Case Study: The Revamp of “Visit Montana”
I’ve had the distinct pleasure of getting to know the folks from the Montana Tourism Office from several industry events and a few collaborative projects and have always admired their knack for producing elegantly branded experiences for consumers. And what’s more, both Katy Peterson (Dir. of Marketing) and Thurston Elfstrom (“Senior Interactive Fella”) are humble about their work and have always been open and honest about sharing best practices.
When we recently heard about the state’s re-branding process and the resulting evolution of their ad campaign and website, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to chat with Thurston to examine how the new brand was infused into the new VisitMT.com.
How does the new site creatively and functionally communicate the new MT brand identity?
Montana’s redefined brand is all about natural splendor, charming and vibrant towns and invigorating experiences by day with relaxing hospitality in the evening.
Creatively speaking, we have adopted a clean and simple platform for design and copywriting for all of our advertising, public relations and interactive media. When it came time to apply that platform to the website, it became apparent that the photography was really one of the biggest factors that could speak our brand message; so we really spent a lot of time getting that right. Basically, we just kept saying “let’s let the photography tell the story”.
To functionally communicate the brand, we turned our content on Glacier and Yellowstone into its own main section. We also re-tooled several activities-based content groupings into one main section of “experiences” emphasizing those activities that really uphold our brand message.
What websites, either travel-related or not, influenced your thinking?
Top of the list is always Netflix.com for me. (You can see some of that influence on visitmt.com) Of course, we wanted to look at what other DMOs were doing also… not only from the standpoint of what works, but to make sure that we are establishing our own identity.
How are you, or will you, integrate the content from the print travel guide into the site and vice versa?
With the current design of visitmt.com and the latest publication of the printed guide, we made a concerted effort to marry up our titles for the various sections of the printed guide and the website so that when someone follows a URL from the guide, the title copy is identical. There is some overlapping photography as well, to establish continuity.
We are committed to delivering content to people in the channels they want, so we also post a “flip-page” version of the printed guide on the site that can be downloaded and/or printed in its entirety.
Speaking of which, all the data for the detailed listings on visitmt.com and our printed guide are contained in our tourism product database. We are working towards replacing our current online version of the printed guide with one that is data-enabled. The real beauty of this approach is in letting a user print the guide on demand with all the most up-to-date info. However, this is a tad more complex than the typical directory listing page on a website.
How are your partners able to edit/add content to the site? Is the process automated or do they have to be facilitated via staff?
We are working on opening up our web client for data-collection to the various businesses and tourism entities that are represented on visitmt.com. Right now, however, Travel Montana staff facilitates the process.
At present, we conduct an annual survey of the database, including follow-up calls, to insure response. We also do a lot of updates on the fly via phone and emails from our constituents.
What considerations were made so that your data is portable (i.e. so the MT brand can be extended into social and mobile media)?
Visitmt.com is and has been employing css based layout for a while now (using tables for tabular data only.) I’m sure I don’t have to point out how important this is when you start to port your web content into non-web browser deliverables. We are at work right now css-ifying visitmt.com for iPhones. Future plans include posting our ski area conditions from our RSS/XML feed to Twitter.
We noticed that the MT site does not offer too many opportunities for consumers to contribute their opinions and photos to the site. Is the inclusion of consumer generated content something under consideration for the future?
We’ve had some challenges implementing social media, but we definitely do have imminent plans to ramp it up. Reviews and photo contributions are on their way to our sites.
And, like I mentioned earlier; we know we have to speak to people in the channels they prefer. That means going to wherever people are having conversations, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp. I think one of the big challenges for DMOs, and any brand, moving forward will be anticipating where users are going next and meeting them there.
Can you tell us about how you’re measuring success? Are you just tracking overall visitation or correlating visitation numbers with specific “engagement” actions taken by visitors?
We have a set of Key Performance Indicators that we have developed that are a combination of measurements of engagement and traditional web stats.
On the engagement side we look at things like our vacation guide orders and downloads, Live Help sessions, web video views and phone calls generated to the call center from the site. We also track specific campaigns through a combination of engagement and stats. We review items such as sweepstakes entries and traffic to landing pages. There is a bit of market-intelligence too, but I’m keeping that on the D.L. for now ;-)
Thanks again Thurston for sharing your insights with Travel2.0. If you want to hear case studies from an industry leader or travel visionary, or have a suggestion for our next interview, please send an email to mosherifdeen[at]gmail.com or let us know in the comments section.