Become a Destination Marketing Superhero
August 12, 2019
How Marvel Can Help You Revolutionize Your Brand
When it comes to destination marketing, there are certain brands that everyone wants to imitate. Our clients send us pages from VisitBuffaloNiagara.com, or materials from CarmelCalifornia.com or VisitTampaBay.com as directions they want to take their brand. While those are all great destinations to emulate, we also want to take a few cues from the most creative and impactful marketing juggernaut in the game…the Marvel Comic Universe.
You may not have a bench filled with Hollywood celebrities, or a nine digit production budget; but there are lessons your destination can take away from Marvel that you can begin implementing immediately.
Create a Content Universe
Creating a content universe starts with a specific end goal. Marvel’s goal was to release the movie The Avengers Endgame. But, how do you make a movie featuring a team of junior varsity superheroes like Doctor Strange and Ant-Man that the general public couldn’t care less about? This is where brand vision takes over.
Your stories, landing pages, videos, display and social media ads need to not only fit your brand vision, but point everyone towards the end goal. Everything you produce—no matter how small—needs to somehow point from one piece of content to the next. Just when your audience thinks they’ve exhausted the expanse of your content, another piece of related content should be coming their way.
A chain of blog posts or visitor guide articles that cover various destination highlights isn’t enough anymore. You need to be a master storyteller, weaving in concepts and highlights that effortlessly pull your audience from one piece of content to the next. Create interconnected breaks within your storytelling that will allow you to address the diversity of travel intents and audiences. This will supercharge your ad targeting and email efforts, as you will be collecting valuable data on which group is interested in various aspects of your destination’s content universe.
Your content universe should not be a basket full of stories. They should be part of an overall story and brand that has interconnecting themes where multiple personas will likely interact. They should link to one another to reinforce your brand and continue to pull your prospective traveler into the story of your destination. These interweaving elements bring your destination together. With so many assets in each destination, telling a story about each one does not create excitement or an interwoven story. We know, we can see the limited page views on your partner pages! You are the chief storyteller of your destination, and your partners are the characters in your universe.
Create Anticipation and Curiosity
Almost every Marvel movie has an appearance from a hero who is not starring in the main storyline. In Thor Ragnarok, Doctor Strange confronts and then assists Thor and Loki in New York City, and Iron Man plays a pivotal role in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Why is this worth mentioning in the context of content? Because it builds anticipation for upcoming events, and allows you to capitalize on a curious audience.
When Marvel sneaks fellow Avenger member cameos into their movies they are reminding their audience that they are watching a piece of the overarching Avenger story, and not just a one-off movie. Soon the Marvel audience is trained that they have no other choice but to be excited about buying a ticket to the upcoming movie because there’s no way they are going to miss out on whatever surprises and clues are coming next.
When your visitor books their trip, that isn’t the time to send a thank you email, that’s the time to hit them with a destination cameo. Did they book for a downtown hotel? Direct them to a story about all of the great bars and restaurants visitors can walk to downtown. Do you have a big fishing tournament in April? Update an old restaurant story to talk about which spots are the best after a long day on the lake. You want your visitors walking away from your content thinking “Wow I was visiting for ______ but they also have _______ , _______ AND _______!”
Would Avengers Endgame have been as successful if Marvel released all of the Iron Man movies back to back, then all of the Thor ones, then all of the Captain America movies? Probably not, because the interplay between the storylines created curiosity and anticipation. So why do so many brands build their websites and stories like that? They publish pages listing all of the hotels OR all of the restaurants OR all of the attractions. Let your stars build intrigue and excitement not only for their own category, but for the categories they can help support. What are the best restaurants near your most popular hikes? Where are the best quick breakfast spots near your conference center? Which hotels have the best golf courses?
This idea extends into practical tactics as well. Do you have a popular blog post that continues to perform? Update it to mention your new blog post. Do you have an active Instagram feed, but struggling on Twitter? Share screenshots of your Tweets on Instagram to cross pollinate your social media followers. Trying to kick off a podcast? Upload videos of the recording sessions to Facebook or YouTube. Once you get going, you’ll find the possibilities are endless.
Your visitors will soon become so entertained by your destination’s content that they forget they are being sold to. Did you ever sit through the credits to watch what the post-credit clip that is essentially nothing more than an advertisement for the next Marvel movie? Your content should have the same effect on your audience.
