define new roles. You hook up your measurement and evaluation so that you can start optimising what you do in real time. This thing is really starting to fly.
So, how do you really resource this properly?
Five. The bosses start to “get it”
You have developed a business case based on ROI and gained support for it at the highest level. Not only do the numbers stack up but senior management understand how exactly a content led approach works. Content becomes critical to articulating the brand and you might even be developing entirely new business models around content.
So, I guess you have made it!
Another nice way of looking at it is how things are changing as you move from one mode operandi to another. The really interesting thing for me is how you start to move towards ‘always on’ marketing programmes rather than running time focused campaigns and you start to budget around the themes you are supporting instead of the channels across which you tell your brand story.
Earlier this year I sat on an expert panel looking at travel brands and how they can maintain their brand values in a marketplace where consumers are increasingly swayed by price. You can read the full write up in Travolution Magazine.
Since the glory days of the High Street Travel Agent the way we research, plan and book travel has changed beyond all recognition. That started with huge advances in technology that drove economies of scale where a travel brand could serve lots of people at the same time. In many respects that created an environment where customer service may well have taken a back seat and price comparison became king. Interestingly though, the rise of the social web has given customers a voice and a vehicle for venting their frustrations. The balance of power has changed. The customer now plays a critical role in shaping the dialogue with travel brands and ultimately their reputation.
What is clear, however, is that the strength of your brand is ultimately linked to the strength of the experience you provide and how closely that fulfills the brand promise you create. You might win a single booking on the strength of price but great service will win you multiple bookings and all important customer loyalty. Absolutely. Unsurprisingly, Ryan Air was held up as a case in point but that doesn’t mean there is a clearly identifiable segment of the market that will fly easyJet unless there is no other alternative. Clearly it’s a balance and it is not a case of one size fits all.
Developing sub brands and offering customers the opportunity to trade up to the ‘finest’ range is one way of dealing with that. Interestingly, the role of content creation came up. Creating content that facilitates getting the right ideas in front of the customer and helping them choose the right holiday is another way to add value. Content that is, most importantly, useful and engaging but also findable and sharable becomes much more important in a post Panda and Penguin world. That requires commitment and investment.
We talked about user-generated content, its role alongside brand created content and how important understanding your customers is if you are going to engage with them successfully. One of the most valuable things you can do is engage with your customers at a personal level and get to grips with what your customers feel and think about your brand. I have always been amazed at how few brands actually do that when the opportunity is clear. Increasingly the relationship between a brand and its customers is becoming one of partnership. Monarch asking their passengers to try out some new seats if they have some spare time after checking in is a great example. Interesting too that most of the bigger brands present felt that TV and brand advertising has its place and the clear opportunity presented by paid media is to amplify and scale your earned and owned media efforts.
So, it is likely that the ever present need to deliver a price promise is not going to go away but it would appear that travel brands understand the need to deliver the right brand promise too. There was much debate around exactly how to do that but the themes rehearsed here do appear to be part of the solution. Deliver on experience. Understand and engage with your customers. Use owned, earned and paid media in an integrated way.
I am going to risk over simplifying things. It’s the antidote to over complicating things and, lets admit it, sometimes digital marketing types have a habit of doing that. Digital marketing is really only about two things. Content and distribution. That’s it.
We are all in pursuit of the holy grail which goes something like this. We have to get the right piece of content in front of the right customer on the right device at the right time in their decision making process to drive the right action. All within the context of a set of specific marketing targets that are tied closely to a defined set of business objectives.
Enter Place and Destination Marketing. It’s an interesting beast. You don’t own the product. In many cases you don’t sell the product. There is no try before you buy and you are selling an approximation of a holiday or trip the visitor might have. Sounds tough doesn’t it.
Expectation and reality can only be addressed through content. For destination marketers content is all they ever had and likely all they ever will have. Place and Destination Marketing really is a content led business.
Luckily destinations generally have a huge network of content creators, curators and consumers around them. That represents a hugely valuable content ecosystem. At the nation level that network extends across a whole country and incudes anyone and everyone who lives there, works there, visits or has an interest in that country. The content challenge therefore must be how you harness that potential and support the effective distribution of great destination content.
