Remote Work and Responsible PTO

Pre-pandemic, two weeks of paid time off was an industry standard. You know the drill. If you had a family, you got one week off for winter break and another week off for summer break. If you were single, you might take a two-week vacation or multiple three-day weekends year-round. The point being, you had options. The two-week PTO policy made sense, and many employees probably thought this is as good as it gets. 

The Pandemic changed everything. 

In 2019, the world experienced an enormous cultural shift. Across states, countries, and industries, work that was once conducted in person became fully remote. The needs of employees changed, and companies were confronted with countless new challenges. How would remote technologies unite teams? How long should offices be left empty? Was two weeks PTO enough time, given the state of the world?

Culture Shifts

Prior to the pandemic, Madden had roughly 15 remote employees of our total 100. By mid-year 2020, the entire company (like everyone else) transitioned to a temporary, fully remote work model. Pretty quickly, it became clear: the lockdown was here to stay. Madden’s executive team sought long-term solutions to support employees and its clients. 

Permanent hybrid and remote work models meant employees were no longer required to be in the office. For the first time in company history, our staff could opt into the model that best suited their lifestyle. It all worked beautifully. 

“When the executive team looked at productivity, they found nothing had decreased. In fact, productivity had increased,” said HR Manager Torre Naas.

This new model of remote work allowed employees to better balance their professional and home lives. Team members were now allowed to self-regulate and maintain their workloads in a manner that best suited their lifestyles. Moms and Dads could start later in the day to prepare their kids for school. Anyone could shift their schedules to make a doctor’s appointment. The system worked better than ever before, and it worked because it was founded on the basis of trust.

Managing Account Strategist Alison Mairena working remotely from Spanish Wells, Bahamas.

“We know our team is invested in providing great work for our clients and are invested in their mission,” said CEO Dan Janes. “Our PTO policy is built on a  foundation of trust. We hire great people who do great things from wherever it is they need to be. At our core, if we cannot trust each other, then we probably should not be working together.”

It was all working so well, so seamlessly, in fact, that executive leadership took a closer look at the pre-Pandemic PTO policies. While the previous model of PTO was generous, it was antiquated. The nature of work had changed. As the world reopened, we all craved travel and community more than ever before.

“With so many of our clients in the travel and tourism space, we know the important benefits that travel has on individuals,” Janes said. “We know that in order to be your best for yourself, family, and our clients, you need rest, relaxation and vacation. That looks very different for everyone across our team.” 

As the future of work experienced evolution, so too did Madden. Employees were now welcome to take whatever time they needed, for whatever reason. PTO was now less about managing the time of people and more about a broader discussion of performance, results, and output that placed individual autonomy over traditional management systems.

The new models more than worked — they flourished. Madden now has 142 employees spread across 31 different states (and counting). And as a result, productivity is at an all-time high, and so too is paid time off.

Maddenites are on the move. See where some of our team members utilized responsible PTO this summer.

See Responsible PTO in Action

Our team impacts the growth of communities by creating personalized, immersive content that connects people to places. This summer, Madden employees have traveled across the world and back again—from Greece to Colombia, from Oahu to Nashville, and beyond. Explore some of their stories.

Bordeaux, France: Media Strategist Wes Condray-Wright

“I have a relative who owns a B&B in a small village called Saussignac,” said Condray-Wright. “We came to spend some time enjoying the countryside and of course, enjoy all the wine the Bordeaux region has to offer. The flexibility to be able to work from anywhere makes it so easy to take advantage of summer travel. All you need is a stable WiFi connection, and boom, instant office. I appreciate that Madden not only promotes travel externally but encourages us to explore the world as well.”

Orlando, Florida: Director of Destination Strategy Kaitie Burger

“My brother lives in Orlando and works at Disney, and I was heading to Florida for some work-related travel. I was able to tack on a few PTO days to spend visiting with my brother, who I haven’t seen in quite some time,” said Burger. “Our PTO and remote work flexibility impacts my decisions tremendously when it comes to travel! It’s great to be able to take long weekends without feeling the pressure of being away from my desk. And our remote work flexibility means that I can even treat myself to a little workcation where I can spend some productive time, but also be able to see friends and family in the mix too. A little poolside work time is never a bad choice.”

New York City, New York: Content Specialist Josh Johnson

“This summer I visited NYC because I love the chance to explore solo, and NYC has all my favorite things — good food, great bars, and plenty of people watching,” said Johnson. “Madden’s responsible PTO helps me craft new experiences for myself without the guilt often times associated with frequent travel — which as a creative in the tourism space helps to fuel future stories, ideas, and concepts.

Interested in learning more about Madden’s benefits and company culture? Explore more of Madden Media here.

Madden on the Move: 2022 Team Retreats 

Madden Media is over 140 people strong with over 140 offices across the United States. Yes, you read that right. During the pandemic, we discovered a physical office was an unnecessary constraint to finding talent. Our teams are more productive, engaged, and creative, working from anywhere. While we are thriving remotely, there’s nothing quite like hanging out in person. So we did it.

Four Madden teams left their home offices to travel across the country for three days of teambuilding in client destinations. These are their stories. 