Create Bonus Material, Hidden Gems, & Easter Eggs
Offer your die-hard fans extra content that rewards their attention to detail and loyalty. There is nothing more gratifying to an audience member than the feeling that they got the joke, or caught the twist that went over “the average viewer’s head”. Marvel did this by hinting at what was coming in future movies, or by sneaking in real world cultural references into their jokes. This forced the average audience member to either ask a die hard fan who the weird purple guy at the end of the Avengers movie was (i.e. word of mouth) or search on Google themselves to make sure that really was Matt Damon playing Loki in the Asgard play (i.e. SEO boosting).
By doing this, you’ll create an “in crowd” and an “out crowd” within your audience, which is ideal as long as you give the “out crowd” an easy way to get “in”. Why is Loki so terrified of the Hulk in Thor Ragnarok? Well, you’ll just have to go back and rent The Avengers to find out. Why is this hotel the obvious choice for a girls’ trip? Well, here’s a piece on the best brunch spots in town to answer your question (::spoiler:: that hotel serves up one of the best….). Give your audience questions, or things they’ll need to research and then offer them the answer via extra material like visitor guides, signing up for emails or following your social media accounts
Marvel proved that audiences want the bricks in the Fourth Wall to be loosened a bit. They want to know that you understand them and that you are willing to reach out from behind your brand and speak directly to them. Your die-hard fans will feel like the experts in the room when they catch on, and your newcomers will get a slight twinge of FOMO that will pull them deeper and deeper into your content.
This could be done as easily as having your local college’s mascot or local business “celebrity” walk past in the background of a video shoot, or have your models in a display ad wearing popular local company’s merchandise. Tip your hat to major events and conferences coming through town by retooling your website’s colors, photo assets, and content to match that audience’s interests. Will everyone in your total audience get it? No, but the ones who do will be more inclined to share your content, which will create a bump in traffic to your site where there otherwise wouldn’t have been any.
Activate Brand Advocates and Influencers
Marvel expanded their audience by partnering with GEICO, Coca-Cola, Google, Hertz, Audi, and Stand Up to Cancer among many others. Brand partnerships unlock new audiences that are not already your fans, but are the fans of your partners.
While your destination may not have the budget or sway to partner with an international soda company, you can easily align yourself with local brands that have some regional pull, or social media influencers who can reach their audiences the world around. You need to take advantage of both free and paid content collaboration.
Does one of your partners produce commercials that everyone in the area can quote? Why haven’t you invited them to be in one of your videos asking locals to share a piece of content. Is there a restaurant or site that tourists regularly visit? See if they’d do a Social Media Take Over where you show their audience around town (without highlighting competitors) and they take your audience through their location.
Marvel decided to announce the advancement of Avengers Infinity War’s release date from May 4th to April 27th with a clever back and forth Twitter conversation between their official Marvel Studio account and Robert Downey Jr.’s. What real life players can you use to draw attention to your content? Maybe your mayor? The owner of the trendy restaurant or the head brewer? There are local personalities that would probably love to help your brand, don’t be afraid to reach out.
Hiring a professional social media influencer with a large audience of like-minded folks to visit your destination could be a great place to kick off or conclude a successful social media campaign. People are far more likely to listen to the voices they have chosen to follow than those that randomly pop up in their feed. Take advantage of that trust, find yourself a few influencers and you’ll gain a whole swath of curious eyes.
Deliver An Amazing Experience
We all love a good movie, but no amount of brilliant marketing will make a poor movie successful. You need to deliver when your audience actually commits to a visit.
Your efforts do not end when your visitor buys their ticket, or books their room. Your brand voice should emanate every piece of material your visitors come across when they’re in destination—from the Visitor Guide waiting for them in the hotel lobby, to the geofenced “only the locals know about this place” social media ads that makes your visitors feel special—you need to take ownership of your visitors’ experiences while they are actually visiting.
You may not have the surface level “wow” factor that other destinations have been organically gifted, but think about this: The year is 2007, trailers are coming out for the groundbreaking Dark Knight and Marvel’s Spider Man 3 is a laughing stock. An executive producer calls you up and asks if you want to invest in the DC movie franchise which makes Batman and Superman movies or Marvel that will make Ant Man and Iron Man movies…which would you have picked?
You see, Marvel took relatively obscure superheroes and turned them into five of the top ten grossing movies of all time. Their success was not grounded in each of the superhero’s existing popularity prior to their films, but by creating a marketing master plan that capitalized on one of the most ingenious universal content schemes of all time.
If you feel that your destination’s voice is simply your team shouting the same message into the void, it may be time to rethink your master plan. At Madden, just like Iron Man, we bring the right mix of technology (some even powered by AI) and personality to drive results. We are storytellers, world creators, brand builders—and we can’t wait to see where a marketing masterplan will take you.