Destinations, brand creation and experience marketing
Experience tourism is currently in vogue, with increasing numbers of industry agents operating in this field. However, although many of them refer to it, it’s true that its conceptualisation and promotion have not received much attention.
I aim to reflect on the topic in this blog post, providing some information and writing about the practical application that is needed for the correct development of experiences, which are clearly sought after and required in tourist destinations.
We need to try and view it from a specific angle. Firstly, tourists who travel to a destination aren’t simply undergoing a physical journey. Instead, the real adventure is an interior one, which is found in the tourist’s perception of the place they’re visiting, its people and the impact that this subjective and personal perception has on them. As such, based on multiple factors and conditions, the tourist receives a holiday experience. For the tourist, the journey to a tourist destination is always an experience: of varying degrees of meaningfulness, but an experience, nonetheless.
Experiences occur when consumers search for a product, when they purchase and receive the service and when they consume it. Furthermore, we must note that tourists are eager to spend more money on captivating experiences. As such, from a more conceptual angle, we must ask ourselves the following question: what is a touristic experience? We then need to address the issue of how to adequately develop an experience and how to communicate it, including the impact of promotional activities.
It’s clear that tourists have stereotyped images of different destinations. Many destinations around the world sell themselves in a similar way, with their image revolving around the most universal icons: nature, beaches, fun activities or family or couple-friendly tourism. Messages are usually generic, often focused on the idea of escapism and discovery. However, some destinations have managed to develop a precise and clear brand positioning, based on the tourist’s experience in the destination which goes beyond its physical attributes, focusing the tourist’s attention on a destination that is perceived to be desired and irresistible.
Nowadays, most destinations claim to have spectacular landscapes, excellent places of interest and unique culture and historical heritage. However, these factors are no longer distinguishing features. The destination should be more concerned about the tourist’s experience, creating a form of marketing that plays with the emotions of potential visitors.
We must consider that the image of a destination influences the tourist’s selection process. These processes comprise the tourist’s expectations, based on the information transmitted by the image of the destination. As a result, a solid and competitive tourist destination needs to be supported by a symbol that identifies it, communicating and positioning it based on its attributes.
For a destination’s brand to be efficient, it requires a unique sales strategy that is sustainable, credible and relevant. Brand recognition reduces the need to search for detailed information and increases the chances of the tourist finally choosing the destination. With this in mind, it’s essential to understand the content and structure of brand recognition, as both have an impact on what comes to the consumer’s mind when they think about the said brand.
Analysing the experience helps us to conceive the destination from a representative perspective, where the brand is a key element in identifying the said experience; as such, the fleshing-out of the brand must be structured around the analysis of the tourist’s experience.
The first stage in creating an experience destination brand is to carry out a diagnosis, from which we can establish the core values of the destination and its brand. This stage must consider the importance that the modern-day tourist places in the brand, and how it compares with direct competitors. We must incorporate an objective perspective, such as those of current and potential visitors, including differences between the various segments; we must also consider agents, advisors, organisers and tour operators, through obtaining an independent analysis of the current market situation.
Once the market investigation has been completed, the next step is to develop the brand’s identity. For the success of any destination brand, it’s crucial to ascertain the extent to which the personality of the destination brand interacts with the target market. The brand’s personality has two components: the head and the heart.
To be clear, the “head” is the logical characteristic; the “heart”, meanwhile, is the emotional benefit and related aspects. The brand’s proposal and communication may be based around both components. These emotional and functional attributes underpin the concept of the brand promise, with each destination having to inform current and potential visitors of the benefits and experiences that await them upon their arrival.
Tourist destinations have realised that the brand’s promise needs to stretch beyond the physical aspects of a destination, getting the visitor to expect experiences when they arrive.
The final stage of creating a destination brand is to evaluate its market performance, which is an indicator of its efficiency. Continuous evaluation of communication is vital, as is having an open mind and being willing to accept a change made by brand managers.
The secret is to continuously evolve, enrich the original brand and strengthen the initial basis, thus increasing its attractiveness and widening the market.
We must also consider that creating an experience destination brand alone is not enough; we have to also communicate appropriately, which requires the integration of experience marketing. This is a relatively new approach which contrasts with traditional marketing. While traditional marketing is based on the idea that consumers make rational decisions based on functional characteristics and the benefits that are offered by the product, experience marketing views consumers as emotional creatures who are more interested in pleasant experiences.
Experience marketing describes the point of compromise between a brand and its consumer. If well executed, it generates short-term behavioural changes and establishes an emotional connection, creating a deep relationship and, finally, a rational response when purchasing the brand and product.
For tourists, the main requirement for a pleasant trip is for it to be an experience-based journey. In fact, modern-day tourists are seeking unique, innovative and imaginative experiences. For a destination to be able to keep up with competitors, it must not only offer unique experiences but also know how to sell them as such.