A Herd of Goats Wander Boise, ID

Did you know that in Idaho specifically, you’ll find Goat Lake and Goat Falls and even rental goats? When Madden Media was named agency of record for the Idaho Department of Commerce and Idaho Tourism, we took inspiration from the state, and Team Goat was formed. The herd headed to Boise, ID, to reconnect, have some fun, and immerse themselves in Idaho. 

“It’s one thing to see Idaho on your computer screen every single day, but to actually be there and experience downtown Boise and its energy was really special,” said Content Specialist Amanda Oien.

Since its formation, the team has grown and expanded, with many having never met in person. So they all got acquainted (or reacquainted) over dinner and drinks before their full retreat day. Idaho Department of Commerce Marketing and Innovation Administrator Matt Borud joined them, sharing how his team works and their goals. The topic of conversation turned to Team Goat, examining team aspirations, challenges, successes, and team culture. Next, it was on to the team adventure — whitewater rafting. Idaho has some of the best paddling and rafting in North America, so it was a must. While the team was apprehensive (some can’t even swim, and most had never tried it), they conquered the rapids and experienced team bonding at its most extreme together. 

“As cheesy as it sounds, we made lifelong memories that day because we not only got to bond with our coworkers, but we also got to do something completely out of our comfort zone,” said Oien. “We were on this beautiful river surrounded by wilderness; it was just incredible.” 

A Clan of Honey Badgers Explore Tampa Bay, FL

Notorious for its strength, ferocity, and toughness, the honey badger is one animal not to be messed with. Each member of Team Honey Badger uses these traits to deliver holistic solutions for clients such as Discover Atlanta, Visit Buffalo Niagara, South Carolina’s Hammock Coast,  Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council, and Visit Tampa Bay. The Honey Badgers found themselves beach bound and headed to Tampa Bay, FL, to hang ten together. 

“I am just four months on the job now, and so this was my first time getting to meet everyone on the team,” said PR Strategist Brianna Francis. “The excitement was really building for this because half of us have been with Madden for ten years or more, and the other half are brand new.”

The Honey Badgers left their computer screens at home and met face-to-face in Florida. The retreat kicked off at Top Golf, connecting over golf swings, dinner, and drinks. The team assembled the next day for presentations by discipline, sharing an in-depth look into their day-to-day. Visit Tampa Bay joined in to explain the inner workings of the DMO and identify trends for the upcoming year before leading them on a tour of their visitor center. They also experienced the Florida Aquarium in Tampa Bay and took a trip to Ybor City. 

“We had an incredible meal at Florida’s Oldest RestaurantSM, Columbia Restaurant, in a private room and watched the flamenco show. Afterward, some of the team found the roosters that roam the city,” said Francis. “It was a great experience. We immersed ourselves in our client destination while getting to know each other in person.”

A Conspiracy of Ravens Land in St. Louis, MO

Ravens are playful, social, and intelligent animals, as are the folks who make up one of Madden’s largest teams. Team Raven works with midwest clients, including the Missouri Division of Tourism, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and Explore St. Louis. So when it came time to plan their Madden retreat, St. Louis, MO, was the ideal destination where they could reconnect while learning more about the area. 

The team stayed in the heart of St. Louis in a historic hotel near the America’s Center Convention Complex across the street from Explore St. Louis’ offices. The first full day started with a presentation by Explore St. Louis, where members of the DMO shared more about their roles, how the DMO operates, and where they get funding. Next, they got to explore Union Station featuring The St. Louis Wheel, the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station, the Fire & Light Show at Union Station, and so much more. Throughout the experience, they sampled St. Louis delicacies, including toasted ravioli, Provel pizza (only made in St. Louis), and gooey butter cake. Not to mention they all enjoyed a full spread of ballpark favorites during Star Wars night from their private suite at The Cardinal Ballpark Village with a few representatives from Explore St. Louis. 

“As much as I love remote work, you really do need that in-person connection to bolster relationships and meet the new team members. Travel is one of the most meaningful things you can do with another person, building unique experiences that you won’t have anywhere else,” said Content Strategist Marissa Selby. “Plus, getting to experience a client’s destination ignites more passion for what we do.”

A Tribe of Sasquatch Infiltrate Milwaukee, WI 

Tall, respected, nature-loving — that’s a Sasquatch in a nutshell. One of Madden’s largest teams oversees many “great outdoors” sections of America, such as the Wyoming Office of Tourism, Grand Canyon West, and Galena Country, Illinois. Yet this mysterious team is just as comfortable representing urban areas, including one of Madden’s newest clients — VISIT Milwaukee. So when planning the Sassy Retreat, the team went wild in Milwaukee, WI.

“A bonding experience like no other. This team, this company. It’s truly changed me as a person,” said Managing Account Strategist Alison Mairena. “The energy and work ethic my fellow sassies bring to the table is unmatched, and while this inspires me to be the best I can be, this also drives my passion for the work we do.” 

