Your Lowdown on the Smackdown


As we reported here last week, an elite group of marketers from around the country surreptitiously assembled in Portland last week for a no-holds-bared, two-day “smackdown” at the Heathman Hotel. Unlike your typical smash-mouth wrestlemania event, this gathering represented a collaborative and congenial discussion on “best practices” for destination marketing.

Representing the collective wisdom of about 25 states, the conversations covered every conceivable topic destination marketers face on a daily basis: how to bring non-traditional partners into co-op programs, marketing tactics that worked (or didn’t), quirky PR techniques, analytics and digital marketing—and of course the requisite debauchery and fun that invariably happens when marketing folks congregate!

Thoughts// I’ve been to many marketing conferences and workshops but nothing comes remotely close to the education, inspiration and genuine camaraderie I experienced at “smackdown”. United by common challenges and the reassurance of unassuming peers, the two day event is an honest forum for sharing best practices and breeding new ideas. The following are my opinions on some highlights (in no particular order) from “smackdown”:

  1. Most Interesting Contest /Partnership Idea: Montana’s Cast & Camp “glamping” (think glamor + camping) giveaway partnership with Orvis (the giveaway is worth $17,000 and yes, you can still enter to win!)

  2. Cool Use of Guerilla Tactics: South Dakota’s “Street Team” for a promotion inviting Minnesotans to visit the state (six Cowboy re-enactors were brought in to ride the trains and roam the streets of the Twin Cities for a week)

  3. Most Fun Viral Idea: My Favorite Minnesota campaign; the campaign has been up for a while and basically is a user & agency generated video collection of local favorites such as – “Best Places to Eat a Burger” and “Favorite Shopping Spots”

  4. Most Ambitious Infrastructure Project: Wyoming Tourism leading all state agencies in building a comprehensive GIS map of the state’s infrastructure (visitor and also transportation)

  5. Best Brand Story: Mississippi’s embrace of the idea that the state is the “Birthplace of America’s Music“; this idea is manifested and embraced across all mediums…including a 24/7 live streaming Mississippi radio station

On the digital front, Troy and I led a conversation on the need for a common “engagement matrix” for the states to gauge the effectiveness of both their web presence and also online campaigns. After a brief discussion, the group agreed on the need for such a matrix to reinforce the directional “click thru” and “unique visitor” numbers and suggested that the following essential “engagement points”:

  1. Bounce rate

  2. Time on site

  3. Orders of travel guides
  4. Downloads of travel guides (or other defined items)

  5. Feed subscription

  6. Forwards/Sharing

  7. Trip planning activity

  8. Ratings/reviews

  9. Videos watched

  10. Site Search

  11. Other engagements as defined by individual sites (e.g. taking the “Passionality Test” at Virginia.org)

Our next step now is to take this feedback, assign “weights” to each engagement point and then present a draft “formula” at ESTO in August.

Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention the most thought provoking presentation of the conference by Ian Yolles, founding member of Nau, a Portland based sustainable clothing manufacturer. Nau’s embarked on an ambitious goal to “show the world that business can be a force for positive social and environmental change….and creating a sustainable future for humans and the planet.” Ian’s moving story on the founding principles of Nau and how they went about provoking “change” in the world was not only insightful but also deeply inspirational and moving to anyone looking to defy conventional wisdom.

For more on Nau and their unconventional charge into the retail world, please read “Nau: ahead of its time?

~ Happy Monday…umm Tuesday! (Sorry too much partying in honor of our birthday!)

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.