Don’t build your destination’s brand through advertising

Rodney Payne

24 August 2016

Andrew Hardeman of the media and marketing site Mumbrella advises that marketers “need to focus more on improving the customer experience rather than emotional storytelling at scale, […] because – despite what we may think – most consumers don’t care about having an emotional connection to brands.”

A strong destination brand isn’t built through advertising either. In essence, a brand is made of two things: the experiences people have with your product and the stories they hear about that experience from others.

Hardeman further argues that a positive customer experience is more important than an emotional connection with a brand:

“While emotion may be seen as a point of differentiation now, a superior customer experience is competitive advantage for the future. And, it pays. A recent study conducted by Avanade (the leading digital innovator on the Microsoft platform) found every dollar invested in improving customer experience generated three dollars in return. In addition, they expected to see an 11% increase in revenue over the next 12 months.”

How can destinations find the competitive advantage that Hardeman describes? Destinations can build brand by investing in the experience. Improving the product goes hand in hand with promotion, because positive experiences lead to positive word of mouth. Destination marketing organizations are in the unique position where they can monitor and measure the entire destination experience and lead stakeholders to improve it.

Look for ways to create more emotional connections during the experience that lead to an improved visit, positive feelings (see Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index for inspiration) and finally, word of mouth.

This means pausing to answer important questions:

  • What is our mandate and what do stakeholders expect of us?
  • What is the biggest impact that we can have on our destination?
  • What skills does our team currently have?
  • How are our budgets being allocated?
  • Are we investing more in branded communication, or in managing and amplifying word of mouth?
  • How are we leading our stakeholders in experience development?

Is your DMO focused more on improving the customer experience or on emotional storytelling at scale?

Featured image credit: Francisco Orosio, Flickr


  1. Mr. Patrick Mason

    Right on, Rodney. Building consensus for developing the experience started with Walt Disney. In towns like Aiken, the business community and employees need to buy-into the results and adapt the ongoing training that creates the culture from top to bottom.

  2. Rodney

    Exactly Patrick. Defining value from tourism for residents and business, and delivering a consistent experience that is representative of your brand is essential. A destination’s success depends on everyone’s collective input. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Michelle Dunn

    Super interesting article and take on where destination marketing is at today. Cheers! Michelle (formerly of Tourism Richmond)


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You’ve found your partner for destination marketing

We work with the most innovative tourism boards in the world to create a vision for each of their destinations, solve business challenges and execute brilliant, integrated campaigns. The expertise we apply to that work is shared in the articles published here and in our DMO Matters newsletter.

Get must-read updates delivered weekly!

Sign up to have our must-read weekly digest of leading destination marketing trends and innovation delivered directly to your inbox.

Fields marked with an * are required.


Thank you! You will receive an email to confirm your subscription.

Share This