Marketing-Driven Websites: Invest in Your Online Presence

We’ve seen it too often. DMOs invest a large amount of money into developing a new website, only for that website to stagnate for years. Then, DMOs make another large investment to build a new website because their existing site isn’t meeting their needs. It’s a vicious cycle. We break that cycle with our Marketing-Driven Websites philosophy. In this process, we analyze the performance of your website and make continual, incremental enhancements to optimize its ability to achieve your marketing goals—creating next-generation destination websites

The internet is an ever-changing place. With constant updates to different platforms, search engines, and browsers, how people find information is always evolving. More importantly, people’s interests and information consumption behaviors change as well. So, why do DMOs keep their websites rigid and fixed as the world changes around them? 

To maximize the impact of their websites, destinations should embrace a Marketing-Driven Website approach.

Marketing-Driven Website Approach

During a traditional website build, developers craft a plan up front, follow it, and call the site finished when it’s launched. Madden believes your website should never be finished. We develop our websites in three stages to ensure maximum performance and KPI achievement. 

Madden's Marketing-Driven Website philosophy helps our partners optimize their sites.

Stage One: Core Website

First, we design and develop your core website. This site will be launched and available to the public quickly—delivering your new website faster to market than a traditional build. But we don’t stop there. 

Stage Two: Evaluation and Enhancement

After your core website is launched, we evaluate its performance and make enhancements to optimize its KPI achievement. These enhancements can include placements of buttons, different lead generation tactics, CTA messaging, and more. 

Stage Three: Innovation to Maintain Growth

Because we believe your website is never finished, this stage remains ongoing. By identifying incremental improvements for your website, such as new immersive content, itinerary builders, landing pages, destination maps, or content recommendation technology, you can keep your website fresh and aligned with your marketing objectives. This approach also saves money, as making incremental investments in your site improves your ROI and costs less money in the long run. 

Marketing-Driven Website Benefits

Inspiration Over Information

Over the past few years as the industry has changed, the purpose a DMO website needs to fulfill has changed as well. Visitors no longer look to individual websites for facts and information. 

In the modern landscape of search capabilities, answers are at the tip of visitors’ fingers in a quarter of a second thanks to robust, intent-based, intelligent search platforms like Google. Consumers are searching “cool things to do this weekend” and navigating directly from the search platform to Google Maps to get them there. There are reviews, hours, addresses, pictures, information—literally everything a visitor needs before they even click through to your site.

So what is your role if not to educate and inform visitors? Inspiration. That may seem like a simple concept, but we encourage our clients to really consider what consumers see on your site and what they should see on your site. So many DMOs fixate on using their websites to inform rather than inspire, and Madden’s experts are on a mission to change that.

Maximize Impact and KPI Achievement

Just like with your creative and media strategy, if you’re not achieving the desired results you make adjustments and optimize. With our Marketing-Driven Website Approach, your core website will be put to the test to evaluate site performance after launch. We recommend looking at adjustments and enhancements to different elements of your website in an ongoing manner. 

As your marketing needs and goals change, site adjustments based on data-driven research will

help keep the most vital and relevant information in front of your site visitors to ensure maximum engagement. Constantly optimizing your site towards your desired results will maximize your KPI achievement. 

Incremental Improvement (and Investment)

We believe that a successful website should evolve and grow with your marketing program. As a full-service agency, we view your website through a holistic lens. It’s a key cog in your integrated marketing strategy and should, like the rest of your marketing tactics, dynamically evolve to maximize visitations.

As your budget allows, we recommend investing to continually enhance your site. This approach is vital to destination marketing success. You wouldn’t “set-and-forget” any of your other marketing elements. Why would you do it with your website? By consistently improving your website over time, you continue to move your marketing program forward and save money over the long-term by eliminating the need to rebuild every few years. 

Integrated Destination Marketing

As part of our full-service capabilities and destination marketing partnership, we believe it’s our job to help DMOs break the destination website mold. By embracing a new website philosophy, you save money and gain a better-performing website. Our MarTech experts are standing by to discuss integrating a Marketing-Driven approach to your website. 

Google Analytics Update: What You Need to Know

Google has updated their website metrics tracking platform and released Google Analytics 4. This new version of Google Analytics brings some big changes. Here’s everything you need to know about the update. 

What’s Changed?

