WWTT? Lexington Tourism Office Uses ‘Neigh-SMR’ to Attract Visitors

VisitLEX, the tourism office of Lexington, Ky., launched a new campaign recently to highlight how the city is the Horse Capital of the World. The new campaign features ASMR and a horse, so clearly it’s more of a ‘Neigh-SMR’ campaign.

Well, I’m not sure if you’ve had a true work-week until you find yourself with your headphones on at your desk, watching an ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) video featuring a horse for a tourism campaign when your boss stops by. Thankfully, most of my office knows I have a tendency to hunt down the fun and absurd marketing campaigns that are out there, and this one definitely counts.

VisitLEX, the tourism office of Lexington, Ky., launched a new campaign recently to highlight how the city is the Horse Capital of the World (and then some). While the home of Churchill Downs may be approximately 80 miles to the west, Lexington is surrounded by over 400 horse farms and is home to the 1,200-acre Kentucky Horse Park. So when VisitLEX’s agency Team Cornett suggested creating an ASMR campaign, the tourism office agreed with unbridled enthusiasm (okay, I’ll show myself out now).

Did you just watch a 2-minute video of a horse eating carrots, peppermints and apples? Yes, yes you did. Was it a little weird? Probably, but listening to anyone eat is weird in my book (and usually kind of gross). But this campaign comes from an agency who used horses mounted with cameras to film ads for VisitLEX in 2017 … ads that were successful. So why not try ASMR?

In an article by AdWeek, Whit Hiler, creative director of the agency is quoted:

“This approach is unique in the tourism space because most destinations focus on promoting the sights. The sounds of a destination are often neglected. We saw this as an opportunity to do something fun and different ,while playing on the phenomenon of ASMR. Folks can watch this video, and if they decide to visit Lexington, they can go out to the Kentucky Horse Park or one of the 400 horse farms surrounding Lexington and experience this in real life.”

And with ASMR finding its way into more marketing campaigns, including Michelob Ultra’s ad for the Super Bowl this year, both Team Cornett and VisitLEX are not wrong to give this tactic a shot.

Aside from showcasing a beautiful animal — the kind you could see up close and in person if you were to visit — watching and hearing a horse eat carrots and apples is a happy childhood memory for many people. The campaign taps into that simple joy, and in my opinion, is well done and pretty unique in the hospitality space (though I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Moxy Hotels offering ASMR bedtime story videos for guests who can’t sleep).

If you consider Michelob Ultra’s ad, which had Zoe Kravitz doing ASMR-y things, like running her finger nails over the bottle and whispering into a microphone, well, you might ask, what does that have to do with light beer? Nothing really. So in that case, the ad is tapping into the popularity of ASMR videos simply for the sake of jumping onto the trend.

But VisitLEX showcasing a horse from the Kentucky Horse Park, doing what a horse is going to do when you hand it a carrot or apple (microphones around or not), feels less like jumping onto a trend and more like applying the trend effectively to promote the vacation destination of Lexington.

VisitLEX is also sharing the video on social, including the hashtag of #ShareTheLex … and it’ll be interesting to see how the campaign pans out for them. Already, the majority of the comments on the video’s YouTube page are positive.

So what do you think marketers? Does ASMR videos have a place in advertising campaigns, or are they a popular trend that are best left to YouTubers who want to rack up millions of views while eating a pickle or scratching a hairbrush? Tell me in the comments below!

Airbnb: It’s Good to Be a Revolution

Airbnb is having a moment. Not only has it put together impressive marketing campaigns with the likes of Audi and Sweden, the leader of the sharing economy revolution is beating the giant travel sites online.

Airbnb is having a moment. Not only has it put together impressive marketing campaigns with the likes of Audi and Sweden (yes, the country), the leader of the travel sharing economy is beating the giant travel sites online.

They say it’s good to be king, but it may be better to be a revolution.

As reported by eMarketer, SimilarWeb’s “US Travel Trends and Insights 2017” report found that Airbnb has passed Booking.com, Hotels.com, Marriott International and more in Q1 Web traffic.

Airbnb beats the top hotel sites in online traffic, Q1 2017.

