That’s what our research showed travelers thought, anyway. Faced with the kind of insight that is often hidden away in a filing cabinet somewhere, a brave Montana Office of Tourism chose to embrace it, turning nothing into one of the industry’s best success stories.
There’s Nothing Here print spreads piqued interest with the surprising headline and strong imagery depicting Montana’s spectacular, unspoiled nature. Potential travelers responded to the refreshing departure from the trappings of typical travel advertising.
In the state’s urban target markets, the message was even simpler: “Montana.” Bus and train wraps, takeovers of public places and well-placed out of home display ads made an impact, even leading to some friendly back-talk from our friends in Chicago.
Increase in awareness
in incremental visitor spending
Hotel occupancy in the nation
Qualitative research led to a confident understanding of Montana’s brand story and target markets. Messaging that resonates with that audience led to industry-leading results, earning the first Silver Effie for a destination since the turn of the century.
An iPad-only magazine bucked destination marketing organization trends, foregoing listings and ads to focus on journalistic storytelling and photography. Custom-developed in-house from the ground up as a free digital magazine, it features writing and images from all of Montana’s vast landscapes and each of its four seasons, with the app available on the iPad Newsstand.
Expressing an authentic brand through social media meant looking past 90% of the tactics that social media “experts” recommend. Instead of sweepstakes and “like walls,” Montana’s Facebook and Twitter strategies focus on first-person, on-the-ground, experiential content that gives target markets a window into the Montana experience. This completely organic approach has nearly doubled the Facebook audience, and engagement continues to outpace the competition.
Internal buy-in is important for any brand or campaign, and for a large organization like a state tourism office, that means working hard to communicate with regions, CVBs, and constituent businesses so that the traveler encounters a coherent, compelling story while navigating the many sources of information available.
Many state tourism regions (one such source of information) have been named after their most prominent attractions for decades. But our research for Montana’s Custer Country showed that travelers often don’t know or care what these regions are called—they want to know what they can do and experience there. Those insights led to a more orientational name: Southeast Montana, leading to a 27% increase in visitation in the first year, with two other Montana regions soon following suit.