Month: March 2018

StrategyStrategy planning & execution

The World Bank builds country ownership in the National Tourism Strategy of Georgia

Tourism strategic planning is a comprehensive process for determining what a business or destination should become and the steps needed to achieve that goal. Many times when consultants are hired to create a strategic plan, the plan is at risk of remaining on the shelf and never being fully implemented. Why? Because those most affected by the tourism development plan may not have been fully integrated into the development of the strategy, and may not agree with the ideas. This is an ongoing issue the tourism industry faces, and a difficult one in which to find a solution.

The World Bank and the Georgia National Tourism Administration (GNTA) recognized this problem in the past. As part of the solution, they decided to develop a tourism strategy for the Caucasus nation. The consultants were asked not to lead the development of the strategy, but rather facilitate and guide the GNTA through the strategy development process to ensure it was collaborative and comprehensive as possible.

Between the years 2009 and 2013, Georgia’s international tourism arrivals grew over 300%. This was largely in part to its envious location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as increasing amounts of exposure in international press as a unique, exciting destination. Georgia is the birth place of wine, has an exquisite culinary tradition, a rich early Christian history, and an abundance of natural assets – including 7 national parks. These attributes – if developed practically – demonstrate a significant strength to the country’s tourism sector within the high-value European marketplace, while improving the industry’s ability to contribute economically.

To keep pace with the increasing demand for tourism in Georgia, additional financing for private and public investments will be necessary. “The joint World Bank and IFC collaboration [in Georgia] focuses on fostering entrepreneurship and access to finance, improving the investment climate, and developing Georgia’s tourism strategy that will determine how to improve the sector’s performance, align implementation priorities and enable job growth.” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus.

Georgia’s tourism development approach has generally been focused on regional advancements rather than a cohesive national-level plan. However, to maximize tourism’s national impact, a national strategy is required that takes into consideration large scale infrastructure and marketing activities that cannot be achieved by the regions alone.

 “The tourism sector currently provides nearly 20 percent of export earnings. The national tourism development strategy is, therefore, an instrument to take full advantage of Georgia’s potential and position it globally as a rich, diversified and high quality destination.” Ahmed Eiweida, Program Leader for Sustainable Development Programs in the South Caucasus.

Where is the Georgia National Tourism Administration now?

With the support of the World Bank, the GNTA produced a 2025 strategic plan that articulates the country’s current position, its vision for the future, and the key activities required in order to get there.
To build buy-in for the strategy, the GNTA led regional workshops, communicated with inter-government committees, issued press events and integrated action plans from other tourism-related sectors. The final document describes how the GNTA and its partners will deliver creative marketing to attract to higher income markets and statistical projections on how the GNTA will achieve a minimum of 5% growth rate over the next 10 years.

Where does Georgia National Tourism want to be in 2025?

The GNTA envisions the country as a premier, year-round, high quality tourism destination – a destination centered on its unique cultural and natural heritage, its world-class customer service, and timeless tradition of hospitality. The GNTA will be at the forefront of tourism competitiveness, through strategic investments in infrastructure, education, marketing, and the development of unique Georgian visitor experiences that appeal to high-value markets around the globe.

How does the GNTA lead the tourism industry to reach it’s vision?

Extensive stakeholder consultation resulted in the identification of 50 priority actions that have been grouped around the following 8 strategic objectives.

1.Respect, enhance, and protect Georgia’s natural and cultural heritage
2. Create unique and authentic visitor experiences centered on those natural and cultural assets
3. Enhance competitiveness, through delivery of world-class visitor services
4. Attract higher spending markets, through increased and more effective marketing and promotion
5. Expand and enhance Georgia’s ability to collect and analyze tourism data and measure industry performance
6. Enhance the business environment, to facilitate increased foreign and domestic investment
7. Expand public and private sector investment in the tourism sector
8. Build partnerships between government, industry, non-governmental organizations, and communities that will be needed to achieve all of the above

What will the challenges be?

Even though the GNTA has completed their strategic plan and found positive monetary incentive to start implementation; the national and regional tourism stakeholders must work as a team to have success. And most importantly, the 2025 strategic plan will only be effective if the GNTA continues to be committed and take ownership of this visionary strategic plan.

