The Digital Age has created a hyper-connected world in which traditional and digital media converge and prospective customers are bombarded with a dizzying array of choices, media channels and information. They are always online, sometimes multi-screening with devices that interact with each other. It’s a world where speed, choice and expectations have morphed and marketing is no longer a one-way dictate from organizations, but must fit within an environment that demands interaction, transparency, flexibility and relationships.
An Expanded Toolkit
The fundamentals of branding haven’t changed, but marketing as we have known it is largely superseded. Savvy DMOs are tapping social and mobile networks, smart phones and tablets, GPS apps, e-commerce and booking engines, Google maps, user-generated-content, kiosks, crowdsourcing and the opportunity to economically reach consumers globally. Their websites can now deploy video, text, audio, photos and real time comments from customers. At the same time, their customers are being lured by a wide range of third party services and options that were once the domain of DMO’s. These provide bookings, navigation, maps, destination information, product reviews, trip planning advice, and a “showroom” for local tourism products – and these are available 24/7 and almost anywhere.
We are really only at the dawning of this amazing era, yet we find some DMOs are not adapting anywhere near fast enough. Waiting to further transform destination management are next generation mobile applications, cloud computing, gamificiation, augmented reality and game-changers that haven’t been discovered yet.
New Rules of Marketing
While there have been many technological innovations, the most profound changes have been to consumer behavior influencing how we communicate, buy, work, relax, learn, consume and react. All of these have a direct influence on destination brand image, preference and affinity. Whether DMOs choose to play in the digital realm is beyond their choice. User-generated content enables consumers to thoroughly compare options, rate experiences, post images, and make comments to assist others. All these actions are possible with or without the involvement of a DMO. This leaves no room for hype and boosterism. It means that the experiences and benefits delivered must always meet or exceed what has been promised.
It’s easy to understand why some tourism offices around the world in the early days had the word “propaganda” in their names. However the days of a DMO simply pumping out advertising and PR releases to influence consumer preferences are over. The places that adapt to the new rules and continue to use their brand as their beacon and rallying point for partners will thrive and build meaningful brands.
The next post will take a look at how customer touchpoints have changed and offer destinations unprecedented opportunities to engage and delight their visitors.
Produced by: Total Destination Marketing
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