Events vs. Sessions

The Google Analytics update shifts emphasize user engagement over user awareness. This approach is led by a new event-based data model, which is a shift from the previous version’s session-based data-model. This change means Google Analytics 4 properties will focus on what users are doing on your site rather than how often or how long they visit your site. 

Cross-Device and Cross-Platform Reporting

The previous Google Analytics versions had limited cross-device and cross-platform reporting. The recent Google Analytics update now includes full cross-device and cross-platform reporting. This means you will be able to capture a specific user’s activity on your site when they are visiting from a laptop, mobile browser, or application rather than measuring that user’s activity as separate sessions. 

Automation

The new Google Analytics update includes machine learning throughout the platform to improve data visualization and insight discovery. The new tools make it easy to navigate the platform and get the most value of how you organize your data. 

What’s the Impact?

  • The event-based data model allows Google Analytics to measure web traffic quality and offer more flexible and custom calculations
  • The cross-device and cross-platform captures better insights into user journeys and decreases duplicate users in tracking
  • The flexibility in the platform gives more options for custom analysis and audience segmentation

What DMOs Should Do?

Create a Google Analytics 4 Property

DMOs should set up new property with Google Analytics 4 in parallel to their current Google Analytics properties. Use this time to familiarize yourself with the platform and the differences between your existing Google Analytics. The change will affect everyone differently, and it’s important to use this time to learn how your current tracking will need to adjust. 

Identify Top Events and Establish Triggers

Utilizing the new event-based data model in the Google Analytics update, determine what user events you care about and create event triggers to track the user activity that matters most to your organization. Doing this early also means you will be banking historical data that you can analyze as time passes to track improvements. 

Make Plans to Optimize Your Website and Evolve KPIs

With the shift towards an event-based data model, DMOs should use this time to understand how the Google Analytics update should lead to changes in other elements of their marketing program. Organizations should analyze their existing website and digital KPIs and determine changes need to be made to optimize their websites towards events and if their measurement programs would benefit from prioritizing user engagement rather than user awareness. 

Integrated Destination Marketing

As part of our full-service capabilities and destination marketing partnership, we believe it’s our job to help destinations understand how changes in the industry will affect their marketing programs. Madden’s MarTech and Media experts are standing by to help DMOs understand how the Google Analytics update will affect their website metric tracking and plan for any necessary adjustments. 

Pride Month: Why Representative Storytelling Matters

Happy Pride Month! Each June, cities across the country celebrate the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals have made on communities across the country. This month provides DMOs an opportunity to reflect on their marketing programs’ inclusion and ensure their campaigns are representing the diversity of the country through representative storytelling.  

To mark Pride Month, we wanted to highlight the importance of inclusive creative assets. Diverse stories and voices resonate with more people and show people that your destination is a place where everyone can live, work, and explore.  

Showcase LGBTQ+ Voices

The best way to tell LGBTQ+ stories is to hand over the microphone. Working with queer writers adds credibility to a DMO’s commitment to inclusion and reveals destination stories that might not otherwise be heard. 

For example, we worked with a gay writer to chronicle his trip to Triangle Inn Palm Springs, a clothing-optional, men-only resort. The personal account showcased the resort while also creating an emotional connection between the writer and reader. 

A first-hand, immersive story like this shows commitment to prioritizing diversity and inclusion while also inspiring people to visit your destination. A recent panel from Destination Analysts highlighted this key point about normalizing travel experiences and lifting up authentic diverse voices through representative storytelling. 

Market to Travel Intents

Targeting consumers by demographics reinforces societal biases and misses many people who would be interested in visiting your destination. Madden leverages visitation data to develop intent-based personas based on our clients. This allows us to tailor campaigns around WHY people travel rather than WHO they are. By focusing on why people travel, we cut across gender, race, and age to reach more people.

This approach enables us to create ads and content that feature LGBTQ+ individuals authentically, while also appealing to travelers who are not LGBTQ+. For example, we planned, shot, and produced a video for DiscoverAtlanta.com that prominently featured LGBTQ+ couples. By first grounding our production plan in Atlanta CVB’s target travel intents, we were able to craft different narratives to showcase in the video. These stories were then brought to life by talented individuals of different races, ages, genders, and sexualities. 

See our video greet users on the DiscoverAtlanta.com homepage

The video highlights the different reasons people travel to Atlanta, not just the demographics Atlanta CVB envisions would want to visit. Users greeted on the website with this video – no matter their race, age, gender, or sexuality – know that Atlanta has something for them. We worked with real-life couples to make the video as authentic and relatable as possible. All of these choices led to an inclusive video that represents Atlanta and resonates with more people. 