Now, SimilarWeb attributes this success (in a separate case study) to Airbnb using its platform. eMarketer suggests that it’s due to the rising spending power of Millennials (who they say are more comfortable “rolling the dice” on the kind of experience it offers).

I think those are both factors, but they miss the big picture: Airbnb isn’t another hotel website or travel aggregator. It’s a revolution, which lets it change the paradigm and break out compared to the other sites.

That’s a real competitive advantage, and it’s the heart of all Airbnb’s marketing and brand.

eMarketer comes close to identifying that when they finger Millennials, but it’s not that millennials are comfortable with a more crapshoot experience. In fact, much like Uber, Aribnb has built its brand by steadily using reviews to eliminate the crapshoot from its experience.

But Airbnb still does offer a revolutionary, kinda scary, experience. And all revolutions are built on young people converting to those new ways, becoming believers, and then evangelists who are willing to fight for the new way.

And if you think that sounds a bit like the customer journey, you’re right! And that’s really why Airbnb is starting to clobber the competition online. By being a revolution, a movement, it’s become the most exciting travel option, the coolest travel option, and the travel option with the most loyalty behind it.

And nowhere is that better demonstrated than in the Audi and Sweden ads i mentioned at the beginning. Airbnb has other brands paying to be associated with it.

Hotels.com has Captain Obvious.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVlBQtfbiYU

Even Captain Obvious can see Airbnb’s revolution is a massive marketing win.

Our First Roundtable for Travel and Hospitality Marketers

Last month, we had our first roundtable of the year; a night for financial services marketers. Next month, for the first time ever, we’re doing the same thing for the travel and hospitality industry, and if you’re a part of that industry, you won’t want to miss this VIP event!

Last month, we had our first roundtable of the year; a night for financial services marketers.

And you know it’s a good night when we get Melissa, aka Sass Marketing, on camera raving about the event.

So on April 6 at the Kitano Hotel in New York City — and for the first time ever with this particular group — we will be hosting a roundtable for the travel and hospitality industry.

As we’ve learned more about this vertical, we’ve realized travel and hospitality marketers face myriad challenges unique to this industry regarding customer engagement. They face “competition” from partners and service providers, not to forget disruptors. Most serve B-to-B and B-to-C customers with significantly different expectations and needs. And it’s crucial that the mobile and digital experiences they provide are outstanding, because travel consumers are on the go and one click away from another option.

That night we’ll share the room with 50 marketers from hotels, airlines, cruise lines, casinos, tourism boards and more, as our panel discusses issues such as:

  • The importance of differentiating oneself from the competition while creating relevant experiences for their varied customers
  • Perfecting the balancing act of customer engagement strategies across channels
  • Some of the best ways to adjust marketing to meet today’s digital and mobile realities
  • How to plan for analytics and MarTech initiatives that can ensure relevance in their communications

All discussions during the night will be off the record, to ensure speakers and attendees can share ideas freely all evening — during networking, as well as during the roundtable discussion.

And of course, there’ll be free drinks, lots of opportunities to meet and chat with attendees and presenters, and a great dinner!

I’m excited to be in NYC that night to meet the folks behind some of the most fun (come on, we all know travel is cool) marketing out there.

Joining me is Ginger Conlon, our special events advisor:

Ginger Conlon, Target Marketing Group Special Events Advisor

Melissa Ward of Sass Marketing:

Netflix Brings the Gore to Billboards

Taylor Knight:Taylor KnightAnd a whole room full of top marketers in the industry — already we have attendees confirmed from CzechTourism, Denihan Hospitality Group and NoMo Soho.

If you’re in travel marketing and can be in NYC on April 6, this is going to be a great chance to meet other people who do what you do in companies like yours. Compare notes, get new ideas about what’s working and what’s a problem for your peers, and hear a great panel talk about what they’re doing in the space.

I hope to see you there! Click here to register.

