Co-creation is the new approach to product development. Tourists want to personalize the experience according to their own unique needs and desires. Destinations provide a platform experience as of a generic product, which is somehow customizable by tourists, and by observing how they customize their experiences, the platform eventually develops a portfolio of experiences customized to the needs and motivations of various types of tourists, though still flexible.
Product co-creation is developed mainly through the open innovation system, where stakeholders participate motivated by the will to contribute to the mission accomplishment, and also by the will to showcase their creative skills and gain reputation among the community. Marketing 3.0 intends to leverage these motivators to foster co-creation of experiences and continuous improvement in collaboration with the local service suppliers to keep on enhancing the destination’s offered value.
The co-creation takes place in a collaborative platform as part of the open innovation system where locals may offer their experiences and they receive reviews, ratings and advice from destination product managers on how to make it better. To train stakeholders in the co-creation process, special workshops could be organized, where the key factors to successful product development are explained.
To create life-changing experiences, contributors should start by gaining a deep understanding of the mission statement as a basis for discerning what kind of experiences could be suitable. Further, by listening to stories they can understand what kind of experiences create a life-changing impact on the receivers and thus inspire new experiences by leveraging the contributors’ imagination from the open innovation system. The fact that brand enthusiasts are empowered to participate in the co-creation process spurs their commitment and their will for spreading the stories, as they are also willing to let everybody know about their contributions.
What main challenges do you foresee in the co-creation of tourism experiences?
Apart from the open innovation system, there would be many other key activities to highlight:
- Destination’s strategic planning and monitoring the results of its implementation is one of the primary roles of the destination’s platform, from the definition of the mission and the design of the business model, to its deployment and continuous revamping so long as the environment requires so. This is the main role of the platform’s executives, with the support of the open innovation system and the information gathered through the monitoring system.
- The destination marketing is one of the main reasons to justify the development of business models 3.0, leveraging the outcomes of the content marketing system to develop campaigns, destination merchandise, organize events and support special projects such as film broadcasting. Further, especially at the beginning, the platform should develop a marketing plan to start-up the content marketing system and leverage the marketing partners’ influence to attract the first flows of visitors.
- The storytelling training is just as important as the aforementioned story creation section, as it is to train and coach stakeholders in developing their storytelling skills. Such training has to be carried out by a pool of certified storytelling facilitators who train not only all platform partners, but also tourists, becoming one of the life-changing experiences that set destinations 3.0 apart from others. Needless to say, it will be a key factor in nurturing the content marketing system.
- The local service suppliers training may also be critical, so long as the destination model 3.0 intends to foster entrepreneurship in the poorer layers of the local communities. This training and coaching should be primarily focused on hospitality business management, customer service and foreign languages, without disregarding other needs to be identified through the service quality control.
Do you envision how this would work? What kind of obstacles or challenges do you foresee?
Destination models 3.0 are complex in nature, and so it is the system of activities that need to be coordinated and managed to sustain its competitive advantage and make the destination model develop to the utmost of its potential.
The open innovation system is the central activity that nurtures and sustains the competitive advantage of the business model, from which many kinds of outcomes are expected:
- Business model innovation: revamping the model through constant brainstorming, reflection and discussion about improvements in either of the building blocks to achieve current goals, or to analyze new approaches to pursue the mission, improve profitability, streamline operations and adapt to the ever changing environment, foreseeing in advance the upcoming challenges and opportunities. The collaborative system should empower new leaders to drive new initiatives with the cooperation and support of the other stakeholders. Participation is limited to qualified stakeholders, also considering crowdsourcing initiatives opened to networks of external experts. Training on business model innovation methodologies should be considered to set a common framework for facilitating discussion.
- Co-creation of experiences: opened to all stakeholders, this section should feature vibrant discussions where mainly local entrepreneurs and enthusiast tourists exchange and pre-test ideas on new life-changing experiences to be developed in the destination. There could be contests to stimulate participation of the largest extent of stakeholders.