Highlight Local Diversity

Communities across the country celebrate their diversity throughout the year. By showcasing their destinations’ culture through representative storytelling, DMOs tell a holistic story of their communities and bring all local stakeholders into the fold. Highlighting different experiences that celebrate diversity creates content that resonates with travelers who prioritize a destination’s inclusivity when deciding where to travel. 

As part of our work with Visit Tampa Bay and Explore St. Louis, we wrote stories for their Visitor Guides that highlighted their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Our story “All are Welcome” for Visit Tampa Bay’s guide cast a spotlight on the mult-cultural mosaic of the city, including Tampa’s annual pride parade, latino music and dancing, and handicap-accessible Super Bowl experience. For St. Louis’ guide, we wrote several stories that focused on local Pride Month celebrations, LGBTQ+ organizations in the city, and community partners that celebrate diversity, including the “Show Your Pride” feature in this edition. 

Pride 365

It’s commendable when DMOs celebrate their communities’ LGBTQ+ stories, partners, and residents as part of Pride Month. We encourage all our clients to do so. It’s not only the right thing to do – travelers care! People strongly prioritize traveling to places that actively promote diversity and inclusion. 

To accomplish this, DMOs should revisit their diversity and inclusion initiatives during Pride Month and make plans to carry over their LGBTQ+ allyship throughout the year. Some of the examples above are a great start, and our destination strategy experts are standing by to discuss other ways DMOs can showcase representative storytelling year round. 

Talent Recruitment: Destination Marketing for Economic Development

Communities are looking to recover from a difficult financial year. Investing in destination marketing can attract both tourists and new residents—boosting local economies. Most destination marketers understand the collective impact DMOs, CVBs, and CTBs have on local economies. Tourism brings with it spending from travelers and creates jobs. However, destination marketing also boosts economies through talent recruitment and business relocations—turning visitors into residents. 

2020 Economic Impact Stats

Tourism has a ripple effect through communities. Visitors shopping at main street businesses boost local economies. Public funding generated by tourism-related revenue ensures a community’s children have safe places to play. The impact of tourism delivers lifelong value to residents. 

But in 2020, many communities experienced what happens when tourism dries up. Consumer spending dropped 3.9% last year as travel sentiment reached an all-time low. Last year, the percentage of Americans planning a vacation within the country decreased by 40%. Americans with travel plans in the next six months decreased by 32%. These drops in travel sent shockwaves through communities. Since January 2020, cumulative travel spending has decreased by over $590 billion. Though the economy is on the upswing, more than eight million people who lost their jobs last year are still out of work. This includes three million people in the leisure and hospitality industry. 

Getting Back on Track

There are signs of hope. Traveler sentiment metrics are increasing as the percentage of Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 climbs. In April 2021, 87% of travelers noted that they have travel plans in the next six months—matching pre-pandemic levels. As travel increases, destinations have an opportunity to boost their local economy, not just through tourism, but through talent recruitment as well. According to a survey from Move.org, 20% of respondents moved in 2020. Of those respondents, 52% relocated to a new city or state, and 36% said their move was work-related.   

The Halo Effect

Tourism can serve as a key catalyst for long-term economic sustainability. A Longwoods International study found that consumers who were exposed to destination marketing and visited a destination were nearly twice as likely to choose to live, start a business, start a career, attend college, retire, and purchase a vacation home in that destination. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is halo.jpg

This Halo Effect can serve as the foundation for destinations’ economic development and talent recruitment strategy. Investing in destination marketing now will attract talent and lead to the establishment of local businesses. As travelers are drawn into the marketing funnel, destinations should keep travelers engaged with tactics that highlight emerging economic opportunities, quality of life value propositions, and proximity to major markets. 

Visitors will experience a destination’s attractions, things to do, and sense of community. This gives people a “I could see myself living here!” feeling.  When this feeling is paired with DMO-created content about career and education opportunities in the community—visitations turn into relocations.

Talent Recruitment & Retention

Destination marketing offers the opportunity to highlight the top leisure experiences in communities. However, it also gives destinations the chance to promote their communities’ quality of life benefits.

