Path Home Shows 2011 Show Archive July 2011 Show 1129 Interview with Bill Geist - Tourism

Interview with Bill Geist - Tourism

We visit with Bill Geist, an expert on tourism tactics, trends, and technology.
Interview with Bill Geist - Tourism

Bill Geist and Rob McClendon

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Oklahoma Travel

Show Dates

Show 1129: Interview with Bill Geist - Tourism

Air date: July 17, 2011

 

Transcript

ROB MCCLENDON:  WELL WHILE NOODLING OR RATTLESNAKE HUNTS CERTAINLY HAVE A LOCAL FLAVOR, THEY ALSO HAVE A GLOBAL APPEAL.  AT THE GOVERNOR’S CONFERENCE ON TOURISM, I SAT DOWN WITH BILL GEIST, AN EXPERT ON TOURISM TACTICS, TRENDS, AND TECHNOLOGY.

SO HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR A COMMUNITY TO BRAND ITSELF WHEN IT COMES TO TRYING TO ATTRACT THOSE TOURISM DOLLARS THAT ARE OUT THERE?

BILL GEIST:  YEAH, I THINK A BRAND FOR A DESTINATION IS PROBABLY ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS WE DO.  HOWEVER, I THINK WHAT I’M ALSO SEEING IS PEOPLE JUMPING ON THE BRAND WAGON, AS I CALL IT, AND, AND, THEY’RE REACHING OUT AND THEY’RE TRYING TO, TO RENAME THEMSELVES OR COME UP WITH SOMETHING THAT’S, THAT’S CLICKY.  HONESTLY, THE BRAND OF A DESTINATION IN ANY TOWN, ALREADY EXISTS.  WHAT A SMART MARKETER DOES IS IDENTIFY WHAT THE KEY COMPONENTS OF YOUR STRENGTHS ARE, AND THEN MOVE THOSE INTO THE FOREFRONT IN THE MESSAGING.  I DON’T THINK THAT A NEW SLOGAN NECESSARILY, YOU KNOW, IS THE BE ALL AND END ALL; AND THAT TENDS TO BE THE END GAME FOR MOST BRANDING PROCESSES.  YOU KNOW, HAVING A DESTINATION BRAND IS EVERYTHING.  I BRING UP GEARY, INDIANA, IN SOME OF MY TALKS; GEARY HAS A HORRIBLE BRAND IMAGE, YET IT’S ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL TOWNS.  ALONG THE LAKE-FRONT, IT’S FABULOUS, BUT IT STILL HAS THE BRAND OF BEING THE MURDER CAPITOL, WHICH IT HASN’T BEEN FOR OVER 25 YEARS.  BUT THOSE KINDS OF THINGS, THOSE NEGATIVE BRANDS, HOLD ON; AND THEN, THE POSITIVE BRANDS HOLD ON TO.  SO THAT’S THE KEY, IS HOW DO YOU GET THE POSITIVE MESSAGE AWAY FROM THE NEGATIVE AND PUT THAT OUT FOR EVERYBODY TO SEE?

ROB:  NOW SOMETHING WE’VE FOUND HERE IN OKLAHOMA IS, WE CERTAINLY ARE BRANDED, WE’RE BRANDED AS THE WEST, WE’RE BRANDED AS NATIVE AMERICAN.  IS IT SMART TO TRY TO ADVERTISE YOURSELF AS A CULTURAL DESTINATION?

BILL:   ABSOLUTELY, CULTURAL TRAVEL IS UP.  MUSEUM TRAVEL IS WAY UP; 40% OF MUSEUM OPERATORS THIS LAST YEAR SAID THAT THEIR NUMBERS WERE SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER THAN THEY’VE EVER SEEN BEFORE.  WHAT IS ACTUALLY AT WORK THERE, I’M NOT SURE WE KNOW WHY ALL OF A SUDDEN WE’RE COMING BACK INTO THE CULTURAL.  BUT, CULTURE CAN BE HERITAGE, IT CAN BE MUSIC, WHATEVER MAKES YOUR COMMUNITY, YOUR COMMUNITY.  WHILE I WAS HERE IN OKLAHOMA CITY, I WENT OVER TO THE HISTORY CENTER AND SAW THE ROCK ‘N ROLL, UH, WHAT A RICH MUSICAL HISTORY YOU HAVE IN THIS STATE THAT I DON’T THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW.  AND I THINK THAT IF PEOPLE KNEW, THEY’D MAKE THE PILGRIMAGE HERE JUST AS IF THEY WE’RE MAKING THE PILGRIMAGE TO CLEVELAND, OHIO, WHICH IS THE ROCK ‘N ROLL CAPITOL, OF COURSE.

