The Last Mile in Destination Marketing

Last-MileIn the world of telecommunications engineers often point out that the biggest source of service challenge occurs somewhere between the last relay box owned by the provider and the end-user. Its metaphorically referred to as “the last mile” and its typically where the speed bottleneck in communication networks happens because of bandwidth limits and capacity differences between what the provider can serve-up and what the user’s configuration can accept. In service terms it’s what impacts network performance and user-experience the most. It’s also the segment in the experience channel over which the provider has the least control.

The Last Mile metaphor struck me as I listened to some of the outstanding content sessions at last week’s Destination Marketing Association International annual convention.

On one hand I was struck by how destination marketers were finally having truly serious discussions about the transformation required as a result of the emergence of Destination Marketing 3.0 drivers: the collaborative economy, the mobile visitor, government fiscal realities and social media etc. But at the same time, one of the most frequently stated participant comments/questions in just about all the sessions I attended was: “how do I get my members/partners/stakeholders/city council to understand all of this and be part of where we need to go?”.

In other words: “I get it. But they don’t or won’t.”

They need to. Because they are a more critical part of today’s (and tomorrow’s) destination marketing ecosystem than ever before. They are the Last Mile.

DMOs are coming to grips with the reality that even though they are now taking bold measures to reimagine their organizations and role in the world of Destination Marketing 3.0, many of their local stakeholders are still living in the destination marketing paradigm of the past.

Its like being a Fios Quantum subscriber with a dial-up modem.

But unlike in the past, today’s fragmented marketing channel gives suppliers and buyers equal access to each other. Now, through a myriad of low-cost, easy-access marketing channels, a DMO’s stakeholders have as much influence on destination equity as the DMO does…impacting destination brand perception, destination performance and visitor experiences more quickly and acutely than ever before. And just like with telecommunications, a well-configured Last Mile can create experiential magic for the visitor. Unfortunately, a poorly aligned Last Mile creates a world of performance disconnects in both cases.

The “Oh-Shit-Moment” is this: if many DMOs are only now dealing with the increasingly sophisticated realities of Destination Marketing 3.0 as presented in DMAI’s DestinationNEXT report, how are they ensuring that their community stakeholders are also onside with those destination marketing transformational realities? And that in a hyper-connected, peer-reviewed world they play a critical role in the transformation.

Today’s DMO role in aligning the Last Mile has to go beyond the typical provision of information to stakeholders at the annual marketing plan briefing and annual report presentation. To effect a truly transformational change, the DMO has to deploy whole new educational engagement imperative with its community stakeholders.

One approach to this educational imperative used by diverse, global companies like Coca-Cola and Unilever to get everyone on the same page and working together is the development of a dedicated internal marketing academy. Business units and diverse cross-functional teams from throughout the enterprise gather to review global trends and discuss local results; sharing information and ideas…often co-creating innovative new strategies for activation. Everyone leaves connected and aligned. Repeat as needed.

For DMOs a Destination Marketing Academy should bring together key community stakeholders (members, partners, government) to create a common destination marketing 3.0 vision, approach and language for their community helping to better ensure Last Mile synchronicity and alignment, instead of a painful disconnect. Academy participation needs to go well-beyond the usual suspects (e.g. marketing committee) and connect with stakeholders who can help deliver the strategy (e.g. economic development group, universities). Ultimately the academy should make co-creating and activating transformational destination marketing strategies with all stakeholders much more effective…with better performance results for all.

With DMOs now taking bold strides to create new value in today’s disruptive global tourism and business events ecosystem, the critical first step starts at the Last Mile.

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2 thoughts on “The Last Mile in Destination Marketing

  1. Nice post Bruce and now I wish Patrick and I attended DMAI! There seems to have been some good thought-provoking discussion there. Your post here reminds me of the need for the broadest possible stakeholder engagement of the sort advocated by Simon Anholt, ie, getting beyond the immediate stakeholder community and touching the citizen. The Gathering initiative in Ireland – for all its flaws – stimulated some real engagement at local community level and created some powerful outreach. Hope all is well with you!

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    • Thanks Padraic for the comments and the great reference to The Gathering. With the DestinationNEXT data clearly pointing to the escalating role of DMO’s as a brand influencer, activating and engaging the local community in the story requires as much art, science and magic as engaging the marketplace.

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