NOTE: I previously shared with you my thoughts on 10 marketing trends that I plan to focus on in 2015. Of those 10 trends, I plan to break each one of them down into its simplest form so that you can understand it and implement it in your own destinations or places of business.

People don’t trust organizations. People trust people.

This is a fundamental change of consumer decision-making. I could actually just drop the mic and exit stage right, and end this post right here…but being the Southern Gentleman I am, allow me to dig a little deeper and provide you with some insight.

In numerous recent surveys, we are seeing anywhere between 70-85% of people trusting personal recommendations. And when you think about it, that’s seems about right. I mean, how after do you trust the message of the brand you’re buying from? After all, they are going to tell you what they want you to know anyway. We call that push marketing – where we take the message to the consumer. But we can’t completely rely on that anymore, without being met with skepticism. We now need to invest more into pull marketing strategies, where we allow word-of-mouth referrals to motivate consumers to seek us out.

In destination marketing, we do a real good job of push marketing. Hitting potential travelers over the head with sales message after sales message at trade shows and events, hoping to get someone to book a trip. But today’s traveler is too educated and resourceful to rely solely on what we are trying to sell them. So they research…and research…and research some more, to the tune of 20+ resources before they’ll make a travel decision. Destination marketers already know (or they should know) that travelers don’t trust what WE say anymore. They group us into that whole government/bureaucracy type of thing even though we are all funded and organized in different ways. And because potential travelers see us in that light, it is our goal to peel back the layers and humanize our destination brand so that they can connect with us in meaningful ways. Humanizing our brand is a pull-marketing strategy where consumers will seek us out in the travel planning cycle.

To help you out, I’ve put together four ways that you can humanize your brand:

  1. Find the story. Every destination has a story, and your goal as a marketer is not to CREATE a story, but to UNCOVER the story that already exists. Stories allow us to get deeper into the character of a person and create a connection where we will immerse ourselves into that story. And if that story is good enough, we’ll share it with others.
  2. Connect with local storytellers. In order to tell a story, you need a good storyteller. You should constantly be looking out for local bloggers and writers for assistance in producing stories about your destination. Some writers will only be able to write one chapter, while others can write multiple chapters. In the end, you will be able to cover all the chapters in your destination story.
  3. Create in-destination engagement opportunities. People love to engage in activity – we are wired that way. Exploit your top attractions and other cool sights by allowing people to share their experiences with you and the world around them. Develop a long-lasting destination hashtag versus a promotional campaign hashtag so that your hashtag story can live on with other readers.
  4. Curate the content of your local community and past visitors. When people are engaging with your destination, develop a user-generated content platform that allows their version of your destination story to be told. We all have our own versions of a story, and the more versions you can share, the bigger your library of visitors becomes.

What will you do to humanize your brand?

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