The clan arrived from all corners of the country, descending on one of the coolest hotels in Wisconsin, Saint Kate — The Arts Hotel. This creative hub for the city was a perfect base camp, where every aspect of the hotel is inspired by music, painting, sculpture, and design. The team wasted no time making the most of their short time together. They sang karaoke, dined and drank, and solved mysteries to get into a speakeasy. Some of them kayaked the Milwaukee River, others experienced the city’s best bars, clubs, and pubs from a bicycle bar, and still, others went on a go-cart tour of the city. What they all did was a friendly team challenge pitching new and innovative ideas before meeting with members of VISIT Milwaukee, The Wisconsin Center, and Summerfest to learn more about what this incredible city has to offer. 

“Expect more in 2024 because the Wisconsin Center District is expanding! The news of the expansion has been the driving focus of our marketing efforts, and I was finally able to see just how much of an impact this will have on the city,” said Mairena. “We were lucky enough to get a tour of the district as well as an inside look of the Panther Arena and Miller High Life Theater. Milwaukee is a beautiful city, and I will most definitely be back, especially for the cheese curds.”

The Power of Travel

Here at Madden Media, we recognize the positive impact tourism has on the communities within the destinations we serve. Travel makes the world better by generating tax revenue to support communities, paychecks to feed families, and experiences to grow empathy through understanding. We don’t want to only create campaigns that drive visitation; we want to walk the walk and be those travelers. And while it was fun to all be together, the impact of these retreats will carry over to our work.

“Working in the tourism industry, we know that meetings drive impact not just for the communities that host events, but the attendees as well. When you bring people together, you create deeper connections that can solve bigger challenges, and you generate creative collisions that create new opportunities through purpose-built collaboration,” said CEO Dan Janes. “Each of our teams was able to build those connections, and they all came away with new ideas and deeper understanding of the business and opportunities we can create for our clients.”

Overtourism Summer Blog Series Part Four: Promoting Resident & Partner Sentiment

In a recent study conducted by Destination International, residents reported that they felt left out of the conversation when it came to tourism development in their communities. Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, local economies nationwide witnessed enormous booms in travel and tourism — both to the benefit and burden of the locals. With mounting concerns surrounding overtourism and sustainability, it’s now more important than ever that the voices and concerns of the community and their partners are taken into account.

Creating Meaningful Connections

Residents are an often overlooked target audience in destination marketing. While locals largely benefit from travel and tourism in their community, they also bear the brunt of the consequences. Building deliberate and thoughtful relationships between locals and visitors can generate immeasurably positive effects for both stakeholders. When resident sentiment is high, buy-in and pride in the community increase across the board. One example of an effective regenerative tourism campaign through the lens of the locals is our work with Visit Port Aransas.

Once known as a sleepy fishing village along the Gulf Coast of Texas, Port Aransas is now widely regarded as a hip and happening vacation destination for the young and old alike. As the community of Port Aransas grew, the community felt like their concerns weren’t being met and identified an increasing need for sustainable tourism. Salty Stories was their solution. 

In creating the video and podcast series Salty Stories, Visit Port Aransas was able to share first-person stories about the island’s locals that were both authentic and humanizing. These stories created a personal connection to the community, which led to increased bookings and greater stewardship efforts from visitors.

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Boosting Partners

An equally important facet of resident sentiment is partner sentiment. Despite positive perceptions of travel and tourism broadly, a disconnect can sometimes be present between partners and their DMOs. It’s not enough to just run ads highlighting a destination, partners need to feel equal buy-in regarding destination marketing — after all, they are the primary economic drivers in their community. It’s also vital they feel supported when times are bad, such as during the pandemic. For this reason, it’s important that DMOs create accessible opportunities for discourse that both engage and educate their partners. 

Cooperative marketing programs pose the perfect opportunity for communities to collaborate with and boost unique partnerships. In 2021, Explore Branson partnered with Madden to offer cooperative sales opportunities to their partners. Five co-op opportunities were offered that aligned with the Branson/Lakes Area CVB’s overall destination marketing strategy. Participants were featured in both the Official Annual Visitor Guide and ExploreBranson.com, which gave coverage across a spectrum of both print and digital media.

Not stopping there, Explore Branson and Madden grew the program even further. Research indicated there was growth potential in Branson’s Theatre District community — a community hit especially hard during the pandemic. Following this data, the first-ever 100% matching search marketing co-op program was born for live shows. This program saw Branson/ Lakes Area CVB matching all SEM marketing funds invested by its Theatre District partners, and included educational seminars and webinars from Madden for Branson’s partners, teaching them the value of SEM.

This program quickly sold out for all 14 partners, with Branson/Lakes Area CVB matching $300,000 in SEM funds, and the co-op has generated 45% of traffic to partner websites, with 88% of that traffic coming from new users. The co-op was a resounding success and served as a model for future partner sentiment initiatives. 

Building a Better Tomorrow

Travel truly makes the world a better place. Heads in beds generate meaningful tax revenue, which in turn builds schools, roads, and parks. Paychecks feed families. Exposure to new cultures and ideologies builds empathy. There’s no question that the positive impacts of travel far outweigh the negative; however, as the demands of the modern world change, so too should we. And who better to help us build a brighter tomorrow than the individuals of a community? From defining the role of a DMO, visitation volume, and sustainability, it’s our responsibility to collaborate in tandem to ensure our efforts ripple positively through generations to come. 

