The best advice for destinations large and small as they embark upon marketing campaigns — keep it real. The efforts of isolated, iceberg-laden Newfoundland and Labrador is proof that going with the authenticity "floe" can melt the hearts of potential visitors.
Prize-winning marketing campaigns can put distant destinations on the map. In the case of Newfoundland and Labrador, the easternmost province in Canada, “Find Yourself,” an umbrella marketing theme in existence since 2006, has been a launchpad for creative promotions that have won more than 300 domestic and international awards during the past 12 years.
“Find Yourself is about creating an emotional connection. It’s designed to tap into the heart and ultimately the wallets of the people we are going after,” said Dave Sullivan, part of the creative team behind Find Yourself.
Just this year, the province received six awards at the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International’s Adrian Awards. Top prizes went to iceberg tracking website IcebergFinder.com, the Symphony of Sound integrated campaign, and a television spot entitled Conductor.
“Tourism as a travel and trade industry is so globally competitive. Award-winning campaigns making waves around the world [can lead] to success…and a competitive edge,” said Catherine Kelly, director of account management at Target Marketing and Communications, which helped create the campaign.
As we’ve reported previously, isolation is the newest thing in luxury travel. Still, gaining a competitive edge is not easy for a destination called one of the four corners of the earth by the Flat Earth Society, noted Christopher Mitchelmore, Newfoundland and Labrador’s minister of tourism, culture, industry and innovation.
“We face an exceptional challenge because of our location…the most easterly point in North America in the middle of the ocean,” he said. “It takes a determined effort to come here, in terms of distance, time and cost.”
That said, when visitors arrive, they find a destination “as far away from Disneyland as possible. It’s not a contrived destination. We have whales, icebergs, four UNESCO heritage sites, and unique cultures.”
Highlighting the province’s attributes in original ways is key to the success of the award-winning campaigns, and by extension, to tourism growth.
“Our biggest opportunity group is curious people looking for the unexpected and intriguing. We looked at the marketing landscape and found a lot of the work is so similar and linear, covering places to go and things to do. That created a big opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves,” said Sullivan.
“We look at the province’s inherent creativity from a tourism perspective–its people, its culture, its natural landscape.”
Ah, that landscape. Wild, ancient, craggy coastlines filled with icebergs, which are a top travel motivator.
“Every spring, there’s a parade of 10,000-year-old icebergs waltzing along our 18,000 miles of coastline. But visitors need to know where to look for them. Our solution was launching Iceberg Finder. It was a responsive and interactive way to connect people by plotting icebergs on a live interactive map. Visitors could also upload photos. Iceberg Finder became a unique way to help people hear about the experience,” said Sullivan.
In fact, the site was chiefly designed “to facilitate the visitor experience while icebergs are here,” said Kelly. “The publicity was secondary.”
One of the other elements making the province’s experiences sing is sound.
“Experience here is felt through sounds. For example, there are the creaks and groans and fissures of the icebergs, which tell the story of their journey through the North Atlantic,” said Sullivan.
He adds that natural instruments, like the wind and waves crashing against the shore, along with man-made sounds–from music to the voice of storytellers, “demonstrate how we hear things very differently here.”
Thus, Symphony of Sound, an integrated campaign focusing on sound – both man-made and natural. Among the elements is Sounds from the Edge, a website allowing visitors to scroll through radio frequencies of both natural sounds and the region’s 200 dialects. The site includes a Play It by Ear contest. Visitors to the website were asked to build their own soundtrack, based on indigenous sounds. One composer won an all-expenses-paid trip to the province. The integrated campaign also incorporated a literal symphony inspired by natural sound. The symphony serves as the soundtrack of a seven-minute video.
This year, the focus is on storytelling. “The digital prong will be a website campaign page, a space where people can come and travel through the stories that exist here. There’s also a 90-second TV spot in the form of a long-form poem highlighting the oral traditions that exist here. It all goes back to the emotional connection with place and people, and where they can reconnect with themselves,” said Sullivan.
Will the new campaign win more awards? According to Kelly, that’s not really the point. “Awards won is not the measure. Success comes from visitors and spend and awareness and potential for future visits. Specifically, our job as the destination agency is to get it on the radar and create interest and drive visits to the trip-planning tool. We measure interest and intent to visit. The industry then has to convert interest to action.”
Apparently, it’s working. “Tourism spending is at an all-time high. Moreover, there are now 2,800 tourism-related businesses employing 20,000 people (making tourism the largest non-government employer in the province). Every region is seeing a benefit,” said Mitchelmore.
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Photo credit: Icebergs are increasingly a big tourist draw in Newfoundland and Labrador. Explorez / Visual Hunt