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:


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. 


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. 


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.


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.

The Value of Intent-Based Audiences: Grandma Likes Beer, Too!

Everyone loves vacation. However, vacation means something different to everyone. Some people like to hike, bike, and sweat. That sounds like hell to other people. The reasons why people choose to travel differ. And guess what? Those reasons have nothing to do with how many candles were on your last birthday cake or how fat your wallet is. The 1950s called and they want their marketing strategy back. Use intent-based audiences instead of demographics.

Targeting people by age, race, income, or gender alone isn’t just old-school. It’s ineffective. Building your marketing program around antiquated perceptions of people based on their demographics is a huge missed opportunity. That type of strategy disregards people who would be interested in visiting your destination.

Using intent-based audiences will maximize the visitations. By focusing on WHY people travel, you will reach travelers who travel based on their interests—like beer-loving grandmas.

As a full-service agency, we infuse intent-based audiences into every element of our partners’ marketing. From strategy to creative to media, every element will benefit.    

Successful Strategy

Build your strategy around why people travel. This approach leads to tactics that more strongly resonate. Your storytelling will be more engaging. Your media plan will more effectively reach people. The entire experience will speak directly to the decision making factors of your target audiences—leading to more trust and higher conversions. 

For example, our partner Atlanta CVB wanted their website to have a more personalized experience for their users. We began by analyzing the different reasons people visited Atlanta, and segmenting their target audience into eight intent-based audiences: 

  • Family Vacation
  • Last-Minute Weekend Getaway
  • Off-the-Beaten Path Experiences
  • Culinary Tour
  • Arts and Culture Trip
  • Sports Fan
  • Attending a Conference
  • Meeting Planning

From there, everything we did was built around these eight intent-based audiences. We tailored the site map to these audiences and created content that spoke directly to why they travel. Then, we integrated personalization technology that would recommend content to users based on how their behavior on the website. This strategy led to higher engagement from users:

  • 58% increase in pages per session
  • 30% increase in page views
  • 7% improvement in bounce rate
  • 6% increase in average session duration

Adjacent Advertising

Using intent-based audiences to build out your digital marketing strategy allows you to capture prospective traveler’s attention adjacent to what they are already doing. For example, someone shopping on Amazon for hiking boots would see destination specific hiking ads. The adjacency of the ad to their actions in that very moment improves performances and lowers the interruption threshold that advertising often has.

You can then move from that captured intent to expanding their view of multiple other activities they could engage with in the destination. You grow their intent by connecting them to adjacent intents—hiking and breweries; wine and fine dining with quiet beaches; etc. Once you understand their original intention to travel, the broadening of activities helps encourage travel to the destination during their consideration phase.

Engaging Creative

Your storytelling will be more engaging. Guided by your audience’s interests, you will know what destination attractions to highlight. Your creative assets and content will be tailored to speak directly to people’s travel interests. This compels people to see themselves in your destination. 

For example, our partner Visit Independence was creating a new Paranormal Path campaign. The campaign highlighted three allegedly haunted locations. In the process of developing storytelling for the campaign, we saw an opportunity to create content that would resonate with Visit Independence’s “history buff” intent-based audience. 

We consulted with local historians and created a dynamic blog post that told the real-life stories behind the hauntings. We developed a presentation layer that integrated period photography and old newspaper clippings. This gave readers the ability to investigate the people who inspired the ghost stories. Our work on Visit Independence’s Paranormal Path campaign was awarded a 2020 Gold HSMAI Adrian Award in the integrated marketing campaign category for its overall destination marketing excellence.

Smarter Media Tactics

Intent-based audiences lead to more impactful media buying. Budget won’t be wasted targeting people unlikely to visit. Just because a person seems like they were grown in a lab to perfectly match your target demographics doesn’t mean they will want to travel to your destination. Targeting people by likely to visit is a smarter use of resources. 

For example, our partner Traverse City is located on Lake Michigan. Their destination’s top experiences are related to outdoor recreation. So, we created an intent-based audience that included people in key drive markets who had recently purchased outdoor recreation equipment or showed interest in outdoor recreation based on their online behavior. This audience was then targeted with outdoor recreation specific creative and CTAs—generating over 26,000 attributed room nights during the summer of 2020.

