Trends, tips and the occasional rant.

Tough Love: Three Reasons Your Marketing Plan is Gathering Dust.

I know it’s hard to hear, but no one cares about your marketing plan.  Not even you. Marketing plans were actually never designed to be used.  Someone in marketing, who was obviously plagued by the usual “What does marketing do?!?” challenge, decided the best way to prove their worth was in paper volume.  Let’s just be clear, a marketing plan is made to fail.

Plan: A plan is typically any diagram or list of steps with timing and resources, used to achieve an objective to do something.

This is all and out not possible and here are three reasons  marketing  plans suck.

  1. Timing and Resources
    • Unless you have a crystal ball (and, btw, if you do – can ya tell me if I’m getting that promotion?!?), you do not know what trends are going to do exactly in today’s tech.  We might think Facebook is indestructible, but so was MySpace at one time. We might think that the Apple X will give us millions of consumers dying to try our lame corporate AR tech…probably not.
    • If the timing in your “plan” is more about project completion, please step over there with the pocket protector crowd.  You can’t sit with us.
    • Resources also will shift with trends and demand.  You may have tons more resources, you may get a budget slash.
    • Bottom line, this is project management work, not the bad ass marketing vision you had hoped.
  2. List of steps or diagram
    • Criminy on a cracker!  Who tf ever followed steps to greatness?  Unless you are doing the Time Warp (*again*), steps are the lamest form of market interest.  And, if you need to document steps for your superiors or staff…face the facts, hun.  They do not get it.
  3. It is the antithesis of Inspiration and the devil to creativity.
    1. Let’s not confuse a marketing plan with a Vision or Goals.  Your marketing plan needs one sentence, and it should inspire daily habitual action from everyone in the company – janitor to CEO.   It’s organic growth spreads faster than  Jiff, and everyday there is tremendous action stimulated.

A vision/crusade/goal/quest will not be defined by your boring powerpoint or your wishy-washy brand standards.

A crusade moves action, finds resources, commands a path where none existed. A plan is two pickles on a bun. And, this ain’t McDonald’s, baby.  Marketing is a constant battle for attention, trust and entertainment.  A tireless campaign of wit and response.  A major set of brass cojones and a healthy dose of risk taking.


And, have you ever considered that by completing a marketing plan, you just made yourself entirely disposable?!? “I have your plan… I can just hire some kids to follow it.”


Hey, we want you to keep your job.  We want to help you eat your competition for lunch.  We want to see you dominate a market.  But, we won’t let you sell yourself or your company short.


Together, we can craft a crusade that is so ding-dong awesome, The Knights Templar would drop the Grail and join you.

You missed the Exit.

Dear friends, the shift has hit the fan.

And, your proverbial ass is on the proverbial line.

While you were attending board meetings, tending to operations and only buying media that pitched to you….well, this happened.  We have officially gone past the tipping point in omnichannel communications.  Search has been revolutionized, some even say it’s dead.  Swipe has replaced clicks, as once again the romance industry tells us what’s up.  Banking on your smart phone has increased a bazillion percent (OK, actually 560%, but who’s counting).  Big data has mystified the most seasoned marketers.  Ad agencies are closing doors faster than you can say, “But, the client said…”

So, you didn’t see this coming so fast, you still rely on your cousin/friend/dog sitter because they are “techy”.  Pull up your big girl panties, because I’m about to tell you how to pull this s*** show back on the rails in three (not so easy) steps.