This blog post is from  www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Destination%20Assessment

Marketing 3.0StrategyTourism marketing

How to Avoid Being Anytown, USA Part 4

This article is written by Bill Baker, Chief Strategist at Total Destination Marketing, author, speaker, and blogger at “Small City Branding around the world”

Firstly, there is no one action or magic bullet that can save places from the Anytown, USA sameness trap. However, one thing is certain, and that is that it will take leadership and a holistic approach involving many local organizations, along with the support of residents. Among the considerations are:

  1. A clear vision that crystallizes the city’s competitive advantage and distinctive strengths.
  2. A brand strategy that embraces competitive positioning and is aligned with the vision. It should provide the guidance for compelling communications and delivering the city’s distinctive identity.
  3. A focus on what’s authentic and organic about the city.
  4. Develop a long-term tourism strategy that embraces Geotourism principles to focus on what sustains or enhances the character of the place – its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.
  5. Don’t settle for cookie-cutter designs and every development that is offered to the city.
  6. Identify, preserve and present the city’s heritage and stories. Tell the story in engaging ways for locals, as well as visitors.
  7. Invest in the city’s aesthetics and gathering places because these are focal points for both locals and visitors.
  8. Introduce development guidelines for buildings and signage that enhance heritage, streetscapes and viewing corridors.
  9. Urge hoteliers, restaurateurs and retailers to enhance the appeal of the community by developing sites that are sensitive to local heritage, materials and style.
  10. Protect and enhance community gateways and viewing corridors to provide a distinctive sense of welcome.
  11. Restrict or eliminate billboards because they can strip away scenic beauty and a community’s distinctive character faster than other factors.
  12. Encourage the development of experiences that provide opportunities to encounter the city’s authentic cultural and natural environment.
  13. Encourage residents, business, developers, and all relevant government departments to respect the city’s heritage and environmental context when considering new developments and restoration.
  14. Build community pride and ownership in what is distinctive and special about the city.

If a city is not clearly differentiated or remains in the shadow of its competitors, it will always be seen as a pale alternative, and proving that it is different, relevant and adds value will become increasingly difficult. The rewards for small cities that break out of the Anytown Syndrome are considerable. There are great opportunities for leaders to offer citizens a vision and policies that will retain and develop their city’s distinctive character and take the road away from being another Anytown.

Those that take the route away from Anytown status are rewarded with increased income, investment, talented new residents and a great place to live.

This post is from http://citybranding.typepad.com/

Marketing 3.0Tourism marketing

Amplify Your Roar: Leverage Social Media to Market Your Destination

In this generation, social media is more important than ever, especially for tourism marketing. People are spending over four times more time on Facebook than Google – today there are about 1.3 billion people on Facebook. Is Facebook really useful for businesses? Let this number convince you – 52% of businesses have acquired customers through Facebook. That’s a lot of potential for the tourism industry.

Needless to say, social media can be your destination’s magic megaphone. But do you know how to use it well? Here are some questions to ask yourself as you endeavor to amplify your roar.

Are You Connecting With People? No, Really Connecting?

A billboard does not listen. People listen. This is where social media differs from traditional marketing- as you can (and should) be interacting with your audience directly. Ask questions. Make it interactive. Reply to comments.

Another exciting thing about social media marketing is the way in which even one individual’s Likes, Shares, Comments, Tweets, Friends, or Tags are able to increase your visibility, diverting more and more eyes to you.

Are You Developing the Right Content?

60% of the sales process is over before a prospective buyer ever talks to a salesman or begins the process. What does that mean? It means that almost every single visitor will make a majority of their decision through online research before anything else. You want to create content that supports them in that online research phase.

So be sure to evaluate your content. Have you thought about keywords? How is the quality of your images? Are you providing a diverse enough array of multimedia content? What are you offering and are you communicating it in an appealing way? These are important thoughts to take into consideration.

Are You On the Right Platform?

It is also important to know where to roar.  Find out who your target audience is, and where they spend their time in the online world. They could be on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, or maybe even all of the above. There is more to social media than Facebook and one of the best ways to amplify your roar is to increase your reach through these different, targeted social media platforms.

Are You Showcasing Personality?

Social media also offers you a unique opportunity to be human. Nobody wants to talk to a salesman who is constantly pitching; they want to build relationships with real people. The same principle applies when it comes to creating brand loyalty, trust and eventually sales. Don’t be afraid to show a little bit of humor and personality in your social media marketing strategy. Be relevant, not robotic. If visitors to your social media site are having fun, they will want to have fun at your actual physical site too.

