Too many destination marketers confuse “advertising,” “promotion” and “marketing.” Don’t be one of them.
Getting the terminology correct will make your investments much more effective.
There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about destination marketing organizations (DMOs) morphing into destination management organizations. While managing the product is becoming increasingly important in driving tourism, misunderstanding the terminology – advertising, promotion and marketing – are often used interchangeably can create confusion about an organization’s objectives. Let’s clear up the semantics.
If you’re well-versed in marketing, you’re undoubtedly familiar with E. Jerome McCarthy’s Four Ps of Marketing, sometimes referred to as “The Marketing Mix”:
Which of the four Ps matters most to a destination marketer? Typically, a DMO has little control over pricing and place. Promotion has changed drastically as a result of technology that accelerates word-of-mouth communication and shifts control over the messaging toward the consumer. For this reason, product is becoming an increasingly critical focus for DMOs; positive word-of-mouth flows freely from visitor experiences that exceed expectations.
Historically, destination marketing organizations have invested heavily in promoting their destination through media relations and paid advertising. Now they must consider promotion through digital channels as well. It’s important to remember, however, that promotion is only one component of marketing – and that advertising is only one method of promotion.
Why is this important?
The experience that a destination delivers can be its most meaningful promotional tool. Destination marketers can no longer assume that promotion (in terms of reaching large numbers through broadcast advertising) is the best investment of their limited resources. Instead, destinations should consider shifting their marketing mix towards product, because improving the visitor experience is the most effective way to super-charge positive word-of-mouth. With the aid of digital communication, a visitor experience begins long before they arrive and can last long after the journey ends. This means that DMOs that default to advertising as their primary method of promotion are missing enormous opportunities to engage their audiences.
Since the word marketing now means something far beyond promotion or advertising, modern destination marketing organizations (with an intended emphasis on marketing) must take responsibility for leading the collaboration within the industry and all stakeholders to define, measure and provide a consistent visitor experience.
More reading related to developing a destination’s product: Design thinking for the modern DMO
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