  1. Ruthless Accountability.  You know why it’s easier to sell painkillers than vitamins?  We are quick to go to the doctor when it hurts, but we are (mostly) negligent in preventative care.  You buy into new concepts IF a sales person calls on you, and you make large commitments to the “it” thing.  That doesn’t make you hip.  That makes you lazy.  But, it’s OK.  A little marketing exercise will get you back to Olympian status.
    • Here’s the straight dope:  You need data-driven decisions. Google Analytics is anecdotal.  Your site traffic is anecdotal. Social listening is anecdotal.  Know what’s not?  Live studies (dare I say Big Data again) that cultivate possibilities instead of history reports.  Stop doing what doesn’t interest anyone.  Start doing what scares you. Kill that crappy site; use Facebook, Pinterest  even SnapChat as brand/store fronts.  The Internet is addicting because it’s fun.  Sales suck because we know you want our money.  Get the data right, give yourself a break then do the thing that scares you the most….breakup with your questionable vendors. Every. Single. One.
  2. Take back control.  Marketing was so much easier when the channels were finite.  Those damn kids have ensured that new marketing channels are infinite.  Television, movies, radio and print have forever changed.  So, how do you control media when the outlets grow an exponential percentage daily.  Yes, yes I said daily.  And, even that is slow as hell in communication that never sleeps.  Hire the smartest people you can find.  Hire them, make them happy, challenged and keep them!  Bring it all in house. Tap into SMEs (subject matter experts) to guide your team, go through them like tissue paper to stay fresh.  The secret to control is marketing that’s not marketing.  Put the trends first, sales second.  When you commit to this strategy, the magic happens.  Taking major risk leaps in media has a payoff either way.  Either you succeed or you learn.  Executing a tactic once or twice and scrapping it because it didn’t impress your boss, isn’t prudent…it’s a lack of faith.  My mentor used to say, either it’s a competency or commitment problem. 
  3. Hyper-responsive is the new snooze.  It’s not enough to “answer” your customers or follow your competition.  Being responsive in marketing is no longer doing your job.  All the while you are building database driven websites, you’re waiting for that brand audit and tweaking your PPC, someone is revolutionizing your industry.

You see, responding to trends isn’t good enough.  Creating trends is your only chance for survival.

OK, so if you have a large enough budget, you’ve probably fooled yourself into thinking you are doing omnichannel media.  Betcha’ a nickel, we can find 10 holes in 15 seconds flat.  Because it’s never “done”, it can’t be done because innovation will never be done.


Hurricane Harvey. DI steps up to help.

In the wake of one of the nation’s most severe disasters, our hearts go out to our fellow Texans. We are also aware of all the businesses affected. The untold story of this devastation. No doubt, that tough Texas tenacity has business leaders chanting, “We will rebuild”. And, we know you will. And, we want to help.

As marketers who have been in the thick of many crisis situations from 9/11 to Katrina to oil spills with clients, Destination Innovate is uniquely qualified to assist in marketing support for these businesses.

We are proudly announcing that Destination Innovate is donating a total of $1 million dollars toward business strategy, marketing and support for businesses affected and facing an uncertain future, gratis. We will not profit from your loss. We will rejoice in your success. We will rally your war cry, grow your influence and rebuild your brand value.

That business owner deserves to know he can still pay for his child’s college.

That employee deserves to know he still has a steady job.

That customer should know they can still count on you.

When your unimaginable worry turns to real business threats, we will be there. When the tides roll back, we will be there. Using our decades of marketing prowess, you have our team’s unbridled support and expertise.

Affected businesses should email harveyhelp@destinationinnovate.com for a full free assessment and acceleration plan.

5 Taglines that Flat-line

Taglines have long been the cornerstone of good branding. A bad tagline is like a bad pickup line. Lately, I kind of wonder what you’re all smoking. ?

I have 4 daughters, and I know good and well, before settling on a name, I went through hours of any way these names could be used against them.

Why, then, when in a branding exercise, do some destinations and communities settle on the ridiculous?

Here are 5 terrible taglines, though we won’t name names. But, hey, call me – I’m a good brand therapist. ?

  1. Welcome home.
    What in the living blue hell is wrong with you? You are marketing to travelers. Operative word being travel. If I wanted to be home, I’d just do that. This one tops my list as the most insane decision. I can picture the room and that conversation. “Everyone feels so comfortable here and they identify themselves with our city.” Ok, fair enough. But, let’s poke that box a little, shall we? “Find yourself”, “Let X city introduce you to the real you” and “Meet the you you’ve dreamed of.” are all better than, “welcome home” for travel. “Welcome home” as in, I can walk around in my underwear?
  2. Like no where else.
    Another turd of a line. First, if you have roads, trees, sky and people – that gauntlet thrower holds no water. Second, how is this a selling point?!? Hell is like nowhere else, but you can save my invitation.
  3. Uniquely (insert destination name)
    This one, which is RAMPANT, pushes my bore button almost as hard as it pushes my lazy button. Some branding agency, who could not find anything redeemable about your place, decided to sell you “unique” for a good 6 figures for 6 minutes. Unique is what you call the weird kid, the smelly band geek, the person who’s personality is so alarming. But, “bless their hearts, they are “unique””. If your city sucks, fix it. A truly good partner in marketing won’t tell you otherwise and take your money.
  4. Simply (insert destination name)
    Simply is slightly better than uniquely, but still a pile of day-old pizza. Simply does a better job than the former, as it conjures natural assets. But, I can throw a dart at a map of the US and hit the “simply” tag line 100 times. It lacks being “unique”.:-P
  5. Visit (x)
    Another lazy one, and by far my most loathed. About a decade and a half ago, we finally figured out that no visitor on the planet knew what a CVB was. A whole damn slew decided to change their official names and “Visit XYZ” blew up. Like, really blew up. Like “Jennifer” in 1974, (thanks Mom) blew up. So, this is fine if that’s what you have as your official name, but some of the violators have gone further – they dropped a tagline all together. As if, merely pulling an Ike Turner, and demanding they visit, will make them comply. It’s lazy, it’s demanding and it’s getting no brownie points. Why am I visiting, what am I going to do when I get there, why do I have to visit? I have questions.