What Does Your Unique Roar Sound Like?

Every destination, including yours, has something unique to offer. So there’s no need to spend all your time trying to imitate somebody else’s roar.

A destination assessment can go a long way in identifying your hidden gems and how to best conserve them. Many destinations have a diverse array of brilliant tourism products which have been overlooked. You want to be able to spot these with destination assessments and to also tailor social media marketing strategies to showcasing your best colors. Some projects in Rwanda, Namibia and the U.S. Gulf Coast, for example, have been integral in doing that: maximizing an active audience of followers, generating stunning branding content and increasing revenue by presenting destinations at the very peak of their potential.

With unlimited online space, the opportunities to multiply your untapped audience are limitless. Take the right steps with social media and you could have the loudest roar of all.

This blog post is from www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Destination%20Assessment

StrategyTourism marketing

How to Avoid Being Anytown, USA: Part Three

This article is written by Bill Baker, Chief Strategist at Total Destination Marketing, author, speaker, and blogger at “Small City Branding around the world”.

There are many reasons why even well-meaning cities can end up being bland and uninteresting. The most common causes are that they lack bold vision, belief in themselves and don’t have a focus on their distinctive points of difference. On many occasions it’s because they try to be all things to all people and lack the will to stand for one thing around which they can build a competitive advantage. They may also be neglecting their natural, heritage or cultural assets. To get beyond this state takes vision, some good old-fashioned guts and stop trying to please and appease local interest groups.

Great place brands thrive when there is a touch of tension derived from making a stand around a singular brand concept that resonates strongly with customers and that competitors can’t easily match. It may sound simple, but achieving this takes courage, leadership and imagination – and a great amount of selfless teamwork.

Dare to be Different

To avoid the Anytown, USA syndrome a city cannot present itself as all things to all people, or claim that they “have it all” or are “the center of it all”. These platitudes simply dilute any competitive edge and the city ends standing for nothing and being a weak imitation of other places.

We rarely conduct a Brand Retreat or focus group for a community when someone doesn’t say, “This is the best place to live, work and play”. Further, many residents advocate that it should be the city tagline.

While researching for “Destination Branding for Small Cities” I Googled the term, “a great place to live, work and play” and variations thereof. I found over 4 million results. So if you are considering joining the masses in building a community brand based on being “a great place to live, work and play”, you have simply identified an entry level ticket to play the game. There are tens of thousands of places in the USA and even more around the world that can match that claim. You simply have to dig deeper to uncover the heart and soul of your city and what will help it stand out and be valued.

It is easy for residents to overlook the appearance of their streets, the absence of trees, the poor lighting, trash and bad signage that may have evolved over the years. Visitors, however, are much less forgiving. When attention has been paid to the aesthetics of a place, including preserving or enhancing its natural qualities and environments, the city gains the reputation as a “special place” or a “fun place to hangout”, and this goes a long way toward supporting its brand identity.

City Image Boosts Economic Development

Tourism is now one of the key drivers of the American economy. It’s a leading employer in communities across the country, and a highly efficient revenue generator for state and local governments. States and cities are increasingly treating their travel promotion budgets like strategic investments that will be rewarded with more visitors, more jobs and higher tax revenues. But gaining these rewards means not being seen as Anytown, USA.

When city leaders recognize that there is a direct link between their city’s image and reputation and its attractiveness as a place to visit, live, and invest it is off to a good start. If a city isn’t attracting more income, talented people, new residents and investment then it is slowly dying.

A 2015 landmark study by Oxford Economics analyzed the tourism performance of more than 200 U.S. cities over 23 years and found widespread economic benefits from those actively promoting tourism. The study clearly showed a direct link between marketing expenditure of destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and long-term economic growth.

This post is from http://citybranding.typepad.com/

Marketing 3.0StrategyTourism marketing

How to Avoid Being Anytown, USA: Part Two

This article is written by Bill Baker, Chief Strategist at Total Destination Marketing, author, speaker, and blogger at “Small City Branding around the world”.

We are living in the most competitive time in history, where cities of all sizes find themselves competing more fiercely for relevance, respect and reputation. In the USA alone there are approximately 20,000 incorporated cities, 3,400 counties, and myriad downtowns and suburbs clamoring for attention. Many are trying to compete with an image that is out of date, bland or inaccurate. These images, whether accurate or not are the reality for people who may be searching for a place to visit, live, or invest.

