Our President and COO, Michele Wiltshire, is a rock star, overseeing all aspects of client delivery, creative, and day-to-day agency operations and management. Before Eric Murphy dragged her to Pop2Life in 2014 (just kidding Eric… Kinda). Michele was SVP of Special Events and Entertainment for Kerzner International, where she was responsible for major special events at Atlantis Paradise Island and One&Only Resorts. Michele created, scheduled, and produced the Atlantis LIVE concert series, which included acts such as Taylor Swift, Michael Bublé, Katy Perry, and Justin Bieber, and oversaw all on-property television and motion picture productions like “Casino Royale,” “After the Sunset,” and “The Other Woman” among countless others.
Needless to say, Michele knows destination marketing. We sat down for a conversation and chatted about her time creating marketing partnerships, including her take on partnership strategy, mutually beneficial relationships, and how to manage it all.
From our 90-minute conversation, (scheduled as a 30-minute meeting – that’s what happens when two people who could talk to a brick wall get together) here is Michele’s take on how brands can rock destination marketing:
Partner with a destination that’s an entertainment brand in its own right
From Atlantis’s launch in 1998, the executive team was committed to positioning the property as an entertainment brand. It had to be broader, wider, and avoid the restrictions and general assumptions of a hospitality title at that time.
“It was a very clear definition that we all committed to. We knew that our guests would not embrace and be as loyal to mere bricks and mortar. If we could bring the property to life, give it a personality and a place in pop culture – we would win the hearts of our guests. It would tap directly into what our guests aspired to and had to be a part of.”
As a brand, partnering with a location that has already built a successful position and reputation in entertainment, saves you valuable marketing time (and money). Plus, each partner can share in promotional efforts, effectively doubling your media impressions – instantly.
Embrace the aspirational cliché
Yes, I know – aspirational has become another overused marketing term, but it started from an authentic place. It began as a feeling in consumers that made them think, I want to go there. I want to experience that. I want to be a part of what they’re doing.
“Atlantis partnered with brands that brought meaningful value to us as we brought meaningful value to them, creating a genuine two-way street partnership. This created a better experience for our guests, who we always considered our family. It doesn't create a better experience for your guests if you tell them that they can only drink Pepsi or we only pour Budweiser.”
What we did do, however, was partner with major power houses like Cartoon Network and elevated the overall resort summer programing that kids have access to in a cool and fun way. A perfectly organic extension and intersection for both brands - authentic, real, immersive. Not contrived.”
Embrace pop culture
Bring a third party into the mix and include a pop culture component into your brand’s destination marketing activation. Whether it be a meet and greet with the cast of a favorite television show or an intimate, private performance by an up and coming artist, tying in pop culture moments that align with your brand’s, well… brand, ensures that the event will prioritize experience over marketing.
Atlantis invited Justin Bieber to vacation at the property when he was still just a cute kid in Canada with a YouTube account. The resort successfully identified him as a star on the rise, and already very relevant in pop culture, deriving a natural brand benefit from his partnership.
“It was a more concentrated value benefit. It wasn't, This is a great hotel and and it has the prettiest rooms and wonderful water slides, it was, Wow, if Justin Bieber is there, it has to be cool and I want to be a part of it. By finding the right connections, you can direct the tone and context of the conversation around the brand.”