Hostel Marketing 101: 4 Tips for Success

I love to travel, so the opportunity to work on more travel and hospitality-specific marketing content has been a real treat. One thing I have not done yet, however, is stay in a hostel. And before you wave the idea off, hostels have come a long way since the 1970s AND not every hostel is like Eli Roth’s movie. That said, our awesome Target Marketing Group intern, Jaclyn, HAS experience with hostels and suggested a piece on them. How could I say no?

Travel DogeI love to travel, so the opportunity to work on more travel and hospitality-specific marketing content has been a real treat. I’ve met some cool people, attended a great conference focused on NY travel and helped put together a virtual panel dedicated to travel marketing in the Internet Age, hosted by one of those really cool people I met (Hint, it’s Kae Lani Kennedy and she’s seriously awesome.)

One thing I have not done yet, however, is stay in a hostel. And before you wave the idea off, hostels have come a long way since the 1970s AND not every hostel is like Eli Roth’s movie. That said, our awesome Target Marketing Group intern, Jaclyn, HAS experience with hostels and suggested a piece on them. How could I say no? So here she is, rocking your minds with four ways you can improve the marketing of your hostel.


Hostel Meme
Honestly, don’t watch it. And stop worrying, you’re going to be fine.

As a business built around low budgets and minimalism, a hostel requires crafty solutions to marketing and advertising challenges. Target prospects don’t access typical marketing channels in the same patterns as the general consumer (which is probably good news for the locals!), and cost of acquisition would most often exceed revenues from conventional tech-aided conversions.

As an avid hostel-goer, I’ve seen a lot of hostels struggle to increase guest turnover and profits because of these challenges. But I’ve also seen a lot of creative, successful marketing solutions along the way, and have become quite familiar with the backpacker/hostel-traveler demographic.

Here are four marketing ideas to help generate more business for your hostel — or offer a little inspiration for your other low-margin business.

1. Connect With the Community

Those looking to stay in hostels are looking for authentic, community-oriented, cultural experiences (jellied moose nose, anyone?). Connect with individuals and local businesses in your area and build relationships with them, so that you can later share these connections with your guests to improve their customer experience.

Use cross-promotional tactics to achieve greater word-of-mouth velocity. Your guests need to eat and want to explore your city, so offer these details — perhaps via the savvy use of well-placed fliers or a custom guidebook.

But don’t advertise these other businesses for free! Instead, approach eateries and other relevant businesses to see who’s willing to cross-promote your hostel to their customers, or recommend you to travelers getting into town.

2. Capitalize on Environmental Appeal

Environmental issues and conservation are higher priorities for this target demographic than for the general consumer. Thus, your environmental efforts will be much more appreciated by this market — so take advantage! Install shower timers, start a compost pile, encourage less paper product usage, consider installing solar panels. Or, you can get really creative and do something like installing a power-collecting dance floor to power your lights AND throw some wicked parties.

Not only will adopting eco-friendly policies boost your marketing efforts and lead to higher revenue, but your ROI should start increasing while your costs decrease (this may take a little time depending upon your initial investments on policy changes). So it’s a win-win-win — for your business, your customer and your planet.

But wait, there’s one more thing! Make sure you advertise your environmental efforts and policies both on your website and on premises. Post signs explaining your mission and policies, along with a call to action asking your guests for their help protecting the planet. Engage with your customers.

3. Set Yourself Up for Free Social Media Marketing

When people are traveling, they like to take pictures to share with others. Your hostel can harness that tendency into free social media marketing. Put something outlandish or cultural in your lobby or right outside your hostel. Passersby and guests alike will not be able to resist taking pictures and posting them to social media if it is impressive enough.

The key factor for success here? Make sure you put your hostel’s name and location (just the city will do — you don’t want to crowd the space) in a highly-visible spot for photo shoots. Offer your guests a strong Wi-Fi connection to ensure posting capabilities. And have some fun with it! You could have a monthly Instagram contest offering a free night’s stay for the most creative photo posted — and of course tagged with your hostel and hashtag!

4. Offer a Second Service

Down-time and slow seasons leave a lot to be desired for a hostel business. A great way to counter these inefficiencies is to offer a second service: bike rental, a café, a bar, travel services, a brothel (Just kidding! Making sure you’re paying attention).

