Fight your DMO’s identity crisis with Place DNA®

William Bakker

3 November 2017

Who do you think you are and why does it matter?

In the contemporary destination marketing landscape, the best destination marketing organizations (DMOs) not only have a solid understanding of their destination’s identity but know how this foundation intricately shapes the value they offer. Misalignment can lead to the wrong expectations from visitors and residents who don’t support tourism.

Place identity (also known as Place DNA®) impacts everything from brand to a DMO’s working relationships to a heightened understanding of the ideal visitor. How can you expect your audience to recognize and connect to your destination if your internal identity is tangled up in vagueness and contradictions? The thorough process of establishing Place DNA® acts as a feedback loop to actively reinforce an aligned place identity at every level.

The more your DMO understands its destination, the more you can influence and manage each step to refine a holistic destination experience.

Niche marketing hones an understanding of audience

To deliver experiences that accurately fit the destination identity that Place DNA® reveals, the DMO must focus on niche marketing to passionate communities that cross geographic boundaries and demographics. Of course, this should take into account local nuances such as language, media, and cultural differences. The DMO understands these communities beyond a superficial level, ideally having local members from these communities on staff or on advisory panels, and builds relationships with all stakeholders involved locally. It leads the effort to understand the customer by mapping personas and customer journeys. Ongoing research supports this process by identifying more specific key challenges.

Niches are chosen by factoring in overall objectives, available experiences, Place DNA®, opportunities, and competitiveness, but also with consideration to what gap this fills in the experience offerings. Off-season or regional dispersal are examples of this. The DMO needs to take a holistic, year-round, geographic approach to managing the destination. To achieve this it needs a “real-time” dashboard of what’s going on in the destination with visitation, occupancy, wait times, visitor and resident satisfaction, etc. This is where big data can provide value.

Strong niche experiences increase word-of-mouth

Advocacy is the stepping stone to effective promotion. That means increasing word-of-mouth. A positive experience for niche audiences should result in advocacy that brings the next visitor. Targeted promotion based on an understanding of established niches is key. There are a range of tactics for each challenge that can arise in different stages, and efforts should always drive towards removing obstacles rather than creating a temporary workaround.

The end-state results in the DMO monitoring and optimizing the niche experience without requiring further promotion. Crucially, the DMO ensures that the success of a niche doesn’t result in over-tourism or a product that doesn’t align with the DNA. To achieve this, the DMO must understand and communicate the holistic value of tourism beyond immediate economic factors.

Holistic experiences resonate

Top DMOs understand who they are directly from Place DNA®. From this, they can clearly articulate what audience will bring the right value and how to identify and deliver remarkable experiences. Collectively, these experiences deliver a unique destination experience that in turn leads to word-of-mouth advocacy that motivates the next visitors.

This way of thinking requires a massive change in mindset, culture, and leadership. But honestly, it’s the only way. The alternative isn’t pretty. At what stage does a DMO become obsolete if everything they do is done better by someone else?

Are you developing your brand strategy? Destination Think has helped many destinations as a unique partner through our Place DNA® process, workshops and consultation. To learn how to identify your destination’s Place DNA® and refine your destination’s brand, contact us today.

Related reading:

What is Place DNA®? Here’s your essential reading list

What does the ideal DMO look like?

Use Place DNA® to define your destination’s core identity

Featured image credit: chelmsfordblue, Flickr


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