While this year has posed incredible challenges to travel and tourism, effective strategies have helped destinations navigate the storm. As we plan and craft strategies for 2021, it will be important build on some of the lessons learned this year—here are some things destinations can use to help speed the travel recovery in 2021.
Strong images speak, inspire and motivate and are integral to any destination marketing effort. In 2020 they took in an additional role: reassurance. Destinations used images to communicate their measures to keep travelers safe and the beautiful open spaces and natural areas that allow travelers to responsibly enjoy time outdoors. Travel and the priorities of travelers have changed, and these images will have continuing value next year and beyond. Now is the time to continue to invest in photo libraries so you have appropriate and effective images to sustain your communication efforts throughout the year.
Social media channels this year allowed destinations to continue conversations with travelers who were temporarily unable to take a vacation. From fun quizzes to local scenes that offered tranquility, this was a time when inventive content was especially welcomed. As businesses reopened, social media helped promote businesses that are so important to the economic wellbeing of destination communities—lodging properties, restaurants, retailers, and service providers. Many people will be working from home for the foreseeable future, which presents a continued opportunity for social media. For example, some commuters who where behind the wheel listening to the radio for more than an hour a day will now be engaged online during that time. Others will be on their social media channels at times when they might have otherwise been occupied with business in the office. Continue to invest in the conversation.
Websites are a key source of information for travelers, but to be effective they must be discovered. There’s a lot of competition for audiences, and going into 2021, it’s critical that websites be optimized to connect with potential travelers. This is the time to make sure pages are loading quickly and links aren’t broken. Content drives traffic, so now is also the time to make sure you’re providing the content travelers are searching for. Outdoor experiences, like parks and places to hike, were huge drivers to destination websites in 2020. Those topics are likely to continue to be important in 2021—monitor your traffic, invest further in the content that’s performing and use it as a vehicle to inspire people to travel. Be mindful of the kinds of searches people are conducting and answer their questions with your content. Is it safe to travel right now? Are the restaurants open? Where can I find a place to hike?
As businesses begin to re-open in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to consider your reputation management. The Internet is an incredibly powerful tool, so tread carefully as you reopen in order to protect your business’s reputation. Here are a few suggestions to help:
Your success is everyone’s success
- The actions of each business are critical to an entire area’s recovery. It is imperative that whatever practices you put in place for reopening are followed consistently by staff members at all times. If they are not, the ramifications to your business’s reputation (and the area’s) can be harsh and long lasting. Social media makes it possible for word of shoddy procedures or unpleasant experiences to travel quickly. Do not promise cleaning or social distancing practices you will not complete or enforce. Exercise patience to the greatest extent possible while emotions are running high, as squabbles with or among customers can be harmful to your (and the area’s) reputation.
Choose your words carefully
- The words you choose to use for your website and social posts can be interpreted politically in the current climate. It’s important to consider unintended meaning before you post or go live. Review your language to try to envision how someone on either side of the reopening debate might interpret what you’re saying and adapt your message accordingly.
Social media is powerful – use it wisely
- It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on what people are saying about your business on social media, so have a plan to frequently check for any fan comments, direct messages and reviews. When a response is warranted, do so promptly, politely and not defensively. Apologize if you need to, but don’t get into online arguments. Wherever possible, deescalate the situation and take it offline to discuss. Be as honest and genuine as possible.
- Make sure your contact information is up to date on your social channels, as well as on your website, to avoid confusion among potential customers.
- However you choose to move forward with your business, make it clear in your social posts and be honest about your expectations for customers, as well as forthcoming about any new standards you are abiding by, in order to reassure them of their safety. Do not promise things you aren’t actually doing, however. Be mindful that customers will make decisions based on the expectations you set. Customers have the opportunity to judge you—quickly and easily—online.
- And remember, the photos, videos and experiences your customers share online now can be halfway across the world in an hour, thanks to social media. What others see will influence whether they feel comfortable patronizing your business as well. Work to ensure the message you convey is a responsible one.
Keep an eye on review sites too
- Those same experiences shared on social media will make their way to other review-based platforms as well, like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google Reviews. Keep an eye on what’s coming in, and as previously suggested, respond promptly and genuinely without escalating any situations. Leave a simple thank you for those who leave positive reviews. Remember, 90% of consumers say their decisions are influenced by online reviews, so you want to present your business as helpful and responsive.
- Word of mouth and testimonials are still the most trusted and used forms of marketing. Through mindful messaging and managing expectations, your customers can be your strongest advertising. Don’t be afraid to ask them to share their positive experiences at your business. Their review, comment and post can be a powerful tool in your business recovery.
As the world worked to slow the spread of COVID-19 this spring, most people’s travel plans had to be put on hold. But while travelers couldn’t get in their cars and physically visit a destination, the need for destinations to connect with their audiences didn’t stop—in fact, building connections with travelers this year has been more important than ever. When travel is safe and permissible, we want people to already be thinking about their next travel destination, and we have spent the last few months getting them to do just that.
