When it comes to marketing agencies, Origin has always been high on my list for not only the ability to put together a professional product, but a creative and unique one as well. Whistler’s recent Embedded project was no different. When I got an email from them a week ago following up on my coverage of the campaign, I jumped on the chance to get a few insights into the goals, and outcomes, of their latest success.
Gregg: Tell me a little bit about the Embedded project, where the idea came from, how Mike was chosen as “host”, and your involvement.
Danielle: At start of every winter season at Whistler Blackcomb we sit down to figure out how we’re going to continue to position the brand as a leader, how we’re going to convey the brand characteristics, talk about the product, promoting opening day and raise awareness for what is usually some really awesome early season conditions. Most of all though, we want to create stoke and buzz among snow-lovers. This year, we decided to really maximize digital channels and leverage Whistler Blackcomb’s really robust online communities as well as other ski and snowboard communities out there on the web.
We were inspired by Alain deBottom’s experiment at Heathrow Airport, where he lived and blogged about his experiences there. We thought how cool would it be to put someone on top of Whistler Mountain and watch the transformation as it readies for opening day. The patrol shack at the peak seemed a habitable, but pretty extreme place to spend a week. We were pretty sure it would raise some interest.
When we started talking about who to put up there, there was only one clear option. We needed someone who totally embodied the Whistler Blackcomb brand, was a true skier/mountain guy, had credibility with core audiences, yet would be accessible and approachable for mainstream audiences, could storytell, film, edit, be an on-camera personality, plus the person had to know their way around the mountain, and be able to “survive” a week in a patrol shack in really mean winter conditions. Not too much to ask. ;-) No one else ticked the boxes like Mike. Plus, generally speaking Mike is the type of guy who’s game to try anything new and cool. He’s basically just awesome.
Gregg: How did you want skiers to react to the Embedded?
Danielle: We had several goals:
Really, though, we wanted to create a buzz. We wanted people talking about it, watching it, reaching out to Mike while he was up there. We really wanted people stoked about the season starting.
Gregg: At last count, the Embedded videos on Vimeo has over 150,000 views. We see the videos and we love them. You knew the goals, hopes, etc. with the campaign. In your eyes, was this a success? Will it be repeated?
Danielle: We’re up well over 200,000 now and we consider that a success. Since this was an early season campaign, there was relatively little marketing support for it. Beyond a few online ads in vertical publications, we relied on word of mouth and social networks, so with that in mind, we’re very happy. As important as the Vimeo views are, we also saw spikes in web traffic, social media engagement, sharing and interaction.
Gregg: Will it be repeated?
Danielle: I don’t think so. I think repeating successful campaigns always leads to a bit of a lunch-bag let-down the second time around. Audiences have such short attention spans that I think you always have to be looking for new ways to engage them. Plus, we work with some industry leaders that need to always be looking for the next cool thing.
Gregg: Everything from your Jay Peak work and Tourism Whistler’s Sabbatical project have these underlying theme of a story. Tell me more about how you use stories in your marketing.
Danielle: Ha. “Storytelling” is the trendy marketing tool of choice these days. Just the other day we were starting to think about next season’s campaigns and we asked ourselves if we felt storytelling was going to stick around long enough for us to use it as a mechanism for another round of campaigns. We’ve been successful with them because as an organization Origin is pretty deep with storytellers. It’s my background. It’s our writers background—Lisa Richardson and Mike Berard are less copywriters and more true storytellers — they’ve both made careers out of telling stories about the mountains. Both our art directors have background in video which is very much a storytelling medium, and of course, you only need to watch an episode or two of Salomon Freeski TV to know that Mike Douglas is a born storyteller. I’m going to hope that the trend sticks around for a while, we might be screwed if it doesn’t. ;-)
Looking to the future, I think we’re going to need to find ways for stories to be more “conversation” and less “lecture”. The stories of the future are going to need a “hole” into which customers can insert themselves and connect with the brand. That’s what we’ll be working toward.
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