Offering that network something to line up against is certainly part of the solution. The destination’s brand defines a point of view around what that destination stands for and a basis for engaging with customers as well as creating the right kind of content. The story that the destination is trying to tell adds further clarity around the type of content to create and when to create it. Finally, and crucially, defining and offering up an appropriate taxonomy around your what your destination has to offer and it’s particular strengths provides a basis for organising your destination’s content. That provides a common language for creating, sharing, relating and distributing content.
Visit Wales have made some good progress in this area and they are working hard around getting the industry, marketing partners and other stakeholders to contribute to the Wales content ecosystem through the better tagging and sharing of great Wales content. They have produced three explainer videos covering the concept, tagging and sharing as well as how you apply the approach to sharing Wales images on flickr. They’re worth a watch. Here’s the first one.
It’s January 31st. The year is in full swing. Last chance to post something on what 2012 will bring! So, here goes.
It is certainly an interesting time for destination marketing and the national, regional and city Destination Marketing Organisation – the ‘DMO’. We have been talking about fundamental and revolutionary change for a while now. The hyper connected economy in which we live means our customers are now truly empowered and we are facing up to the fact that they are getting increasingly turned off by one-way communication. The current economic climate has brought with it austere times in many countries around the world and with that comes cost cutting and spending controls.
There are however plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the opportunities that 2012 brings for digital and destination marketing. Here are five.
There is a real opportunity, through better collaboration, to get what could be a whole country behind creating, sharing and distributing great content about your destination. Imagine that! The potential to leverage a hugely valuable content network to help you achieve your marketing objectives from awareness raising to conversion is indeed a huge one.
We have been saying that this year will be the year of mobile for at least 5 years. This year probably will be! And mobile is intrinsically linked to local search. If you have not done so already your destination marketing strategy needs to consider the opportunities mobile brings and how you develop marketing programmes and platforms to support that.
Integration really is important. Destinations really are thinking about multichannel now and we are even starting to define multichannel roles within the organisations we work in. Those organisations are starting to figure out how to deliver integrated marketing campaigns across multiple channels. Furthermore, words like engagement, participation and sharing are becoming part of every destination marketers vocabulary.
It is finally time to put that campaigns mentality you have been developing for the last 25 years to one side. Yes, your campaigns still have a place but you need to start putting relationships at the heart of those campaigns. An unending dialogue between your destination and the customers that are interested in talking to you.
Focus and prioritise. Probably the biggest challenge you face is time. A list that is far too long for you to have any chance of reaching the bottom of. At its simplest level developing strategy is about making sure the right things are at the top of the list. This presents an opportunity in itself – making the right decisions around where to invest, where to test and what deserves a rest.
Perhaps ironically some of the biggest challenges you are going to face are likely to exist closer to home.
Paradoxically, success in delivering digital is more to do with people than technology. The skills shortage and lack of experience that exists in other areas of digital applies equally to the DMO. Success very much depends on getting the right people in the right jobs – and creating an environment for them to thrive.
The destination’s relationship with the tourism industry is critical. Even smaller tourism businesses are empowered to act like never before and reach out directly to the customers they are targeting. How the destination enables and supports those tourism businesses as well as defines the DMO’s role across awareness, consideration, planning, booking and advocacy will dictate whether the destination creates an effective and collaborative relationship with the industry it is supporting.
And finally, just a little bit of tech. Developing a destination content ecosystem, taking advantage of the opportunity that mobile brings and undertaking useful evaluation and measurement in a truly multichannel environment demands more of your platforms and toolset than ever before. Just like the marketing programmes you are running, success is going to depend on effective integration of different systems and technologies in the pursuit of delivering a seamless customer experience.
We’re developing the web strategy for a new DMO (Destination Marketing Organisation) website. We’re currently looking at segmentation – building out our current approach to segmentation so we have something more granular that supports the development of specific customer personas. Once we’ve defined these groups and fleshed out a clear rationale for going after them we’ll present our approach to key stakeholders.
Getting collective and organisational buy-in around our approach to segmentation and targeting is critical before we move into defining a user experience for each group – mapping out appropriate user journeys and considering the resonant content to meet the needs of each one. Once we have clear picture of the desired user journeys associated with each customer group then, and only then, can we move onto defining detail around the information architecture, content strategy and functionality requirement …
As we’re working through this process I’m mindful of some of the bigger issues facing a DMO. Here’s a recently published presentation from the Manolis Psarros at AbouTourism that looks positively at some of the challenges. It’s well worth taking the time to watch the videos too.
