Spring Break Travel, Iceland, and Authentic Advertising

March begins the season of spring break for college students and faculty. It’s a necessary period to disconnect, reflect, and have some fun in the midst of midterms and difficult coursework, jobs, or internships.

But just because we might be escaping our day-to-day lives for a week doesn’t mean we escape the myriad ways that advertising and integrated marketing communication impacts us and our decisions. One huge way IMC impacts us: how do we decide where to go?

Travel agents, tourism bureaus, hotels, airlines, and other stakeholders create vibrant campaigns. Few have had to deal with a crisis as large as a volcanic eruption.

Inspired by Iceland


Eyjafjallajökull erupting. Via adventures.is

In 2010, Eyjafjallajökull (an Icelandic volcano) erupted and caused historic disruptions, including ash fall that shut down flights across Europe for almost a week.

Tourism to Iceland fell by 30%. Inspired by Iceland was a campaign that involved the whole country. The president of the country at the time, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, stopped the entire country in its tracks (schools, workplaces and more) to ask for citizens to submit positive stories–which they did.

The campaign chronicled its success in this video:

The huge catalogue of positive Iceland experiences included celebrity testimonials. Webcams provided live footage of some of the most tourist-attracting natural wonders. The results of the campaign included more than £137 million in extra tourism revenue and more than 22 million stories shared.

That last part is pretty amazing, because Iceland’s population is fewer than 350,000 people.

The Brooklyn Brothers, the campaign’s creators, shared a case study on their website with more details.

What Other Travel Experiences Can Take from Inspired By Iceland

The award-winning campaign was effective because the agency running it knew its target audience: socially conscious millennials wary of traditional advertising ploys. The Brooklyn Brothers successfully gathered authenticity and storytelling.

What would be more likely to get you to travel to a destination: a generic, high-production-value slideshow of landscapes with a peppy but robotic disembodied narrator telling you to Visit XYZ? Or a series of pictures of black sand beaches and a story from Olaf, a real Icelander, telling you about his afternoon on Iceland’s south coast? What is more authentic–a curated video or a live webcam broadcast?

If you picked the second answer for any of those, you’re part of the target audience for Inspired by Iceland.

Authenticity in marketing is now more important than ever, Business.com writes. That’s counterintuitive for some brands, which strive to carefully curate a perfect facade. Consumers’ desire for authenticity also makes it difficult for brands that lack a clear contribution to “the greater good”–without that corporate social responsibility, authenticity just means admitting that a brand wants a profit.

The travel and tourism industry has always been about selling experiences, not goods. The next time you start googling destinations, consider what experiences you’re being sold–and whether they’re true-to-life or inauthentic ones.

–Nikki Kroushl