The Madden team worked with Visit Lubbock and Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA) to build campaigns that targeted people likely to visit and relocate. We dug into data to develop intent-based personas. These personas were segmented by the reasons they choose to travel and live somewhere. These included young professionals who had lived in the region during their college years, people who enjoy cities with vibrant downtown districts, wine lovers, and people who love live music and events. 

We developed immersive stories that highlighted Lubbock not just as a great place to visit, but also a fantastic place to live with great employment opportunities. Stories spotlighted local entrepreneurs, regional innovation hubs, the vibrant downtown, local craft shops, and the many quality of life and business-friendly aspects of the destination. We positioned Lubbock as a hub city—a place that has the experiences and attractions of a big city while also being a place where people know each other with work and play close by.

In addition to building out talent recruitment focused content, we deploy specific marketing tactics that align with economic development campaigns. LinkedIn offers destinations the opportunity to targeting people based on their job title, career industry, or where they went to college. As part of our work with Lubbock, we used InMail to target young professionals who had studied at Texas Tech. 

Business Relocation & Investment

As you think about your own organization and community, collaborate with economic development offices in your efforts. Those partnerships are key to creating a lasting impact. Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Economic Development Commision (TEDC) did just this as they worked with the Madden team to combine tourism and economic development into a holistic campaign. We collaborated to craft an integrated destination marketing strategy and brand that positioned Tampa as the ideal city to relocate for your career and business. 

While the leisure side is all about attractions and things to do, economic development efforts highlighted why Tampa Bay is a great place to live, work, and run a business. We developed the Make It Tampa Bay brand to encourage target audiences to make Tampa Bay their city to live, work, and thrive. 

We developed a custom website that welcomed users with a bold, vibrant voice and design that aligned with the core Tampa brand of “Unlock Adventure.” Immersive destination stories included tools like cost of living calculators and job searches to increase engagement and get users thinking about relocating to the destination. Additionally, we developed an influencer campaign that leveraged local career makers and business owners to share their professional success in an authentic and inspirational way. 

Building an Economy

Examples like our work with Visit Lubbock & LEDA and Visit Tampa Bay & TEDC show how destination marketing and economic development can perfectly align. At its core, destination marketing sparks a person’s imagination and emotionally connects them to a place. Once that connection has been made, destinations can engage their target audiences with messaging that highlights quality of life benefits and career opportunities. As the Halo Effect shows, combining these marketing touch points on top of visitations will make sure that when people visit your community, they never leave. 

As communities look to recover from a difficult financial year, investing in destination marketing to attract both tourists and new residents will boost local economies. Most destination marketers understand the collective impact DMOs, CVBs, and CTBs have on local economies. Tourism brings with it spending from travelers and creates jobs. However, destination marketing also boosts economies through talent recruitment and business relocations—turning visitors into residents. 

Traveler Insights: Get in the Mind of a Traveler

At Madden, we pride ourselves on data-driven insights. This is why our team analyzes data to reveal actionable insights into traveler behavior and attitudes. Sometimes, these observations are in mobile device data and human movement data that reveal insights on visitations, origin markets, average length of stay, and points of interest. At other times, it’s hotel and lodging tax revenue to measure ROI. And in some instances, the best insights into what travelers are thinking can be revealed in search engine data. 

We analyzed the top questions users are asking on Google to put a finger on the pulse of travelers’ attitudes as the tourism industry looks to bounce back from the pandemic. Here are the most asked questions and some high-level recommendations for destinations. 

Is it safe to travel? 

The top question, and several variations of this question, focused on safety. People want to travel again, but they don’t want to take any unnecessary risks. For this reason, it’s vital for destinations to include COVID-19 public health information. By including resources on your website and working with partners to ensure public health is prioritized, you give travelers peace of mind. Providing assurances that visiting is safe and reinforcing that message with in-destination public health advocacy will encourage people to pack their bags. 

Is it safe to fly right now?

Targeting drive markets is still a great option for destinations as air travel continues to lag. However, seeing people ask this question means people are starting to consider flying. We’ve seen search interests in flights increase, and are beginning to near pre-pandemic levels. Flight data should be monitored and targeting fly markets looks to be potentially promising as we enter the summer. Similar to providing resources to show visiting your community is safe, you should also provide safe travel tips and information to inform your visitors how to travel safely.

How to travel cheap?

