Our Town of Santee tourism campaign was set for takeoff in March 2020. But, when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic days later, we were forced to settle into a brief holding pattern. In our business, there is no excuse for delays, so instead of abandoning our plan we simply shifted our focus.
While restrictions like social distancing and a ban on large gatherings left some campaign aspects dead in the water, it helped us focus on a more niche audience, one in search of an escape from quarantines and masked outings.
Vacation mode: activated
Our target audience had always been the drive market, and when warmer weather hit after a long spring in quarantine, people were more desperate than ever for a quick, easy getaway; anything just to get out of their house and enjoy a change of scenery with their family or pandemic ‘bubble.’
Drivability and affordability are great assets, but to effectively promote Santee tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to create and prioritize the message that Santee is a destination where visitors could stay and play, safely.
Santee’s best features worked organically with COVID-19 societal requirements. With golf – and the natural social distancing it provides – being Santee’s main draw, we kept that at the forefront. And Santee’s other tourism offerings center on the outdoors: it’s home to a state park, a wildlife refuge, and it borders the state’s two largest lakes (Lakes Marion and Moultrie). The town’s ample space and beautiful surroundings enabled visitors to get away without traveling far, without breaking the bank and without having to worry about crowds.
The challenges of using safety as a marketing strategy
With our goal of spiking hospitality revenue, we pivoted from focusing solely on golf and the outdoors to highlighting the commitment lodging facilities and restaurants had to a higher level of safety and sanitization. We wanted to show our audience that Santee was open for business and safe.
Our strategy was rooted in targeted, efficient reach to increase awareness and consideration of Santee as a vacation destination. Through native ads, display retargeting, sponsored e-newsletters, paid social media and paid search, we intercepted would-be vacationers during their online research, while lead generation helped refine our audience across all tactics.
Native ads generated the most clicks and strongest click-through rates, two of our main key performance indicators. With most of that traffic (85% of sessions) visiting the Santee Tourism site for the first time, these ads were the first touchpoint for reaching our golf trip planners.
We spilled Santee’s best-kept secret in a clever way with our ‘Shhhh!” campaign. View the campaign case study to learn more about our first Santee campaign and stay tuned for more on our just-wrapped ‘Stay’ Campaign.
We find creative solutions
With quick thinking, we turned a once-promising campaign into an even better one when thrown a curveball like COVID-19. We can help you, too. Simply complete this short form and we’ll be in touch.