Bigger Impact

Cavemen marketing programs built around demographics alone must evolve. Creating intent-based audiences around the reasons why people travel is more effective and efficient. Developing your strategy around them will lead to:

  • Smarter media tactics that reach people more likely to visit
  • Better leads that cut across gender, race, and age
  • More engaging storytelling that strongly resonates
  • Less wasted budget that was previously spent on targets unlikely to visit

Added together, intent-based audiences drive a higher ROI and maximizes the collective impact your organization has on your community. That calls for cracking a cold one with Grandma!

2020 HSMAI Adrian Award Client Wins

Madden is proud to announce 5 of our clients earned 2020 HSMAI Adrian Awards in recognition of their tourism marketing excellence! The HSMAI Adrian Awards recognize hospitality brands and agencies for creativity and innovation in advertising, digital marketing, and public relations.

Help us give a round of applause to our amazing clients!

  • Visit Independence, MO – Gold award
  • Discover Atlanta, GA – Silver award
  • Go Lake Havasu, AZ – Silver award
  • Discover Crystal River, FL – Bronze award
  • Tampa Bay, FL – Bronze award

“Haunted Independence” – Paranormal Path

Visit Independence received a Gold award in the Digital Marketing – Integrated Market Campaign for Consumers B2C category. This campaign was built around the Paranormal Path Tour of Vaile Mansion, Bingham-Waggoner Estate, and the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home & Museum.

The goal was to pay homage to the destination’s history while differentiating Visit Independence from its competitors and creating an attraction for a niche audience that had not previously been interested in visiting the area. Madden’s Creative and Content team crafted eerie, cinematic videos that paired spooky visuals from the properties with creepy voice-overs from the perspective of the ghosts that some believe haunt the locations.

Madden then ran a combination of paid digital advertising strategies to target drive markets, intent-based, and affinity-based audiences interested in paranormal related subject matter. The Paranormal Path was a giant success both quantitatively and qualitatively — exceeding all KPIs and generating high engagement and enthusiasm from visitors and social media users.

Make sure to check out the landing page below which includes all the other haunted videos.

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau won a Silver award in the Digital Marketing – Web Site category for its innovative work on their website relaunch. Discover Atlanta partnered with Madden to replace its MarTech platform to position it for future digital channels and integrate natural language processing (NLP) to recommend articles to visitors for a more personalized experience. Together we created a new website that drives inspiration and generates engagement with its focus on design, detailed key audiences, storytelling, diversity and inclusion, and automatic tagging and categorization.

Go Lake Havasu – “Find Your Element”

Go Lake Havasu won a Silver award for it’s “Find Your Element” Brand Campaign in the Digital Marketing – Integrated Market Campaign for Consumers B2C category.

Go Lake Havasu was looking for a brand refresh and the Creative team at Madden went to work by elevating their brand with a new, integrated brand campaign titled “Find Your Element in Arizona’s Playground.”

This aspirational theme was pulled into multiple components including TV commercials, a wide range of digital ads, and a robust website content strategy to drive consumers down the purchase funnel and generate maximum engagement and visitation.

The media strategy used both network TV (generating 7.2 million impressions) and a series of digital media tactics to target select groups.

Discover Crystal River – “Step Into Awesome”

Discover Crystal River won a Bronze award for it’s “Step Into Awesome” Brand Campaign in the Digital Marketing – Integrated Market Campaign for Consumers B2C category.

Crystal River, Florida is fortunate to have one of the most amazing yet fragile natural assets that any destination could wish for—manatees. Our charge was to continue to position Citrus County and Crystal River as the Manatee capital of the world through not just marketing, but through education, conservation, and protection of the manatee for generations to come.

We set out to highlight the emotions travelers feel in the destination. We developed visuals of the one-of-a-kind experiences Crystal River offers—delicious food, up-close manatee interactions, world-class fishing. These experiences were brought to life through thrilling video, inspiring photography, and dynamic blog content.