- Story creation: also opened to all stakeholders, this section could feature story creation contests in many formats such as videos, podcasts, text, to be developed individually or in groups. Participation of bloggers would be encouraged through the organization of blogger trips, especially during the initial stages of the destination’s development. This section requires particular attention from the platform managers, as it is the “content marketing machine” upon which the destination model relies to attract and engage new stakeholders over time.
- Marketing contents and designs: this section could encompass the development of an image bank or several collections of designs, to be eventually used in merchandising or marketing materials. Participation in this section could be stimulated through creation contests or crowdsourcing to professional photographers and designers. For the image bank, key influencers such as the “Instagramers” could be invited to the destination as with bloggers and journalists.
Beyond the platform managers’ initiatives to invigorate the innovation system, individual initiatives should also be eventually rewarded through a pre-determined incentive system. In this regard, platform leaders should orientate the innovation efforts towards the mission driven goals and identified challenges and opportunities in the business model innovation forum.
Beyond giving empowerment, the platform leaders’ role is to inspire others and provide facilitation and support to develop skills such as story creation and storytelling. Further, they should control that the initiatives are well aligned with the mission, prioritizing its accomplishment over other goals, to preserve the integrity of the brand. Such control, in fact, should be carried out by all stakeholders. Platform leaders should deeply assume that empowering stakeholders consists also in sharing power with them.
Do you envision any other interesting output to be obtained from the open innovation system?
The main methodology for obtaining all this information is to carry out interviews with tour operators when visiting them, in workshops and during the fam-trips.
The collaboration and complicity we may establish when helping them with business & product development is the key to obtaining all the intelligence. The privileged position as collaborators allows us to obtain more information and more easily than an independent consultant.
The information to research a market segment may be obtained with a few interviews with the key tour operators, complemented with other sources like publications, brochures, surveys and interviews with experts and related associations.
The information for elaborating tour operator company profile programming our destination should be obtained through in-depth interviews and brochure analysis; whereas the information about tour operators not featuring our destination may be obtained through telephone interviews and brochure analysis.
The main sources of information are:
- Tour-operators and travel agents
- Publications and newsletters
- Tourism fairs
- Congresses, conventions and seminars (papers, thesis, studies, presentations, etc.)
- Specialized consultants and journalists, special interest associations, etc.
- Internet and social networks.
For the aforementioned research goals and objectives, would you consider any other methodology or information sources?
In searching for enthusiastic contributors and mission driven stakeholders there may be many different profiles such as schools or NPOs . Continuous search for like-minded communities is key to nurture the content marketing system and expand the destination brand awareness. Individual partners such as bloggers or journalists are also likely to be good storytellers, also considering their media power as key influencers.
Beyond the existing communities related to the aforementioned stakeholders, the destination should develop its network of brand enthusiasts, accommodating the needs of individuals to connect with like-minded people in new communities where the bond is rooted in one-to-one relationships among members. The destination management has to be conscious that communities exist to serve the members, not the business; and so it has to facilitate interconnection among them and encourage participation.
It is necessary not only to communicate the mission and the vision, but also the evolution of the key performance indicators related to both social and environmental issues, to let the stakeholder community see how the destination is advancing towards the mission accomplishment: how much has been done, and how much is left to do.
In the Whitepaper “Marketing destinations through storytelling” there is to be explanation of how to leverage the destination’s stories as a key marketing content. Furthermore, in the Whitepaper “Envisioning open innovation in destinations” there is envisioned several ways the open innovation could be deployed as a marketing content generator.
Do you think that horizontal storytelling –created and controlled by brand enthusiasts- may fully or almost fully replace traditional communication tools such as advertising? What do you think it is necessary to make that happen?
The main marketing channels are the social networks where all the brand ambassadors are spreading the stories, and the mission driven travel agents connected to like-minded travellers. Other partners such as non-for-profit associations may also become channel partners, as they can distribute the stories to their social circles and attract new stakeholders. They are the ones with the best credibility to do so.
Channel partners will not only work as change agents and brand ambassadors, but will also collaborate in the innovation platform bringing worthy ideas and market insights, thanks to their deep knowledge of the outbound markets. For instance, they may bring information about how other destinations are tackling similar challenges.