We’ve helped places continue conversations with travelers by developing and launching a mix of creative projects that leverage social media and help people enjoy a little “vacation” at home.
Here are some examples of what we’ve done:
- Coordinated video interviews with small business owners to help them stay connected with visitors and share their updated offerings and services
- Adapted our messaging to “dream now, visit later” language, consistent with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and others in the industry
- Promoted carry-out dining and online shopping options to help support local businesses
- Invited people to share memories and photos of past vacations and curated that content on multiple platforms for our clients
- Created COVID-19 resource pages on destination websites, updating the content as necessary
- Created “5 minutes of relaxation” videos for client destinations on YouTube, featuring topics like a Northwoods sunset or a gently flickering campfire
- Designed special COVID-19-related graphics encouraging residents and visitors to abide by official recommendations on masks and social distance procedures
- Worked with several counties in northern Wisconsin to launch a “We love the Northwoods” campaign, encouraging visitors to share their Northwoods memories
- Designed and sold a T-shirt featuring Rhinelander’s famous Hodag to help raise money for local businesses impacted by COVID-19 in Rhinelander
- Used our Hodag Fan Club to promote fun games and activities for kids and families who are stuck at home
- Created virtual photo tours of destinations across Wisconsin
- Designed thank you posts and graphics for essential workers
- Created funny photos and videos of Rhinelander’s Hodag in quarantine (check him out on TikTok!)
- Promoted an effort to distribute special floral arrangements to local hospital workers on behalf of Hilldale shopping center
- Ran a lighthearted photo contest that asked people to submit vacation “photo fails”
While a lot is uncertain in the weeks and months ahead, it will be important to keep talking with the travelers of today and tomorrow in new and creative ways. We’ll continue to find ways to keep the conversation going, and we’ll share some of these ideas on this blog.
In his younger days, Mr. Howland was a ski bum, working in a ski shop so he could get to the hill and find his flow. Today, Mr. Howland brings a strong work ethic and spirit to his digital work at Pilch & Barnet. He says coding is more than learning programming languages – it’s about getting the code to flow.
Ten years ago, web designers first started discussing “responsive design,” aka ensuring that websites created with desktops in mind would load legibly on smartphones and tablets. The rapid rise of mobile browsing has created critical usability issues for traditional websites. Designers and developers began experimenting with various ways to make designs that would adapt to all devices as a one-website-fits-all solution. This laid the groundwork for what would become known as “responsive design.”
The main idea here is to make sure the brand is readable and legible at smaller sizes on all devices or print mediums. Digitally, a logo should look recognizable on a desktop, tablet, or phone. This same scaling is similar to the issue that has existed in print, where a logo must fit on billboards, letterheads and business cards. In a world where screens come in all sizes and shapes, we need logos that can make an elegant and efficient use of any screen space. They use more or fewer elements, and those elements can be organized in various ways to match the environment.
Below, check out how some household brand names have transitioned their logo overtime to become less complex, involving fewer design elements and playing up the iconic ones that are most recognizable no matter what the scale. Even the simplest original logo below, Chanel, can be made simple.
A brief overview of the latest hospitality trends for leisure travelers ages 22-37
Wifi, free and fast
Even though millennials will book trips to “unplug” and “get off the grid,” they still want to be able to check their email before they go to bed (and maybe even post a photo or two). According to the New York Times, a new branch of millennial-targeted hotels by Starwood called Aloft makes free Wifi a priority throughout their establishments—from rooms to poolside. Not only should the Wifi be free, but it should also be reliable and fast. Skift says, “Millennials are not necessarily technologically savvy; they’re technologically dependent. That dependence is merely a conduit through which to dream, research, share and experience travel. It is not the travel experience itself.”
Instagram-able amenities // Adventurous experiences
Having gorgeous views and cozy rooms is important for perpetuating millennial traffic through your hotels. With nearly 60% of active Instagram users being millennials, there’s a good chance of your hotel ending up as a post…if it makes the cut. For those who don’t feel like their ambiance appeals to a younger demographic, never fear: try marketing your destination as an experience more than a place to sleep, like international hostel company Generator. According to Forbes: “They make use of inspirational content to make people desire adventure and exploration….You’ll notice a distinct lack of photos of bed and breakfast tables. The company is selling itself on being an experience.” Adventure is more important to them than rest, at least according to this year’s AARP leisure travel report, which states that millennials are the least likely general to be motivated by the need to relax and rejuvenate (28% vs 47% GenX and 38% of Boomers). This is because they are more apt to look at vacation as an opportunity for adventure or to go somewhere new, so it’s equally advantageous to put the splendor of the area on the forefront of your marketing if you’re lacking in, say, towel-swans.
In the era of Airbnb, “some companies…have capitalized on the sensibilities of the traveling millennial—promoting the ideas of flexibility and local authenticity.” Millennials want the “real” experience of an area, which could be its uniquely weird food, gorgeous lake views or even the charming hotelier with a folksy accent. A room within walking distance to a frequented bar or the locals’ favorited beach should be touted on your website (and if your hotel is in the middle of a parking lot next to a chain like Perkins, best not to mention it).