The biggest challenge facing many places is taking control of their identity and reputation which may have been unmanaged for a long time. Without a clear vision or a place branding strategy, a city may bounce from one set of messages to another without considering what the place should be known for.

Place branding involves much more than a new logo and snappy slogan. It should provide a framework and toolkit for differentiating, communicating and focusing the location’s competitive and distinctive identity.  It must be grounded in truth and reality, and not wishful thinking and hype. This means that what cities are promising must be met or exceeded when people are actually experiencing the place. Ambitious places wanting to avoid being Anytown, USA should first resolve a few basic questions:

  1. What do we want to be known for?
  2. How can we stand out from the crowd and be more competitive?
  3. What thoughts and feelings do we want to come to mind when people are exposed to our name?
  4. How can we build and preserve our heritage and authenticity?

Great Leaders Lead to Great Places

Many communities are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to proactively shape and influence what the world thinks of them and not allow inaction, the media or competitors to define who they are. They must resist developers and corporations far removed from their communities who would like to plant their cookie cutter designs and architecture in their towns. An important starting point is for city leaders to recognize that there is a direct link between the city’s distinctive image, respect and reputation and its attractiveness as a place to visit, live, invest, and study.

An even greater realization for some is that inaction is not a viable option if they genuinely want to display their distinctive character and improve local prosperity. Unfortunately, while many cities and regions are attempting to avoid Anytown USA status, many simply settle for cookie cutter architecture, a new logo and new design for their website.  They totally miss the transformative power of differentiation through branding.

This post is from http://citybranding.typepad.com/

StrategyTourism marketing

The Basics of Integrated Marketing Programs

An integrated marketing program in the travel trade is a comprehensive marketing solution specifically designed to ensure that all messaging and communications are unified across all channels and strategically focused to attract the customer- travelers.

It is a concept based on the principles of inbound marketing: providing valuable content to highly targeted consumers, which attracts and engages them, moving them down the funnel towards buying your services, product or in our case- a destination. This way, businesses and destinations spend their valuable resources in the most productive way, and consumers are delighted by content relevant to their interests.

There are seven essential steps to creating a great integrated marketing program. Through these steps, your business will be able to develop and maintain a simple yet productive integrated marketing campaign. They are:

  1. Marketing Strategy – After a thorough analysis of the business or destination’s features and attraction, an integrated marketing strategy must be developed. The strategy will serve as a road map for the implementation of an integrated marketing program—and should be tailored to your product’s needs. The strategy should integrate social media, search engine optimization, blogging, content and lead nurturing, public relations and trade relations.
  2. Brand Analysis – Prior to implementing any integrated campaigns, a specific brand or logo should be developed in order to improve your look and focus your message.
  3. Website and Content Development – Once a consumer finds your website, the goal is to make it so captivating that they want to stay on the site, engage in your content, and share it with others. To do this, both content and a schedule for posting it should be generated.
  4. Social Media Strategy and Blogging – Social media gives you a place to talk to your consumers before they travel, while they travel, and after they have returned. This includes social networks, blogs, micro-blogging sites, and third party sites. It is important to determine the best channels to use for your target markets, and what content to post.
  5. Creative Campaigns – With all pieces of your marketing foundation in place, now is the time to develop and implement creative campaigns and sweepstakes designed to draw visitors to both your site and social media platforms, while synchronizing your marketing message and brand value for maximum effectiveness.
  6. PR/Media Outreach Strategy – In creating a PR/Media strategy, it is important to employ simple but effective monitoring tools to allow you to identify influencers in your market. Then you can “listen” to the conversations taking place online, join ongoing conversations, build trust, and demonstrate expertise. It is critical to develop a database of contacts and design effective outreach campaigns to reach local and national media, relevant bloggers, guidebooks, and sales intermediaries.
  7. Trade Distribution Strategy – If you work with business to business (B2B) sales, it is most effective to take your relationships online by developing a dynamic database that tracks all communication with trade partners; from the initial email/call, to in-person meetings at trade shows, and shares on social media sites by each partner. Having a detailed record of your communication history with your partners helps you strengthen your business relationships.

In sum, integrated marketing programs provide an effective and streamlined solution to marketing, which is thus more productive for both the businesses and the consumers. They create a pleasant marketing/consumption experience, ultimately leading to more concrete results for businesses.