Furthermore, as mentioned before, it may be necessary to attract non mission driven tourists and therefore use conventional travel agents to market the destination to these targets. This will most likely be necessary in the early stage of development, when the destination has not yet generated enough contents and stories to engage the desired targets. Travel agents will therefore have a key role during the early stages of the destination’s development bringing key insights for the strategic planning, and as key channel partners, to leverage their market knowledge and marketing influence.
Other marketing channels to take into account will be the platform’s booking center and travel portals as sales channels, whereas journalists and bloggers are likely to be key story deliverers especially during the first years of the destination’s development.
In this section, the business model should explain the different channel partners and marketing channels through which the destination intends to communicate its value proposition and deliver the stories. It should explain the expected functions and strategic importance of each channel throughout the short, mid and long term.
Do you envision any other specific marketing channels for destinations 3.0?
This open innovation system is the core of the destination marketing 3.0, becoming the central hub where all communities get connected, and fulfilling the need for connection with other consumers in communities. These communities are the ones which guarantee that the business will ultimately serve the customer’s interests and concerns, and not just the business profit. It is through this community initiative and collaboration that the platform becomes a “content marketing machine” where people create, share and inspire each other to live and tell new stories.
Finally, business models need to develop their unique DNA that reflects the brand’s identity through the social networks, targeting the mind of the consumers and intending to be relevant to their needs. Then, they have to stick to their brand promise delivering experiences up to their claims, prioritizing the mission accomplishment, to keep the brand’s integrity and reach the spirit of the consumers.
Failing to comply with the stakeholders expectations will eventually lead to losing their credibility and hence their engagement. This should be complemented with a brand image whose values appeal to the consumers’ emotional needs. All together is what leads consumers and other stakeholders to experience, engage and eventually become brand ambassadors. Only originality, integrity and authenticity will be effective.
From the operational perspective, such open innovation ecosystem would be based on technological platforms –either existing or proprietary- where to held content creation contests -photo, video, stories, poems, etc.- and collaborative creation processes to further refine the content and integrate insights from various stakeholders.
In this section, the model should explain what kind of relationships it intends to establish with each customer segment, whether they are to be passive receivers or active contributors, specifying what kinds of contributions are expected -co-creation, story delivery, contest participation and voting, etc.-.
Do you think that destinations usually leverage their client’s creative and influential power?
The market intelligence studies provide the necessary information for both operators and Destination Management Organizations (DMO) to design their marketing strategies and actions optimally and efficiently. This can be summarized in a series of specific objectives:
Analyze for each new market and segment:
- Market dimension, evolution and perspectives.
- Public types and characterization of their demand: sociological profile, seasonality, length of the trip, types of services demanded, trip organization, advanced booking, motivations, expenditure and price elasticity.
- Purchasing behavior: information sources, decision key factors, etc.
- Possibility of fostering customer loyalty and multiplying effect/fostering prestige
- Quantitative and qualitative trends of both supply and demand.
- Key players, advisors, opinion leaders and other trendsetters.
- Associations, publications, events, fairs, portals, forums, blogs and social networks.
- Key competitiveness factors and requirements.
- Best practices in management and destination competitiveness improvement, marketing, products, business models and technologies.
- Marketing strategies and actions. Minimum investment recommended.
- Tour operators, travel agents and web portals working with this segment. Positioning and market share of every one, segment concentration, entries and exits. Estimated percentage of FITs.
- Segment attractiveness: analysis of the 5 competitive forces and growth potential.
- Analysis of competitiveness/price, distribution and offer variety compared between destinations. Positioning of each destination.
- Knowledge and assessment of the destination by the tour operators and travel agents.
Analyze for each tour operator:
- Turnover and market share (globally and by segments). Volume of tourists per segment and perspectives. Knowledge and assessment of our destination.
- Brochure portfolio, products and destinations for each product.
- Kinds of target audiences and percentage of loyal customers.
- Positioning of the tour operator in the market.
