By Jennifer Babisak
The award-winning television drama “Mad Men” fed viewers much more than a weekly dose of suspense and eye-candy. Though the focus sometimes drifted more to Don Draper’s sexcapades than his creative mind, the show still gave an intriguing peek into the inner workings of an advertising agency.
The Art of Emotional Appeal
The tourism industry would do well to pay attention to some of the marketing strategies that Sterling Cooper Draper Price employed during the show’s seven seasons. For instance, Don was a master of crafting emotional appeal. “This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine,” he said of a Kodak slide projector, “It’s called a carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels, around and around and back home again to a place where we know we are loved.”
The efficacy of such emotional appeal applies to much more than slide projectors. Emotive appeals work particularly well in the tourism industry, where destinations have spun their wheels with straightforward marketing techniques, targeting consumers’ rational purchasing-power, for far too long.
Vacation Time and Stress-Management
Americans have a track-record of exceedingly poor stress management. In addition to financial and health stressors, the widespread use of smartphones has brought twenty-four hour workplace connectivity and an unending barrage of horrific news headlines. You would think a chronic stressful lifestyle would send employees running for the hills come vacation time. But a recent Harris Interactive survey presented the startling finding that American employees only use 51% of their eligible paid vacation time and paid time off.
Yes, you read that correctly. Chronically stressed employees are leaving vacation time sitting on the shelf. They want vacations, need vacations, and have the means to take vacations. All that lacks is an effective tourism industry appeal, motivating enough to cause Americans to break through their fog of stress and take the action of booking a vacation.
And guess what? Bulleted lists reciting a destination’s most recent million-dollar renovations won’t spur the apathetic consumer to action. What these potential tourists- ripe for the persuading- need is carefully constructed marketing content brimming with emotional appeal.
Emotional Content Standouts
Major destinations are waking up to the value of using emotional appeal in marketing campaigns. Most notably, Las Vegas employed the incredibly successful tagline, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” refining its image as a hedonistic escape from the boundaries of daily life.
And the longest running tourism campaign in history, “Virginia is for Lovers,” began back in 1969. In the ensuing years, Virginia has capitalized on the marketing value of those words- posturing itself as a romantic getaway filled with warmth and charm.
But emotive content goes beyond concise taglines. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau recently launched a campaign to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The CVB sent out an emotionally-charged series of e-mails, thanking travel industry professionals for their coverage of the city and highlighting its advances in the decade since Katrina.
The president of the CVB kicked off the campaign with an e-mail containing this message: , “So as we look back at what happened here 10 years ago, we want to give thanks to all of you who took us in when we had no place to go, helped us tell our story when we had no voice, helped us rebuild our homes and our city from ruin, celebrated our victories, showcased to the world what makes our city so special, and those of you who simply came to be our guests as we put the pieces back together. In the next nine days leading up to the 10th anniversary of Katrina, we will be sending you a short video, showcasing some of the improved aspects of New Orleans.”
Tugs at the heartstrings, right? And it creates, or renews, an emotional attachment to the city, drawing visitors in more than a simple list of “improved aspects” ever could. Note in his message where he thanks writers who “helped us tell our story.” That’s the goal of effective emotionally driven tourism content– telling the unique story of a destination.
Finding the Right Words
So how do you find the magical, emotive words that will lure droves of tourists to your destination? It’s actually a combination of careful research- discovering where your intended audience and your unique offerings intersect- along with meticulously crafted written content:
- Evaluate where your revenue lags. Do you need to boost business during the week or on weekends? During peak times or off-season? Having a concrete goal in mind will help you focus on the proper audience.
- Pinpoint your ideal tourist. Based on your revenue assessment, you should know whether you’re looking to attract more mid-week business travelers, family weekenders, or retired snowbirds. Familiarize yourself with the profile of your intended audience.
- Discover the desires of your audience. What motivates these people to travel? Are they seeking escape, adventure, serenity, or relaxation? Hone in on a specific emotional motivation.
- Review the offerings of your destination, searching for particular experiences that will appeal to your audience’s emotions. You don’t have to highlight your destination’s entire range- specific and well-defined focus on an emotionally appealing experience is in order.
- Carefully craft your content, highlighting your chosen experiences in a fashion likely to appeal to your chosen audience. Take care to tailor your writing style to the vernacular of your audience. Genteel retirees aren’t likely to respond well to copy littered with hipster slang, while millennials magnetize to key-words tailored to their generation.
- Maintain consistency across all modes of communication. Don’t cast your destination in one light on Facebook while presenting a different image in print brochures. Find your identity, articulate it well, and stay true to your message.
Such a strategy holds great potential for payoff. After all, the travel and tourism industry has an annual economic impact of around $6.5 trillion U.S. dollars, worldwide. And a Choice Hotels International survey found that Americans plan to spend 8% more on leisure travel and 5% more per trip in 2015 than they did the previous year.
With carefully-crafted, emotionally-driven content, you can ensure that a good chunk of those $6.5 trillion dollars lands squarely on your destination’s doorstep.
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