The following integrated marketing communications campaign are excerpts taken from an assignment for my Advertising & Communications course at York University, where I led a team of five in developing a strategic IMC plan for Tourism Whistler.
Whistler, British Columbia has been voted the #1 overall ski destination in North America for the second time in three years, attracting the most extreme skiers and avid snowboarders globally.
Why Does Whistler Exist?
To create memories as the best mountain experience again and again.
The business objectives include increasing overnight visitation, accelerate website traffic on Whistler.com to drive more online hits, achieve more accommodation bookings through Whistler’s reservations system, and pull in more travelers from Ontario. Essentially, the campaign wants to increase purchase intentions of Whistler as the destination of choice for the 2015 winter season.
Who Is The Target?
Sean is a young urban professional who is 35-years-old, married with no kids, earning a $120K salary, and lives in downtown Toronto. He is affluent, highly educated, and has the discretionary income to pursue active social lives, as well as shopping for the latest fashions and electronics. Not only is he outgoing, adventurous, and a trendsetter, but he has a desire for self-expression. As an avid snowboarder, he enjoys staying active and conquering new challenges, and – more importantly – he needs to be seen by his peers doing it.
Based on our research, the most important attitude of Sean is how he like activities which push my mental and physical limits. He wants to challenge himself to the top, to the peak, and to his very best. What’s important to Sean when booking a winter vacation is, of course, a great skiing/snowboarding experience, but also the fact that someone they trusted them to go.
What’s Getting In The Way?
While the Toronto target audience knows that Whistler has the very best slopes in North America, they tend to view it in their mind as an out-of-reach luxury that is difficult and complicated to access. They’d much rather go to closer alternatives such as Blue Mountain and Mont Tremblant – these seem easier to book and less of a hassle.
Not only is Whistler seen as being physically far away, but it is mentally far away. Out of reach, out of mind.
Thus, the campaign must tap into Sean’s transformational motives for skiing/snowboarding, specifically his longing for self-improvement and challenging himself. By doing so, Whistler will be positioned in Sean’s mind as the ultimate place to “elevate‟ himself: to higher peaks, to higher challenges, and to a higher version of himself. An experience of this “height‟ cannot be found in Blue Mountain, Mont Tremblant, or Lake Louise. This experience only lives in the breath-taking wonders atop Whistler.
Thus, this campaign has been designed for the challengers of the norm, defiers of the average, and conquerers of the top: those who best embody the core values of Whistler. Using a creative theme of positioning by user, the campaign promises the benefit that Whistler is the destination of choice meant only for the best and most avid of skier/snowboarders. Getting to the top is only a moment away.
Enter the “Moments from the Top” campaign.
Bringing Moments from Whistler to Toronto.
This innovative integrated campaign taps into the target’s transformational motives in an authentic way and shift their perceptions that a trip to Whistler is closer than they think. It leverages experiential and word-of-mouth tactics to convince them that Whistler is the perfect destination for a thrilling winter adventure, meant only for those daring enough to conquer new heights. More importantly, this approach sparks an urge to book by emphasizing that booking is only a “moment away”.
The campaign will achieve the objectives by playing with the idea that Sean is moments away from reaching the top of all winter resorts (i.e. Whistler) using the support of the one-stop-shop website, and he is also moments away from elevating himself to the top of his game – particularly, his hunger for the next big challenge. It communicates what this “moment of being on top” feels like, and the fact that these moments live only in Whistler.
The first phase will be a teaser to the campaign and will launch towards the beginning of September, where the target audience is winding down from summer and thinking about their next big adventure. The aim is to create interest in the upcoming winter season and to generate buzz for the campaign. Minimal imagery will be used at this point in order to spark curiosity. CTAs for each element will lead to a teaser microsite: MomentsFromTheTop.com.
Several place-based touchpoints will be set up in key locations in downtown Toronto that hit the target audience during their commute. The goal with OOH is to generate curiosity and interest in the touch points by visually capturing a ‘moment’ from Whistler and bringing it to Toronto, thus letting the target audience experience how ‘close’ Whistler (and winter) feels.
Whistler will also provide sponsorship to the 2015 Tough Mudder Toronto through a branded obstacle. This event is an ideal platform to provide exposure to the target audience and will contribute to Whistler associating itself with the image of being a brand for ‘challengers’.
As mentioned above, all elements lead to a teaser microsite. The site will feature three key elements: 1) countdown to Whistler opening day launch (November 27, 2015); 2) “Moments From The Top Series” teaser trailer; 3) “Your Moment from the Top” contest submission form.
The second phase will be the full launch of the campaign, launching towards the beginning of October until the beginning of December. Given that booking season is around October to December and most of the traffic happens during this time, the CTA for all elements should now lead to Whistler.com/MomentsFromTheTop, in order to remove the mystery and clearly communicate and create the urge that it is time to book their winter vacation at Whistler. This phase continues to deepen the Whistler experience and aims to further drive positive conversation about the campaign.
The microsite will launch the “Moments From The Top” Video Series. Filmed during the 2014 winter season, the series will comprise of three short films (4-7 minutes) featuring three individuals, representative of the Toronto target audience: The Defier, The Fearless, and The Challenger. The videos will feature them sharing their ‘moments from the top’ by telling stories about their experiences at Whistler, as well showcasing footage of them on the slopes.
Online promotions will be complemented by full-page print ads in select magazines related to the target audience’s interests: Men’s Fashion, Hockey News, and Canadian Geographic Traveler. Again, imagery would highlight both usage and user, with each version featuring the individuals from the short-film series.
The OOH media will continue to utilize subways, subway station domination, and elevators – all effective contact points of our target audience, either during their commute or their work day.
The final phase of the campaign will take place from December to the end of the ski season in February, which is the height of the ski season, when it is busiest in Whistler. It will capitalize on the word-of-mouth and the online conversation during this time coming from skiers/snowboarders currently at Whistler, in order to continue to drive enhanced perceptions back in Toronto.
Type, Class, Vehicle
Projected Reach and Frequency
Due to its nature of seasonality, Whistler’s campaign will use a flighting scheduling. Advertising for the winter campaign will not occur during the late spring to early summer months (April-July) , but will take full effect beginning in late August to the beginning of February. This allows the campaign to be more cost efficient and only present during the time where consumers are likely to purchase travel packages.
There you have it, folks! By delivering experiences from Whistler all the way to Toronto in unique ways, the “Moments from the Top” integrated campaign will improve perceptions of Whistler, create preference over closer resorts and, most importantly, ignite an urge in the target audience that will drive online purchase intention of Whistler for the 2015 winter season.