Overtourism Summer Blog Series Part Three: Quality Over Quantity

For some destinations, increasing visitation volume is no longer an objective. Seasonality trends mean during peak season many DMOs don’t need to spend many marketing dollars to compel people to travel to their communities. This is a nice problem to have, but when peak season brings with it overtourism, many DMOs don’t know how to respond. 

We have already covered a few strategies in earlier parts of this blog series. This post will focus on how DMOs can adjust their media targeting strategies to prioritize length of stay, in-destination spending, return visits, and more over visitation volume. 

Digging Into the Visitation Data

DMOs armed with rich destination intelligence will be better positioned to apply a quality over quantity approach to their media targeting. By analyzing which origin markets generate the longest average length of stay and highest in-destination spending, DMOs can determine which origin markets deliver the highest value per visitation.

Our team also recommends identifying which origins markets generate the most return visitors. Studies have shown that “tourists with relatively high budgets tend to exhibit a higher repeat visit pattern.” 

Madden has developed custom indexes for clients that calculate origin market visitation value — giving DMOs the ability to rank and prioritize the origin markets that deliver the highest ROI in their marketing efforts. 

Quality Over Quantity in Action: Visit Port Aransas

Visit Port Aransas needed a clearer understanding of its visitors’ origin markets and travel interests to plan better media campaigns. They also wanted a line of sight into visitors’ behaviors and origin markets for its competitors to deploy conquesting tactics. Madden created a custom Destination Competitive Insights report that integrates different data sources into an easy-to-use, dynamic dashboard.

Using Voyage, we analyzed economic and visitation data to identify where the most valuable visitations were coming from. We created a custom index to quantify the top origin markets with metrics like length of stay, in-destination spending, number of return visits, and more. This analysis showed us which origin markets produced the highest value visitors—visitors that make the highest economic impact. As a result, Visit Port Aransas was able to identify Austin, TX as a high-value origin market, and launched an in-person activation there to engage with prospective travelers. 

Voyage also enabled our team to conduct a competitive analysis of competitors’ origin markets and develop conquesting audiences. The interactive dashboard provides insights into market comparisons, visitor behavior, and demographic variability between Port Aransas and its competitors in side-by-side data visualizations.

The Port Aransas team can now generate unique comparison data visualizations for its 12 competitor markets. This tool enables their team to analyze data, including unique visitors, origin markets, average length of stay, seasonality, demographics, and cross-visitations between Port Aransas and its competitors.

The dashboard also includes audience creation functionality that Port Aransas can use to create and export device IDs to generate lookalike audiences. Their team can select a competitor destination and an origin market, and then download the device IDs from the top 100 high-value zip codes in the selected origin market. That information can be leveraged to build targeted marketing campaigns.

Evolving Destination Marketing to Destination Management

Understanding travelers through destination marketing, DMOs can have a better line of sight into their destination’s capacity for people to visit. By enriching media deployments with visitation data, Madden works strategically to ensure marketing campaigns work in concert with destinations’ communities. 

As you’ve seen in previous iterations of this series, Madden is working with DMOs to redefine the role they play in today’s tourism and generate sustainable tourism while promoting environmental stewardship. In the fourth and final part of this series, we will examine ways DMOs can increase resident sentiment to make sure communities feel their voices are heard in destination marketing. 

Overtourism Summer Blog Series Part Two: Sustainable Tourism and Environmental Stewardship

Attend any conference or travel and tourism event, and the words on most lips are “sustainable tourism.” Of course, the environment was on our minds pre-pandemic. Yet, the rise of people flocking to outdoor spaces and seemingly overrunning smaller communities during COVID brought protecting natural resources, providing socio-economic benefits for tourist destination communities, and creating authentic tourism experiences rapidly to the top of to-do lists. 

With a significant number of our partners working in destinations heavily reliant on limited, natural resources, Madden is actively deploying marketing campaigns that support what many of today’s travelers are looking for now and what tomorrow’s travelers will require. Here, we share two successful sustainability campaigns — Discover Crystal River Florida and Visit Idaho — to inspire you to champion environmental stewardship in your destination. 

Discover Crystal River “Step Into Awesome”

As part of our award-winning “Step Into Awesome” brand campaign for Discover Crystal River, we amplified the brand as the Manatee Capital of the World while highlighting education, conservation, and protection. 

This campaign sought to tap into the emotions travelers feel in the destination by developing visuals of the one-of-a-kind experiences Crystal River offers — among them up-close manatee interactions. 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.

Thrilling videos, inspiring photography, and dynamic blog content delivered educational resources about the manatees and their habitat. Website visitors are treated to a hub of information from the homepage “Learn About Manatees” that solidifies Discover Crystal River Florida as a manatee authority from the video “Caring for Manatees” to the pages educating travelers on everything from manatee protection and conversation to how to interact with the loveable sea cow to visiting responsibly, and more. 

Since implementing the new brand campaign, all behavior metrics have seen a 10% or higher improvement, including time on site, time on page, and bounce rates. Most importantly, not only is Discover Crystal River’s manatee community stronger and healthier than ever but so is the overall manatee population in Florida. Initial surveys in the early 1990s showed only 1,300 manatees left in the state. US Fish and Game estimates that the population is pushing over 6,500 today.

