Destination Marketing in a Global Pandemic, with Adam Stoker

Episode 187

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Adam Stoker has been in marketing since 2007. In 2012, he got his first experience working with tourism destinations, and from that point forward, he knew he had found his passion. Since then, Adam has worked with destinations across the country to improve their marketing, branding, and use of technology. Stoker is the President and CEO of Relic, an advertising agency located in Provo, Utah, focused on marketing for tourism destinations. He started the Destination Marketing Podcast in May of 2019, interviewing amazing guests from around the world. After having so many industry experts come on the show and share their knowledge, he realized he needed to curate all of that content into a book. Adam’s hope is to release a new edition every year, as the industry is always changing. He is a father of four and married to the girl of his dreams. Without their support, this never would have been possible. Adam lives in Salem, Utah. Destination on the Left is joined by Adam Stoker, the President and CEO of Relic, an advertising agency in Provo, Utah that specializes in destination marketing. On our podcast, Adam talks about the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the tourism industry as a whole. He shares examples of creative marketing that has helped destinations stand out and he also explains what destination marketers can do to reach the right audiences at the right time during reopening travel.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Adam’s journey into travel and tourism
  • How starting his career during the Great Recession prepared him to deal with the COVID-crisis
  • Brands that have done an amazing job using creativity and collaboration to stand out from the crowd
  • The impact of crisis on creativity in the world of destination marketing
  • How Adam’s agency has used creativity to overcome recent challenges
  • How Adam helped his clients navigate the unique obstacles presented by the pandemic
  • What Adam’s team came up with to help clients stay top of mind in a socially responsible way
  • How Relic approached its clients’ recovery campaigns
  • How to access Adam’s worksheet to create a plan and implement the changes

Marketing for Post-Lockdown Travel

Adam Stoker is the President and CEO of Relic, an advertising agency in Provo, Utah that specializes in destination marketing. He is also the host of the Destination Marketing Podcast, where he interviews industry experts from a wide range of tourism focuses. On our podcast, Adam joins us to talk about the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the tourism industry as a whole. He shares examples of creative marketing that has helped destinations stand out during this crisis. And he also explains what destination marketers can do to reach the right audiences at the right time in the reopening travel market.

A Resurgence of Creativity

There is a whole generation of people in the destination marketing industry that have not lived through a crisis. Adam’s journey into the travel and tourism industry started at the beginning of the great recession, and it ended up being a blessing in disguise. Learning how to navigate a crisis is going to benefit you for the rest of your career because challenges will continue to arise. Ten years of sustainable growth has devalued creativity in the travel and tourism industry, but this crisis has forced brands to find new ways to stand out from the crowd. DMOs generally operate within a small geographic area with similar features to their competitors, so it is important to move past the first idea at the brainstorming session. From Oregon’s animated campaign to Nebraska’s “Nebraska is Not for Everyone” campaign, there is a lot of good stuff out there right now.

Backs Against the Wall

Times of crisis produce some of the greatest challenges DMOs will ever have to overcome. But when our backs are against the wall, we inevitably do some of our very best work. Since every single one of Adam’s clients was facing similar struggles as a result of the pandemic, the first thing on the agenda was to create temporary destination messages to keep them top of mind. The next step was to help clients create their recovery campaigns, which for many of them would be the difference between having a job or not having a job when everything is all said and done. Adam’s team produced some of the greatest work they have ever done during that time, and it will have a significant impact on their clients moving forward.

Nicole Mahoney: 00:22 Hello listeners. This is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. Welcome to this week’s episode with another fantastic guest, Adam Stoker, president and CEO of Relic, an advertising agency focused on destination marketing based in Provo, Utah. Adam is the host of the destination marketing podcast. If you haven’t subscribed to a show,

Nicole Mahoney: 00:42 I recommend you check it out. I am a subscriber and enjoy Adam’s interviews with industry experts because the interviews are fun, engaging, and full of golden nuggets in our conversation on today’s show, Adam and I talk about the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the tourism industry. He shares examples of creative marketing that has helped destinations stand out during this time. And we talk about what reopening travel will look like and how marketers can know when to market and which audiences will be most receptive to them once they are ready to market. Again, a little more about Adam. He has been in marketing since 2007 and in 2012, he got his first experience in marketing for tourism destinations. From that point forward, he knew he had found his passion. Now Adam and his team work with destinations across the country to improve their marketing branding and use technology.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:45 Adam started the destination marketing podcast in may of 2019 after having so many amazing guests come on his show and share their knowledge. Adam realized he needed to curate it. All of that content into a book, which he released earlier this year, titled touch points. I know you will gain a lot from this conversation, but before we dive into the interview, I want to share this important information with you, Adam. I am so excited to talk with you today and you know, what’s really cool about this conversation is you are a fellow podcaster, so this is going to be really awesome. And not only that, but you serve the tourism industry through your podcast. And I know you and I have quite a bit in common in terms of our love of this industry. A but before we dive into these questions, I would love for you to tell our listeners a little bit about your story in your own words. I always find it. We learned so much more about you that way, and it adds a lot more context.