While a version of this question seems to always pop up on the top searched questions, it’s not lost on us that 2020 was a tough year financially for many people. Destinations should be mindful of this. We recommend creating content that highlights affordable experiences or build itineraries that can be used by people traveling on a budget. 

How to plan a destination wedding?

Weddings are the top group event being searched right now. Many couples were forced to put their marriage plans on hold while big gatherings were unsafe. Now that there is light at the end of the tunnel as 2021 progresses, people are looking to finally host their big day. Destinations should work with their community partners to create content that highlights potential wedding spots. This approach provides planning resources for those looking to plan a destination wedding (and guests potentially attending one). 

Importance of Data Analysis 

We believe the traveler insights provided above are valuable, but data-driven insights are time sensitive; the value of the information decreases as time passes. For example, travelers’ attitudes and behaviors will change as the pandemic recedes. The above questions won’t always be top of mind for people. This is why it’s vital for destinations to invest in ongoing data analysis to continually analyze travel interests and ensure your messaging aligns with your visitors’ intents to travel.

National Travel & Tourism Week: Unlock the Power of Travel

May 2-8, 2021

Destination marketing organizations will play a key role in bringing vibrancy back to their communities. By inspiring responsible visitations, destinations can generate a collective impact that restores local economies, rebuilds workforces, and reconnects people. To celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week, here are ways destinations can unlock the power of travel. 

Pandemic Pain

Tourism will drive recoveries for communities across the country and define the path forward. Prior to the pandemic, tourism was a significant contributor to countless towns and cities—supporting people whose livelihoods relied on visitors. The pandemic ravaged millions of those hard-working people, resulting in the loss of six million travel-supported jobs. This number represents a 34% decrease compared to 2019. Devastating impacts like these proved how critical tourism is to the wellbeing of communities across the country. 

Learn more about National Travel & Tourism Week.

Data-Driven Insights

Travelers’ behaviors and attitudes are going to ebb and flow. We worked with destinations through 9/11 and the ‘08 recession. These events caused a sudden decrease in travel similar to the pandemic. Those recoveries were steady once the disruptions were in the rearview mirror. However, COVID-19 is different. The virus could persist in hotspots around the world, and variants might cause future outbreaks. Scenarios like these could create variance in travel trends. People’s confidence in traveling will change with the rising and falling COVID-19 metrics. 

Destinations must invest in destination intelligence tools that provide real-time traveler behavior data. Without a line of sight into the attitudes of travelers, destinations would be flying blind. They could potentially be creating campaigns that fall flat. For this reason, it’s vital for destinations to continually analyze travel data trends. This approach enables destinations to take advantage of opportunities and shift plans as things change. 

Responsible Marketing

All destinations should ground their strategies in responsible marketing to maximize the power of travel. Tactics grounded in respect for communities are not just the right thing to do, but are more effective. In addition to the pandemic, last summer also saw nationwide calls for social justice and equal protection under the law for all people. This spirit of equality and inclusiveness is vital in marketing. Travelers want to visit communities that align with their values. Destination must showcase their communities’ diversity. We work with partners to develop representative storytelling that demonstrates everyone can live, work, and play in their region.

Sustainable Tourism

Destinations should execute their campaigns in concert with their communities’ resources to protect from overtourism. For example, driving too many visitors into a destination could have a negative impact. Collaborating with key partners and stakeholders to monitor visitor data will ensure destinations are maintaining a healthy level of visitation and not overwhelming public spaces and services. 

It’s also important for destinations to safeguard their community and promote healthy travel. Working with partners to amplify public health messages and connecting travelers with COVID-19 safety resources will ensure that when people visit they will do so in a safe manner that doesn’t negatively impact a destination. 

Leading the Recovery

The pandemic turned tourism on its head. This National Travel & Tourism Week, destinations must commit to supporting their communities’ economic development. Tourism impacts so many people: visitors shopping at main street businesses boost the local economy, tourism-related revenue gives children a quality education and safe places to play, service industry workers put food on the table and give their family a place to call home, and so much more. We are working with partners across the country to do this by leveraging data-driven insights, using responsible marketing tactics, and cultivating sustainable tourism. Together, we can unlock the power of travel, generating a collective impact that ripples through communities for generations.

Google Algorithm Updates: What You Need to Know

Google will update their search engine algorithm beginning in mid-June. Sometimes, the internet giant makes unannounced small tweaks under the hood to their search algorithm. But this time, Google has announced some details and it’s a pretty significant update. We are taking advantage of the heads up and working with our partners to optimize their SEO for the new Google updates. 