We deployed an omni-channel marketing strategy to promote the “Step Into
Awesome” brand during different stages of the Traveler’s Journey and to create an integrated brand ecosystem. This included display ads, social ads, dynamic blog posts, online video ads, and television ads.

Visit Tampa Bay “Florida’s Most” SEM Campaign

Visit Tampa Bay won a Bronze award in the Digital Marketing – Search Marketing Strategy category.

To help drive visitors to the Tampa Bay market, increase hotel revenue, and drive attraction ticket sales, Madden Media and Visit Tampa Bay developed a SEM strategy of building intent-based audiences to target with SEM tactics. This strategy included targeting prospective travelers with a first touch based on interest, intent, geography, search history, and other indicators of being a potential traveler. Based on how users interacted with the first touch, Madden created intent-based audiences, which were then leveraged for a second touch. Users interaction with that second touch was used to further develop additional audiences to target with specific calls-to-action through SEM.

Madden Media and Visit Tampa Bay leveraged data from two key sources to inform our SEM campaign, UberMedia human movement data and original research from Visit Tampa Bay’s bi-annual traveler surveys.

Results: Calendar Year January 1, 2019 – December 31, 2019

  • Over 500,000 clicks (34% YOY increase)
  • 12.6% click through rate (14% YOY increase)
  • SEM accounted for 20% of’s overall website traffic (25% YOY increase)


2021 Destination Marketing Trends

As you create and execute your 2021 campaigns, these are the marketing trends to keep in mind. Madden is always happy to talk strategy, provide insight, and share recommendations with our tourism partners. Above all, these are the seven trends we’re keeping an eye on this year.

Marketing Trend #1: Vaccination Availability = Spike in Travel

This marketing trend is pretty straightforward—as more COVID-19 vaccines become available, more people will travel. Google recently reported that keywords such as “hotel booking app” and “travel to” have increased 100% YOY. Similarly, in January 2021, Destination Analysts reported that “just under half of American travelers expect to travel for leisure in the next three months.” Many destinations have been waiting for travelers to pack their bags, but are they prepared for a sudden increase in visitors? 

What you can do right now

  • First, invest in marketing for 2021 leisure travel considerations amongst existing audiences.
  • Second, grow new audiences with high-intent and pent-up demand using awareness and inspiration tactics.
  • Third, make sure your partners continue to promote safety measures and keep travelers informed.

Marketing Trend #2: Inspiration Tactics Continue to Climb

Travelers are starting to think about trips they want to take in a post-COVID world. Conversion is important, but shouldn’t be your only focus. Travelers continue to be open to vacation inspiration, providing DMOs the opportunity to target new audiences. In addition, inspiring content establishes awareness and replenishes brand audiences for future marketing efforts. Above all, Madden partners who are providing vacation inspiration are seeing stronger results than those investing primarily in conversion tactics.

What you can do right now

Invest in highly visual channels such as:

  • CTV
  • YouTube/TrueView
  • TV
  • Social Ads 
  • Google Discovery Ads
  • OOH

Marketing Trend #3: Foundational Recovery Tactics Reach Key Targets

Your 2021 foundational marketing tactics need to reach prospective travelers through the channels they’re responding to the most. For example, we’re seeing:

  • More Screen Time: Since shelter at home orders began in 2020, Nielsen reports that consumers are spending 60% more time streaming videos, reading digital content, and scrolling through social media. Provide the distraction and inspiration they’re looking for by advertising on key platforms and creating storytelling content.
  • More Print Consumption: Working from home on top of increased screen time means more consumers are looking for a break from blue light. However, printed magazines offer an entertaining escape, giving destinations the opportunity to connect with travelers via direct mail or national/regional publications.
  • More Email Engagement: Consumers have had 20% stronger open rates following the pandemic. Reach leads directly in their inboxes and show them what you have to offer. Grow and nurture owned leads as your destination recovers.

