New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
If you close your eyes and think of the word “Greece”, what image comes to you? Imagination and intuition are part of great advertising campaigns, so this can be a start for “branding” Greece, but analyzing the specifics–hard facts and statistics–is absolutely necessary for plotting out a knock-‘em-dead campaign such as Greece is seeking in order to promote the tourism that can make or break scores of businesses and individual incomes in this beautiful, economically ailing country.
And a presentation, in July, at the Greek Press Office in New York by graduate students who had just completed nine weeks of participation in a research project, “In Search of Insights”, conducted by marketing and communications expert Mark Truss, analyzing the prospects of Greek tourism in a comparative study with Italy and Spain, revealed and stressed Greece’s outstanding and compelling selling points, but graphs showing Greece’s highest percentage rating for financial problems and civic unrest served as a sad reminder of today’s crisis.
The team presented data that they designed and collected in order to determine what would compel American tourists to visit Greece, and Italy and Spain–both of which share with Greece some favorable qualities as tourist destinations–and recommendations for developing a comprehensive communications strategy.
In the case of Greece research involved a Focus Group, an Online Survey, and Anecdotal Research to fulfill 4 Research Objectives: Uncover American’s perceptions, Investigate if political and economic troubles create a barrier, Decode demographic and psychographic information about potential visitors, and Discover how Greece fits into the competitive set.
One determination was that Greece is now a destination for the sophisticated “professional traveler”, adventurous and experienced American travelers, in their 40’s on the average, who are seeking to uncover out-of-the-ordinary locations for an authentic experience, for whom this is usually not the first trip to Europe, for whom Greece is off the beaten path, and who associate Greece with an epic past. Greece, their research showed, appeals to experienced American travelers “who are thrilled by the unknown and it is the only European destination that intrigues visitors to uncover out-of-the-ordinary authentic experiences of history, islands, and food”. (Not to be ignored: The Greek wine and cheese offered at the reception that followed spoke for the excellence of one of Greece’s biggest tourist draws, terrific food, which ranked among Greece’s exceptionally fine points in the study.)
Based on these and other points, the team suggested Greek Tourist Organization website changes, among them, to use imagery that is distinctly Greek, to write for an American audience, to target older demographic, to make planning an itinerary easy by showing regions, and to highlight out-of-the-way destinations and authentic experiences. They stressed that social media should be utilized: Facebook: a Treasure Map/Scavenger Hunt; Twitter: using the slogan “My Epic Greek Tale”, an ongoing story and a “Round Robin” mystery contest; YouTube: a 2 minute episode video contest titled “Where Am I?”; Flickr: a photo contest with 5 pictures, “Where Am I?”.
It was decided by the team that Greece means “Mystery”, and the slogan settled on to replace “Live Your Myth in Greece” was “Uncover the Mystery”. Two of the selling points of emphasizing the mystery of Greece were to “give them a cliffhanger”, and “the word ‘mystery’ plays off of the word ‘myth’”.
Mr. Truss, who is director of brand intelligence responsible for managing the global research function at JWT, one of the world’s foremost advertising agencies, and known for his ability to improve, restore, and re-invent brands, told the Greek News that, “The overall thing I learned in this project, is that most travel destinations showcase their assets–beaches, buildings, ruins, sports, etc., and usually only their assets. But often, their assets are not all that different from the assets of competitive travel destinations. Often, if you removed the name of the country and looked at their ads, you wouldn’t be able to tell who was advertising what. There is a real opportunity for destinations to find out what is truly unique about them, beyond the attractions, that we believe will be compelling to travelers, and tell travelers about that, and tell it to them often, and tell it to them consistently. And try really hard to be different. Different is better.”
Chryssanthos Petsilas, of the Greek National Tourist Organization congratulated Mr. Truss and the presenters for their “great effort and great presentations,” saying, “I think that tonight, all of us–together with our colleagues representing Spain and Italy’s tourism offices–felt that we were dealing with professionals rather than students that completed 8 weeks of research on the topic. I hope to see you soon in Greece.” Noting the great potential Greece holds for tourists Petsilas said, “For Greece the American tourist is 3 times the average of tourists from other countries.” He gave the example that 100,000 more Americans produce the revenue of 400,000 visitors from elsewhere In our experience, the out-of-pocket expenses for each person is almost $1,358.00, plus the package to come to Greece is $3,500.00, a portion of that goes to the hotel, to tours. For all of us, we have to increase these numbers because it is for our benefit.”
How “In Search of Insights” came about: Following a conversation on the hot topic of Greece’s economic prospects and as a result of the ongoing collaboration between the Greek Press and Communication Office and the School of Continuing Education of Columbia University over the past two years, Columbia University offered a research project on the prospects of Greek tourism as part of the Columbia University’s Strategic Communications Master’s Program.