Adam Stoker: 02:44 Yes, yes. And Nicole, thanks so much for having me on you guys have such a great show and I just appreciate the opportunity to kind of share my story on your platform. Thanks so much.

Nicole Mahoney: 02:55 Uh, I’m more than happy to have you on Adam.

Adam Stoker: 02:58 Awesome. Well, I’ll tell you a little bit about me. Um, so my name is Adam Stoker and I’m president and CEO of an advertising agency called Relic. And we focus specifically on the tourism industry. And I also, like you said, I host a podcast called the destination marketing podcast. And it’s weird to me to be kind of on the opposite side of the table here as a guest, instead of the host and as a control freak, I’ll do my very best to stay in this guest chair throughout the show. Uh, but you know, I’ve got a, I’ve got a family of four kids, well, I guess six people, four kids, uh, my wife and I, and then we’ve got three beautiful girls and a son that’s seven months old. And, you know, as, as you and I were talking before the show, we’re in the [inaudible] deep end little kid problems, right.

Adam Stoker: 03:46 You know, getting to the stores is such a difficult thing. And we just got back from a trip this weekend to a place called bear Lake Utah. And it was, it was just a lot of work. So, uh, we’re, we’re in the thick of the, I think you, you call it constant chaos that we’re in the thick of that right now. Uh, but to give you a little bit, a bit about my background. Mmm. So I, I went to Brigham young university in Provo, Utah, and at BYU, I was, my dad was a professor of public relations. And so, you know, I thought, Oh, well, maybe I’ll see if he seems like he likes what he does. Maybe I’ll check and see if I like it. And I took a intro to PR class and I just said, Oh man, I don’t think this is for me.

Adam Stoker: 04:34 Uh, and then I took intro to print journalism. And one of the professors said, there’s no money in it. And I said, well, then that this is a waste of time. So then I took a right about that time. I was dating my wife. She told me that if I didn’t figure out what I was doing with my life, uh, she wasn’t going to marry somebody that didn’t know what their future looked like. So I, uh, I, I said, okay. And I took the intro to advertising class just about the same time. Absolutely loved it. Uh, fell in love with advertising, from the get go, uh, the psychology of understanding why people do what they do and then trying to create persuasive messaging to, to convince them to do something. It was, it was just such a, such a cool, I think for me. And so I fell in love with advertising from the get go, which was great because it also allowed me to tell my wife, I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life.

Adam Stoker: 05:28 So she said, yes, and then decided to marry me and finished out my degree at BYU. And I had been working in an agency throughout my time at BYU and really thought that was going to be my future. Uh, and three weeks before graduation, they came to me and this was in 2009, which may have been the worst time in history to graduate in advertising, uh, during the great recession. Uh, and they came to me three weeks before and they, Hey, we are unable to continue. We’re laying everybody off. And, uh, that was, that was a tough moment for me because I went from feeling like I had progressed, uh, enough to, to have a good job and, and to be a full time employee. And then I, the only thing out there was internships and nobody would hire me as a full time employee coming out of college.

Adam Stoker: 06:23 And I took this internship with an agency in Farmington, Utah called Thomas arts. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I really, there was such a foundation for advertising that was created there and I was able to really learn the nuts and bolts of the business. Um, and after a year and a half there, you know, I went from intern and then got a, an entry level position there after my internship. Um, I saw an ad and this, by the way, this agency had two to 300 people, very, very, uh, big agency compared to what I had been at a lot as a college. And, you know, after a year and a half, I kind of felt like if somebody didn’t retire or die or take another job, I wasn’t going to, to progress in the business. And so I started looking around and I saw an ad for an agency, three people in st.

Adam Stoker: 07:16 George Utah called Sorenson advertising. And I took the job there. My job was to bring on new clients and to manage existing accounts. And while I was there, um, really just had a great time. And, and we were able to really grow the business. And I’ll never forget. In 2012, I walked into the Cedar city, Utah tourism office had no idea what a DMO was, had no idea what, what destination marketing was. And I walked into the, to their door and I said, Hey, do you guys need help with your advertising? And they said, as a matter of fact, we do. So that was my first experience in destination marketing. And from there, you know, several referrals later and continuing to go to conferences and finding more clients and stuff like that, we really grew our tourism space. And, you know, when, um, over that time, as we grew the business, the owner of the agency was his, his priorities were kind of changing.

Adam Stoker: 08:22 He had a lot going on in his life and, and I reached out to him. I said, Hey, you know, I would really love to buy this from you if you’re interested in selling it. And that was in 2016. And in September of 2016, uh, I was able to buy the business with a couple of partners from the previous owner, uh, and we rebranded it to Relic. Uh, and we had a decision to make at that point, uh, on whether or not we were going to specialize by industry or by product. And I just had such a love for the tourism industry after having spent four years, the industry at the time. And, and we have so many destination clients, we really decided to focus on tourism. Um, and that’s kinda, that’s kind of where it started with Relic and evolved to today. We’ve got an agency of 25 people, uh, in Provo, Utah, and we serve destinations all over the country.

