Oh, Snap!

At this year’s Northern Voice conference, one of the more visible sponsors was TravelMasters, who were obviously using the conference as a launching pad into the world of DIY marketing. Marching in with gusto, and with cookies.

photo from @julieszabo

Now, I will be the first to admit that (being in marketing) my tolerance for campaigns that miss the mark is exceedingly low.

But, of the people I talked to about the cookies, I’m not the only one who was a bit confused and left wanting (for substance, not cookies. The cookies were delicious.).

I want to like TravelMasters’ efforts – they’re branching out into a market that might make sense and they were certainly going in the right direction. But they could have done so. much. better.

If you can’t quite read the picture, the text is:

Kathleen’s Gingersnaps

1. Scoop premium vanilla ice cream in between two Gingersnaps. Roll cookies in toffee chips, wrap in plastic wrap, place in freezer
2. Spread chocolate spread over one cookie, top with slices of banana (sounds funny, but it’s delicious)
3. Mix a vanilla pudding package and 500ml whipping cream together to make “vanilla fluff”. Spread vanilla fluff over one cookie, top with sliced fruit
4. Spice up a roast pork gravy by substituting flour with crumbled gingersnaps
5. Grab a cookie and stuff it in your mouth….they are delicious on their own! Yum Yum!

If we can think to do that with a cookie, imagine what we can do with your next vacation
twitter tag #TMcookies

First, what TravelMasters did right:

• Targeted a conference where it can be reasonably assumed that many of the attendees are worldly, enjoy new experiences and have enough disposable income to take vacations. An excellent departure from the standard places travel agencies advertise (wedding fairs & home shows) and a good way to stand out!
• Provided a snack during the conference afternoons, when people are hungry and looking for a sugar fix
• Added some interest to the packaging to showcase their creativity
• Included a twitter tag to track conversations about the cookies, tying them into the social media part of the conference

Now, here’s how it could have been orders of magnitude better:

Who is Kathleen?! Sure, she makes a tasty gingersnap, but why do I care? Unless she is important to the company and its message (in which case, tell me who she is!), she is a distraction. Just call them “Gingersnaps from TravelMasters.”

Using the bag to tout their creativity is a big win, but the TravelMasters’ team did it in a way that creates a lot of cognitive dissonance (one of the few $3 words I still remember from university). I’m already at a social media conference, eating cookies. Now I’m reading about ways to be creative with the cookies. And out of nowhere: THINK ABOUT VACATIONS, QUICK!

I am not thinking about vacations now. I am wondering where the hell that came from, and wondering what it has to do with cookies or the conference.

How about instead, you put something on the packaging that shows how creative you are about snacks (which I’m already on) and travel, which is what you WANT me to think about?

Five things to do when you travel with our Gingersnaps (and I pulled these out of my arse in about 5 minutes):
1. Stash them in your carry-on when you fly to Paris (not liquid, so they pass the airplane food rule) for a better nosh when those intolerable nut-snacks come around
2. Share the cookies with someone on your bus tour in Auckland, make a new friend
3. Take some downtime, feed broken pieces to pigeons in Central Park
4. Stick your nose in the bag and breathe in the heady, sweet aroma when you’re walking past another open sewer grate in Thailand
5. Combat the munchies in Amsterdam. ‘Nuff said.

Adding the suggested twitter hashtag was also a great tie-in to the conference, but it’s a bit empty without a reason for me to tweet about the cookies. “If you build it, they will come” only works in Kevin Costner movies. You can’t just say “here, take your social media and get to it” – give me a reason to engage.

Along with the tag, ask me what other ideas I have for the cookies, or where I’d take them. Better, tell me to share my idea and enter everyone who shares into a contest for a travel perk or accessory.

Finally, maybe give me a reason to engage with your website. Put up a page where I can download the recipe (and while I’m there, remind me why I need you to book my next vacation).

And speaking of wanting me to think I need you to book my vacation, have a reason (beyond the cookies) for me to think that way!

I wandered up to the TravelMasters table at the conference and asked what made different from any other agency, and they gave me the line every other travel agency has ever given: “our agents have all traveled extensively, we have access to exclusive deals, we… (I tuned out).”

They had a captive audience in a pretty specific niche. Tell me something that matters to me and will pique my interest. I’m a tech-savvy person at a blogging conference. Set me up with a free travel blog, with a template customized to my destination. Give me a list of wireless hotspots in the city I’m visiting. Promise me one of the Lonely Planet iPhone apps for my destination. Something that shows you care about me as a customer, and understand me better than any of those other agencies who weren’t smart enough to show up at Northern Voice.

And on the chance that TravelMasters is monitoring for social media mentions and finds this – I’m going to New Orleans next week (first time) and Las Vegas two weeks after that (seventh time) – what would you suggest I do there with the cookies?

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One thought on “Oh, Snap!

  1. dearheart

    I wasn’t at NV2010, but if I had been, chances are I would have just enjoyed the cookies and not put so much thought into it. 🙂

    You’ve got some great ideas for TravelMasters and I hope they respond to your input.

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