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Tourism marketing: Are the days of cliche promotion soon to be over?

A recent study, conducted by marketagent.com, a leading market research company in the German travel market examined the effectiveness and role of images in tourism marketing campaigns. The survey shows: While the old wisdom that a picture is worth a thousand words is still valid; it was found that cliche promotional pictures – as used traditionally in tourism marketing campaigns – often miss the point. That is, images which tell a visual story are much more effective at raising consumers’ attention than typical images of scenic views and landscapes.

Market differentiation is key

The study examined the use of promotional images of 68 alpine skiing destinations in Germany and Austria. The analysis showed that the majority of brands (60%) used inter-changeable pictures and themes to market their destinations; namely scenic views of the alpine nature. While it is important to present the destination to potential visitors from its best side (traditionally done by displaying the natural attractions) it is critical to differentiate the offerings from competitors.

Storytelling resonates with young affluent audiences

By creating different types of campaigns for a fictional holiday destination in the alps, the authors of the study measured a wide range of factors among 2500 participants. While in the awareness stage almost no differences could be found between the different types of campaigns, it was shown that in particular images that tell a story, have a significantly longer lasting effect on consumers. Also telling stories through images allowed destinations to reach market differentiation and increase the perceived uniqueness of the destination. An analysis of the responses of specific target audiences revealed that this effect is above averagely present with younger segments, experience seekers, and affluent travellers.

Storytelling through images: An opportunity for digital marketing

In conclusion the study confirms that in the case of alpine tourism, holidaymakers still seek a naturally perfect and appealing destination. However, to be at the competitive edge, brands must demonstrate their unique, exiting and authentic side as well, and storytelling through images is a critical component in this regard.

Especially digital media offer new opportunities for the development of visually ap-pealing, yet authentic content. In particular curating user generated content, and the work with travel bloggers provides destinations ample possibilities to showcase unique and appealing pictures and images that convey convincing stories around the core product, and thereby create story-worlds that allow meaningful and effective differentiation in a fairly interchangeable market environment.

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