Tennessee ads use mass customization to target visitors based on interests

Paul Cubbon

27 May 2016

What do marketers mean when they talk about mass customization and why does it matter? What could you do differently to better engage your potential future visitors?

A recent video ad campaign by Tennessee Department of Tourist Development sought to show the wide variety of experiences available in the state in a way that would match the preferences of individual viewers. To accomplish this, according to Adweek, hundreds of short clips were ”stitched together as pre-roll ads that target users based on thousands of bits of data collected on them across the web.” In this way, the destination hoped to provide more relevant messages to its audience and therefore more effective promotion.

Paid video advertising in traditional media, as epitomized by the 30-second TV ad, forces advertisers to summarize their proposition to potential customers in a “one size fits all” approach. These commercials might use a montage to demonstrate different aspects of a destination, but viewers typically recall the simplistic stereotypes presented. As an example, see the cultural artwork and the RCMP uniform shown in this 1987 Air Canada ad. These ads lack a call to action that would resonate with any individual potential visitor that is specific to what the destination actually offers.

Maybe this worked for Ford with the Model T (a single variety available in black) or with anti-dandruff shampoo (one promise to solve one problem type). But what about a destination for tourists – a place with many, many rich and distinct experiences to offer?

For destinations, mass customization risks being dismissed as a superficial overclaim and oxymoron. However, the intent behind the term is important. It suggests a move towards customized marketing and personalization that would make the content and message more relevant to a specific audience or even a specific person.

Unfortunately, we too often see semi-automated message “customization,” which is crudely linked to a partial profile of an individual and based on past search or online social behaviour instead of on future interest and intent.

The Tennessee campaign highlights interesting elements that make customization possible and potentially effective:

• It reflects that costs and timelines on quality content production have been greatly reduced, allowing for multiple executions.
• It focuses on one promise per video.
• It reflects real, authentic experiences from the destination that can fit with a potential visitor’s interests.

What will make mass customization more effective?

Part of the future challenge for destination marketers will be to establish a stronger link between a predictive customization of content and a potential visitor’s planning habits around single experiences.

We can also expect to see increasing personalization using factors of time and space. Marketers will create more realistic and inspiring content using tools like virtual reality, while mining for the best data to establish predictive matching that ensure that the right experiences are offered to the right people. These elements will help ensure that ads are directed to match the viewer’s intent and lead them toward a decision to purchase.

However, these opportunities only makes sense for a destination that has cultivated a variety of compelling experiences that they can show to specific target groups at the right time.

Related reading: How destinations use data to better collaborate with industry and reach consumers

Featured image credit: Kathleen Tyler Conklin, Flickr


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