Do destination marketers really understand their audience?

STB Marketing Conference tackles challenges in a ‘noisy’ marketplace.

Dealing with a complex matrix and dwindling budgets, tourism and business events marketers are challenged to find the right balance in their company’s marketing mix – that’s according to speakers at the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) Marketing Conference 2019, which took place this week at the PARKROYAL on Beach Road Singapore.

“International visitors want to mark their own experience regardless of how frequent a Singapore tourism landmark has been featured on Instagram,” said Ted Kilian, group director at Fjord ASEAN Marketers, and opening keynote at the event.

A number of speakers from the business events industry and beyond supported the sentiment that destinations need to curate authentic and personalised experiences, while leveraging new technologies to create greater product awareness and attract desired visitation. The right audience can sense the authenticity of marketing messages and will share them if they are truly authentic.

There is no absolute right or wrong in marketing, it is all about trial and error. However, getting the message to the right audience and navigating the endless sea of data remains a challenge for marketers. Citing the Fjord Trends 2019 report, Kilian addressed a few myths surrounding big data and encouraged marketers to focus on building “transparent database ecosystems” that can build trust and engagement.

When it comes to understanding data, Natalie Gruis, head of strategy international at TBWA, the agency behind STB’s Passion Made Possible brand campaign, coached marketers to start understanding their existing data. She said marketers should move away from their desks and take time to speak to the target audience to understand who they are and what they want. 

Gruis also warned marketers not to simply categorise their target audiences based on race or nationality. She said the success of Passion Made Possible was built on a key decision to categorise audience according to interests or ‘passion tribes’ such as foodies, culture shapers and action seekers.

Lynette Pang, assistant chief executive of the STB Marketing Group closed the conference by summarising some key insights:

  1. Marketers should never assume they know their customers. It is better to talk to them. Don’t just rely on the data at hand.
  2. Marketers must consider investing in long-term goals; and don’t limit marketing tactics to digital platforms. Although the world may seem to be moving more and more into the digital space, studies (like the Fjord report) indicate that many consumers are also looking to disconnect. 
  3. Marketers should go beyond traditional segmentation and focus on an individuals’ personal experience.

The STB Marketing Conference is an activity of STB Marketing College – a key initiative launched in 2017 to nurture a learning community within the industry and to improve destination marketing skills.

Main image: Keong Saik Road of Singapore