What you can do right now

Consider these tactics for your media mix:

  • Search & Social: SEM, SEO, Facebook, & Instagram
  • Online Content: Owned, Paid, Earned
  • Streaming: CTV, Samsung
  • Email: Owned, Paid
  • Print: National and Regional Travel and Lifestyle Magazines 

Marketing Trend #4: Outdoor-Focused Keywords in Website Content

Now’s the time to build fresh content to be there for continued trending searches and discovery of anything related to outdoors, road-trippin’, or supporting local businesses. Similarly, travel searches such as “weekend getaways,” “day trips from,” “weekend trips,” “lake trip,” and “vacations near me” are starting to rebound after an unprecedented drop in March 2020. In addition, consider these trending keywords:

  • outdoors
  • camping
  • rv rentals
  • ski condos/cabins
  • boat charter
  • regional parks and gardens
  • fishing boats
  • kayaks
  • road trips
  • staycations
  • local businesses

What you can do right now

  • Start by adding new content to your site that heavily focuses on trending keywords related to your destination.
  • Next, read our COVID-19 Website Strategies blog post for additional strategies.

Marketing Trend #5: The Buzz Surrounding Sequence Targeting

This destination marketing trend is near and dear to our hearts. Sequence targeting allows you to tell a progressive story with your ads. Typically this is done through adding some variety to your video marketing. For example, you can tell your destination’s story across multiple video ads to nurture curiosity and for stronger brand recall.

Sequence targeting reduces ad fatigue. Using different visuals to tell your story across CTV, YouTube, and social ads keeps audiences interested in your message. Another benefit of this strategy is that you can promote a consistent brand message across multiple channels. With new audiences established in awareness and inspiration, you can continue the conversation to promote consideration in remarketing.

What you can do right now

  • Create a miniseries of ads for rotation so consumers don’t see the same ad creative at each touchpoint.
  • Meanwhile, avoid reusing the same singular ads across all channels—add a variety of image and messaging combinations.
  • Brainstorm ideas for a video shoot that will tell a progressive story. Think about how to make a greater impact using shorter ad spots that encourage action.

Marketing Trend #6: Consumers are Looking for Amazing Digital Experiences

To better capture the attention of key audiences, you need to deliver great UX across all of your marketing efforts. In other words, the brand digital experience has become more important than ever.

What you can do right now

  • Make incremental website improvements to better engage with consumers. For example, this could mean virtual tours, quiz-style content, new animations, or interactive elements. Check out our case study on Next Generation Destination Websites for more ideas.
  • Brainstorm creative ways to approach standard marketing tactics. How can you better showcase your brand’s personality on social media? Can you think of a new way to utilize HTML5 ads?
  • However, don’t forget about event planners! Use this time to create videos, share photos, and provide visual resources.

Marketing Trend #7: Meetings Marketing = Slower Recovery

While leisure travel is slowly gaining momentum, meetings travel will take longer to recover from the pandemic. Consequently, we’re seeing small group in-person meetings planned for Q3/Q4 of 2021 in addition to larger virtual meetings.

Major hotel brands project mid to late 2022 as the return of bigger group settings. According to a survey completed by iMeet, “at the start of the year, more than half of planners (56%) have RFPs in progress.” As a result, “85% of planners have at least one future face-to-face meeting booked or contracted.”

What you can do right now

  • First, don’t stop your meetings marketing despite this slow recovery—2022 will be here before we know it. Given how far in advance large meetings are booked, your team should be preparing and selling now.
  • Second, build up your meetings content to showcase your commitment to providing safe environments for meeting planners and attendees.
  • Third, review your RFP process and documentation and find opportunities to make contacting your team easier.

What Should You Do First?

We’ve discussed a bunch of strategies and action items to help you capitalize on 2021’s destination marketing trends. However, we’ve provided our recommended priority list:

  1. Update your site content
  2. Refine visitor’s website experience
  3. Increase inspiration across all channels
  4. Promote small group meetings
  5. Focus conversion tactics on road trip audiences

Madden’s destination strategy experts are ready to chat about any of these marketing trends. Please reach out to our team with any questions.

Own Your Data: Prepare for the Death of Cookies and Other Privacy Changes

Privacy changes are making it harder to rely on third-party data. Destinations must adjust their marketing strategies in response to the death of third-party cookies and other new privacy policies. It’s time to optimize your marketing strategy toward leveraging your own analytics by collecting your own first-party data. 