This blog post is from www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Integrated%20Marketing%20Program

StrategyTourism marketing

How to Avoid Being Anytown, USA – Part 1

This article is written by Bill Baker, Chief Strategist at Total Destination Marketing, author, speaker, and blogger at “Small City Branding around the world”.

Last summer I was relaxing in a small park in downtown Anchorage AK and watching a musical performance by local kids. I was immediately taken by the peaceful atmosphere, hometown feel and the distinctive precinct that surrounded the park with rows of independent businesses and traditional streetscapes. Crowds of visitors and locals alike were enjoying a sunny afternoon (yes, it was Alaska!) in an area that had not lost its soul to the sameness that shapes so many small cities today.

Many have lost their battle to cookie-cutter architecture and present an over-abundance of national franchises which give way to a blandness and homogeneity that lacks any distinctive character. Then there are the look-alike strip malls, car dealerships, and doppelgänger sub-divisions and suburbs that greet us as we approach many cities. Too many times it’s the result of unimaginative leaders and outside developers imposing their cloned thumbprint on the character of a place.

The downtown precinct in Anchorage was an unexpected contrast to many places I have visited in recent years. While places like Carmel IN, Galena IL and Fairfield IA have retained much of their independent character, local identity and distinctive sense of place, hosts of others have lost theirs.

Some cities are gaining bland Anytown, USA status long before people travel there. An online search quickly reveals many places that are not putting their best foot forward in an effort to stand apart but are relying on attributes that are common to thousands of other cities. If small cities and towns in Southern Michigan look and feel much like cities and towns in Northern Michigan, why would anyone spend the time and money to go there?

It’s Easy to be Anytown, USA

Ed McMahon, who holds the Charles E. Fraser Chair in Sustainable Development at the Urban Land Institute, first coined the term, “Anyplace, USA” in a 1997 article. He captured the city sameness sentiment when he said, “Today, if you were suddenly dropped along a road outside of most American cities, you wouldn’t have the slightest idea where you were because it all looks exactly the same. Over the past 50 years too many of our townscapes have gone from the unique to the uniform and from the stylized to the standardized.”

And as McMahon points out, this sameness can extend to just about every new bridge which is constructed using a Jersey barrier to facilitate the economical and fast movement of traffic, at the expense of everything else.

We can detect the degree to which a city is Anytown, USA through:

– Communications promoting the city, such as brochures, advertising, websites, social, etc.

– Interactions with residents and businesses

– The journey to the place and its setting

– The sense of arrival in the location

– Time spent in the place as a visitor or resident

– Music, movies, stories and books depicting the city

It’s not enough to simply say your town is different and special in some way, or that it’s the perfect choice for a visit. Your reality must match the promise you have made in brochures and advertising whether trying to attract visitors, new residents or investors. If the place isn’t distinctive or doesn’t measure-up they will quickly tell the world via social media – and you will be left floundering with thousands of other clone towns.

This post is from  http://citybranding.typepad.com/

Environmental sustainabilitySustainability

Tourism’s Important Role in Conservation Projects

Conservation projects are currently taking the world by storm due to greater awareness and the unstoppable growth of global tourism. Did you know that tourism is one of the planet’s biggest industries and one of the largest drivers of economic growth all over the world? You may be surprised to learn that tourism is also one of the biggest driving forces of conservation efforts – spurred by the sheer volume of travelers circulating the globe and visiting sensitive natural areas. Conservation programs are being put into place to capitalize on tourism’s economic promise to ensure that natural resources endure for years to come.

What is Conservation?

First, let’s take a moment to define what conservation is. Conservation is the act of preserving or protecting the environment, natural resources, and biodiversity. Oftentimes, we see locations with underdeveloped economies struggle with conservation because resources are limited. An unwitting local population may sometimes exploit the natural areas and wildlife populations in order to make ends meet. It’s an understandable scenario, but with dangerous consequences to the long-term viability of ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.

Tourism is a solution, not the problem.

How does tourism tie into this, you ask? Well, tourism, when planned accordingly, can actually help developing economies by preserving the resources that communities rely on, rather than depleting them. Tourism generates economic growth by creating sustainable, non-consumptive means of income for the community such as tours. When done correctly, tourism can entice conscious travelers to visit, who in turn bring cash to communities. Tourism also has the benefit of unifying community stakeholders around a common goal with tangible outcomes.