- Kinds of packages offered (length, accommodation, seasonality, etc.)
- Interest in receiving information, participating in fam trips and receiving commercial proposals.
- Programming calendar and contracting strategy.
- Financial data
Analyze for each tour operator currently programming the destination:
- Activities and visits carried out during the trip.
- Effectiveness and profitability of the current marketing actions. Evolution of demand towards our destination along the last 5 years.
- Client share (% of trips to our destination) per product, actual and potential value of the tour operator.
- Explore strategies and actions to increase sales and customer loyalty
- Other destinations offered by the tour operator and compared analysis: positioning, strengths, weaknesses and strategy of every one.
- Perceived positioning of our destination and suggested positioning.
- Destination assessment: strengths, weaknesses, satisfaction and resignation risk.
Analyze the projected image of the destination and brand awareness:
- In the tourism guides and specialized publications
- Articles and reports in the press and TV
- Social media and related web pages
- Tour-operator brochures
Do you miss any specific goal to be considered?
As aforementioned, with Marketing 3.0 there is a shift from vertical to horizontal control, being that the communities of creative activists are those who do the marketing by supporting brands concerned about making positive impacts in their communities. Therefore, the new marketing has the social networks as the main scenario where most brand marketing activities take place.
The communication strategy embraces collaborative channels as its main conveyors of the value proposition, as these are the most trusted ones by the communities of potential stakeholders. Furthermore, the new communication channels have to enable connectivity and interactivity to empower community members to participate at any time –especially when they are enjoying the destination- and share content with the rest of the community. The new wave technology is what allows community members to express their ideas and opinions in collaboration with the rest of the community.
The destination should accommodate the will of tourists to connect with other tourists who want to share their experience and story. Only by helping tourists connect with each other and deliver the promised brand values will the destination gain the crucial support of the communities.
The main marketing contents to be shared throughout the communities are stories. Stories are to convey the Mission, vision and values of the destination brand embodied in the life-changing experiences in a compelling manner drawing the attention of potential tourists and stakeholders.
Compelling stories are the new advertising, and their success is measured by the extent to which these stories are the focus of conversations in the social networks. These stories create loyalty among stakeholders who end up regarding the brand as an icon. Then, these enthusiast stakeholders become brand ambassadors by spreading the stories throughout the social networks. This is the power of storytelling.
To generate stories and other marketing contents, there has to be design of a content marketing system with a strategy to leverage the already existing stories and also to leverage the creativity of the stakeholders to make up new ones, as well as to spread the stories throughout the social media. The open innovation system is the one that leverages all the knowledge and creativity to nurture the content marketing system, and the existing local communities are where we should search for the existing stories to start-up the content marketing system.
What main challenges do you foresee in developing this communication strategy?
The new marketing paradigm shifts from control to collaboration. It turns from vertical to horizontal, as most consumers trust other consumers rather than businesses: word of mouth and social media are at the core of new customer relationships. Businesses no longer control their brands, as these are owned by the customers and are developed through collaboration among them all.
All what companies do is aligning their actions to their corporate mission and empowering costumers to become active agents in the accomplishment of the mission as brand controllers and innovators, hence ultimately becoming brand ambassadors. To approach customers’ human spirit, these have to view the business as a change agent that strives to make the world a better place according to their concerns. Then, as long as the mission is successfully accomplished and there is a growing awareness about such accomplishment, the destination’s brand becomes a symbol within the stakeholders’ lives.
Marketing 3.0 is based upon co-creation, communitization and characters. Customers and other stakeholders take an active role in the development of experiences and stories through collaborative innovation platforms. Starting from a generic experience, every tourist can tailor it to his needs and motivations, and eventually share it with the community explaining his story and thus nurturing the innovation system with new ideas. For a brand to become a symbol, it needs that its stories create great characters with whom the stakeholders feel identified, as they strive and manage to address the community challenges and concerns.
Beyond photo sharing in social media, word of mouth, ratings and reviews for specific services such as restaurants and accommodation, do you think that there is ever any chance for tourists to contribute on the destination’s marketing?