What’s New in the Google Algorithm?

Google is changing the way they analyze core web vitals, and how they measure them for their algorithm. There are three core web vitals:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

We will go over each in detail to define each, describe how Google is analyzing each within their algorithm, and provide recommendations to optimize them on your website. 

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

This measures how long it takes for the largest piece of content to appear on screen. This could be a large video, image, or advertisement. Essentially, it’s a way to define the loading speed of a website. Google defines a good user experience as one where the LCP occurs within two and a half seconds from when the page first starts to load. If the LCP takes longer than four seconds, Google deems it a bad user experience. 

Madden recommends caching or resizing images, optimizing images for web loading, and ensuring the images are sized appropriately for the displaying device to improve your LCP. Additionally, double check all CSS and javascript files your site loads are are actually necessary.

First Input Delay (FID)

This measures how long it takes for the site to react to the first user action. This could include clicking on a link or button, but does not include scrolling of changing the browser’s zoom. The FID acts as a measuring stick for a website’s level of interactivity. The Google Algorithm sets parameters for the FID to be less than 100 milliseconds for a good user experience. Anything longer than 300 milliseconds is a bad user experience. 

To improve your FID, Madden recommends that loading any non-critical javascript be deferred when possible. Additionally, make sure third-party code is only loaded when necessary.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

This measures the visual stability of a website. For example, do items move around the screen while it’s loading? The Google Algorithm uses a custom methodology to define CLS, with the benchmark for a good user experience falling at less than 0.1. Anything scoring higher than 0.25 is considered a bad user experience. 

To avoid a high CLS, Madden recommends you avoid embedding ads that shift items on a page. Additionally, you should not be inserting content via javascript or inserting iframes. Apply font styles early in the page load to avoid size changes later on. Setting image dimensions for all images is also a great way to reduce any layout shifts.

Why This Matters

Your website’s performance against the Google Algorithm matters for numerous reasons. For better or worse, these are the rules of the road for the internet. Achieving these parameters and scoring well against the algorithm positions your website to appear higher in organic search rankings. Google also requires good core web vitals scores for a website’s content to appear in “Google Top Stories.” 

It’s also important to note that Google didn’t just pull these numbers out of the air. Their user experience data shows these core web vitals are necessary for users to remain on a website. Poor page performance has a severe effect on bounce rate. If page load time increases from one second to three seconds, the bounce rate increases 32%. If page load time increases from one second to six seconds, the bounce rate increases 106%.

Read more about the importance of SEO.

Moving Forward

While the recommendations mentioned above will improve your SEO, it’s only one part of a successful SEO strategy. Strong scores in core web vitals are not the only determining factor in performance against the Google Algorithm. They work in tandem with Google’s other user experience ranking factors which include HTTPS, lack of interstitial pop-ups, and mobile-friendliness. The algorithm has over 200 ranking factors, so while core web vitals are important, destinations must have a holistic SEO approach to succeed. 

This is why SEO management must be an always-on part of any successful integrated destination marketing strategy. As we mentioned previously, Google doesn’t always announce changes to their algorithm, and destinations can be left flying blind. You can view a list of all the historical updates here to see how often things change. 

Remember that SEO is more than just updating metatags or ensuring SEO best practices during website construction. It’s a constant effort to optimize and manage your website for peak performance and Google Algorithm parameters. If you’re not already, you should devote ongoing resources to your website’s SEO to ensure it is in the best position to appear at the top of search results when users are looking for their next trip.

Destination Brand: The Look and Feel of a Community

We are surrounded by brands. Restaurants, cars, clothes, and more are all around us with their own unique personalities and identities. Where do DMO brands fit in? What makes a good destination brand? Destination branding crafts WHO the destination is by identifying the strongest and most appealing assets in the eyes of visitors and the local community, and creating physical elements that embody those assets. 

Destination Brand Goals

The foundation of a DMO brand is established with brand goals. What is the purpose of a destination’s brand? What are the DMO’s overall objectives? A destination brand should be centered around the answers to these questions. For example, if a goal of your DMO is to promote sustainability and outdoor recreation in your destination, then your brand should heavily emphasize a natural look and feel through environmental advocacy messaging. 