Catering to a second, distinct crowd will increase your word-of-mouth advertising as well as your conversions. Additionally, you will be decentralizing risk and labor between the hostel and second component, effectively reducing costs and increasing profit margins for both aspects of the business.

Learn to Fly Without a Pilot’s License

The savvy traveler of the 21st century expects more of everything when planning trips, from the booking experience to the transportation options, from the destination to dining. The overall experience must deliver, and travelers are not afraid to vote with their dollars. I know I’m sure not afraid to do so — I do a ton of research ahead of a trip to ensure I get the best experience for my investment, whether it’s for business or personal.

Travel has been on my mind a lot lately. On Sunday, I’m flying out to sunny LA to attend DMA’s &THEN Conference, then coming home for about 48 hours before hitting the road to visit one of my best friends just outside of Buffalo for a long weekend.

So that’s over 5,400 miles flown, then an additional 750 miles driven round trip. Woof.

Foo Fighters' Learn to Fly
Dave Grohl can be my captain any day…

Two weeks later, I board a plane for a red-eye flight to Madrid, Spain for a quick layover, then to my final destination of Lisbon, Portugal so I can attend the 2016 Web Summit as a speaker (more on that exciting news later!)

My round-trip travel for that will be over 6,800 miles … so in less than 30 days time I will have traveled more than 13,000 miles, stayed in two hotels, one AirBNB rental, had countless meals out, taken taxis, Ubers, subways … now can you see what travel’s been on my mind so much? (I think I need a nap just thinking about it all.)

The savvy traveler of the 21st century expects more of everything when planning trips, from the booking experience to the transportation options, from the destination to dining. The overall experience must deliver, and travelers are not afraid to vote with their dollars. I know I’m sure not afraid to do so — I do a ton of research ahead of a trip to ensure I get the best experience for my investment, whether it’s for business or personal.

In late July, we hosted our annual Integrated Marketing Virtual Show, and I had the opportunity to bring together a stellar panel with moderator Kae Lani Kennedy, social media manager for Matador Network, as well as the following panelists:

  • Jennifer Andre, Director of Sales, Media Solutions, Expedia
  • Christy Ciambor, Destination Marketing Manager, Travel Juneau
  • David Naczycz, Founder, Urban Oyster/NYC Urban Adventures

The focus of the panel was to look at travel marketing in the Internet Age, and as I rewatched the presentation, a few things came to mind:

We All Can Learn From the Travel Industry

Actually, all marketers can learn from every industry outside their own. I think that’s a given and something we all need to do a little more of. But what I believe the travel and hospitality industry really caters to customer desire. Sure, the automotive industry caters to my desire of driving a wickedly sweet car (I’m looking at you, Dodge Challenger), but it’s not a desire that can be met easily … but an $900 vacation to Paris? A $350 long weekend in Washington DC? A $40 walking tour of Brooklyn? These are all more quickly attainable than a $27,000 car.

The travel and hospitality industry can let consumers itch a desire now. But I think it could teach other marketers how to do this, too.

Mobile Is Here to Stay ALWAYS

That subhead says it all. Mobile was one of the big issues our panelists discussed during the travel roundtable, and it’s such a big issue that we’re hosting the All About Mobile virtual show in December (shameless plug, yes yes I know!).

As a marketer, if you don’t have a seamless marketing experience, you’re going to lose consumer confidence and customer share. Pure and simple.

User-Generated Content Builds Trust

Fun fact: Loyal customers and fans want to contribute! So let them! You can do this in so many ways, from running regular Instagram photo contests to sharing thoughtful reviews. In the end, the marketer gets wonderful content to share with the wider audience and the user gets to share his or her voice.

Anyway, I highly recommend taking 30 minutes to listen (or watch!) the travel roundtable (no registration necessary) so you can take a look at what the industry is doing, and see if you can “steal smart” and incorporate a few ideas into your next strategy meeting. You know … learn to fly without a pilot’s license (yes … yes I am a Foo Fighters fan).

Now if a marketer could just figure out how to deal with the email/travel issue so that we wouldn’t have to come back to an over-stuffed inbox … there’s a billion dollar idea.

Travel and email meme