Skift Take

Tourism bureaus like Visit Seattle have an opportunity to attract a new user base with episodic video-content campaigns and video testimonials. Deciding that is the easy part. Funding is a little more challenging. The hardest part is correct place branding and then muzzling the marketers so the real content people can do their thing.

Visit Seattle launched a VisitSeattle.TV video channel with two different content campaigns, including 10 somewhat contrived first-time visitor testimonials and a cool music series partnership with Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Revolt TV.

This new video marketing initiative is an expansion on the popular 2 Days In Seattle lifestyle content campaign that launched in 2012 to promote local small businesses. That standalone site tracked the social media posts of cultural influencers tagged on a Google Map of Seattle, categorized by Visit Seattle’s core content pillars: arts, culture, food/wine, music and outdoor activities.

Moving forward, the overall purpose of VisitSeattle.TV is specifically designed to drive leisure room-night stays in the November through April off-season. The funding comes from an ancillary Tourism Investment District self-assessment fee created and paid for by 54 downtown Seattle hotels.

“We felt this was the perfect time to move into a little more content generation to allow consumers to dig deeper and get a different experience about our city,” says Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of Visit Seattle. “We’re fortunate that we have a group of hotels that support that and have enabled us to reposition and move forward differently.”

The tourism bureau is doing everything right in terms of the strategy behind its content programming and online delivery. It’s doing everything right in terms of rallying the hotels to create the TID fee to fund the strategy. Most of all, offers one of the country’s best-designed user experiences for a tourism bureau website. It’s easy to intuitively navigate in today’s destination marketing world drowning in a murky sea of creaky, complicated and downright crappy online platforms.

However, and maybe we’re splitting hairs here, but Seattle feels like it’s lost a bit of its edge. For those of us around at the time, the Seattle music scene in the 1980s and 90s changed music and American pop culture forever thanks to bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and many others. They helped propel the reurbanization of American cities. Kurt Cobain and Co. almost singlehandedly destroyed the idyll of suburban USA in the psyche of young white Americans.

Time has moved on, of course, but you don’t feel that authentic, unvarnished urban mojo in the new video content, especially the testimonials. You don’t feel an all-out embrace of the authentic spirit that defines Seattle’s unique urban energy and source of identity, like you find in Nashville, Austin, Brooklyn, Miami, Portland and San Francisco, which everyone seems to be talking about these days.

Seattle belongs in that group. But somewhere along the line, much like Starbucks and Amazon based in the city, what once epitomized cool and anti-establishment now feels like the very corporate overlord culture that these companies once brayed at many years ago.

Seattle First Takes

Starting with the testimonials, the “Seattle First Takes” video series profiles eight people in 10 videos taking about their first impressions of Seattle and how their experiences shaped their opinion of the city’s different neighborhoods.

The people chosen were sourced among the networks of friends working at the bureau and agency. They were then invited as guests to Seattle to explore specific districts, such as Golden Garden Park on the shores of Puget Sound, before they were polished up for their short video productions.

Hilletje, for example, is a concert violinist from South Africa who talks about feeling the sand between her toes during a bonfire on Golden Garden’s beach while she’s playing a violin at sunset barefoot.

There’s value in showing such ethereal moments when promoting authentic local travel experiences. However, the narrative feels overly scripted throughout all of the videos, almost like the people are paid actors. Also, the consistent black background at the beginning of each video adds to the corporate, commercialized delivery.

That runs counter to content marketing today because the videos feel like commercials. There’s no doubt that these are really nice commercials, but with the Hilletje beach video, for example, it’s almost like you’re waiting for a shot of a Volkswagen with surfboard racks to appear at the ending.

Likewise, Anthony is a social media consultant from Brooklyn who waxes a little too poetically about whiskey tasting at the Freemont Mischief distillery on Canal Street. Alsidneio is an electrical engineer from Oakland who giggles a little too much while talking about listening to marching bands before football games. Both feel fake.

None of these feel especially unique to Seattle. While the overall production value is professional, the messaging straddles too many directives from too many marketers. Marketers need to be kept on a very short leash with native content, but someone let the dogs out and the final results feel like they’re trying a bit too hard to sell something you could find anywhere.

To be clear, these videos are still better than 90% of anything else out there on domestic tourism bureau websites. They could have been great, however, with a little more old school 80s Seattle infused in there somewhere. As it is, everything with First Takes is a little too glossy and overproduced to resonate with travelers on an emotional level in 2015.

Sounds By The Sound

Visit Seattle and Revolt TV are launching the first video in the episodic “Sounds By The Sound” music series on Friday. The one introductory trailer above is the only thing we have to go on so far, hosted by local DJ Andy Harms. This could be good. Harms’ personality is infectious on the screen and the subject premise is a safe bet. Harms hangs out with emerging bands in non-traditional music venues, or no music venues at all, to showcase different neighborhoods around town.

“What attracted our hoteliers to this as well, we can move this production around the city,” says Norwalk. “We can highlight cultural partners, iconic venues, and also places that are kind off the radar a bit, and make those really come alive through this series. I think some of the hotels may be featured, but this is a great way to show a much deeper look at life in Seattle.”

Again, like the testimonial series, this all drives time onsite and shareability on social. Judging from the intro video, the overall delivery is fun and grabby because the content plays well off Seattle’s musicians. The potential could be through the roof because there’s so much material to work with while showcasing Seattle’s urban groove beyond Pike Place Market and EMP Museum.

Hopefully all of the bands featured in Sounds By The Sound won’t be twentysomethings bubbling about how much they like hip hop while hanging out at a football stadium. There needs to be a variety of talent here, like Nashville did with its soaring For The Love of Music.

Surely there’s a handful of old-timer band members around Seattle who remember those angry days when Death Cab For Cutie filled The Crocodile. Harms should hang with them, preferably not in a football field or on a beach. He should ask how they think Seattle music in the early 1990s rearranged the national conversation around the American dream. We’ll tune in for that.


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Tags: marketing, seattle, tourism

Photo credit: The Flavr Blue is the first band profiled on VisitSeattle.TV's new "Sounds By The Sound" video series. Visit Seattle

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