Visit Idaho “Travel with Care”

Idaho is a destination flush with natural assets and outdoor recreation experiences. The pandemic saw visitors flock to the state in high numbers as outdoor adventures became the most desired travel aspiration. 

As Visit Idaho’s agency of record, Madden developed a marketing campaign in partnership with Idaho Fish and Game and Idaho State Parks & Recreation, encouraging Idaho residents and visitors to recreate responsibly. The “Travel with Care” campaign is a three-pillar initiative that reminds travelers to ‘Care for Yourself, Care for Others and Care for Idaho’ when adventuring to the Gem State.

The first pillar highlights being prepared and staying safe when visitors are headed outdoors. The second pillar focuses on being courteous and kind while enjoying Idaho’s outdoors, while the third pillar focuses on caring for Idaho and being aware of the impact every traveler has on the destination. 

The multi-channel campaign included sustainability messaging being served to target audiences and driving online users to a landing page. The web page consists of tips on how to travel with care and recreating responsibly resources, including road conditions, weather, fire restrictions, and wildfire updates. A separate “Recreate Responsibly in Idaho” video shares key information and resources about the conservation and respectful use of Idaho’s state and federal land. 

Mitigating Challenges of Overtourism

While these are only two examples of the innovative sustainable tourism campaigns Madden Media is creating, there are many other DMOs collaborating with us. Watch our social media channels and our blog for more as parts three and four of the sustainable blog series will be published later this summer, and be sure to check out part one

Overtourism Summer Blog Series Part One: What is the purpose of a DMO?

What is the purpose of a DMO today? Like many organizations  during the pandemic, Madden examined our future and aspirations. In the past few years, the tourism industry faced its biggest challenges since the Great Recession. One of the biggest challenges was overtourism—destinations being overwhelmed by visitation volume that exacerbated their resources. 

It became clear that destinations needed more than traditional marketing efforts to solve their modern challenges. So, we developed non-traditional destination marketing strategies to mitigate the effects of overtourism and work in concert with our clients’ communities. When the purpose of a DMO is no longer driving visitations what should its marketing initiatives look to accomplish? 

We will highlight some of these strategies in this Overtourism Summer Blog Series. This summer, when many destinations will be experiencing their peak tourism seasons, we will outline ways destinations can mitigate overtourism over this four-part series. We will also spotlight ways we are putting these strategies into action for some of our DMO partners. 

This series will include an in-depth look at each of the following three initiatives, which destinations can embrace to overcome overtourism. 

Promote Sustainable Tourism

It’s not always about driving visitation. Sometimes, a destination already has all the visitors it can handle. We work strategically to develop campaigns that achieve key business initiatives focused on promoting sustainable tourism and environmental stewardship.

We have successfully developed campaigns for Discover Crystal River and Visit Idaho to responsibly market the destinations while respecting the fragile natural assets that make both places unique. 

Emphasize Value over Volume

When volume is no longer the priority, DMOs must adjust their media targeting strategies to emphasize increasing length of stay, in-destination spending, return visits, and more. This approach produces high-value visitations—trying to increase the ROI while tempering the volume of visitation.

We have leveraged destination intelligence for Visit Port Aransas to deploy this media strategy to generate high-value visitation. 

Improve Resident Sentiment

Residents are often an overlooked target audience. While they benefit from the positive effects of tourism, they also suffer consequences from negative effects. We believe our work can generate a positive collective impact that ripples across communities, and it’s vital to include your local stakeholders perspective as part of that work. 

We have launched a campaign for Port Aransas that tells the stories of residents. This campaign aimed to increase resident sentiment and ensured their voices are included in messaging. 

Collective Impact

This isn’t an exaggeration: travel makes the world a better place. Tax revenue builds parks and schools. Paychecks feed families. Exposure to new people and places builds empathy. Madden aims for our work to make an impact that ripples across generations. A key part of that work is helping DMOs overcome external challenges. We hope that over the course of this series you’ll gain insights to ensure that you can mitigate challenges brought on by overtourism, and ensure the collective impact your work makes is a positive one. 

Celebrating Craft Beers with Tap Takeovers, Trails, and Microsites

Did you know that most Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewery? That is a statistic shared by the Brewers Association, the trade association of brewers, for brewers, and by brewers. You can thank the craft beer boom, where between 2008 and 2016 the number of breweries expanded by a factor of six and more than doubled its workforce in less than a decade as reported by The Atlantic. 

The craft beer boom not only stimulates jobs but also brings in revenue, with consumers opting to pay more for a superior brew. The demand for craft beer is also a boom for travel and tourism, with visitors seeking out the unique tastes and experiences offered in different destinations. Madden Media helps connect travelers to tasty ales through innovative advertising and marketing. 

Visit Tampa Bay and the Bay Crafted Takeovers

With one of the top craft beer scenes in the country, Tampa Bay goes above and beyond to promote the local brewery scene with Bay Crafted. This promotion includes the Bay Crafted Pass developed with Madden and Bandwango that lets drinkers check in at the locations and unlock prizes along the way. Such a popular experience needed to break out and break away to draw even more visitors to the city.

