Tracks You May Have Missed: Branding, Storytelling & “Complainvertising”

By Laurie Jo Miller Farr

Those who tell the stories rule the world.

Martin Stoll from Spartkloft Media and Sarah DeVries from BLiNQ hit the right chords with destination tourism marketing pros, pointing out massive changes since Facebook launched ad exchange less than one year ago. Currently, 62% of business users report they are paying to boost their reach at brands that were only just introducing a Facebook company page in late 2007/early 2008.

The emphasis has moved from tactical to storytelling. Speakers at the eTourism Summit 2013 suggested that everyone needs to humanize their brand, that is, choose someone (or something) to tell the story.  And, watch your back. The public’s newest weapon is called Complainvertising.

Stoll-bio-photo_thumb[1] Martin Stoll, Sparkloft Media   Sarah_Headshot100 Sarah DeVries, BLiNQ Media

British Airways, this means you.

The deep truth is that you’re not in charge of your own brand. This was demonstrated in September by a recent cringe-worthy tweet that provided British Airways bosses with a virtual crash landing. Not satisfied with the standard suggestion to write BA customer services when the airline lost his father’s luggage, a disgruntled Hasan Syed spent $1,000 for a promoted tweet to air his frustration: “Don’t fly @British_Airways. Their customer service is horrendous.” BA found those bags in a hurry while Hasan was interviewed by major television and news outlets on both sides of the pond.

Some folks just don’t learn. Believe it or not, BA’s Twitter profile still reads: “We love reading your tweets & try to answer all of them between 0900-1700 GMT Mon-Fri” with a link to their website. Mind you, this from a business operating globally 24/7 which has already been named and shamed.  Hasan’s response? “I got what I wanted. I win.”

Barilla pasta boss is in a pot of hot waterbarilla

CEO Guido Barilla made a big faux pas which Martin explained, “Got the pasta brand into a pot of hot water.” Now trending is #BoycottBarilla due to this remark: “We won’t include gays in our ads, because we like the traditional family.” Boom. Invitation not to buy Barilla pasta has been accepted by GLBT advocates worldwide and the corporate apology, “In the interview I simply wanted to highlight the central role of the woman in the family,” …not so much. How not to handle a social media nightmare 101.

Let everyone help tell your story

Destinations finding clever ways to include the customer in the storytelling include the giant I AMsterdam sign frequently used as a photo opportunity by tourists. The whole world got a look at London Olympics fans posing before Tower Bridge from which the enormous logo was suspended for the countdown and 2012 games. More photo ops come from pop-up interactive volleyball games on Santa Barbara beaches, guest Happy Hours at Kimpton Hotel lobbies, and the innovative Visit a Swede campaign coordinated by the national tourist board. Taking it to the simplest level, the message is that a guest will repeat and share with passion about experiences such as these, which sure beats the brand boasting about itself being such a friendly place.

 Give them what they like

Drill down. Find out why you want to point a Brazilian visitor toward a field of wildflowers and how you can fill a hot and humid Florida beach with British aiming to go home looking like lobsters.  Message South Koreans about Android apps from trendy outlet malls and, if you’re located in or near New York City, use an image of the Statue of Liberty in your call out to Canadians.

Why Facebook? Because...1024px-Facebook_like_thumb

Because 76% of those planning a trip are using Facebook in the process. Because one-third are consulting with friends to regularly solicit opinions. Because photos are responsible for 66% of engagements. Because when you supplement photos with the native language, your likes increase five times over. Because you can use your CRM for re-targeting on Facebook. Because you can build your engagements with those who have liked your Facebook page through Facebook Exchange. Because your ROI will climb…and then, your boss will smile.


Our takeaways:

  • • Great storytelling can come from visitors, residents, a DMO’s stakeholders.
  • • Consumers have a voice, and it can be a powerful one.
  • • Surprise and delight works wonders.
  • • Passion connects people and places.
  • • Every town has landmarks; think outside the box.
  • • Think in mobile first.

Powerpoint presentations with thanks to presenters Martin Stoll and Sarah DeVries:



Leave a comment

Filed under DMOs, eTourism Summit San Francisco

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s