Adam Stoker: 09:16 And it’s been such, such an amazing ride and experience to get here. And after, after being in the industry for as long as I have, I started to feel like I’d like to share not only some of my learnings in the industry, but also we’ll bring on some of the major industry thought leaders, uh, and, and, uh, provide a platform for them to share their experience and expertise. That’s when I started the destination marketing podcast and that was, and in may of last year, so we just, we just hit a year. Um, and, and that kind of, kind of brings us up to today. I know that it was kind of a long answer to your question, but, uh, uh, I appreciate the opportunity to tell him

Nicole Mahoney: 10:01 Absolutely well, you know, we learned so much about, you know, about you. And the first thing that actually stood out to me is, you know, you’re talking about the four kids and the constant chaos, which you and I have that in common, both having four kids, I have four daughters. We never got that son, but, um, but, uh, you know, the constant chaos, and then you talked about, Mmm, okay, being coming out of college, right around the great recession. And for me, I’m thinking to myself, what great perspective you have given that we’re recording this right now in may of 2020, uh, in the middle of a world pandemic and, and what perspective you must have. And I know we’re going to get to this and some of these questions, but in terms of how destinations, um, can and are responding, uh, you know, to get through this crisis. So, you know, I think you’ve got that kind of background that really sets you up, uh, in a, in a good position.

Adam Stoker: 11:00 Well, Nicole, it’s interesting that you bring that up because I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, but we have, and you’ve been through, you’ve been through the great recession as well. And, and, and you’ve gone through some real crises in the industry as well, but, you know, we have a whole generation of people in the destination marketing industry. The, I have not been through a crisis. They have been through 10 years of sustained growth. [inaudible] incredible a growth in the industry, and they haven’t had to go through something like this. So for those that haven’t been through it yet, this is such a shock to their system. And, and it’s going to be a great experience for people learn how to navigate a crisis, and it’s going to benefit them for the rest of their career. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, challenges will continue to come up.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:51 Absolutely. Absolutely. There’ll be, there’ll be another one, uh, you know, coming after this one at some point. And, and I think you do get, uh, or again a little bit, I don’t know if better is the way bright way to describe it. I have a different type of approach or mindset. Right. Um, when you have that experience to draw from,

Adam Stoker: 12:11 Right?

Nicole Mahoney: 12:12 Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And you know, I also like, you know, how you talked about the evolution of, you know, your career and how you kind of stumbled upon the destination marketing world, which so many of my guests have a very similar story, no matter, you know, what part of the industry they come from. A lot of it is I didn’t really realize there were jobs this, and when I stumbled into it, I realized what a great and fun industry this really is. And I just, you know, dove right in. And it sounds like that bug happened to you as well after walking into vet Cedar city, tourism office, however many years ago for a cold call.

Adam Stoker: 12:54 Yeah. Yeah. You know, for me, I think one of the things that’s has stuck out to me. I mean, I love to travel. I love to go all over the world and, and have, have been to some amazing places, but the relationships in this and I’ve, I’ve worked in several different industries. I mean, the first five years of my career was really heavily geared towards automotive, uh, advertising. I’ve got to tell you, I, I don’t think I could, I don’t think I could do it again, but the relationships that I’ve built in destination marketing compared to the other industries that I’ve worked in, it’s such a tight knit group, and it’s such a small world once you get into it, uh, I have really enjoyed that side of it as much as the travel or anything else.

Nicole Mahoney: 13:39 Yeah, absolutely. The relationships are key. So Adam, I want to dive into this, especially with your perspective coming from, you know, the agency world, and then also as a podcast host and talking to so many great guests over the past year, uh, on your podcast, um, I’m sure you have some really great perspective. And, and on this show, as you know, we like to focus on creativity and collaboration. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about one without the other, because in this industry interconnected. Um, but I wanted to start with creativity and you know, how very competitive this industry can be. Mmm. You know, tourism, hospitality, there are so many choices of things to do now, of course, right now we’re talking in the middle of a pandemic. So there aren’t as many choices at the moment, but we know the industry is going to come back. And I’m just wondering, and feel free to answer this and reflect on if you want to talk about current times or things that you’ve seen in the past that you think our listeners can learn from. But I’m just curious, um, what kinds of things are, or campaigns or brands have you seen that have really done a good job standing out from the crowd?

Adam Stoker: 14:48 Yeah. So I love this question because I’m going to go back to what I said about how there’s been 10 years of sustained growth in the tourism industry. And one of the things that has created is that I feel like creativity has been a little bit devalued in the process because regardless of their creative, in a lot of cases over the last 10 years, you’ve experienced growth, which means the creative didn’t necessarily get the credit. It deserves for some of that growth. And so when I look at tourism marketing, especially, you know, Dina, Mose are, are usually in a relatively small geographic area that they cover. Some are really big, some really small, but a lot of them have other competitors that have a product that is similar to theirs. And then I’ll use Utah’s as an example, because I live in Utah, you know, red rocks is not enough to say this is the only destination in Utah that has red mop. I’m going to have to go a little far. We’re going to have to go a little deeper, but in the destination marketing industry, so many people have created campaigns that if you changed out the logo and the tagline, it could be someone else’s destination [inaudible].