Let’s take a look at some examples.

In many African nations, biodiversity conservation has always been important. In Namibia, we see the effects poaching can have on decreasing the populations of big game animals, like lions, elephants, and rhinos. Of the 1,750 black rhinos that live in Namibia, about 120 were killed in 2014 alone. Local communities have historically felt the need to hunt and kill these animals either for food, or because they believe the animals are destroying their own precious resources, like their grass-filled land, or preying on their livestock. Eventually, though, if populations continue using these endangered species for food, these animals will go extinct, and so will the communities’ food source. Additionally, the illegal export of rare animals to the black market in other areas is a brutal detriment to communities

What tourism has the power to do is reverse the view that wildlife is a threat and demonstrate that there is an economic value to conservation. Instead of viewing lions and rhinos as a danger to their homes, or the pangolin as a wealth-inducing export, Namibians can let these animals provide for them. People across the world are willing to travel great distances and pay significant amounts of money to see these great creatures. For example, along with continued North American and European travelers, Chinese visitors to African safaris will grow to about 180,000 by 2017. Increased interest has developed in India as well. And as the world becomes ever more connected, through the power of the internet, tourism and a desire to visit these unique locations will only continue to grow. By investing in the conservation of preserving its wildlife, Namibia is ensuring that travelers (and their money) will continue to flow into the country for years to come.

The documentary Virunga, has brought attention to the endangered mountain gorillas residing in the Virunga Mountain Region. On the border of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Republic of Congo, the mountains are the only place on earth where you can find these magnificent primates. As the documentary highlights, oil drilling has posed an imminent threat to the lives of these endangered gorillas. However, oil is a limited resource, whereas investing in tourism will attract visitors – and funding – for generations to come.

Saving the sea turtles is another great example of how conservation not only benefits wildlife, but the entire world. A sea turtle is worth way more alive to us, than dead. Sea turtles help control the growth of sea grass beds on the ocean floor, which are breeding grounds for many species of fish and crustaceans. Without sea turtles, we would see an incredible decrease in sea grass beds, leading to a decline in the other species who depend on it for their survival. Not only do sea turtles help the marine ecosystem, but they also help recycle nutrients from the water to the land when they lay their eggs along beaches every summer. Without sea turtle eggs, our beaches’ ecosystems would be harmed, sand dunes would erode, and we can say goodbye to the precious, pristine beaches we enjoy today.

To do any of the above, conservation is of the utmost importance. Tourism can help ensure sustainable income for the future.

While tourism and conservation make an excellent duo, there are many challenges to overcome predisposed ideas of economic growth in countries where poverty and corruption run rampant. With the right methods and planning, tourism can help preserve beautiful locations, like the Virunga Mountains and Namibia, for generations to come.

 This blog post is from   www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Conservation

Marketing 3.0storytellingTourism marketing

Storytelling: What Makes a Good Story?

Storytelling is the future of digital marketing, plain and simple. If you aren’t on board yet, you are living in the past and each day you are “advertising” your products instead of “storytelling” about your business is another day your competitors are getting ahead of you. But before we jump into some ideas about what makes a good story, let’s look at the evolving digital marketer.

Yesterday’s Digital Marketer

You’ve all met this person. Heck, this terrible stereotype may even be you. But yesterday’s digital marketer is all about checkboxes. They have a list of channels: web, Facebook, Twitter, mobile app. They see these channels are just another mechanism through which to broadcast their message. Even though digital channels include technologies to enable engagement, they are still practicing old school marketing methods. They are still advertising. They focus on trying to sell a product which is like driving through mud: just when the think they have traction (and customers get the messaging), they have to start again (with a new product) or change it up (to keep from getting stale) and before they know it, they are spinning their wheels again in a new puddle. Maybe it’s a perfect strategy to justify a cushy existence.

But as digital marketing (and the customer) continue to evolve, it’s clear that this is a dying approach.

Today’s Digital Marketer (aka, God of Engagement)

These people are still hard to find but when you do, you know it almost immediately. They don’t have checklists. They have numbers that tell them the effectiveness of their efforts, numbers that speak about depth of engagement, metrics that illustrate the impact of their marketing effort. And they aren’t telling customers about their product. They are using different channels to create an emotional connection between customers and their brand so that when they need to launch a new product or change its messaging, it’s not like trying to roll that rock uphill because they’ve already done the REALLY hard work: creating the connection between the customer and what’s really important.

