By Martin Kelly, Travel Trends

IF there is one thing marketers hate – apart from the fact they get no love from financial types – it’s letting go and losing control of their brand.

But for Don Richter, who invited outsiders to post their thoughts, photos and videos on visitmelbourne.com as part of Tourism Victoria’s ‘Red Thread’ campaign, the process was a revelation.

“It was astoundingly successful,” he says.

 “We were concerned that people wouldn’t stay on the brand message but that wasn’t the case at all.

“In fact, the thing that amazed me was that (the posts) were so close to our brand values I could have written them.

“It was almost like I had copy writers come and write the stuff.”

In terms of images, “some people aped camera angles, the whole look and feel” of the official campaign.

To ensure the pages looked vibrant and healthy when the campaign officially launched, while getting the ball rolling on content, Tourism Victoria offered Melbourne’s creative and student communities prize incentives to post.

It worked a treat but the number and frequency of posts on each of the different threads has dwindled with time – demonstrating that the coals firing social media need to be continually stoked.

“If you can get community engagement with the brand then that is when the thing kicks,” he says.

Richter says Tourism Victoria spends $1 million on its website every year and has three full-time people just keeping the factual information up to date.

He says, “You have to have maps and tools but also have to partner with with third party providers. For example, we have an agreement with Trip Advisor.”

Meanwhile, Richter believes State Tourist Offices must have a closer connection with the private sector.

“In the olden days we could run a TV ad and then people would book Qantas through a bricks and mortar agency. Now they can do it all on a website. “

And while he says STOs should not be spending millions on their own booking systems, they need to be linking the public with commercial providers.

Travel Trends: December 13, 2007

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