We’ve been producing quite a few photo and video shoots lately and if there’s one thing we always advise our clients it’s to show ‘the best version of your property,’ not an unrealistic version.
It’s akin to taking a portrait: make sure you look good, but don’t Photoshop yourself beyond recognition. You’re only going to run into problems later down the road when people call you out on it. We’ve all read those TripAdvisor reviews where the guest warns that the property clearly spent more on marketing than guest experience – don’t be like that.
When it comes to marketing, especially online marketing, we’ve seen the trends coming and they’ve stuck. Most recently it was mobile devices and website design for mobile first (and Google is indexing mobile first now as of a month or two ago). Then video started trumping photos (partly because it’s a lot harder to fake a video), and now there’s a new revolution in marketing trends and it’s based on authenticity.
Think about it. The selfies on Instagram of celebrities at home on their couch binge watching something on Netflix like all the rest of us earn more likes and more interactions than when they share their latest magazine covers that have been so carefully manipulated. Consumers in general are burned out on explicit advertising and a lot of marketing materials produced by hotels and resorts in the Caribbean fall into this category.
You want people to trust your brand, not give it side-eye when they detect something fishy in how different your website gallery looks from traveler photos, or when they notice that the last influencer blog post you traded a stay for is just a little too full of sunshine, rainbows, and superlative adjectives.
It’s time to get real.
How to bring it back to down to Earth? Here are some tips:
* Use more user-generated content: did a guest at your hotel take a photo that looks fun and inviting? Ask for permission and then share it (and be sure to credit them). Real people like to know that other real people are having a good time, and it could be the thing that moves them off the fence when considering whether to stay with you.
* Examine your messaging: are you being you or are you trying to be a hotel that you’re not? Do not try to be like your competition – stand out in the ways that make you unique and you’ll attract the right types of guests for your property. Ask yourself: what’s different about the experience that you offer?
* Redo your marketing material. Yes, we all need hero images. But the days of stick thin barely-legal models walking across the edge of an infinity pool with billowing silks flowing from their arms on the Caribbean breeze are long gone. It’s not the 1990s anymore. Booze, boobs, and an empty but perfect pool don’t cut it anymore. Use real people in your shoots – you could even turn it into a marketing campaign by running a competition on social media. For example: “We need a real newlywed couple to model in our honeymoon marketing materials. Willing to work a little for it? Enter to win a honeymoon package with us by submitting x y and z!”
Better yet, enlist some resort guests who in our experience are more than happy to sign model release forms in exchange for a free cocktail or a promise of a copy of the photo and have churned out some of the best imagery since they’re so thrilled about it all. Be aspirational if you’re that type of luxury property, but don’t cross into completely unattainable. Guests still want to see the best version of themselves in some of your materials.
* Examine the content marketing you’re doing. Is your property regurgitating things that have been written about hundreds of times before? Imagine how many hotel websites have articles titled Top 10 Things to Do in Whatever Island You’re On? Now imagine how much better, how much more authentic, interesting, and real it would be if you gave some real numbers about the most popular activities that guests at your hotel are booking through the tour desk? Step it up another notch with a video interview the concierge service agent and get their take on what activities bring your guests back to your doors with the biggest grins.
The possibilities are endless but while we might still bring the blues in the water out more on our images and stack the food a little higher while photographing our dining experiences – it’s important to keep it real. Show someone with some gray hair enjoying that expensive dinner, bring in influencers who have unique voices, own what you are and be proud of it.