How do they do this? Through storytelling.

What is Storytelling?

We aren’t talking about War and Peace. We are talking about the kinds of stories that businesses are beginning to tell, the kinds of stories that engage with customers and create real, emotional connection, the kinds of stories through which businesses engage with customers as they move through the narrative arc. Look at Coca-Cola’s new website: Coca-Cola Journeys (we will be examining this story in-depth in a future post of this series). Their story is about stories of people using their products, or impacted by Coca-Cola’s brand, or affected by some other aspect of the company. Coca-cola is telling their customers that they are a facilitator, an enabler. They are crafting stories with narration across channels.

Digital storytelling isn’t reading Dr. Seuss to your customers. And although it may be, it’s not necessarily about characters and plots. But it is about a situation in which someone uses the product to cause some result. That’s a narrative arc:

  • Exposition/Set-up. Where the action is going to take place.
  • Rising Action. Characters in the story finding the product and putting it to use to solve a problem.
  • Solving the problem with the product.
  • Falling Action. Mopping up the action. Everything calming down.
  • The result of the climax. What happened to the characters now that they solved the problem using the product?

It has been written in other posts that Storytelling is critical to digital marketers as a crucial method to create differentiation in an increasingly competitive global, digital market.

So What Makes Good Storytelling?

First, this isn’t a critique on narrative conventions or stage directions. The points below are salient action items for today’s digital marketer to ensure a visceral, emotional connection between customer and company. Second, there’s probably a lot of discussion to be had about this list. We may have left off items that seem obvious (or about which you believe strongly). We may have included items that you think are frivolous. Regardless, let’s just agree that there is a general list and agree-to-disagree that ours might not be the gospel.

  • Narrative arc. In order to create emotional connection, the story has to have an arc. That arc could be split across channels. It could be split across campaigns. Doesn’t matter. But research is showing that the brain responds chemically (i.e., generates emotional connection) when the story follows a traditional arc.
  • About company, not product. It is far more effective (long-term) for stories to somehow relate the company position and its ethos rather than focus on a product. Not only does this differentiate (customers are becoming increasingly jaded to product-level messaging) but it also allows products to be interchanged without compromising the emotional connection made between customer and company.
  • Multi-channel (with purpose). Good stories cross channels. They make use of web, mobile, social, and others. But these stories aren’t just repeated across channels. The story is tailored and tweaked to take advantage of the channel, both from a technology and engagement perspective. Customers in different channels have different expectations of the story/content. Good stories appeal to and acknowledge that.
  • Emotional. Flat stories suck. These are stories that just seem to “go through the motions.” Really good stories pull heart strings, make us laugh, make the reader rise to action. This is in addition to the emotional connection that the reader may make with “actors” (i.e., characters, events, places, etc.) within the story. It magnifies that connection.
  • Rich media. Let’s face it, people don’t like to read a lot of text. If you mistake storytelling with writing, you will be sorely disappointed. Good stories in the digital world leverage all sorts of different media type: videos, audio, slideshows, images, graphics. Not only does rich media promote interaction, it creates variety. It creates that emotional engagement on a variety of different levels using several different senses.
  • Engagement. All good digital stories provide for engagement. This may be simply for customers to share with other customers (you might be surprised about the power of simply enabling customers to talk about how they feel about your story) and it may be a planned event. Regardless, successful stories will look for multiple opportunities to engage directly with customers as they form these emotional connections with the story. And if done right, this will strengthen the bond between customer and company (a company that “cares” to hear what its customers have to say).
  • Mechanics. You may take it for granted, but your users don’t: performance matters. Research in web and video engagement point to customers abandoning your story when it’s slow or under performing. And being able to reach everywhere your customers might be is of equal importance. The last thing you want to do is have a weak story in one region (because only one channel is available) where a competitor might not.

Again, this is not an exhaustive list. But it’s a good starting point for evaluating whether or not a digital story is successful. Next up we will take a look at Coca-Cola against these bullets as an example of a well-executed digital story.

You can read more about Storytelling in the Whitepaper “Marketing destinations through storytelling” in this weblog.

This blog post is from: www.rethinkeverythingblog.com/2017/10/11/storytelling-101-what-makes-a-good-story/