Disruptive creativity: tourism campaigns with emotional vision

When I was in my final year of high school, I was hospitalized for a week with the sight in one eye threatened after an exercise band broke and impacted my eye, causing an internal bleed. I spent the entire time immobilized in bed with both eyes covered to limit movement while the doctors hoped the bleed would drain on its own and my sight would return. Fortunately it did, but the event also robbed me of attending the final prom night and celebrations – traumatic at the time, but a small price to pay in the long run for my sight.

It was during that time, having my sight suspended completely, that I learned to become more attune to other senses in understanding my surroundings. I had a sense of the room size and placement of items in it based on sound. Although I hadn’t seen my nurses, I had a visual in my mind of what they looked like based on their voice, what they talked about, their touch and their choice of perfume or cologne. I even had their height figured out based on the number of steps it took to enter the room. I could smell what food was being served without seeing it, and I became much more aware of the cadence of voice and good storytelling, a skill I use to this day, since I was relegated to listening to books and radio programs, rather then watching TV or reading for an entire week.

It was a life altering experience, that once my sight returned, I never forgot. To this day, when experiencing something of visual beauty, I will close my eyes and pause to truly take in and remember the other senses of that moment through sound, smell, touch and taste.

Tourism Quebec’s BLIND LOVE campaign

Traditionally tourism ads have used visuals as their key emotional trigger. But why should travel be limited to just once sense? That was the disruptive thinking behind the “Blind Love” Tourism Quebec campaign created by Montreal based Lg2. Highlighting Quebec’s unique to North America European inspired arts, music and culinary scene amidst natural beauty and endless adventure opportunities, the spot garnered over 13 million viral views within a month of launch in March 2016.

Link here to view the spot:

“My name is Danny Keen from Long Island, New York.

I’ve been blind since birth. I guess that’s why I was chosen to show the world what Quebec is like in the summer.”

Through a visually stunning tour with inspiring music we then see him experience Quebec through touch, feel, taste, smell and sound while water rafting, dining out, making cheese, hot air ballooning, zip lining, attending classic music and a rock concerts, fishing, kayaking, kite flying, and riding a roller coaster and helicopter.

The spot closes around a campfire with friends as Danny delivers this final line:

 “You know there’s a reason why people close their eyes when they kiss, cry and pray. Because the most essential things in life must be felt with the heart.”

The  “Reconsider South Africa” campaign

There was a 2014 South African Tourism campaign that drew on a similar premise. I actually find it creatively more effective, since it is only revealed at the end that the featured man is blind, causing you to reframe what you have just seen, and as the spots suggests, also challenge your existing assumptions about South Africa.

Watch the “Reconsider South Africa” spot here:

A man asks,

“What is beauty?”

Throughout the spot we see him experience South Africa…

Accompanied by his wife, on a beach, in a boat, in a vineyard, learning to surf, at a market, in a museum, on safari, and dining

“Is it a view that has been waiting for you for centuries?

A setting that gives you goose bumps when you see it for the first time?

A scene so striking that it remains in your memory forever.

Is it a moment that stops you in your tracks that leaves you in awe?

Some people spend their whole lives looking for it.

When you open yourself to it, you’ll find yourself in a place where true beauty isn’t something you’ll ever see.

Because in this place beauty has a much bigger meaning.

Which is why when you meet South Africa, you’ll reconsider what you think you know.”

The man is then seen walking with a white tipped cane, revealing in the final scene that he is actually blind. What I love about both of these spots is the disruptive creative thinking that challenges the way other competitors in their industry are doing things. In both examples, they each had reasons to take ownership of the central concept being conveyed – experience travel through all the senses, and to challenge preconceived notions of a destination.

Disruption is a powerful concept, which can be applied far beyond just the travel industry. It can help cut through competitive clutter, create story around a brand, and ultimately fuel word of mouth, earned publicity and social media sharing.

That’s ultimately what I want you to consider this week. What industry assumptions could you disrupt and own?

In a further nod to the travel industry as an example, the Hans Brinker Hotel in Amsterdam took ownership of being the world’s WORST hotel. Rather then try to be the best like all their competitors, they have created a very shareable story around being the opposite. From boasting eco friendly rooms with no heat, where guests are asked to use the curtains as blankets, to the cleaning staff changing up linens by simply turning over the pillow, the Hans Brinker is as much to be endured so one can boast about it, rather then enjoyed. Clearly the narrative plays to their 20-something back packer audience. I wrote extensively about them in this blog post in 2016 if you want to know more.  I’m hoping my son, recently in Amsterdam, will provide further on the ground intel. Yes, Momma suggested he stay there! (In the name of research of course…)

And to wrap up our travel theme this week, I’m thrilled to say that is now live. This project marries my love of travel and writing and building experience building niche online communities. The approach is not unlike what I’ve done since 2008 at at is an adventure travel blog for fun-fit-females, many in their 50s, who pursue authentic, meaningful experiences with friends, a partner, family or solo – always leading the way, and always traveling light. At its heart, COQ will serve a community of readers, writers and travel industry members. Please check it out! And if you’re interested in following what happens there, sign up for the monthly newsletter too!


Mary Charleson

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