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Aspirational vs relatable; another chapter in a fascinating debate.

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Aspirational content is like being me and watching some pro rider float a slow, beautiful backside rodeo 540 to an untouched powder landing.

Relatable content is like being me and watching some normal rider carve simple, lovely arcs across lightly packed powder on a sunny day.

Inspirational content makes me more likely to dream, but does relatable content make me more likely to act?

The Debate

The one and only Joe Johnson found a perfect example of this a couple days ago. Alta was showing a talented skier performing an immaculate marketing turn. On the backside of the Wasatch, however, Park City was showing a normal skier on soft, but otherwise normal, snow.

I’ve talked about this before, but let me try to summarize where my brains stands right now.

Not Either/Or
As the talented Matt Peterson would say, “yes, and…” meaning this is not an either/or situation. Content can be both relatable AND aspirational. Ideally, it should always have some level of both. I’m reminded of this video from Sun Valley. pure, elegant carving is attainable, but the view inspires.

Not Either/Or (cont’d)
But I mean that on a different level as well. You need both types of content. If the only thing in your marketing quiver is the local pros dropped 30′ cliffs but you rely on 95% local families for revenue, that will eventually catch up to you. We need a balance of both dreamy feelings (aspirational) and pragmatic beliefs that it’s within reach (relatable).

It reminds me of Harley Davidson. The corporate brand is non-stop emotion and lifestyle and dreams of “one day”. But local dealers sometimes have to be more down-to-earth to get someone to pull the trigger.

harley billboard

Hopefully It’s a Choice
However, when a resort publishes very relatable content (too relatable?) I think it’s worth pointing out that, ideally, this should not be because they have to. In other words, hopefully that marketer had a bunch of photos to choose from and, given their recent mix and other goals, decided to go with the relatable option.

Alta strikes this balance really, really well. Check out their Photo of the Day archive and you’ll see how they pivot back and forth between both styles of content.

Depends on the Needs/Goals
Perhaps most of all, it depends on the needs of the marketer. If I’m showing off the progress on my new snowmaking pond, there’s only so much aspiration I can bake into an image before I’m losing the point. Likewise with a massive powder day. The reason it’s awesome is because it’s rare and not the usual, normal (relatable) experience. Showing a poorly-lit photo of my snow stake instead of someone skiing in that snow under blue skies is probably leaving a bit of meat on the marketing bone.

Alta vs Park City

So who wins? In terms of inspiring people to dream (and click like), Alta takes the case by a big margin:

  • Park City: 2,180 likes from 138,000 followers = 1.6% like rate
  • Alta: 4,483 likes from 149,000 followers = 3.0% like rate

But keep in mind that Alta’s photo is supposed to tell people they have 19″ of new snow. In that context, it does a great job.

alta powder turn photo

Park City’s photo, on the other hand, is supposed to tell people that Bonanza + new trails are now open. When you consider that Bonanza serves a lot of green and blue runs (which are likely the ones open right now), a well-lit photo of a happy, average skier with the newly open lift behind her? You gotta admit, this photo does a pretty great job.

photo of park city

I dig side-by-side marketing comparisons because it gets us marketers to think on a deeper level. The long-term effects of any piece of marketing can be virtually impossible to rank by data alone, so it makes us think about not just whether we like the photo, but whether the photo solves a marketing need.

And, like all things that make us think a little harder than we were the moment before we saw it, there’s usually something to learn on the other side.

Good find, Joe. Love stuff like this.

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