ROB:  I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT SOMETHING THAT WE SEE AND THAT’S TRAVELERS COMING OFTEN TIMES FROM EUROPE, OVERSEAS, THAT ARE COMING HERE TO IMMERSE THEMSELVES; SAY, STAYING AT A RANCH FOR A WEEK.

BILL:  YEAH; IMMERSION TRAVEL IS ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT ALSO IS GROWING, BUT NOT QUITE AS FAST AS SOME OF THE OTHER NICHES THAT ARE OUT THERE.  BUT IMMERSION IS ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT’S A LIFE EXPERIENCE; YOU WILL TAKE BACK AND YOU’LL TELL EVERYBODY.  AND THE BEST MARKETING AS WELL ALL KNOW, IS WORD OF MOUTH.  SO IF WE CAN PROVIDE THEM WITH AN IMMERSIVE OPPORTUNITY AND EXPERIENCE, THEY WILL TELL HUNDREDS OF THEIR FRIENDS AND YOU JUST CAN’T BUY THAT KIND OF ADVERTISING.

ROB:  LET’S TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT MARKETING NOW.  HOW HAS TODAY’S CONSUMER CHANGED?

BILL:  I THINK WE’VE GOT A COUPLE THINGS AT WORK, ONE, WAY MORE CONSUMER CHOICE THAN EVER BEFORE.  SO, WHILE THAT’S A GREAT THING THAT ANYBODY CAN GET INTO THE MARKETPLACE WITH, WITH AN AMAZING ARRAY OF EXPERIENCES AND PRODUCTS, THERE’S SO MANY THAT, HOW DO YOU FIND OUT WHICH IS THE RIGHT ONE?  AND SO, I THINK TODAY’S MARKETING REALLY, THAT’S ONE OF THE REASONS THAT SO MANY MARKETERS ARE RACING INTO THE SOCIAL MEDIA SPACE.  BECAUSE IT’S, IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT WE TELL SOMEBODY ABOUT THE PRODUCT, IT’S HOW WE INVOLVE THEM IN THE CONVERSATION.  AND THAT’S KIND OF, THERE WAS THIS CONVERSATION THAT WE ARE NOW IN THE WEB 2.0, LIKE THERE WAS A WEB 1.0; BUT, WHATEVER.  BUT, WEB 1.0 WAS REALLY LIKE AN ELECTRONIC BILLBOARD; 2.0 IS ENABLING A CONVERSATION BETWEEN CUSTOMERS WHO LIKE YOU AND SOMETIMES CUSTOMERS THAT DON’T.  BUT ALSO, WITH YOU AND THE CUSTOMER; SO THAT THEY KNOW, THEY CAN BEGIN TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT FROM YOU AND DECIDE IF THEY WANT TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOU.  AND SO THE SOCIAL ASPECT, WHILE A LOT OF PEOPLE KIND OF POO POO IT AS, AH IT’S JUST THE KIDS AND IT’S JUST FACEBOOK, AND TWITTER’S SILLY, THOSE ARE THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT BUSINESS, WHICH WAS BEHIND KIND OF A WALL BEFORE, I HAVE MY PRODUCT HERE.  NOW WE’VE OPENED THAT DOOR SO THAT WE CAN BEGIN THAT CONVERSATION, AND THAT’S WHAT TODAY’S CONSUMER WANTS, IS A CONVERSATION.

ROB:  SO, WITH THESE NEW ELECTRONIC COMMUNITIES, ARE WE SEEING MORE EMPHASIS PUT ON, WHAT MY NEIGHBOR THINKS?

