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Last year, about 94% of the 94.3 million people who traveled to Florida were repeat visitors, and around 25% of them were coming to see friends and relatives.
Armed with that data, Visit Florida developed three smart and cost-effective promotional campaigns over the last nine months, asking both Florida residents and out-of-state travelers to help promote the destination.
Susannah Costello, VP, global brand for Visit Florida, spoke about those campaigns during the recent EyeforTravel Online Marketing conference in Miami, while offering a deeper dive into the psychology of storytelling in destination marketing.
“Storytelling is a basic human need to create order and meaning out of what we do,” said Costello. “As a brand, it is not the storytelling about us that matters. It is us using our brand to enable our brand advocates and visitors to story tell about themselves. So if you think about what a writer or a photographer or an artist does, they are making someone or something look brighter, better, smarter, funnier, right? Don’t we all want to be funnier? Or the singer on The Voice? That’s what brand advocate storytelling is about.”
Costello then provided the four takeaways she wanted to impart on the audience: Storytelling belongs to a destination’s visitors, not the destination. Integrated cross-platform campaigns achieve higher ROI. There’s a shift in the relative weight of brand labeling. And lastly, the importance of context can’t be overestimated.
Share a Little Sunshine
During winter this year, Visit Florida’s Share a Little Sunshine campaign and #LoveFL hashtag promoted the tagline: “In Florida, we don’t have winter. We have bragging season.” Florida always markets itself heavily in the northeast U.S. during the coldest time of the year, but this time a bunch of Florida residents were lending a hand.
Floridians simply went to the Share a Little Sunshine portal to choose one of a handful of fun postcard graphics, with content such as a tall Mai Tai with the caption: “The only ice I’m dealing with is in this glass.” Then they wrote a brief message inviting any email recipient to come down and visit them.
The email arrives as a Visit Florida-branded envelope with a palm tree postage stamp and the words “View Invitation” below the sender’s name, which is linked to the sender’s message on the Share a Little Sunshine page.
Since September, the campaign earned 167 million impressions and an average of 10,000 #LoveFL mentions per month. The website clocked 5:13 minutes average time-on-site and over 58,000 visits.
“It really helps to have a very very cold winter up north when you’re marketing Florida,” joked Costello. “That speaks to my point about context. If you’re going to create something that allows your consumers or visitors to be smarter, brighter, better, it has to speak to the context they find themselves in.”
La Voz Kids
La Voz Kids is a Hispanic television show for children based on the success of The Voice reality show in America. Visit Florida partnered with one of last year’s runner-ups, Alanis Sophia, who lives in Florida.
Costello mentioned two things first: It’s a lot less expensive to partner with a runner-up than a final winner of any reality show, and this kind of campaign works great with mommy bloggers.
The strategy leveraged Sophia’s celebrity to connect with Hispanic children by showing them the celebrity’s love for her home state. In the video spot above, she sings “Mi Sol Es Tu Sol” (My sun is your sun).
Visit Florida promoted Sophia as a Florida ambassador across a whole spectrum of media platforms, and the young star also shared these spots on her own media channels.
Costello explained that it’s not just about digital when it comes to multi-channel campaigns.
“We look at digital as the core potentiating element for consumer engagement, but we use paid media to drive around it, and we push out on our own channels as well,” she explained. “Everything, of course, beginning with what’s in it for that consumer. So what do people want? They want their children to be that voice.”
Costello then pointed out how the VisitFlorida.com logo only appears for a couple seconds at the end of the media placement.
“We do not want our brand to get in the way of a young girl and her mother fantasizing about that music,” she said. “So we want every young woman who saw that and downloaded it—we made it available for download—to be thinking that she is singing ‘Come to my Florida.'”
Visit Florida launched its latest summer campaign last month in partnership with actor Daniel Stern, who provided voiceovers for 15 different scripts themed around the idea that parents always “Say yes” when they’re vacationing in Florida.
Yes to theme park rides, yes to ice cream, yes to sandcastle building, yes to princess makeovers, etc. The tagline: “Florida makes grown ups fun.”
Parents and their kids go to Visit Florida’s Floridagrams landing page to upload five photos from their vacation and then match it to one of Stern’s 15 voiceovers. This is so simple to create and the engagement with kids is impressive because the final downloadable slideshow is easily shareable among kids and their peers.
“It’s about our visitors and what makes them better, brighter, funnier and smarter,” summed up Costello. “The idea, relatively simple, is let’s make our visitors’ family stories blockbuster hits. That’s what this is all about.”
During the Q&A session afterward, Costello shared some insight from visitor surveys about the measurable impact of destination brand storytelling and content marketing.
“We have a third-party [company] survey visitors about what they have seen from Visit Florida in the course of the year, and that is now at 38%,” she said. “So that means, of the people who come to Florida, 38% of them have been influenced by Visit Florida marketing or social or branded content.”