Madden Media developed the “Unlock Your Inner Pirate” activation that included tap takeovers in local restaurants and bars in Visit Tampa Bay’s key markets of Boston, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington D.C.; Orlando, Florida; and Atlanta, Georgia. Carefully vetted locations served the clientele Visit Tampa Bay sought to reach. In addition to getting brewery guests to interact with the Visit Tampa Bay brand through craft beer and pirate booty swag, we geofenced each location and delivered remarketing ads to people who attended the event. The campaign helped the DMO break in with younger travelers, increasing intent to travel by 42% equating to 2.3M in tracked revenue.  

Pickin’ Up Good Libations with Explore York

Explore York organized the Good Libations Trails® as a way for wine, beer, and spirits enthusiasts to explore the many locally owned businesses in and around York County, Pennsylvania. The Good Libations Trails bring together three regional craft beverage trails (Mason-Dixon Wine Trail®, Susquehanna Ale Trail®, and Keystone Craft Spirits Trail®) that explore locally produced beers, wines, and spirits. Through this platform, York County drives traffic to their partner destinations while staying connected to the consumer throughout the process.

What began as a paper passport transformed in 2021 into a digitized passport through a partnership with Madden and Bandwango. Madden promoted the updated Good Libations Trails Digital Pass through targeted advertising on social media. Our ads reached potential visitors in key drive markets throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland who were interested in craft beverage experiences, including wineries, breweries, and distilleries. The campaign saw an above-average click-through rate and helped to broaden awareness of this newly developed offering by the DMO.

Crafting a Microsite with Visit Idaho

Craft brewing is a growing industry in Idaho, bringing in millions of dollars and thousands of jobs annually. Recognizing a boom in the industry, Visit Idaho partnered with Idaho Brewers United in 2017 to designate April as Idaho Craft Beer Month. Visit Idaho added web pages on VisitIdaho.org to gather and promote the month-long events. It became obvious to all involved that the site would be better served under the nonprofit trade association working to bring Idaho breweries together and protect and promote the state’s craft beer industry.

Visit Idaho approached Madden Media to work with Idaho Brewers United to migrate the pages off the state’s website by creating a stand-alone microsite. Idaho Brewers United had an outdated Square Space website and requested a WordPress site for easier management and maintenance. The result is IdahoCraftBeerMonth.com, a five-page website where Idaho’s craft brewers can easily submit an event and download the Idaho Brewers United event guidelines toolkit. Locals and visitors alike use the site to download the Idaho Brewer’s Trail Map and find events to enjoy a pint or two during Idaho’s beer season.

Join us to raise a glass and toast the craft beer industry and the destinations that promote delicious experiences to visitors around the world. If you’d like to learn more about how Madden Media can create ale trails for your destination, drop us a note. 

National Travel & Tourism Week: The Future of Travel

In the aftermath of the pandemic, the travel industry faced some of its most trying times. Uncertainty, anxiety, prolonged closures, and job loss shrouded a market that previously generated $2.6 trillion dollars in economic impact annually. The absence of travel and in-person connections was challenging to say the least.

But now — despite two years of setbacks — the industry is witnessing a new and improved kind of growth. For National Travel and Tourism Week, we set our eyes on the future — a future that strives to incorporate in-person connections, sustainable travel, conscious inclusion, cutting-edge creativity, and more.

Facilitating Recovery

Increasingly, consumers are looking to reduce the environmental impact of tourism (and overtourism) through sustainable and regenerative travel. In fact, according to a 2022 study conducted by Booking.com, more than 61% of U.S. travelers want to vacation more sustainably.

For Madden’s Chief Revenue Officer Brett Gordon, sustainable and regenerative tourism are growing demands that require immediate action.

“COVID-19 hit the accelerate button in the sustainable tourism shift,” Gordon says. “We see our outdoor destinations increase in visitation, and overall travel seasons continue to extend. Soon, many destinations will need to think about capacity and how they can ensure these invaluable resources are maintained for future generations.”

With more and more conscientious consumers entering the market daily, it’s the responsibility of destination marketers to position initiatives toward greater environmental and socially responsible travel. With the correct tools, travelers can simultaneously experience and protect our country.

“Not only is sustainability important because our planet and our people are at stake, but also because today’s travelers — Millennials and Gen Z in particular — hold brands and destinations to a standard only supported by genuine action,” says Content Strategist Lindsey Wilhelm. “Spreading awareness of, and advising against, overtourism is a solid starting point.”

Greater Mobility

Prior to the pandemic, digital nomadism was an enviable niche of travel that few had the privilege of experiencing. Now, with more than 40 million Americans working remotely, a new kind of travel market is emerging. No longer do you have to sacrifice personal for professional — instead, you can log your hours remotely, from anywhere in the country.

According to Madden’s Chief Operating Officer Sarah Hupp Foster, the “work from anywhere” trend is here to stay.

“Travel will continue to be more integrated into our lifestyles as hybrid and remote work are more the norm,” Hupp Foster says. “Digital nomad culture allows people to more easily and frequently travel. Adding extra time onto trips to enjoy new places via extended weekends with partial working time through the week is big this year and likely to continue.”