BILL:  OH ABSOLUTELY, WE’RE LOOKING OVER OUR SHOULDER CONSTANTLY.  WE WANT THAT VALIDATION, WE DON’T WANT TO MAKE A MISTAKE; ESPECIALLY TRUE AS WE GET IN THE YOUNGER AND YOUNGER CONSUMER GENERATIONAL PODS.  DEFINITELY THE MILLINIALS AND X-ERS HATE TO MAKE A MISTAKE AND THEY WANT THAT VALIDATION, AND THEY’RE GETTING THE VALIDATION FROM THEIR FRIENDS ON FACEBOOK, FROM THEIR FRIENDS ON TWITTER, FROM TEXTING THEY DO BACK AND FORTH.  AND FRANKLY, IT, SOMETIMES IT’S NOT JUST THEIR FRIENDS, THEY’RE GETTING VALIDATION FROM A TRIP ADVISOR, PEOPLE THEY’D NEVER EVER MET WILL GO ON AND WILL CHECK OUT A HOTEL, WILL CHECK OUT A RESTAURANT AND SEE HOW MANY GOOD REVIEWS AND HOW MANY BAD REVIEWS AND WE’LL MAKE OUR DECISIONS THERE, YET WE NEVER MET THESE PEOPLE BEFORE.  BUT, WE BELIEVE THEM MORE THAN WE DO THE OFFICIAL MARKETING MESSAGE, BECAUSE IT’S THE MAN, YOU KNOW, WE DON’T BELIEVE THE MAN, WE BELIEVE OUR FRIENDS, OUR ASSOCIATE.  AND SO, I THINK THERE’S HUGE OPPORTUNITY THERE FOR ANY BUSINESS IN THE MARKETING SPHERE, IS GET THOSE TESTIMONIALS, GET PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT YOU.  BECAUSE THE MORE CHATTER THAT’S OUT THERE, THE MORE CHANCE THAT I’M GONNA FIND IT AND SAY, UMPH, I’M GONNA FIND IT, I WANNA LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS EXPERIENCE.

ROB:  I WANT TO ASK YOU A LITTLE BIT ABOUT VISUALS, WHETHER IT BE ON A WEBSITE OR WHETHER IT BE IN SOCIAL MEDIA, HOW IMPORTANT ARE PICTURES AND VIDEO?

BILL:  YEAH, WELL, IT’S SAD COMMENTARY ABOUT OUR SOCIETY, BUT WE DON’T READ ANYMORE, AND IF WE DO, IT’S THE FIRST COUPLE OF SENTENCES AND WE’RE OFF TO THE NEXT THING; WE’RE SO A-D-D ABOUT THE WHOLE THING.  A NEW STUDY FROM FOCUS RIGHT, A BIG RESEARCH COMPANY IN THE TRAVEL SPACE, SAID THAT 81% OF US WHO BOUGHT TRAVEL LAST YEAR ONLINE BASED OUR PURCHASE DECISION ON PICTURE OVER PRICE.  SO, IF YOU’VE GOT COMPELLING PHOTOGRAPHY AND EVEN MORE COMPELLING VIDEO, THAT IS GOING TO REALLY ALLOW YOU TO INCREASE PRICE IF YOU CHOOSE TO.  BECAUSE THAT PRICE-POINT WON’T BE NEARLY AS IMPORTANT AS IF SOMEONE’S SEEN A PICTURE AND THEY CAN PICTURE THEMSELVES, WELL I WANT TO DO THAT.

ROB:  SO BILL, WHAT ABOUT VIDEO?

BILL:  SEE WE’VE, WE’VE GOTTEN TO A POINT NOW WHERE THE MAJORITY OF THE COUNTRY, THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE COUNTRY IS ON BROADBAND SO THEY CAN CONSUME VIDEO.  THERE WAS A TIME, NOT MORE THAN FIVE OR SIX YEARS AGO, THAT VIDEO WAS TOUGH BECAUSE OF DIAL-UP AND JERKINESS.  TODAY, FRANKLY WITH THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES THAT ARE OUT THERE AND SOME OF THE NEW ONES THAT ARE COMING IN THE NEXT YEAR, VIDEO IS JUST, IT’S EVERYWHERE.  THE AVERAGE AMERICAN WATCHES TWO VIDEOS A DAY ONLINE.  AND IT’S PROVEN THAT VIDEO ON YOUR SITE INCREASES THE CONVERSION RATE OF SOMEBODY WHO’S JUST LOOKING AND SOMEBODY WHO’S BUYING.  SO, YOU KNOW, THE OLD ADDAGE OF A PICTURE’S WORTH A 1,000 WORDS, WELL, VIDEOS WORTH 10,000.