Grounded in Research

The best DMO brands are informed by insights from tourism and traveler data. Stakeholders in a community might have certain perceptions about the value propositions of their destination. However, visitors might see different experiences as the main draw. Leveraging human movement and point of interest data for a destination reveals the most popular elements of a destination and guarantees the brand is grounded in validated information. 

Creative Embodiment

The first impression travelers make about your destination comes from your brand. Getting your colors, logo, typography, and imagery right are vitally important to the success of your marketing. They are the first thing people will see related to your organization, and we know that first impressions lays the foundation for travelers’ perceptions. Taking the time to craft a meaningful and authentic DMO brand will pay off in the long run by opening opportunities to compel visitations. 

A brand captures the look and feel of a destination with visual elements. The logo, color palette, imagery, and design should evoke the community it’s representing. For example, a coastal destination with beaches and nightlife as top experiences should feature bright colors and seaside imagery. 

See how our rebrand captured the look and feel of South Carolina’s Hammock Coast.

More Than Identity 

A DMO brand is made up of features and characteristics that distinguish one destination from another and consists of a logo, color palette, tagline, design, visual assets, messaging, and more. It’s important to highlight that a brand isn’t just the visual identity elements. A destination brand includes how it interacts with its target audiences, tone of voice, values, and mission.

Learn how we brought Visit Carmel’s brand to life through visuals and strategy. 

The Story of Your Destination

A DMO brand should transport people into a different world that opens their minds to new experiences and people. A good brand captures the essence of a community—the feeling it kindles in people—and distills it into visuals, values, and a personality. A brand that tells the story of your destination is a DMO’s best way to build an emotional bond with travelers that compels visitations and garners loyalty.

Creative Process: Come Play in our Stylescape Sandbox

Sometimes agencies keep key parts of their creative process behind the curtain. They either want to keep things close to the chest or have a hard time putting their process into words. Madden lets our clients not only peek behind the curtain—we invite them into our creative sandbox with Stylescapes. 

Stylescapes convey the look and feel of brand assets with examples of your brand’s visuals and personality. It’s a tool we use as a creative sandbox to try different concepts or designs using our clients’ brand identities and messaging.

Each Stylescape is a visualization of a campaign concept. We integrate insights from research into the Stylescape concepts, pulling in images and content we know will resonate with target audiences. Inviting the client team to observe and provide feedback gives them an opportunity to be part of creative design and content development, and it allows us to explore design elements like type, color, photography, textures and graphical treatments.

A Chance to Explain Our Creative Process

Stylescapes also give us the opportunity to discuss our creative thinking with our clients, and discuss potential campaign concepts while providing visual cues. For example, we created for a Stylescape to showcase our “G is for Galena” campaign for Visit Galena, which we discuss in detail here

Stylescapes are an open canvas. Processes can sometimes feel templated or cookie-cutter, but we create Stylescapes to specifically give each client a custom creative tool that is unique to their brand. Here is a Stylescape we created for our client Visit Independence:

independene_stylescape_example

As you can see, we pulled in their creative assets and brand elements to give the client an idea of how everything would fit together. With Visit Independence’s brand being more formal and rooted in the destination’s history, we include a sophisticated font, uniform separation of assets, and subtle messaging. 

Campaign Concepting

Stylescapes are also flexible. They give our creative experts the ability to showcase different iterations of campaigns in a single place. Take for example the below stylescape we created for Visit Luzerne County. We showcased different creative assets within seasonal campaigns, repurposing their existing brand standards to show how we would work with their existing brand. 

luzerne_stylescape_spring
Stylescape_example
stylescape_example_luzerne
stylescape_example_winter

Tell the Creative Story

We pair Stylescapes with written narratives to complement the feeling we want our Stylescapes to convey. These narratives add depth to our visuals and showcase the compelling story behind our campaign. For example, below is a Stylescape we created for Lake County, Florida paired with our written narrative outlining the campaign’s big idea. 

lake_county_stylescape_example

You’re in need of a break from it all—the news, the noise, the daily grind. You want to find a nearby escape where you can relax, unplug, embark on adventures and make new memories. Where to go? Lake County, Naturally. 

The “Lake County, Naturally” campaign will highlight the outdoor amenities and natural experiences Lake County offers, from hiking and paddling to golfing and glamping. Each ad will begin with a travel question our audience has on their minds, followed by the answer, “Lake County, Naturally.” The campaign will be targeted to families, couples, and outdoor adventure seekers within a regional drive market of Lake County that includes the Orlando and Tampa Bay metro areas. 

