Louisiana Office of Tourism – Feed Your Soul
The problem with 99% of agency case studies is that while they speak to wonderful accomplishments, they don’t speak objectively to what matters.
Lieutenant Governor Nungesser took office in January 2016, and what he made as clear as the directive of overall growth was the directive of specific growth for “the little guy.” While these smaller towns and remote outdoor environments are perhaps not in a position to contribute volume like our top five parishes, they are an authentic, essential part of our culture and nonetheless rely on tourism as an economic driver for their communities.
Under the current administration, our integrated out-of-state effort has not only grown visitation collectively in every measurable category, it has also grown visitation disproportionately to the smaller communities.
OBJECTIVELY, WHAT MATTERS
At Trumpet, we put significant effort into analytics. When presenting media plans, we deliver predictions of exactly what the investment should generate in terms of website sessions and landing page engagement indicating intent to visit (coincidentally, the two primary marketing objectives of DCRT). As investments progress, we hold the performance of media and creative to these predictions. If we are ahead, we continue; if we are behind, we adjust. When a media flight ends, we critique for insight and opportunity, applying the learning to the very next flight, which leads to a near constant focus on optimization of both media and message.
To this, we’ve added hyper-intelligent tracking of physical arrivals. Rather than simply optimizing media and creative by using leading indicators (click-through rates, cost of acquiring landing page sessions and engagement once there) and waiting months for DK Shifflet to tell us how we did, we use real-time device tracking. With real-time device tracking we can see when devices (cell phones, tablets, laptops) cross our borders from outside Louisiana. If the device owner lands in New Orleans, rents a car and drives to Ascension Parish, we can see that as well. From January of 2016 through December 2018, overall visitation increased 9.85% (2019 numbers were not yet available at the time of printing). But if we look specifically at device arrivals year-over-year (CY’19 v. CY’18), we can see the granular detail within that total:
While total arrivals (using device tracking only) is up 3.7%, smaller parishes grew twice as fast!
- +2.7% arrivals in top 5 parishes
- +5.4% arrivals in 59 remaining parishes
Our fastest growing origination markets were the longest-haul ones. This is important because we all know they typically stay longer and spend more.
- +12.5% arrivals by long-haul visitors (compared to +3.7% overall)
- These travelers arrived specifically from DMAs where we are concentrating media in states east of the Rockies, including CO, DC, IL, IN, MI, MO, NJ, NY, OH and PA.
And while long-haul travelers historically have stayed in their city of arrival (into which they presumably flew), our campaign is growing arrivals by long-haulers into smaller communities—faster than to our top cities.
- +11.5% long-haul arrivals in top 5 most visited parishes
- +17.6% growth in other 59 parishes
So, how on earth do we control for this? While perhaps less exciting than the aforementioned numbers, the answer is honest messaging and data-driven media strategy. This mix of art and math is how we are able to both predict, and constantly achieve, measurable growth.
DATA-DRIVEN MEDIA STRATEGY
The typical DMO approach is to reach as many of the masses as possible with promises of unbridled happiness. Massive budgets (CA, FL) mask the inefficiency of this spray-and-pray approach, but make no mistake, they are inefficient nonetheless. Louisiana doesn’t have CA/FL money, and let’s face it, not every leisure traveler is as drawn to Louisiana as we are. So, we’ve subdivided the leisure traveling whole into two segments whose travel motivations are quite distinct. We did this in order to focus exclusively on where we can have the greatest impact.
The “Traditional” traveler (roughly 41% of U.S. 18+ population) is far more interested in mainstream vacations. They don’t mind crowds or seeing what everyone has seen. They follow the tours, visit the “top 5 attractions” and take the same pictures as manyhave before them. They favor predictable, controlled experiences like cruises or theme parks and cities like Branson or Pigeon Forge. They plan months ahead and spend a good bit of money if they come to your destination, but they travel infrequently (1-2 trips per year) and are less guided by inspiration than by mainstream popularity. So, if you aren’t on their list, they likely aren’t coming. This travel mindset is extremely drawn to major cities in Louisiana with nightlife, popular attractions and/or gaming. However, these same people are difficult to move beyond those urban centers into smaller communities with off the beaten path attractions, state parks, golf courses, breweries, plantations or film sites.
That being said, there is the other slice of the domestic traveler that can be moved. They are called “Cultural” travelers (an estimated 45.2M individuals) and they choose destinations based not on where the masses are going, but where they can immerse in authentic experiences of history, culture, food or music. Within cultural travelers, we have refined the best candidate for Louisiana to an even more specific sub-segment—true experientialists who seek out what few others have had. While smaller in volume, they travel significantly more—roughly 6-12 trips per year, and sometimes they plan as little as two weeks out. They look to discover things and explore areas not necessarily charted by Fodor’s. They want to meet locals. They want to find, taste, hear and participate in the obscure and off the beaten path experiences. They are happiest on the random Main Street, at the undiscovered festival, in the tiny dance hall or around the ancient mound. When they are consuming the best gas station boudin the world may never know, they are fulfilled. THEY are exclusively whom we target, not because the traditional traveler won’t arrive, but because we can speak right into the soul of the experiential traveler in an honest, authentic voice, knowing they will react measurably. We have narrowed focus on specific individuals so that we can use media and content channels that speak to them directly. The messages are placed within environments this group turns to for inspiration—not advertising, making them specifically motivating. This narrowcast approach increases the investment against fewer people so that Louisiana gets noticed. This is what has allowed us to broaden our geography, because we are targeting specific houses on a block, not a broad demographic in a state as a whole.
This approach is not only how we’ve maximized the return on a smaller investment; it is also how we’ve stirred souls and moved people to action. Our go-to- market strategy uses a very specific understanding of audience to generate data that informs geography, flighting, calls to action and content on landing pages; turning curiosity into intent and booking. By featuring specific products such as statewide Mardi Gras, Francophile travel, festivals and our many unique Spring and Fall events, constituencies from all across the state benefit from the audience- narrowing approach. We see the benefit in our analytics that far surpass industry standards. We see the fruits in growing visitation in general, and we see specific growth in the smallest of communities where our approach is directly increasing visitation and spending.
Experiential travelers are not inspired by spoon-fed, cookie-cutter experiences. They cringe at messaging that sounds inauthentic or tries to sensationalize what they regard as uninteresting. Our creative speaks honestly to the emotional experiences that these travelers are looking to accumulate and trade like currency when they return home (or post even before they leave). We are very intentional to not sound like advertising. The imagery we use works to be imperfect. Our executions are more human than staged because it is our people that make even the most mundane experience in Louisiana so unique and memorable. It’s a delicate balance of imagery and honesty, but when it comes together, it works well, because we are making a distinctive promise that Louisiana can keep; there is no gap between the story we foreshadow in creative—the story being written by influencers that we commission and the story that experiential travelers tell when they get home.