Adam Stoker: 16:03 Um, and so from a creativity standpoint, I think everything, everything kind of had a tendency to run together. The other thing that I’ll say is, uh, and this is a little bit non tourism, but I don’t know if you’ve seen the video. Uh, it says all the COVID-19 ads are the same. Have you seen that video? I haven’t, but I agree. I think about all the time, Nicole, it’s amazing. I mean, you get the same song or piano music to start the spot, and then you get that, that, that really caring voiceover in these unprecedented times. And it’s, it’s just so Anila because everybody, everybody has gotten comfortable using the first idea from the brainstorming session. And then everybody has the same app. And, uh, uh, the whole, the whole reason I give you that background, because I do want to tell you about a few people that I feel like are doing something different.

Adam Stoker: 17:02 And I really like it. Um, and a couple of them have been guests on my show, uh, the state of Oregon launch their, uh, animated campaign, the had this fantastical Mmm. Uh, innovation, the, the really just exaggerated all of the features of their destination. And it was such an incredible video. And I had, uh, the state of Oregon, I’m going to show to talk about it. And then really, they were just so far out of the box that they, it wasn’t, it wasn’t just another idea. It was like, okay, if we’re going to do something different, let’s do something all the way different, you know? And I thought that was great. And then I’ll tell you the state of Nebraska. I think the state of Nebraska is in a really nice job. Um, they, they had this big process that they went through. Um, I had John Rich from the state of Nebraska on my show to talk about this, uh, where, where they really said, look, we can either pretend we’re something we’re not, or we can be authentic about who we are.

Adam Stoker: 18:06 Uh, and, and they came up with as a brassica. It’s not for everyone campaign. And, uh, you know, one of the pieces of copy from their campaign stood out to me is yes, we found the only boring people get bored. And then they talk, they talk about, uh, all the things there are to do in Nebraska. And they say, Hey, look, this isn’t your traditional vacation, but we’re not your traditional destination. So if you want to do something different than you’ve ever done before come to Nebraska, and they’re, they lean into the fact that some people aren’t going to want to come there. And I just think that’s so authentic. Um, I really liked it. There’s not very many destinations that are willing to admit that some people might not want to come there. I thought that was really, really good. And there’s, there’s a lot of people doing amazing things out there.

Adam Stoker: 18:54 You know, I think of Rockford, Illinois, when I had them on the show, they talked about how, uh, you know, uh, Fred Ben league is a professional athlete. That’s from Rockford or excuse me, what the school at Rockford. And so they created when he won the NBA finals, uh, last year they created a mini dress it park, which is what they call the area outside of the Toronto Raptors, uh, arena. They created one in Rockford to celebrate and people were coming to check out this mini drastic park, uh, to celebrate for that belief. And he’s been a, he’s been a spokesperson for them. And so there’s so much innovation that’s happening with creativity. Uh, those were some of the ones that stood out to me that I think you’ve done a really nice job. Yeah. Those are really great examples. And I liked how you framed it up and talked about, no, you can’t lean on.

Adam Stoker: 19:50 You’re just every asset that you have that looks like everything else that everyone else has. And it’s, I know it’s really difficult for destinations because they are representing their whole destination and they feel like they need to then, uh, market all of those assets. The point I think I hope listeners really heard and understood because you really need to lean into those things that are uniquely you in order to really stand out. Um, so like you mentioned, the red rocks where you can see red rocks drill deeper. I thought that was great. I love that Nebraska fan, what was uniquely Nebraska and that they understand it’s not for everyone. And I think that’s a great example as well, because sometimes the amounts are too maybe nervous to make a statement like that. Right. It’s a little bit too risky for them. Yes. And, and this, this is one thing, Nicole, the is really important to me.

Adam Stoker: 20:48 It is if you’re not willing to take a risk, you’re probably in the wrong role because, because you have got to do something different, stand out from the crowd and guess what you might miss. But I would rather miss at the different that look just the same as every other destination. And somebody would be able to put a compilation of destination marketing videos together and have mine be one of the ones featured saying they all look the same. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So I think, I think that’s great. Now this next question I’ve been asking on the show for over three years, but for somehow when I ask this question, now, as we’re recording in the middle of this, it has such a, it has a brand new meaning. Mmm Mmm. Really this whole idea of creativity that, that comes from, you know, when you’re faced with a challenge or some sort of adversity, I actually have the point of view that, you know, we’re at our creative best actually when we’re in a problem solving mode.

Adam Stoker: 21:48 And so I’m wondering if there are some examples of challenges, certainly we’re in the middle of one right now. Um, you know, that you have. Yeah. And maybe if you could talk about maybe some of the solutions and the creative kind of the creativity that’s come out of Adam knows. Yeah. And th this is where I’ve really got to compliment my team, uh, because I, I personally have seen some of the best work that’s ever come out of our agency during this time. So I feel very passionately about the, about the question you ask of, of, of how creativity can come out of a crisis. And I totally am behind that. I think, I think some of the, when your back’s against the wall, you do some of your very best work and I’ll never forget. So I’m a big Utah jazz fan, uh, Utah jazz, we’re supposed to play on Oklahoma city.