  • Weekend Getaway? Lake County, Naturally. 
  • Hiking Adventures? Lake County, Naturally. 
  • Forest Retreat? Lake County, Naturally.
  • Small-town Charm? Lake County, Naturally. 
  • Scenic Escape? Lake County, Naturally.
  • Best-Kept Secret? Lake County, Naturally.
  • Hitting The Links? Lake County, Naturally.

Come see how our creative process fits into our full-service capabilities.

Transparency and Creativity 

We build Stylescapes into our creative process because they act as a prism— taking that focused beam from research—and expand it into a mosaic of creative concepts and ideas. We believe they lead to better creative campaigns as well, giving our client the ability to weigh in during the creative process and honing our designs in a collaborative space.

Benefits of Working with a Full-Service Agency

Working with an agency is exciting. Whether you’re collaborating on strategy, branding, creative asset development, or media, the collective creativity and expertise between client and partner is fun. Turning that excitement into ROI is another story. That’s where Madden sets itself apart with our full-service capabilities. 

There are a lot of potential agency partners. With so many choices, it might be hard to pick the best partner. Here are ways Madden provides benefits to our partners as a full-service agency.

Full-Service Capabilities

All agencies have areas of expertise and capabilities. Madden has a wide range of tools at our disposal. As a full-service agency, Madden is ideally suited to help our partners as their marketing programs grow. We seamlessly support multiple scopes of work as our clients’ needs change.

There are numerous instances where we began working with a client to support their digital marketing, and then started developing creative assets. Working with an agency able to execute different tasks leads to constant growth. We are able to incrementally expand programs without pausing your marketing efforts. Having a constant agency partner eliminates delays of drafting separate scopes of work, reviewing and selecting multiple agencies, and onboarding several new partners. 

Working with a single agency creates efficiencies and boosts effectiveness. Having different agencies plan and buy your media, create your content, design and develop your ads, and optimize your website, sets up a scenario where your brand messages are unaligned and there’s no confluence of your different marketing streams. Having everything under one roof guarantees integrated marketing strategies and brand synergy. 

Cross-Functional Team

Madden is also a great partner for a narrow scope of work. Our full-service capabilities ensure you will have a cross-functional team providing a variety of domain expertise. Collaborating across focus areas ensures every team member’s insights influence our work. This leads to more effective strategies, more engaging stories, and more enthralling designs.  

Your creative assets will more strongly resonate with people if designers work with media buyers to understand the tactics on which their creative will appear. Your media will compel more conversions if media buyers work with content experts and big picture strategists to hone in on intent-based audiences. The benefits of cross-functional collaboration from a full-service agency go on and on.

Capturing Impact

It’s vital to know how your agencies approach Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). As technology and data platforms continue to evolve, insights into consumer behavior are also drastically changing. KPIs should no longer focus solely on estimated impressions, site visits, or social likes. If your marketing program is split up between different scope of works or separated amongst different agencies, you will be left with an array of disparate KPIs. Each agency will set benchmarks for only their respective scope of work. This means you’ll only be measuring surface-level metrics. You’ll capture what each agency is doing rather than your overall marketing program’s impact. 

As a full-service agency, Madden has its own data intelligence platform, Madden Voyage. The tool makes us the ideal partner to evolve KPIs. We focus on the big picture and impact your work is generating on your community as well as your traditional metrics. Voyage will bring your third-party data into a single, easy-to-use dashboard that highlights actionable insights through intuitive data visualizations. 

Learn more about accessing customized destination intelligence through Madden Voyage.

Efficiencies 

Having a full service agency manage your entire program makes communication easy. There will be no need to manage multiple agency relationships and different workflows. Having one agency eliminates potential miscommunication between agencies or you having to play telephone letting each agency know what the other is working on. 

Working with a single full-service agency also creates budget efficiencies and removes potential duplicative budget lines. For example, having to hold multiple weekly or biweekly meetings with numerous agency partners could cost you two or three times as much as having a single call with your full-service agency to discuss everything. Moreover, by working on multiple projects under the same work stream or repurposing research, a full-service agency partner saves time, resources, and money. 

True Full-Service Agency Partnership

More than anything, you should work with an agency partner that is invested in the success of your organization. An agency that puts people, not their products, at the core of their philosophy and is committed to making a positive collective impact in your community.