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From video streaming apps to staging selfies and special sound effects, Andrew Hennigan identifies the digital ideas worth remembering in 2015

Now that digital marketing has gone mainstream some business practices have become almost boring. Indeed, the Facebook page, Instagram hashtag competitions and Twitter customer service are no longer the exciting breakthroughs they once were.

But in 2015 there were still plenty of new developments in tools, technologies and methods that were adopted enthusiastically by the travel industry.

The emergence of video streaming apps

One of the most interesting new tools was the rather sudden emergence of streaming video apps. There was the launch of Meerkat which was quickly followed by Twitter’s own Periscope app, which allowed anyone to ‘broadcast’ live video from anywhere using just a mobile phone (Are Live Streaming Video Apps the Next Big Thing in Social Media?, EyeforTravel, April 14, 2015.) 

Periscope soon came to dominate the market and was adopted for quickly arranged ‘backstage’ style campaigns by many brands. Later in the year some companies started to use Periscope for more ambitious campaigns, including Royal Caribbean’s ‘Come Seek’ campaign. Here they used the app to connect travellers on the cruise ship Anthem of the Seas to select digital out-of-home displays in New York. Perhaps few people saw the actual live broadcasts on these displays, but as is often the case in digital marketing, the payoff was the indirect coverage in media, which attracted attention from the millennial consumers that Royal Caribbean aimed to reach.

Embracing selfie culture

Another interesting development in digital marketing in 2015 was the realisation by museums and galleries that traditional bans on visitor photography may need to be rethought. On the one hand, this stemmed from an understanding that visitors might feel frustrated if they can’t share their experience. On the other it was down to the recognition that this sharing could be viewed as free advertising.

Some attractions are embracing selfie culture with open invitations to take pictures, and even the installation of photo opportunities with selfies in mind. Even more traditional museums like the Guggenheim in New York are adapting in as far copyright law and visitor comfort will allow by organising special opening slots for invited Instagram users. (Museums and Galleries Rethink No Photography Rules for Social Media Age, EyeforTravel, July 13 2015)

Limited wow factor for wearables

Wearables turned out to be somewhat disappointing, at least in the consumer space. Google’s Glass prototype was quietly withdrawn and the Apple Watch was less successful than many had hoped, though it did drive many travel companies to develop watch apps for their brands – especially in airlines. But unseen by the average consumer, watch apps are also finding professional applications on the wrists of hotel employees, where they can discretely alert someone to a customer request.  (Smart Watches Bring New Concepts for Travellers and Businesses, EyeforTravel, 15 May 2015.)

Specialising in sound

While watch apps are still struggling for mainstream popularity, one other area where many travel companies can improve their marketing game is in the rapidly evolving world of audio branding. Where companies were once content with a simple, often irritating chime to begin announcements, they are increasingly bringing in specialist sound brand designers, as did the French railway operator SNCF. Its almost legendary ‘Tatatala’ jingle is instantly recognisable and even inspired the David Gilmour song ‘Rattle that Lock’. (Not just a jingle: why using sound to brand your business could be more effective than you think, EyeforTravel, October 5, 2015).

Virtual reality  

After streaming video apps, the next emergent technology to take off in 2015 was the use of virtual reality. Thanks to the availability of a simple low cost headset – the Google Cardboard – and YouTube support for virtual content, VR is fast becoming mainstream. With the possibility of creating, storing and delivering virtual reality content to consumers very cheaply, travel businesses are beginning to use this technology to promote destinations, activities, hotels and resorts. (Virtual Reality on the road to becoming mainstream. EyeforTravel, 4 September 2015).

New camera technology

As virtual reality becomes more routine, startups are already offering even more advanced technologies that will automatically generate edited video coverage of a consumer’s visit to an attraction. This is, perhaps, an interesting alternative to having everyone walking around recording their own video, and an answer to safety concerns (How new camera technology could put the thrill back into theme park marketing. EyeforTravel, November 27, 2015).

Mobile’s double whammy  

Meanwhile another technology has inspired many new approaches to marketing: customised mobile apps. One way to attract more visitors to many attractions isn’t to post more photos on Instagram or competitions on Facebook, it’s to discover new ways to develop mobile apps that help the consumer and bring in business.

This approach is boosting business at wineries by allowing wine fans to navigate their way to interesting locations close to where they are or plan to be – an interesting approach that can be recycled easily by other marketers. (Wine not. How new mobile solutions are giving specialist tourism outlets a boost EyeforTravel, October 1, 2015). 

So there were new marketing channels, technologies and ideas worth noting in 2015, which will no doubt provide a useful springboard into the coming year.

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