Adam Stoker: 22:42 Uh, it was, it was in early March. And I remember when, when they canceled the game, because Rudy go bear got diagnosed with the pirates [inaudible] I thought, Oh man, this is a big deal. And then immediately following that, I watched president Trump’s address where he announced that he had shut down, travel from Europe. And I thought this could kill my business, you know, because, because I realized the impact that this was actually going to have on the travel industry. Uh, and it was, it was a difficult moment for me. Uh, you know, you know, this as an entrepreneur, you worked so hard to build something to, to have that potentially be taken away, uh, through something that was completely out of it out of your control. That’s a, that’s a painful feeling, but obviously couldn’t dwell on this for very long. So we said, okay, what are we going to do?

Adam Stoker: 23:39 And we held a team meeting today, uh, and we talked about how every single one of our clients we’re going to be going through major, major struggles as a result of this situation. So the first thing that we wanted to do was create temporary messages for our destination clients to be able to, while not being socially irresponsible, continue to keep their destination top of mind. And what I mean by that is you, you immediately couldn’t be using the book your trip today. Uh, it was no longer relevant at the time and probably would provide some backlash if you were to use that message. Um, and so we said, okay, let’s create some, some bridge campaigns. And out of that came some of the best ideas I’ve ever seen from my team, from what I’ve seen, we were one of the first to come out with the coloring and activity books for kids to do, uh, the, that had major attractions from our destinations, uh, in those books.

Adam Stoker: 24:47 And, and people were able to download them and color them and then upload those images to social media. And then we created a contest, screw rounding, uh, those activity books, where we did for our Utah clients. Uh, it was called the mighty Utah vacation where we, we were able to, and this, it was a great idea. That was a collaboration between us and the destinations, where we, we kind of put them all together in one big itinerary. Um, and then people who colored all the activity books would enter to win this fight. So that was the, the output from that. And it was a really good opportunity to kind of keep these desks to patients top of mind. Um, and then a week and a half later after that, uh, after the, the original, okay, let’s create some things. We talked as an agency about how we’re going to have to get ready for these recovery campaign because recovery for some of these clients is going to be the difference between them having a job and not having a job, uh, when this is all said and done. So we literally were somewhat responsible for making sure that these recovery campaigns generate enough visitation fast enough to help some of our clients who we’ve built deep relationships with, keep their jobs, keep their staffs and continue to progress. And some of the best work that I’ve ever seen from our agency has come in the form of these, the recovery campaigns that we’ve presented. Um, it has been really impressive to see.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:18 Yeah, that’s amazing. I love how you, you know, jumped right in from the get, go to think about how can we help our clients, what can they use right now? Because just like you and just like me, all of us, you know, when those, when they avalanche started in March and you’re like, wait, okay, this,

Adam Stoker: 26:36 Yes. Yeah.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:39 You know, these big events are being canceled. I think I was in Savannah, Georgia at, at a meeting and they had canceled there while I was there. They canceled their big Patrick’s day celebration, which was unheard of. So, you know, these little things are happening all around you and you’re like really trying to comprehend the whole of it. Mmm. But what’s amazing about what you did is, is you were able to do some thinking and, uh, come up with some creative solutions for your clients, which I’m sure they loved and appreciated because they’re trying just, as you are to get through, you know, what’s in front of them. Right. And so this kind of just, it gives them that little one piece they didn’t have to worry about or here, or here’s a direction that you can. Okay. I think that’s just a, that’s really fantastic and really smart on your part and really just shows what a great, you know, partner you are too to your clients.

Adam Stoker: 27:30 Thank you. Thank you. Let me tell you one more thing, just cause I’m so proud of, of what my team came up with for this. Uh, one more thing that they came up with I thought was so good is obviously if you’re in Rochester, New York, so you’re going to be somewhat on the slower side, as far as coming back and getting back to normal and, and recovery. Um, you know, not every market is the same. So if I have a recovery campaign and I’ll use Provo, Utah, because that’s where I’m at, let’s say Provo, Utah is back to normal. That’s one of my markets that I’m targeting, but Southern California is another market that my clients target well, Southern California is not moving at the same pace as Provo, Utah. And so we’ve actually created, I’m going to use the word algorithm. I promise it’s not as complicated as of that sounds, but that’s the work of my team has created an algorithm by market taking in factors of what’s the situation with the virus.

