As vice president of global brand at Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, Susannah Costello directs an integrated marketing team of 23, oversees 10 agencies, and works with numerous partners from across the globe. In some respects it’s like conducting a 60-piece orchestra -- without the benefit of having everyone in the same room. While challenging, Costello is quick to credit her “amazing team of brand managers and channel directors” for remaining grounded in the brand story.
“Because today’s marketing landscape is so dynamic and we’re innovating all of the time, I believe knowledge, insight and passion in your team is more important than any specific management system,” Costello says. “That said, we schedule brand input and oversight at critical touchpoints. But the real effectiveness of a team in executing any campaign or annual plan begins with a strategy that focuses everyone on the same goal.”
That shared goal, of course, is to drive tourism, the No. 1 industry in Florida. For every $1 spent on tourism marketing, Visit Florida generates more than $300 in tourism spending and $18 in new sales tax collections, paid by visitors, not residents. In this interview with Ken Beaulieu of the ANA, Costello, who will speak at the ANA Brand Activation Conference April 18-20 in Chicago, discusses her approach to multi-channel marketing, activating a brand strategy abroad, and reaching multicultural audiences.
Ken Beaulieu: You maintain that having flexibility in messaging to suit various media channels and partners is key to your marketing success. Why is that?
Susannah Costello: We recently did a multi-channel campaign in London. The concept was simple: “Dear London, we’re bringing you some sunshine. Love, Florida.” The launch elements and paid media carried that narrative. Out-of-home visual elements delivered on the “bringing you sunshine concept” by providing gorgeous destination photos, each labeled as a moment of sunshine. Taxi wraps and bus shelters similarly delivered visual inspiration but without the moments of sunshine or “Dear London” message. They simply identified where the moment of sunshine was and communicated “Love, Florida.” (See photo at top.)
We created an extension with Someecards, which didn’t talk about moments of sunshine at all but created consumer moments of sunshine through humor. For example: a sharable message that said if you want to improve the light in your selfies, you should take your picture in Florida. Hertz was a partner in the campaign. Their imagery created a moment of sunshine consistent with the Florida campaign, but the message was different: “an unforgettable drive.” In each case, what made sense for the consumer/viewer/user/partner/channel drove the messaging. In today’s consumer-empowered, multi-channel landscape, we find it unusual when a single message applies to everything. It has been more effective for us to think in terms of a story system.
Ken: Attracting more international business to Florida continues to be a goal of your organization. How are you activating your brand strategy abroad?
Susannah: Internationally, we typically activate direct-to-consumer initiatives in spot markets but look for a halo impact with the target consumer group. For example, in Brazil, we’ll be hosting São Paolo Fashion Week with Brand USA for the second year in row. The primary event impact is in São Paolo, but through attendees and lifestyle coverage, the halo impact will extend to affluent Brazilians throughout the country. In the U.K., we focused on London with a multi-channel campaign, but created a halo impact through paid social.
Ken: Please talk about the innovative work you’re doing on YouTube. What valuable lessons have you learned about online video?
Susannah: Visit Florida is committed to putting brand content where our consumers can find it, and increasingly that is online. Last year we had more than 10.3 million minutes of our video content watched on YouTube. That’s the equivalent of a single person sitting at a screen watching video non-stop for more than 19 years. But even more important than the reach YouTube provides is the relevance. So one of the most important lessons is keeping YouTube content authentic. That starts with matching the content creator, audience and message. As examples, we’re working with Ricky Carmichael to produce Florida adventure content (a series called “Conquering Florida”) for Millennials; we’re working with Pitbull to produce content about Florida’s sexy beaches and hotels for his followers, and when we wanted content on pet-friendly Florida, we worked with canine talent to create a POV series.
Ken: Tell me about your approach to reach multicultural travelers. Do you favor a total market approach?
Susannah:We target multicultural audiences as a part of our general market buy. But we think it’s important to build an emotional connection by providing content that is specifically relevant. For example, we have special initiatives with BET and Telemundo. The BET program created 60-second spots that functioned like a micro-documentary, linking Florida’s iconic vacation experiences like SeaWorld to nearby destinations that are lesser known but culturally significant. In the case of SeaWorld, it was Eatonville, the first incorporated all-black city in the nation and home to Zora Neale Hurston. For our domestic Hispanic audiences, we partnered with the Telemundo show “La Voz,” the Spanish-language version of “The Voice,” which showcases aspiring child and adolescent singers. Working with two young runners-up, we recorded and promoted a mini music video to showcase Florida in a warm, emotional way. The video is specifically relevant to the domestic Hispanic families who watch the program.
The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers. Image courtesy of the ANA.