With this work and wander travel style entering the mainstream market, it’s the responsibility of destination marketers to speak to those audiences. With destinations eager to reestablish connections, smaller and more local communities stand to gain.

“Lots of people are willing to go a few hours by car to work during the week without sacrificing PTO,” says Front End & WordPress Developer Joe Mallot. “I think regions should look to pull people from metropolitan areas to scenic areas a few hours away and advertise fast internet speed to allow people the freedom to escape for a bit, even if they don’t want to commit to taking full days off.”

In-Person Corporate Travel

According to a study conducted in February 2021 by Destination Analysts, 50.4 percent of planners anticipate a “return to normal” by the end of 2022. Similarly, according to the U.S. Travel Association, 85% of U.S. companies are once again conducting business travel.

For Destination Development Specialist Jeff Hirst, corporate travel is slowly returning to normal. With this change, it’s increasingly essential that destinations rise with the changing tides — so much so that over half of all planners say they are certain or very likely to use conventions and visitor bureaus as planning resources in 2022.

“I think we’re learning the importance of face-to-face, person-to-person connections,” Hirst says. “As airline restrictions are lifted, and business development professionals feel more comfortable moving about the country, the corporate market will come back. Be it new accounts or account maintenance; there’s a very important aspect to meeting someone ‘zoom-less.’ It may be our generation’s equivalent to a hand-written letter.”

Influencer/Socially Influenced Travel

Online communities and social influencers grew to a whopping $13.8 billion industry in 2021. Travelers increasingly trust the recommendations and experiences of influencers and often seek inspiration from familiar faces first. When Hubspot asked global marketing professionals which trends they planned to invest in first, 61% said the influencer economy.

“The future of travel is social media and influencer-heavy,” says Front End Developer Pierce Hicks. “Informal ads by targeted influencers are increasing in consumer preference. People want to learn about a great place to go via a relatable and informal method that is almost like a friend giving a recommendation.”

More and more, we see the rise of digital tribes building upon and expanding the creator economy. With TikTok outperforming Google as a search engine, the influencer market is here to stay.

Innovation in Travel Marketing

The nature of user experience is changing. How and where a person can travel is simultaneously limitless and restricted. While some destinations may remain closed to in-person travel, new technologies allow for continued exploration. With the advent of virtual and augmented reality, destination marketers should continue to seek ways to capitalize on new experiences, while keeping in-person experiences immersive, fun, and highly shareable on social media.

According to MarTech Strategist Aretha Walls, travelers have the urge to break away from the confines of the familiar to see and feel new connections and experiences.

“I remember sitting at my computer and spending over an hour clicking through Google StreetView, amazed at how wide the world can be,” Walls says. “The past two years have honed our ability to eke out a piece of joy where we can: in stay-cations, in a weekend at the next town over, in blog posts and old travel photos, and immersive new technologies. As restrictions are lifted, I hope we as travelers and as destination marketing leaders can appreciate those hard-learned lessons and continue to find our joy in new ways and unexpected places.”

Creativity Driving Inspiration

As we continue to witness shifts in destination marketing and travel trends, it’s more important than ever to deliver unique and cutting-edge creative campaigns that capture the individual essence of each and every destination they represent.

“I see the future of travel being fueled by creative storytelling inspiration,” says Senior Creative Director Bria Hammock. “Destinations will continue to find their comfort in crafting, curating, and telling their unique story to connect emotionally to the visitor before they even step a foot onto their soil.”

In capturing the essence of a destination through deliberate storytelling and engaging design, the travel industry can drive tourists to further explore more niche corners of the country.

“All of these integral pieces come together to craft something a little esoteric in the mind of a traveler,” Hammock says. “That perfect moment in time… forever connected with the corner of the world in which it took place. That specific way in which a retailer connects emotionally with their brand loyalist is how destinations will lean into curating relationships with their visitors in the future.”

It is our shared responsibility as a nation and as an industry to drive the #FutureOfTravel forward. A better tomorrow starts today. Check out Facebook and LinkedIn for more National Travel and Tourism Week insights.

Improving Resident Sentiment Through Regenerative Tourism

How Port A Shares the “Salty Stories” of Its Community For Positive Visitation & Growth

Port Aransas, Texas wasn’t always a tourist destination. Longtime residents of the island remember its early days fondly as a sleepy fishing village and quiet seaside port. Following decades of growth, “Port A” has become a hip escape for both Texans and national travelers. And while the destination continues to grow and invite new visitors daily, many of the original residents of the community remain. 

Port A has been the focus of many family traditions for generations, and these traditions, families, and stories, are what keep the island connected with new visitors. In an effort to further capture the essence of the community, encourage responsible tourism, and highlight what makes the destination so unique, Port A partnered with Madden to deliver the local Salty Stories series. 

Objective

As the world continues to change, and with it, the nature of travel, destinations are increasingly seeking ways to thoughtfully engage stakeholders and visitors alike. As Port A grows as a tourist destination, the community identified an increasing need for sustainable tourism and effective ways to encourage visitors to help keep Port A clean and welcoming. Salty Stories was the solution.

