Tag Archives: tourism marketing

The Toronto Invasion – Ontario Tourism Regions Set Sights on Canada’s Biggest City

Here in Ontario, the provincial government recently divided the province into 13 new regions in order to create manageable, marketable tourism products.  Well into the second year of this new approach, several of the regions are actively selling to consumers.  Most of these cash infused regions have hired spiffy urban ad agencies to develop creative platforms, execute them; ironically into the exact same source markets.

Toronto is the land of coveted bounty when it comes to selling destinations.  Florida, the Caribbean, Canada’s east and west coasts and Quebec all fight to become top of Torontonian’s travel mindset.  These are savvy, sophisticated travelers with instant access to the world as they live on the doorstep of an international airport.  With competition this fierce you must stand out, not only with your message and how you deliver it but also with products that shine.

This past week in our office, on the Toronto radio station we were listening to (www.edge102.com ), we heard winter commercials from two of the new Ontario Regions, plus the Province’s own winter themed campaign.  These commercials were in the same rotation, with the same frequency and believe it or not had the exact same message: dogsledding, fireside snuggles, crisp air, bountiful snowfall, and getting out of the city.  Each had used a slightly different creative approach but the overall message was exactly the same.  I scratched my head and it got me thinking that there must be a better way.

Let’s look at this a little deeper.  Ontario is blessed with diverse geography, experiences and one of the richest source markets in the country.  Almost all of the 13 regions have identified Toronto, or more broadly the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) as the breadbasket of consumers.  This is not new.  Since the dawn of Young Street, outlying communities have been trying to get the attention of urbanites and entice them to spend their leisure time and money outside of the city.  These outlying regions traditionally have used all types of media to get their message noticed:  trade shows, radio, television, newspapers, outdoor media, postal drops, transit station domination, online tactics and the list goes on.  So what’s different now?

The difference now is timing and cold hard advertising cash.  Picture five new car dealerships opening at exactly the same time, in the same city, selling almost identical product lines.  The poor residents of that community will be bombarded with the same traditional car advertising messaging X 5.  This is the scenario that is playing out in Toronto right now, only with the regional tourism experiences.  All 13 regions are targeting geographically and their marketing sights are set on the Big Buck of tourism…..Toronto.  They have done their research, topped up their marketing tactic budgets and gone in, all at the same time and unfortunately with the same winter messages.

What can you do to not fall into this trap?

  1. Leverage messaging and tactics with like-minded partners if the message is exactly the same.  Why duplicate it and compete with it?  If it’s the traditional winter product you are selling, leverage Ontario Tourism’s campaign and tag your destination onto it.
  2. Be different – Stop selling generic.  Sell really specific experiences. For example –   Stratford sells world class theatre and Blue Mountain sells the best snowmaking in Ontario.  Cool crisp air and blissful snowfalls just don’t cut it anymore. How are you different? What is your really really unique selling proposition?
  3. Support those specific partners that already have a strong in-market presence and relationship with the consumer.  Make their programs bigger and better after all, your goal is to make them money right?
  4. Look at what your neighbours are doing and create and execute your message differently.  Since everyone is going into the same source market with similar products you Must Be different.
  5. Get creative.  Big city agencies hire some of the best in business.  Push them to do better, say “no” and “try again” and hold them to it.  These accounts may not be their biggest but you still deserve the best.   After all, the creative boundaries in selling tourism are endless…its household cleaner.
  6. Pick the medium that work best for you not the agencies’.  Some ad firms are structured to make a percentage off the actual buy.  Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on the mediums that are best for them and not necessarily the best for you.
  7. Put yourself into the home of the consumer.  What are they going to think about your message as compared to your competition?  Is it going to motivate them to walk over to their computer and start planning a trip?  Alberta’s Just Breathe campaign and Newfoundland’s creative are great examples of that.

To Sum Up….

As I see it the only real winners this far in Ontario Tourism Region marketing are the ad agencies, and media outlets. Tourism marketing in Ontario has never before experienced this kind of cash infusion.  Don’t feel obligated to spend the farm on airtime or ads, especially if you are unsure of what you are selling or how it’s different than your neighbouring RTO.  Dig deep and really make the customer sit up and pay attention.   20 year-old tourism marketing just doesn’t cut it anymore.



Filed under Destination Marketing, Product Marketing, Rant, Tourism Management

I “LIKE” Pepto Bismol

No one likely admits they actually do… but why then do 131,000 people Like them publically on Facebook?  I find it really fascinating why so many people proclaim their love for that pink chalky substance you have to swallow when you have an upset stomach.  It is the ultimate in brand loyalty.

Every TV or print ad you see today now includes the iconic Facebook and Twitter logos with the proverbial ‘follow us’ or ‘like us’ included in the copy.  The creative team at Pepto Bismol has been extremely effective at getting noticed and pushing the brand into mainstream social media and getting people the ‘Like’ them.

So how does this relate to tourism?

Since travel is all about memories and emotive experiences, visitors are dying to share them and social media provides the perfect vehicle.  This suddenly becomes a significant channel for tourism brands to engage and talk directly to an opted in audience just like Pepto Bismol.  Significant destinations such as Las Vegas, where ironically you are not allowed to share Vegas stories once you get home (‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas), has a massive online fan base, 317,000 to be exact.  This is a very powerful audience to communicate to and let them talk to each other.

Even the smallest destinations now have a social media presence where they are playing the “Like” game to see how many they can get.  What’s important here is to not be as concerned with the overall number, but to look at the quality with respect to your destination or attraction.  Success is determined by the amount of quality interaction and engagement from you and your “Likers”.  In a best case scenario and capturing the true essence of social media, is that your space becomes self -moderating and the fans do all the talking and sharing.  This happens with very strong brands/products/destinations and discussion occurs naturally both positive and negative.  Again from a destination perspective it is your job to provide only quality content that spurs discussion, and sharing about people’s adventures, favourite restaurants and best trails etc.  The more honest and genuine you are with them the more they will pay attention to you.

Remember, if a company that sells a product to relieve nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, and diarrhea can do it,  you can too!

Leave a comment

Filed under Product Marketing

Hard Times and Tourism Marketing

We have been hearing a lot in the news lately about how governments are struggling to balance their budgets. During these hard times, public officials are sifting through their budgets with a fine tooth comb, trying to trim any unnecessary expenses (called “gravy” in Toronto) in order to keep their city or country in good fiscal health.

This is an extremely difficult task, and anyone who finds themselves in this position will undoubtedly face scrutiny as they cut public services that will certainly impact someone negatively along the way. Public officials must make very difficult decisions as to which parts of the budget stay, and which parts must go.

One area that is often looked upon as a place to get rid of some gravy is tourism marketing. To the outsider, spending money on tourism marketing is unnecessary, speculative, and difficult to measure its impact on a community, region, or country.

But hold on a second… maybe spending money on tourism marketing pays for itself….

Recently, the U.S. Travel Association published a report that examined the public costs and benefits associated with destination marketing campaigns. They found that these campaigns actually generate more tax revenue than they cost by increasing visitation numbers and spending.

An example of this was seen in the Pure Michigan marketing campaign that came to Canada two years ago. This campaign stimulated a dramatic increase in tourism spending and also generated $138 million in new tax revenue for the State of Michigan. Not bad, considering they spent less than one third of that on the marketing campaign.

Evidence like this not only points out the effectiveness of destination marketing campaigns, but also suggests slashing tourism marketing budgets during hard times can actually make the economic situation worse. If we cut tourism budgets, it is likely that less people will visit, people will spend less money, and tourism operators and local businesses are left struggling.

Leave a comment

Filed under Destination Marketing, Tourism Marketing