Speaking of Airbnb, millennials want to be able to browse hotel amenities and cabin rentals, and then book, without having to physically speak to anyone. According to the same previously mentioned NYTimes article, “44% of millennials prefer booking hotel services from a mobile phone” — and that’s through clicks, mind you. Ergo, it’s important that your website is mobile-friendly and offers the ability to book everything online.
Today’s consumers are bombarded with advertising everywhere they look, especially on social media. Paid advertising has taken over newsfeeds on nearly every social platform. While paid posts are necessary to increase web traffic and sales, brands must also maintain social pages with appealing organic content to build real relationships with potential customers.
One of the biggest challenges brands face on social media today is reaching audiences with organic content. While it’s critical to run paid posts, brands can benefit from developing strong organic posts. However, they can’t simply share information about their products or services to capture the attention of their audience. Even though someone follows the brand, they might not want to see posts about the brand on their timeline every day. This means brands should think about sharing information that serves their audience. For example, a vegan clothing brand profits from selling t-shirts, but it keeps its followers engaged by not only sharing photos of the shirts, but also sharing vegan recipes and lifestyle content. Diversifying the types of information included in posts keeps followers interested and engaged and strengthens brand identities.
Brands can form strong ties with followers and create customers by talking to them online. Whether it’s helping solve a customer’s problem via Facebook or directing someone to a website, small interactions can go a long way. Brands can start dialogue and increase engagement on their posts by posing questions to their followers. They can also utilize poll features to ask questions and get their followers thinking about the brand or topics related to their products. Organic posts that receive likes and comments tend to receive favor from algorithms, so the more people that are interacting with a post, the more people who will see it. Brands should make an effort to start conversations to create positive impressions and increase awareness through customer interaction.
In a world of curated, calculated messaging everywhere we look, social media users (especially young ones) have become more critical of advertising. Brands can combat the anti-advertising stigma by creating content, both organic and paid, that doesn’t use a “sales-y” voice. Many brands have chosen to post from their social media accounts as if the brand is an individual person. When taking on this voice, they’re able to act more personable and approachable, and they’re more easily able to start conversations with followers. They also enact the 80/20 rule, which means that only 20 percent of the content they share relates to products and promotions, while the other 80 percent is dedicated to sharing curated content, entertainment and useful information with followers.
Graphic designers are combining two classic designs to create a familiar but fresh look. The combination of industrial edges and vintage illustrations evoke an air of sophistication while inviting consumers in almost as if to say, “You can be part of our club.”
These two components – industrial, which is sharp, edgy and dark, and vintage with its warm, nostalgic and inviting vibes – are quite opposite when they stand alone. But when combined, they complement each other.
When we think of the text on a website, we think of it as secondary to the imagery and functionality of the page. It provides context and important information. (“Like what you see? To inquire about availability at this lodging property, call 715-555-5555 or visit their website…”). It prompts users to take action. While this is still true, typography—the design of the font—is becoming increasingly important aesthetically in the space of image-dominant websites.
Tried-and-true (and perhaps a little hackneyed) websites place the text and images on a grid pattern. Newer sites try to create more stylish and out-of-box layouts that use asymmetrical patterns and a variety of media alongside carefully selected typeface. Below, see an example of an older website that segments its text and images like a grid next to a newer site that breaks from the form.
Additionally, now that our computer screens are sharper (even on mobile), traditional ideas around using sans serif fonts for legibility are changing. Previously, screens lacked sharpness and serif fonts were more difficult to read because of the multitude of small lines appended to each individual letter. See below.
Keep in mind, however: trendy designs are only as good as their legibility and the user experience. Visitors should be able to find information quickly without scrolling; they should be able to read text without squinting or turning their heads sideways. For this reason, it’s better to play it safe with longer paragraphs of text like blog posts.
Pilch & Barnet keeps the user experience in mind when choosing fonts in all instances big and small: from designing logos to coding websites.
More than 60 billion brands now have Facebook pages. Not so long ago, on average, 17% of a brand’s fan base saw its posts organically (meaning without paying to promote them). Now that number is hovering closer to 2% for many brands.
Facebook prioritizes relevant content, with the hope of providing the best user experience possible. Therefore, strong content will always be important, especially given how much noise there is from competing brands. But with 2% organic reach becoming the norm, paying to promote posts has become an absolute necessity.
Recognizing this decline on the horizon, Pilch & Barnet has been incorporating promoted posts into our clients Facebook advertising for years. With a modest budget, and careful moderation, the results of these ads speak for themselves, to the tune of several thousand engagements each quarter, along with strong and consistent reach among fans. And, the benefits keep multiplying, because the more engagement a page has, the more likely its posts are to show up organically in the future, at no extra cost!
We look forward to sharing your message with more potential visitors in 2019!