Most travelers consult online reviews before booking a trip, but the one demographic they can’t hear from online is often the one that matters most.
According to a study by TrustYou and NYU, 95% of travelers read reviews prior to booking a trip. When it comes to booking a family vacation, however, most parents plan around their child or children’s interests, and until recently it was nearly impossible to get “kid-approved” reviews online.
“They can source travel-planning information from friends and family, or use online tools and travel review sites, but they cannot search for information from their most important source: actual kids,” said Nekasha Pratt, the Director of Marketing for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
The challenge: promoting Tennessee’s family-friendly experiences and attractions
Pratt explains that Tennessee has a lot to offer families, but in such a vast and diverse state, it can be hard to craft marketing content that will convince parents to choose the destination over its neighbouring competitors.
The size and scale of the destination marketing organization’s territory can also make it difficult to hone in on the features and attractions that will best speak to parents and their kids.
“The way today’s review sites are set up, they do not allow kids to post their reviews,” explains Pratt. “We took that as our challenge, knowing moms stress about planning a vacation that their kids will love, and made our goal to scientifically prove that kids have fun in Tennessee.”
In 2018, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development teamed up with their agency partner, VMLY&R, to reach moms in a way that would set the state apart from the countless alternatives nearby.
The solution: real input and reviews from Tennessee’s youngest audience
“VMLY&R created our Laugh Tracker, a first-of-its-kind wearable technology, to measure heart rate and laughter,” explained Will Crockett, the Social Media Manager for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
“In May, a special ‘Kid Reviewed’ booth traveled across the state giving kids the chance to record reviews in their own words. In addition, more than 200 kids wore Laugh Trackers at attractions throughout the state, generating over 1,634,400 seconds of laughter.”
The data collected from the Laugh Tracker and Kid Reviewed booths was coupled with candid reviews from kids themselves, and posted to the destination’s new family travel website, KidReviewedTN.com.
There, parents and their little travel companions can learn about all things Tennessee family travel related, and search by city or region to find kid-approved reviews about all the family friendly attractions in the area.
Each attraction listed on the website—including Dollywood, Navitat Knoxville, Tennessee Aquarium, the Country Music Hall of Fame and many more—include reviews from actual kids, and a meter that displays “average laughs per hour” and “average moments of excitement per hour.” Visitors can even listen to the actual sound of laughter from children visiting that specific attraction.
“Visitors considering a trip to Tennessee can now find scientific data to support which destinations generate the most family joy in Tennessee,” says Crockett. “Many of them can even be segmented out by specific kids’ age ranges as well, since what’s fun for a four-year-old might not be as fun for a 14-year-old, and vice versa.”
Using CrowdRiff to source authentic photos and power visual galleries
Each attraction page also includes a “photographic proof of fun” image gallery, populated with images of children enjoying each destination, all taken by real parents and sourced from social media through the CrowdRiff platform.
“A CrowdRiff gallery was created for each Kid Reviewed attraction on the site, and it allowed us to source and share even more images of real kids having lots of laughs at our attractions,” explains Crockett.
“All in all, 33 CrowdRiff galleries were created to live on KidReviewedTN.com, further highlighting those authentic and fun experiences.”
The results: over 19 million video views, 42,000 hotels booked, and 120,000 website visits
With family as one of Tennessee’s largest travel segments, the Kid Reviewed website allows the state to stand out as the only one in the area that offers the reviews travelers depend on from the audience segment that matters most.
Though the campaign only launched in early June , it’s already seen incredible results. In just two months, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development achieved 66.7 million impressions, 19.1 million video views, and over 120,000 website visits on KidReviewedTN.com.
But that’s not all. To date, the campaign has already achieved more than 42,000 hotel rooms booked, resulting in over $11.5 million dollars in revenue, and counting.
“We’re extremely happy with the early indicators from this campaign,” adds Pratt. “We plan to add more data to some of the existing locations and are evaluating opportunities to build on this success in the future."