5 Creative Market Activations Driving Consumer Engagement

May 17, 2023

In-market activations are a hefty investment that can pay off big if done right. It’s not enough just to set up a stand at a trade show anymore. Destinations need to create experiences that deliver powerful messages in memorable ways.

The right message is one part of it, but a message is only as good as the ears that it falls on. Destinations need to think not just of the message and how they’re going to transmit it, but how they can be sure that the most receptive ears are ready to receive it.

The good news is that there is no one way to do that, and creativity is the best ally in finding new ways to generate brand awareness. We’ve talked before about using local transportation as a – you guessed it – vehicle for destination messaging, but you can think more broadly. Rather than prescribe a few rules, we thought we’d highlight a few winning in-market activations from destinations and their agencies – including a few clients – that have stuck with us over the last year.

The goal is not to copy them, but to find a bit of inspiration in this outside of the box thinking.

1. Seattle’s Kissing in the Rain Booth

Or inside the box, as the case may be for Visit Seattle! The destination’s Kissing in the Rain booth won an Adrian award, demonstrating how a little creative thinking can go a long way. Essentially, the kissing booth traveled to sunny destinations to let potential travelers take a cute photograph locking lips, flipping the narrative that Seattle’s rainy reputation is a downer. Instead, it helped position the destination as a cozy, romantic destination that contrasts nicely to the usual sunny getaways.

2. Orlando Takes Over Winter Village

While rain can surely be romantic sometimes, Orlando knows that target audiences in New York crave one specific thing during the winter: sun. Visit Orlando headed to The Big Apple with an Orlando-themed family fun day and Orlando Skate Night at the Winter Village at Bryant Park, bringing some warmth to frigid locals. The sunshine-themed activation invited families to experience elements of Orlando while skating and sipping on hot cocoa. Kids could also take pictures inside the interactive Orlando Sun Globe.

3. US Virgin Islands Head to Philly

When the U.S. Virgin Islands partnered with the Made in America Festival in Philadelphia, the choice was clear. Looking to attract more Black travelers from the Mid-Atlantic region, the islands joined the event as the sole destination sponsor. The U.S. Virgin Islands prides itself on its festive and event-filled culture, so the music festival was on brand.

The destination even submitted four of its local musical acts to perform, ultimately landing local performing artists 5’2 a spot on the stage. The destination hit all the right notes as it maximized brand awareness in the coveted Philadelphia market.

4. St. Pete Heats Up Herald Square
January 31st was National Plan For Vacation Day and Visit St. Pete Clearwater wanted New Yorkers to thaw down south along Florida’s beaches. The destination’s experiential pop-up in the heart of Manhattan’s Herald Square recreated the perfect beach day while New Yorkers were at their most sun-deprived.

The activation went beyond sharing information. Organizers built a heated greenhouse with a VSPC hot tub and a tiki hut with mocktails inspired by one of the sponsors, TradeWinds Island Resorts. Visitors could enter a chance to win a trip to the resort – but not just any trip. The lucky winner would win a trip every year for five years, upping the stakes and creating even more buzz about the destination.

5. Visit Williamsburg Looks Beyond History
Visit Williamsburg wanted to reach visitors in northern markets who would be receptive to the diverse experiences offered in the Virginia destination. In Boston, for example, historical Faneuil Hall Marketplace already attracted travelers looking for a bit of history – but Visit Williamsburg wanted to engage them in a different way. The DMO showcased through this digital activation what the destination offers beyond the history it’s well-known for, including: outdoor recreation, wine tasting, dining, shopping, real-time archaeological digs and more.

Passers-by could scan a QR code and select their favorite Williamsburg backdrop, take a picture and drop themselves directly into the billboard. They were then able to share their picture across social media, showcasing the diverse, modern experiences awaiting travelers in Williamsburg.

Looking to do something more creative with your destination’s market activations? DCI can help. We have more than 60 years of experience connecting destinations to the right audiences in innovative ways. Daniella Middleton at [email protected] to start brainstorming how we can get your destination top of mind among your target travelers.

headshot of Daniella Middletone
Written by

Daniella Middleton