Adam Stoker: 28:26 Has it peaked? Is it, is it on the decline? Have we seen 14 days of sustained decrease, uh, in, in not only, uh, cases but deaths, uh, along with, uh, government regulations in the area, um, is there still a stay at home order? And we’re taking all of those things into account and we’ve created what we call launch triggers, and we’re able to give a score of zero to a hundred on whether or not people should be watching advertising in that market. And that way, if you’re, you know, a lot of people are starting with Drybar right now, right? So we’re saying which drive market should you be launching first? Well, here’s the factors you should take into, into account. And until it hits a score of 70 or above, we don’t think you should market in that area and try to sell this. Uh, and so it’s been, it’s been really helpful for us to, to create this and this wasn’t even something, this wasn’t something I came up with. This was, this was my team, put their heads together and said, how do we make sure we’re launching these campaigns at the right time and built this amazing process?

Nicole Mahoney: 29:34 Yeah. That’s, uh, that’s fantastic as well, because that was going to be a question I was going to ask you because different destinations are at phases. Um, as well as you know, that your feeder markets are at different phases of recovery. And, uh, I was, I was curious as to how you were scaling your recovery campaigns based on that. So I think the scoring system is just brilliant because that really helps your clients. It takes some of the, uh, unknown out of it because you’ve got this scoring system, right. And maybe gives them a little bit more confidence as to when the right time is to pull the trigger. I think that’s just really great opportunity and great thinking, uh, as well.

Adam Stoker: 30:19 Thank you. Thank you. And, and, you know, with recovery, there’s two components of it, right? There’s coming up with your messaging, which in my opinion, you need that yesterday. In fact, I love what Savannah, Georgia, Georgia did. You mentioned Savannah, Georgia. They announced their recovery campaign and shared the creative. And so this is what we’ll launch when the time is right. So they had already started working on their recovery campaign really well. A lot of us were still thinking, okay, what do we do right the second, you know? Um, and, and so there’s the creative portion, but then there’s, when is it okay to launch that messaging? But you, you mentioned how fierce the competition is in the destination marketing industry. Do you know if your campaign isn’t ready when that score is at 70 or above you’re behind, and that there’s so much pent up demand in these markets. So many people that have been dying to get out of the house, they’re ready to go stir crazy if your campaign, if you haven’t built your recovery campaign yet. Uh, and, and what that messaging looks like, you are a high in it. You’ve got to get on it right now, because once, once it’s okay to advertise in that market and solicit travelers from that market, if you’re not ready, there are other destinations that I promise we’ll capitalize on that and take those potential.

Nicole Mahoney: 31:32 Yeah. And that’s a, that’s great advice. And I hope listeners, you are taking note because Adam is giving you gold right now in terms of how we should be thinking about and preparing for the recovery. And, uh, I know there are still folks out there that are kind of in that, you know, frozen stage, right. I’m not sure I’m so unsure if I’m even going to have a job. I don’t know if I can spend a dime because our occupancy it, Nope. 15. I don’t know what kind of revenue we’re going to have. Um, so I’m trying to hold on to every dollar that I have, but I know there are things that you can be doing, especially in this planning for, like you just mentioned Adam messaging, there are so many things that you can do to be prepared and, um, and hopefully move away from that kind of frozen reaction. Then I think some people still still have, and to really get into that action oriented solution, problem solving. Are you seeing that?

Adam Stoker: 32:30 Yeah, I, I really do think this is great for your listeners to hear, because I think that there are a lot of people that are paralyzed by crises and, and the worst thing that you can do, just sit back and wait for the crisis to come to you. Right. Uh, and, and I feel like even if, like, let’s say you’ve gotten your recovery messaging done, and now you’re just waiting to launch that campaign from the time is running well. When was the last time you looked at your PR media kit? When was it? Or, yeah, the PR media kit. When was the last time you looked at your style guide? What was the last time you looked at your brand and said, okay, how can I improve my brand? These are all things that destination should be doing, even if it’s not a good time to message to their markets right now.

Adam Stoker: 33:11 So I love that you say, don’t, don’t be paralyzed and, or don’t be frozen. And so many people that’s their like fight or flight mentality is, is the freeze for a second. If you’re frozen or you feel like you’re frozen. I also think it’s important that, you know, and we all should be aware of this. This will pass just like September 11th, past, uh, on the travel industry in 2001, the great recession of 2008, 2009 passed this too will pass. Now we’ll second came on my podcast and talked about how there’s going to be a new normal, and everything’s not going to be exactly as it was before. Right. A TSA didn’t exist 20 years ago. Uh, and yet now we’re all comfortable going through security at the airport. So I feel like while the normal might change travel, we’ll come back. And if you’re frozen, get started operate as if it’s coming back and then you’ll be glad to do it.

Nicole Mahoney: 34:08 Absolutely. Great, great, great advice. So, Adam, I know that you have a project that you just launched. Um, and when I say project, I think I saw an announcement for it. I’m not sure exactly where I, I saw it, but it’s something based off of your podcasts that perhaps you’d like to share with our listeners as a, as a great resource, as they’re thinking about things that they might do.