Recently published in it’s third edition and available here we wrote the chapter ‘The digital challenge’. The book asks whether tourism places get the reputations they deserve and discusses brand concepts, challenges and topical cases. It tackles how place perceptions are formed, how cities, regions and countries can enhance their reputations as creative, competitive destinations and the link between competitive identity and strategic tourism development. It goes on to discuss how successful destination management organisations increasingly engage in conversations rather than campaigns and handle controversial questions of authenticity, brand narratives, leadership and authorship, story-telling, aesthetics, ethics and evaluation.
Authored by place brand consultants, destination marketers and academics including Simon Anholt, Philip Kotler, Wally Olins and other leading authorities our chapter ‘The digital challenge’ discusses how digital channels have grown up and how it represents a fundamental and revolutionary change. Customers are getting increasingly turned off by one way dialogue. Customers are now truly empowered and they are taking control of their relationship with brands – they are shaping those brands. We discuss tools, technologies and channels – what’s available and how are they currently being used in the area of travel and tourism. We outline the four key challenges facing destination branding within the context of digital – content, socialisation, integration and measurement. Finally we discuss what this means for destination, travel and tourism brands.
Why not go buy the book … it’s already picking up some good reviews …
Here are the presentation slides for today’s keynote at ENTER 2011 – the international conference on IT in travel and tourism. Big thanks to the keynote team – Jason Ryan from iCrossing and Tom Hall from Lonely Planet.
If branding online is at least in part reputation management destination brands face a number of key challenges – including content, socialisation, integration and measurement. We used to pay particular attention to things like tone of voice, style and design. In our new world we need to pay attention to things like our point of view and the way we behave as brands.
The emotional journey a customer undertakes with a destination brand involves a journey across awareness, engagement, emotional attachment and advocacy. From a marketing point of view the starting point used to be very much awareness. Now we can kick off that journey at the advocacy stage – harnessing the power of those that love us most and help drive awareness.
We drive awareness through seasonal planned activity. Our marketing campaigns. There is now a very real opportunity to amplify existing attention. Be it events big and small or that which you are gaining through social channels. That conversational content can be used to drive both awareness and engagement.
Test and learn is important. Figuring out how to do things – and more importantly how to do them well. Execution is as important as ever. Digital has empowered marketing departments the world over. The relationship with their agency teams is becoming more collaborative and one much less based around them and us. A relationship where everyone is learning by doing.
We still need a unifying idea. That big idea used to be the starting point. Integration used to be about delivering that idea across the full range of channels – traditional and digital. We need to develop models that support proper integration across owned, earned and bought media. One such model might be putting the big idea in the middle of everything and supporting it through targeted engagement initiatives which crowd source content, develop that content and the communities that exist around it. Through the creative use of paid media channels we achieve further amplification around those initiatives and we wrap it in our brand – or our point of view.
If a lot of what we do in the digital space is always on – including PR, social media, search and content development – one of the challenges is how we wrap that around our campaign activity and support it. So not only are we amplifying what we do where engagement is concerned we are using that engagement to support what we are doing across paid media channels. I talked about simple unifying approaches in the previous post Looking at trends. Is digital growing up? Developing a content strategy based on a content calendar might be one of those approaches.
We need to support such activity with a user centric approach to measurement. One that looks beyond traditional campaign metrics and web analytics by evaluating visitor engagement through measuring user behaviors both on-site and across the networks and communities our customers participate. One that focuses on Awareness (Do people know about us?), Actions (What are they doing when they find us?) and Advocacy (how do they feel about us?). A scorecard approach can be used to track an appropriate set of metrics and help deliver always on measurement to support always on marketing.
Visit Wales launched their Proper Holidays campaign this week. In a previous blog post we suggested that it was important that destination brands have a clear point of view online. Wales certainly has a clear point of view about what holidays should and should not be about. Work on your sense of adventure instead of your tan lines.
Check out the two TV ads supporting the campaign and see if you agree.
The story continues online where you can find out more about the Darkes’ family holiday in Wales. It’s worth checking out the Visit Wales blog too. Watch this space – I am sure there is plenty more to come.