Data privacy changes have been incrementally put into practice over the years. The GDPR implementation in 2018 marked a major milestone for user privacy regulations, and since then, more policy changes have gone into effect. This year brings with it two big changes: iOS 14 privacy updates (implemented in January) and Google removing third-party cookies from Chrome (coming later this year).

Destinations will still be able to leverage their existing analytics provided by first-party cookies, such as Google Analytics and Google Ads global site tag. However, the iOS 14 updates and the removal of third-party cookies will have a major impact on destination marketing. Madden’s media experts recommend destinations take the following steps to ensure your marketing impact is not suppressed. 

Understand the Digital Marketing Effects

In order to respond to these changes, destinations must first know how privacy changes will affect their existing marketing programs. 

Smaller Remarketing Pool

Third-party cookies going away means website visitors who were previously moved to a remarketing pool from third-party pixels or trackers will no longer be captured. The iOS 14 updates also mean if users opt out of having their data collected on the Facebook App, they too will no longer be moved to a remarketing pool. However, you will still be able to retarget users from your first-party data. 

Vague Lookalike Audiences

The practice of creating lookalike audiences from third-party data will be less precise.Third-party cookies will no longer capture website visitors or users who opt-out of having their data collected. This means your lookalike audiences will be based on incomplete data if they are solely created from third-party data. 

Less Understanding of Targets

Data collected from third-party cookies enable destinations to understand their target audiences’ interests and behaviors. This creates the opportunity to deliver tailored messages that are more likely to resonate. Without that data, destinations are left in the dark about their targets’ specific interests and unsure whether messages are compelling them to visit. 

Decrease in Reported Conversions

While your tactics will be driving users to your website, your tracking will no longer capture all related metrics. It’s important to know that it is not necessarily a reflection of ineffective tactics. The decrease will likely be due to users opting out of having their activity data captured.

How to Respond to Privacy Changes

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are things you can do ahead of these updates to counter any potential negative impacts. Destinations must rely on more first-party data. Here are ways to optimize your strategy towards generating leads and respond to privacy changes. 

Integrate Lead Generation on Your Website

Having users opt-in and share their data will garner more robust leads for your organization. By including pop-up banners, calls-to-action, or always-on lead forms on your website, you can collect first party data and build up your own database. Destinations should also look to optimize these tactics by conducting A/B tests and determining which methods and messages most effectively generate leads. 

Develop a Smarter Database

How valuable is the data in your database? Is all the information accurate? Do your leads actively engage with your content? Do you have detailed information about your leads’ interests? These are the types of questions your team should ask when scrutinizing its database. If your leads don’t provide your team enough information to execute targeted marketing tactics, then you must adjust your lead generation strategy to cultivate more detailed leads.

It’s not enough to collect names and email addresses. Your lead generation tactics should make clear to users that you’re asking for their information so you can send content they find relevant. This means collecting information about why they like to travel, their desired experiences, and what they look for when deciding which destination they visit. At the same time, it’s important not to ask too many questions—especially open ended questions—in a single form. Users tend to opt out if forms are cumbersome and time consuming. You can always use information from one always-on form to send additional surveys or follow up forms to users via email. Your strategy should aim to build relationships with your targets.

Leverage Emerging Technologies

DMOs, CVBs, and other destination marketing entities are not the only organizations that are responding to privacy changes. Google is actively working with its clients to find innovative solutions like Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) and FLEDGE to provide privacy-preserving alternatives for reaching audiences. 

Equipped with Your Own Data

While the death of third-party cookies and privacy policy changes will affect destination marketing strategies, there’s no reason it should cause disruption. By putting the above strategies into practice, destinations will be able to better inform decision making and compel their target audiences to visit. The insight derived from managing your own database and generating quality leads will also enable a more effective omni-channel approach. 

While privacy policies primarily affect paid digital making tactics, the adjustments your organization makes in response will benefit your entire integrated marketing strategy. The quality data you collect will feed into every tactic and result in more effective content marketing, organic social, landing pages, and messaging. For this reason, destinations should not view these privacy changes as an obstacle to overcome, but as an opportunity to evolve your marketing efforts.