Last week I appeared on a panel at DMO Mojo conference down in New Orleans, where I was surprised and delighted to find out was taking place during Mardi Gras. That certainly made for some fun eveing activities J
I was privileged to be speaking alongside Morgan Johnston, who runs the social media programs over at JetBlue (he’s the main protagonist behind @JetBlue), and Stuart Colovin, chief creative officer at MMG Worldwide, the hosts of the event.
During my portion of the panel session I laid out an approach to develop a successful mobile strategy and discussed the various elements that need to be considered (see the embedded Slideshare presentation below).
Morgan really knocked it out of the park, giving a great presentation on the challenge and opportunity of harnessing social channels to promote and reinforce a brand, highlighting the significant contributions he and his “Black Ops” team has made at JetBlue. Stuart made an excellent presentation on brand positioning and how to differentiate one’s message from other similar destinations (it was hysterical to see the amazing similarity in messaging and images between many island/beach destinations). Really well done. Even better was the lively Q&A session that followed.
But for me, it was a great opportunity to learn about a segment of the travel industry that many pay short shrift to, Destination Marketing Organizations. Boy do these guys have a tough job:
- Competing to be the starting point for trip inspiration and planning at the beginning of the travel lifecycle
- Trying to be the go-to source of information of what to do and when while people are at the destination – yet fighting an uphill battle against better known, location-independent information sources like Zagat or Yelp or plain old Google search.
- Having to balance the holistic needs of the city/region with the individual desires of participating member organizations. One DMO was very concerned about providing unbiased and honest recommendations of restaurants/hotels/activities (which promotes the trust necessary to maintain value to the consumer), but may not be as well received by some of the organizations who support the DMO.
- Fighting for budget dollars when state and local budgets are under extreme pressure and changing monetization strategies as they shift from traditional advertising supported printed guides and other materials to digital platforms.
Really tough job.
In the afternoon Pecha Kucha session there were some very interesting presentations from some of the DMOs/CVBs on their efforts to leverage social and mobile. In particular, two stood out to me:
- Visit PA’s use of Foursquare: Location is one of the unique intersections of mobile and social that it tied to exploring the different areas and attractions that a region or state has to offer. Richard Bonds, Director of Social Media for Visit PA described how they put together a very progressive custom badge program using Foursquare to spur visitors to explore the state and not simply stop at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Tagging all the previously claimed check-in locations seemed to be a fairly labor intensive process, but was critical to the program’s success.
- Visit Florida’s response to misconceptions about the impact that the Deep Water Horizons disaster had on local beaches: This was a really interesting use of technology, mobile and social, presented by Will Seccombe, CMO of Visit Florida. To allay prospective traveler’s fears of oil and tar-filled beaches (there was even concerns about the east coast of Florida), Visit Florida rolled out the “Great Visit Florida Beach Walk” campaign and mobilized their own citizenry to take pictures of local beach conditions and then overlay the geo-coded photos on a map so that visitors can see what’s real for themselves. Very clever, very cool.
NB: MMG Worldwide paid for my travel and attendance at the conference.