ROB:  SO WITH THIS BOMBARDMENT OF ALL THIS NEW MEDIA, HOW DO WE CUT THROUGH THE CLUTTER AND GET THE CONSUMER TO LATCH ON TO OUR MESSAGE.

BILL:  I THINK THERE’S TWO THINGS; ONE IS JUST WHAT WE’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT IS, OPEN THOSE DOORS, HAVE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT YOU, GET, GET THE CONVERSATION STARTED.  BUT, THEN I THINK AT THE CORE, THE PRODUCT HAS TO BE UNIQUE.  IT HAS TO BE SOMETHING THAT I CAN’T GET ANYWHERE ELSE; OTHERWISE, THEN YOU’RE JUST COMPETING ON PRICE AND THAT’S, THAT’S A FOOLS GAME, TO HAVE THE SAME PRICE, THE SAME PRODUCTS, AND EVERYONE’S ON A RACE TO THE BOTTOM TO TRY AN UNDERCUT WITH DISCOUNTS.  IF YOU CAN TAKE A PRODUCT AND TWIST IT UP A LITTLE BIT, AND MAKE IT JUST DIFFERENT ENOUGH, JUST UNIQUE ENOUGH, JUST THAT LITTLE, THE ABILITY FOR ME TO GO TO A WATERCOOLER ON MONDAY MORNING AND SAY, I JUST DID SOMETHING THAT I KNOW YOU HAVEN’T DONE, IT’S SO COOL.  THAT’S HOW WE LIVE TODAY, THAT’S HOW WE MAKE OUR CHOICES.  AND SO, I THINK UNIQUE IS EVERYTHING, AND I, YOU KNOW, THERE WAS AN INTERESTING STUDY DONE ON I-TUNES.  AND THE PERCENTAGE OF THE NUMBER OF SONGS ON I-TUNES THAT GO UNSOLD IN A QUARTER, AND PEOPLE WOULD SAY, UH, YOU KNOW, 20%, 40%; IT WAS 2%, WHICH MEANS THE MOST OBSCURE SONGS ARE SELLING AT LEAST ONCE EVERY QUARTER.  AND THAT JUST SHOWS THAT IF IT’S UNIQUE ENOUGH, THERE’S A MARKET SOMEWHERE FOR IT.  THERE’S ACTUALLY A BOOK ON THAT CONCEPT CALL “THE LONG TAIL.”  THEY ARE SAYING WE ARE NO LONGER CONTAINED BY SHELF-SPACE; YOU KNOW, WE USED TO ALL GO TO BLOCKBUSTER MOVIES, AND NOT THAT WE DON’T STILL, YOU KNOW, BUT ART MOVIES ARE GETTING A LOT OF ACTION.  YOU KNOW, INDEPENDENT RELEASES BY UNKNOWN BANDS, GOT 10,000 PEOPLE BUYING IT; BECAUSE WE DON’T ALL LIKE THE SAME THINGS, WE DO LIKE TO BE INDIVIDUAL, AND WE’RE LOOKING FOR THE NEXT UNIQUE THING THAT SATISFIES WHATEVER’S INSIDE OF US.

ROB:  AND WHEN WE’RE TALKING ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA, THEY’RE NOT ALL CREATED THE SAME, FACEBOOK, MY SPACE, TWITTER.

BILL:  I THINK THEY ALL HAVE THEIR PLACE.  YOU KNOW, IF I, IF I HAD THE STAFF I’D BE IN ALL OF ‘EM, IF I HAD THE RESOURCES.  IF YOU HAVE TO PICK AND CHOOSE, YOU’RE PROBABLY LOOKING, I’D SAY, WELL ESPECIALLY FOR THE TRAVEL SPACE, I THINK WE’RE LOOKING AT FACEBOOK AND TWITTER.  MY SPACE IS REALLY THE REALM OF PEOPLE WHO ARE INTO MUSIC, AS FAR AS A SOCIAL PLATFORM.  AND I THINK THAT IF YOU’RE A MUSIC FESTIVAL, IF YOU’VE GOT ANY KIND OF MUSICAL HERITAGE, THERE’S A PLACE FOR YOU THERE.  BUT IF I WAS GONNA PUT MY MONEY ON ONE OR THE OTHER, IT’D PROBABLY BE FACEBOOK AND TWITTER.

ROB:  WELL ALRIGHT BILL, CERTAINLY APPRECIATE YOUR INSIGHT.

BILL:  WELL HEY, THANK YOU.