Transporting Audiences to a Place Through Strategic Creative

  • Categories:

    Creative, Brand Strategy

  • Date:

    August 9, 2023

Transporting Audiences to a Place Through Strategic Creative

Creative Brand Strategy

When you think about great marketing, what sets it apart from the competition? An eloquent voiceover or pithy slogan? Do the visuals capture both the eye and the imagination? Or is it the flawless integration of all elements that helps the audience connect so deeply to the campaign that they can’t help but want to know more?

However you answer these questions, one thing is for certain: Without the right strategic foundation to inform the creative execution, the campaign’s intended audience may be unclear. And if that’s the case, even the most poetic prose and prettiest pictures won’t mean much.

That’s where marketing research plays a crucial role in helping shape a marketing strategy. It supplies valuable data and insights about the audience’s preferences, needs, behaviors and attitudes as they relate to a product, brand or destination. From there, the Creative team has the right context to create an emotional connection that feels authentic and grabs people’s attention.

To get a better understanding of how these two unique yet intrinsically connected marketing disciplines work together at Wray Ward, I sat down for a conversation with Leslie Gillock, insights and brand strategy executive director, and John Roberts, chief creative officer. Much of what we discussed applies holistically to what we do here at Wray Ward, but for the purpose of this blog, we focused on the destinations and hospitality space.

Here are some highlights.

How does research help the creative execution hit the mark?

Leslie: No matter the category, it’s always important to consider the foundational components. In the destination space, these factors are really important in connecting people to what’s magical about the place.

For destination marketing organizations and travel brands, a strong strategic foundation starts with:

  • Understanding the audience’s needs, desires, mindsets and interests

  • Understanding the demographics — age, life stage and family makeup — as they relate to the motivations for a particular trip

  • Understanding cost and distance as entry factors

This type of exploration can help you get to know your target audience and better communicate your functional offerings as well as what people organically love about them. Find that match and you’ve got your ideal customer or visitor. You know their motivations and how to speak to them.

These considerations really help the Creative team craft and tell the story, thereby connecting the audience to a brand by understanding and speaking to their unique motivations and needs.

John: Whatever the destination is that we are marketing, digging into its DNA and understanding its core essence — and what it wants to be if it’s going in a new or different direction — is an important part of the job. When your research and insights do that well, the Creative team is empowered to identify the special things about the place and communicate them in a really rich way.

Case study: From building audience personas to conducting a competitive analysis, Wray Ward helped Echota create a marketing strategy and brand positioning to give the luxury residential community a competitive edge that matched its exceptional character. Explore the Echota case study.

How does the right blend of strategy and creativity help brands build authentic connections?

John: Immersion is a critical part of the process to understand the DNA of a brand or a location, along with what they offer and what makes them interesting.

Let’s be honest: Not all families are looking for a family vacation, so don’t fall into the trap of assuming that every trip will be the same and have the same motivations. Instead, we broaden the messaging by appealing to individual interests in things such as exploring the outdoors, experiencing cultural diversity or attending sporting events and concerts.

Then we think about how to connect those drivers back to the brand and location, what they offer and what makes them interesting. You may have the things your target audience wants — activities, lodging and transportation — but how can you tap into those desires and make emotional connections?

Immersion enhances our storytelling by allowing the audience to become active participants in a brand’s narrative through emotional connections, multisensory engagement and authentic experiences. To successfully create that level of engagement through a memorable brand story, it really does come back to understanding your audience’s core interests and affinities as well as the circumstances of why they will be taking the trip.

Leslie: When it comes to destination marketing, it’s important to consider some fundamental questions about the audience and what drives their decision-making, such as:

By answering these questions and analyzing the data, research provides the fuel for better-performing work that is strategically positioned to resonate with its target audience.

Case study: Wray Ward used photography to help the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority capture and promote the full Charlotte experience to visitors and businesses worldwide across paid, earned and owned media. Read the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority case study.

How does great marketing help audiences imagine their way into these richly textured experiences?

Leslie: Brands have to connect emotionally with their audiences. When you start talking about destination marketing, it gets really personal. Certain destinations elevate, energize and/or stoke something within our audience in a way that’s unique to them. They make a deeper connection than the usual family vacation.

That sort of connection is hard to pull off in advertising, but our folks do it exceptionally well.

John: When the creative work really nails it, you feel it more than you think it. It makes an emotional connection that resonates.

The creative work that achieves this kind of connection transports the audience by portraying what it would be like to be in that place — that emotional feeling it will give them. This, in turn, helps them feel they belong there too, based on whatever they desire from a place.

Great work allows the audience to imagine in a way that compels them to take meaningful action, such as buying a ticket or booking a trip.

Case study: To help Palmetto Bluff build brand awareness through video, print and digital display ads, Wray Ward aligned contextually with targeted publishers to entice top prospects to learn more about the community’s rich history and progressive future. Explore the Palmetto Bluff case study.

The Art of Crafting Richly Textured Experiences

A strong strategic foundation is vital to producing work that not only stands out in the travel and tourism category but also uniquely stands for the brand or destination itself. Creating this foundation requires first researching market dynamics and consumer trends and then translating those essential insights into ownable marketing and communications strategies and executions.

That’s the magic of going beyond traditional demographic profiling to gain a deep understanding of a target audience’s mindsets, motivations, influencers and media habits … then taking them there in the most creative and exciting ways possible.

Learn more about how we take people to that place.

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