Adam Stoker: 34:33 Yes. Yes. I’m super excited about it. And thanks for giving me the opportunity to share. So I have recently published my book, um, and I would love to pretend that, Hey, Adam Sofer so smart, he wrote a book. No, what happened was, is we had so many smart people on the podcast that I was like, I have got to curate this into a, uh, much easier for them to digest. And so I combined my thoughts and feelings on the industry with a lot of the guests that we’ve had on the show, uh, and put those together into a book it’s called touch points. It’s the destination marketers guide to brand evaluation enhancement. And one thing that’s really cool about it is, is it tells you, what do you need to have in place before you evaluate your brand? And then once you’re evaluating your brand, I actually have worksheets in the book where you can examine each touch point of your brand and the thesis of the book.

Adam Stoker: 35:29 Sorry, I should’ve said that earlier. The thesis of the book is your brand is the sum of all of the touch points that your organization has the outside world. Now that could be advertising. That could be an article about your destination. That could be an interaction with a waiter at a table in a restaurant, right. So all of the different touch points you have with the outside world, the sum of those is your brand. Yeah. And so at the end of each section where I talk about each touch point, I have a worksheet where you can actually put a plan to improve and implement those changes Mmm. For your brand. Um, and at the end of it, if you go through this and you fill out the worksheet, every section, your brand will improve significantly. And if it was me, I’d go through this exercise every single year.

Nicole Mahoney: 36:17 Yeah. Fantastic. And it sounds like that would be a great exercise to go through now, as we’re preparing for recovery and could really help our listeners kind of work through some of that. Um, just what we were just talking about in terms of what is your messaging and, and how are we positioning ourselves as we come out? So what a great tool, and they can find that on, is it Amazon?

Adam Stoker: 36:39 Yeah. So I published it on Amazon. And if you just search touchpoints by Adam Stoker, you’ll find it. And, uh, you know, it’s crazy. I’m famous in Japan apparently. Cause we’re getting a lot of orders from Japan, which I didn’t expect, but it’s been really great to see that. And, and, uh, I appreciate everybody that’s already read it. And if you haven’t, uh, I, especially for anybody that does feel frozen at this time, this is a great, okay. Step by step. What do I need to do from here?

Nicole Mahoney: 37:05 Absolutely. Another wonderful tool. So, uh, and I want to talk a little bit about collaboration because I think it’s so integral to, you know, the travel and tourism industry and killer. And one of the things that, that I like to, to call it in terms of travel and tourism is this whole idea of coopertition, we’re basically perceived competitors come together and cooperate on a program on a campaign and an initiative. Um, because together they can do so much more collaborating, then they can on their own. And so I’m wondering if you’ve seen or been part of any collaborations, um, that, that you’ve seen really work. And then if you could comment on, you know, why,

Adam Stoker: 37:50 Why do you think those were some successful? Yeah, absolutely. And really this is, this is one of the most challenging parts of the tourism industry is the fact that we, as destination, marketers have a line drawn around each of our destinations, whether it’s a County line or a city line or, or whatever. And then another DMO is responsible for the other side of that law. Right? Yeah. What we need to remember is that, uh, travelers, they don’t care which GMO manages the destination they’re going to attend. Right. They want to book an amazing trip. And if they cross for one DMO to another, you know, that that’s just going to enhance their trip. And so if we, as destination, marketers are under the, um, the, I’ll say false belief that, that if somebody comes to my destination, they’re always going to come to my desk.

Adam Stoker: 38:49 They’re not gonna go to other places. I just think that’s unrealistic. And so, uh, the idea of everybody marketing their own silos and saying, well, you know, if I’ve got this national park and there’s another one, uh, you know, miles away, I’m only advertising this one instead it’s, let’s get inside the visitor’s head and say, okay, what what’s most likely it’s going to happen? So an example of this is two national parks in Southern Utah that work really, really well together that they worked together on a campaign called Utah’s Zion and Bryce. And really they go to international trade shows and they have a joint trade show booth. They have collateral. That is the same for them. And what they’ve embraced and leaned into is the fact that if somebody is traveling international to Zion national park, they’re probably going to Bryce too. And vice versa.

Adam Stoker: 39:42 If they’re going to Bryce Canyon, they’re probably going to get zine on the way. So instead of fighting over that traffic, they’re pooling their money and resources together and saying, book a trip to these destinations and they’re doing it with the trust, but each of them is going to collect revenue from that campaign. I think it’s been incredibly successful for them. Another example of this is just, I talked about the coloring book campaign. We did a, it was kind of a bridge campaign when grow the virus initially hit all these destinations. When, when we got together with him and talked to him about these coloring books, presented them, they said, why don’t we do a, an awesome, uh, a joint campaign with this? And it’s been more of a PR campaign, uh, centered around a context that they call, uh, the mighty Utah vacation and it’s seven destinations, but all the coloring books and they have this criteria of, you know, uh, do the activity book or the coloring book, upload social tag destinations. And [inaudible], they’re using it to elevate each of their brands, but collectively in the state of Utah and the neighboring States. And I just think that you’re so right, when you say that collaboration is the key, because trying to go at it alone, uh, in a lot of cases, you’re going to be kind of fighting against yourself because like I said, the visitor doesn’t care what the Mo is, where they just want to have a wonderful experience.

