In travel and tourism, more than any other industry, personal recommendations on social media play a critical role in the marketing mix. Trip planners trust what friends and families post on Facebook and Instagram and when posts feature specific recommended attractions, restaurants or neighborhoods it’s considered “insider” information.

Leveraging this insight, H&L Partners has gone beyond social media channels and has developed the “In the Know” campaign for its client Explore St. Louis. Brian Hall, CMO for Explore St. Louis explains, “Most tourism marketing features the most iconic attractions that tourists already know about. In the case of St. Louis, the Gateway Arch and the St. Louis Cardinals are very well known. In this campaign we recognize popular attractions, but we challenge potential visitors to explore what they may not know about St. Louis.”

Mark Schaeffer of H&L adds that, “Research tells us that younger visitors, in particular, want to get off the beaten path. They want to discover cool neighborhoods, craft breweries, and out-of-the way music club.”

Instead of relying on just any St. Louisans for the inside scoop, the agency convinced local celebrities Sterling K. Brown, John Goodman and Andy Cohen, as well as Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee to reveal what they love about their hometown. The campaign kicked off in 2018 with Sterling K. Brown, and not only were the results extremely strong, the work won a regional Emmy and the Best in Show award at the Hospitality Sales and Marketing International Adrian Awards.

New creative produced with John Goodman recently launched, and each celebrity also provides a non-scripted interview about their personal connection to St. Louis.  New television, radio and digital creative featuring Andy Cohen will launch later this year, and other local celebs are lining up.

The growth in the ROI Explore St. Louis earns from its marketing investment is Brian Hall’s measure of success. “The strength of the campaign lays in the insight around insider knowledge, and the celebrity involvement simply makes it work so much harder for us.”