Discover The Palm Beaches is the official tourism marketing corporation for The Palm Beaches, Florida. In order to target millennial travelers, the DMO decided to refresh its approach to their marketing materials, and so it turned to user-generated content, sourced and deployed through CrowdRiff.
Comprised of 39 cities and towns along the tropical shores of southeast Florida, The Palm Beaches offer residents and visitors a diverse array of opportunities and activities; so diverse that regular visitors may still only experience a small fraction of what America’s First Resort Destination® has to offer.
Palm Beach County, commonly referred to as “The Palm Beaches,” is the largest county east of the Mississippi River stretching close to 2,300 square miles, which measures to approximately the same size as the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
While the county remains a popular destination for sophisticated snowbirds flying south for the winter, its tourism marketing organization — Discover The Palm Beaches — wanted to expand the lens of its visual assets from primarily aspirational sites to a broader scope, as diverse as the cities and towns that make up the destination.
With a new marketing team in place and an innovative vision to promote the iconic destination, Discover The Palm Beaches deployed a strategy that included a refresh of its website, among other visual marketing campaigns.
“We were in the final stages of rebuilding our website in the fall of 2016, when our digital agency of record, Miles, presented the idea of utilizing CrowdRiff as part of our website,” said Rich Basen, the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Leisure Sales for Discover the Palm Beaches. “After reviewing the platform, we were pleased to learn that it would efficiently complement our efforts to manage the user-generated content we aimed to incorporate through our integrated marketing initiatives.”
Tasked with showcasing real experiences to a younger demographic and armed with the new visual marketing capabilities provided by CrowdRiff, the marketing team began considering ways they could leverage the platform.
Nielsen studies have reported “recommendations from friends remains [the] most credible form of advertising among consumers.” According to an MMGY Global Portrait of American Travelers® study commissioned by Discover The Palm Beaches, it was revealed that travelers interested in visiting The Palm Beaches spend close to two hours a day on social media, and one-third of these individuals selected a vacation destination based on what they have seen on social media.
Friends trust friends. Not ads.
The resulting campaign uses an abundance of authentic imagery, acquired through CrowdRiff. The tagline “Friends Trust Friends” leverages user-generated content, word-of-mouth marketing and the power of social media to combat advertisement fatigue. Instead of staged images using paid models and actors, the new campaign features compelling visuals and first-hand experiences captured from the lens of visitors and residents.
“The natural canvas of The Palm Beaches compels many of our visitors to share their experiences online with friends,” said Basen. “When we see these guests having the time of their life, it is the greatest endorsement we could hope for. Our goal in amplifying these experiences through an integrated marketing approach is to reinforce and establish trust in our brand promise: The Palm Beaches are the best way to experience Florida.”
The resulting advertising campaign generated the following results:
- A 51% increase in display traffic acquisitions, compared to the previous campaign.
- An estimated 23% increase in overnight visits to the destination, compared to a non-UGC driven campaign run in 2015.
- Digital impressions from the Friends Trust Friends campaign were found to be 66% more effective at driving a visit.
“CrowdRiff created a simple way for us to integrate user-generated content into a variety of verticals,” said Basen. “We now use the platform to support the visual content we use for our print and digital advertisements, social media posts, collateral and more.”
Since the launch of the new and improved website, ThePalmBeaches.com, the DMO has also seen a 10% increase in the average session duration and a 35% increase in conversions.
“The transformation that has happened since we incorporated user-generated content into our website and our advertising campaigns is very obvious,” said Basen. “When we transitioned from paid media to our own assets, it wasn't only a seamless experience, but it's also increased the engagement we see from users.”
Perhaps the most unexpected outcome of utilizing user-generated content, according to Aime O’Keefe, the Manager of Advertising and Promotions, is the instant feedback loop that results from tagging advertisements with the social media handles of the users that posted them originally.
“It’s rewarding to see individuals comment on the UGC images we feature and acknowledge how they inspired them to visit The Palm Beaches,” said Aime O’Keefe. “That’s a first-hand way of connecting with people on a personal level.”
In other words, a year and a half after building the campaign, its underlying message has been confirmed. People really do trust other people more than traditional ads.