I realize that some of you DMO leaders were saddled with a tagline approved by a committee. Because, we all know committees make the most creative decisions. ? At least use your campaigns to emotionally connect with your audience. I visited a website of one of the “Welcome Home” violators, and as I was browsing the web for other things later in the day (most likely, “My kid swallowed a dime, what to do”), up served were remarketing banners from said city. First, a big kudos for working the pixel. My delight changed to anguish as I read the ad. The ad did not ask me if I’d like to pick up where I left off choosing attractions. It did not give me an incentive to return. You know what it did? Repeated the tagline and generic city shot. XYZ City. Welcome Home. Cheese and rice on a cracker! How is this enticing, why would someone re-visit or finish planning a trip?

I am self-aware that my latest bits are getting preachy and maybe even a little aggressive. For that, I apologize. But, I will not apologize for the truth encased in them. It’s the first step to change. It’s the one who challenges you that will make you better. Be better, demand more of yourself and your community. Really test how that tagline plays for your brand, and make sure to compare it to others using the same.

Today, it is not your brand, it is not my brand.

It’s our brand, yours and mine.
The users, the visitors, the tweeters and the grammers. The brand belongs to us. Let’s talk about it.

Real Talk 2020. Are you ready??

Did you know, there’s only 30 months to 2020?!?  Ready or not, we are here.

Five years ago, the technology of today seemed like science fiction. In the late 90s and early 2000s, when I was young and attempting to sell websites to businesses, I received a barrage of negativity that the web was “just a phase”. As recent as 2008, an executive told me, “I don’t understand people who spend 10-15 hours a week on the Internet, but then again, I don’t understand criminals.” What the WHAT?!? Did this man just discount the web and call me a criminal in one breath?!? I should tell you he went on to be one of my biggest fans and wrote one of the most compelling, sweetest reference letters of my career. He just needed patience and empirical data to shift his perspective. I was happy to provide.

Let me now spill the tea. What you think you know about the next 5 or 10 years in communication and advertising is completely wrong. Dead wrong. There are 30 months until 2020 and the future.  is.  here.

Smartphones have reached the masses, this means the trends are about to shift. Already, the desktop is an accessory to the smartphone. The iOT (Internet  of Things) is rarely understood, but already plaguing our daily lives.  I interviewed 37 destinations and businesses over the summer of 2016, and NOT ONE had plans to use iOT as a marketing channel.

Augmented Reality (AR) seems a kitchy buzzword to many, reserved for the “geeks” who play Pokemon Go.  BIG MISTAKE.  HUGE.

Before you can steer your marketing spend in the next direction, consumers will already have adopted AR in a natural habitat.  The world, with a lens of information.

The future is deviceless.  And, it’s not 20 years away.

You meet someone for the first time and AR delivers their social profiles and cv to explore.  You stand outside a restaurant and can view a layer of customer reviews, menu and daily specials.

The next (near term) phase of technology and communications will come on so naturally, smartphones will be viewed like the 80s brick cells. And, you won’t be ready because you are still catching up on digital marketing that you began too slow.

I’m not even going to get into the “robots” and AI (artificial intelligence/machine learning) that has already become so standard, you might not even recognize it’s all around you.

Here’s some brutal truth you need to hear:  Your search strategy is crap.  Your social media marketing is mediocre, at best.  And, you are going to miss the boat of another tectonic shift in communication because of fear.

Imagine if Destination Marketing Organizations had understood and heavily invested in websites/Internet in the 1990s.  There would be no OTAs, DMOs would enjoy, not only market capitalization, but booking fees to fund their smart city.  Instead, DMOs are behind the market, fighting for bed tax not collected  by the OTA d’jour.

I implore you, to look at shifting strategy NOW before technology out paces your media plan.