Through videos and podcasts, Port A shared authentic and humanizing stories about the island. These stories create a personal connection between visitors and the community, which in turn, leads to increased bookings and stewardship from travelers.

Approach

Port A is more than a beach destination. It’s a town filled with talented makers, which carries a unique culture all its own. By highlighting the characters behind local experiences and their love for their seaside town, we were able to introduce viewers to a Port A they never knew existed. Video assets, augmented by audio, visual, written, and paid media efforts demonstrated that “this isn’t a place to swing through or take for granted — it’s a place people cherish.” 

The beauty was in every detail. With the use of high-speed, high-resolution videography, Madden captured every speck of sawdust, glisten of the hard candy, and bubble in browning garlic butter, casting an effortlessly cool and authentic light on Port Aransas’ talented locals. The relaxed aesthetic portrayed in the videos carried over onto the landing page, and subsequent paid marketing efforts like Google Responsive Display ads and Facebook remarketing efforts.

The use of the local vernacular “Salty” helps bring visitors into the fold to strengthen the draw of the local culture, allowing Port A to stand out among other surface-level, get-in-get-out beach destinations. 


Learn more about the work we’re doing for Port A, including the award-winning Margarita Madness.

Lights, Camera, Activations!: Experiential Marketing for Destinations

“Sooner or later, everything old is new again.”

Stephen King

Nostalgia always sells. The pandemic forced people into their personal digital corners, but everyone is ready to come out and rejoin the “town square.” It’s time to re-embrace the channels and tactics of yesteryear to reconnect with consumers in a more meaningful and nostalgic way.

The Marketing Landscape

Marketers are blessed with emerging technologies that give deeper insights into audiences and greater abilities to reach consumers than ever before. However, there’s something about digital advertising that some consumers can find inauthentic — and with over 10 million advertisers, the digital space is crowded. That’s why it’s important to make a cognizant effort to connect with consumers on an emotional level from the jump.

The pandemic has also exacerbated some troubling social trends. Digital fatigue, parasocial relationship disorder, tech-stress, and digital detox are real challenges that consumers are dealing with. You need to be present in the digital space, but people are looking for opportunities to reconnect through disconnecting — requiring marketers to emphasize offline strategies in their marketing mix.  

One-to-One Connections

A DMO’s primary goal should be to make personal connections with their target audiences. You can’t just cast a wide net and reach as many people as possible. Marketers need to flip the traditional sales funnel and begin the consumer’s journey by making genuine connections with a small group, and then scaling communications up through likeminded audiences or word-of-mouth.

General self promotion is no longer enough. Just display and banner ads aren’t enough to make an impact. Consumers are looking for something more, and to truly make a lasting connection, DMOs must engage prospective travelers through multiple ways. They need to connect with consumers’ senses by giving them something to listen to, touch, or physically experience — creating a memorable interaction. A great first step in that endeavor is for DMOs to venture out and meet travelers where they are through experiential marketing. See how we help some of our partner destinations develop and execute activations. 

Port Aransas in Austin

Visit Port Aransas and Madden brought the island life inland with our activation in Austin. Passersby could experience everything from getting your photo taken on a famous Port Aransas golf cart to watching a sandcastle sculptor with some island music in the background. The true distillation of the Visit Port Aransas brand was brought right to a key target audience. We focused on having people live out the Port Aransas experience, from touch to taste. Young people spent hours playing cornhole and collecting merchandise from the island.

Madden led the way with organizing and executing the details of the activation. With a main focus of expanding brand awareness of Port Aransas as an island escape for Texas families and ensuring Port Aransas’s iconic Texas SandFest had a part in the day as well.. The activation successfully showcased the brand, increased destination awareness with a key audience, and helped inspire a new generation to start a new tradition for family and leisure getaways.

We deployed complementary media tactics including radio ads, geofencing, and out-of-home ads, which drove nearly 4,000 page views on a custom landing page we built for the activation. The activation led to over 330 new leads for Visit Port Aransas.

Visit Cheyenne in Dallas-Fort Worth

Visit Cheyenne wanted to grow their brand awareness in an engaged target market. Identifying strong growth in web traffic and visitations from the Dallas-Fort Worth DMA, Madden and Visit Cheyenne planned a three-day activation in the market. 

We orchestrated an in-market activation alongside high-trafficked events during the American Rodeo at the historic Fort Worth Stockyards. This included two in-person activations at Billy Bob’s Texas, encouraging sweepstake signups and utilizing Cheyenne ambassadors to speak with potential visitors. This was coupled with an intimate, yet casual PR event with vetted media, and promotional from paid media tactics. 

Through our efforts, we saw strong results from the campaign including a 179% increase in DMA traffic from the previous year, 350% goal achievement for video distribution, and nearly 6,000 sweepstakes signups compared to an original goal of 833 leads. 

Experiential Marketing

Meeting travelers where they are in the physical world provides an opportunity to truly make a connection. These activations create an opportunity to distribute branded merchandise and collateral (both digital and physical) to continue building relationships with prospective visitors.

Especially after a few years where in-person interactions were scarce, experiential marketing activations are an ideal way to make a lasting impression with travelers.