Nicole Mahoney: 41:09 Yeah, exactly. And, um, yeah, it definitely hit it right on the head bear, thinking about the whole experience. And I liked how you said, um, you know, looking at it from the perspective of the visitor and then to give us that illustration of Zion and Bryce and you’re so right. If an international traveler is coming to the States, they’re not just coming for one attraction, they’re coming from multiple. And it just makes so much

Adam Stoker: 41:34 Sense too. Look for ways that you can pull resources together and get so much more back in return because you’re able to do that. I think that’s just really, really smart. So Adam, I knew that you would, I have so much to share with us and I’m sure our listeners have taken lots of notes and we’re learning so much from you. I have one more question before, you know, before we say goodbye. Um, and this last question is one that then asking my guests probably for the last months or more. Um, and it’s really the exploration of this idea of the evolution of destination marketers. And, um, I think that this evolution is actually accelerating now because of this crisis. And I’m curious to know your perspective on it, but this whole idea about destination marketers, not just being about the visitor, but being more like community managers or their destinations brand story, even for the locals and for, and for other uses within their own market.

Adam Stoker: 42:37 I’m curious if you are seeing that, um, you know, out there with your guests or maybe with the clients that you work with and if you could provide some insight along those lines. Yeah. And this, this is one of bill Geist, um, kind of, uh, platforms that he loves to talk about is, is the destination marketing organization is not the definition of DMO anymore. It’s destination management organization. They talks a lot about how destination marketers really need pivot and take more of a holistic approach to the destination. And I couldn’t agree more. And here’s, here’s what I’ll say on it. It is a timeline. It’ll be, I keep going back to this, uh, the, the, I feel like we’ve seen 10 years of sustained growth in the industry at a time like this, you may realize that you could have possibly been neglected, uh, some of your stakeholders as far, whether that’s engagement, whether that’s advertising to your locals, whether that’s a PR effort for your locals, this is his opportunity to understand how important you actually are.

Adam Stoker: 43:45 So your stakeholders as a destination, Nope. The business has been in business for 30 years and now suddenly because of this virus hit and people stopped coming through no fault of their own, that restaurant could go out of business. When you look at the hotel that went from a hundred percent occupancy in her peak season two, five, 10% occupancy, as a result of what’s happened with the coronavirus as a destination, I feel like we have a responsibility to not think about it in terms anymore of, Oh, we want to get visitors here to the destination, but we want to keep this hotel in business. We want the cute this restaurant in business, because guess who has provided that amazing customer experience over the years that you’ve been selling on the back. And that’s that each little touch point, like I said, with the restaurant, the hotel, the museum, the attraction has resulted in a wonderful customer experience.

Adam Stoker: 44:46 And if you want to preserve that customer experience, you need to currently be listening to your locals, gathering information from those stakeholders and doing everything you can within your power to make sure that you preserve that experience. So the both parties, the destination and the stakeholder or small business can come out stronger on the other side of this. And in the end, if you’ve done that, I feel like your relationships, things you need to are going to be so much farther ahead than they were before by doing that and demonstrating that you care. So that that’s probably my 2 cents on that question.

Nicole Mahoney: 45:28 Absolutely. And I think I’m demonstrating that, that you care and really understanding all of those pieces that go into creating that experience, uh, you know, within your destination, how you can support that, I think is just a really, really awesome point. So Adam, I’m so happy that you took some time out of your schedule to share with our listeners today. You definitely provided them with some great insights and wonderful examples and, and I’m sure you’ve inspired them too, you know, think about the future and definitely start thinking about that recovery and what their next move is before we say goodbye. Could you just let our listeners where they might find you, uh, you know, how they might connect with you after the show?

Adam Stoker: 46:10 Yeah, absolutely. So my email address is just And if anybody wants to send me an email, that’s great. And ask me about, probably call me on, on something that I said, if you want to correct me or whatever, or if you want to reach out and ask a question, I love, I love interacting with it. Anyone in the industry that’s interested in chatting, you know, I just, right before this call had a, had a conversation with, well, somebody that just wanted to pick my brain and I just, I love talking tourism. So yeah, reach out. You can find me there. Uh, you can find our agency’s Uh, and yeah, I, Nicole, this has been so great. I really appreciate you letting me come on. You you’ve seen by now. I like to hear myself talk. So anytime I get that opportunity, I sure appreciate it.

Nicole Mahoney: 47:04 Well, that’s fantastic. Well, thank you so much, Adam. It’s been a, a joy to have you.

Adam Stoker: 47:09 Okay. Thanks a lot. We’ll talk soon.

Nicole Mahoney: 47:11 Thank you for listening all the way to the end of this week’s episode. This gives me a chance to ask you for a favor. We have a goal to reach 100 ratings and reviews on our podcast. By the end of 2020, we are already well on our way to meeting this goal. I need your help. I love sharing interviews with you, and if you enjoy them too, I would a greatly appreciate you giving us a rating and review click the iTunes or Stitcher link on destination on the or leave one right in your favorite app where you listen most often, it only takes a minute and your support. It means a lot.

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