The city of Valencia, in Spain, launched a new campaign to promote itself as a holiday destination to the Italian public. The idea was to implement innovative promotional techniques to reposition the brand, distancing it from the values that are stereotypically associated to holidays in Spain in general and to Valencia in particular, encouraging a healthy curiosity in the campaign’s target audience. The local tourist organisation (VLC) chose Smart Eventi as their partner and Milan and Naples as their starting locations for the campaign. Our brief was pretty straightforward: target young adults and promote responsible tourism and a healthy exchange between Countries and Peoples that, while being geographically close, often are not aware of each other’s traditions and culture. At a time when the “Schengen Generation” is being challenged by the spreading of generalised fear and prejudice, that deter people from expressing curiosity towards other cultures, campaigns such as this one are particularly important. Not only they are a balm for local economies, but they also encourage open-mindedness, curiosity and mutual solidarity.
Valencia: rebranding a city – an instore campaign
Rebranding a city
The short-term goal of this campaign was targeting the chosen audience not with promotional material, but with an all-encompassing experience of Valencia. It was not simply about converting, but about repositioning the brand with a new target audience. Holidays in Spain are currently associated to a specific idea of either wild parties or all-inclusive packages, mostly to be spent in beach resorts. The mild weather, natural beauty and excellent cuisine – in the specific case of Valencia, it is hard not to think of a delicious Paella – are also positive features that have nevertheless conflated into a stereotype that was not necessarily germane to the theme of this particular promotion. This campaign needed to rebrand the city as a cultural destination, with a fascinating history, interesting art, museums and an ancient and sophisticated traditions.
Capturing the senses through technology
The most challenging aspect of instore promotion is the need to create an emotional message within a context that was not originally meant to host it. In this specific case, despite having chosen two major shopping malls as our locations – in order to reach our target demographic – we were not strictly speaking selling a product that could be bought immediately. Our campaign was supposed to make customers experience a different place as intensely as possible. Not only we needed to win the attention of busy shoppers, but we were also required to make them “travel” to Valencia in the space of a few minutes, creating an emotional response. We decided to create a multi-sensory experience, working with decoration, setting and technology. We were allocated a three-by-two-meter corner, which we decorated with elements that were suggestive both of the old and the new brand image. We reclaimed some elements of the existing brand-identity, recreating the idea of the seaside using deck chairs, and we also introduced other elements that were connected to the new brand values, such a traditional mask from the Fallas (the traditional Valencian festivals that take place between February and March and that are listed by Unesco as Intangible World Heritage). We finished off our setting with crates of oranges – Valencia’s biggest export. They were in fact squeeze-toys, but so realistic that our customers were surprised when picking them up. This element was particularly important because we did not have an actual product to sell: in cases such as this one, it is essential to have something tangible to give away, so that customers can take home a souvenir of their experience. We reinforced the realistic effect by using orange-scented room fragrances: smell is, after all, the sense most closely linked to memory and emotion. The true pièce de résistance was a large screen that could be activated by the customers’ smartphones with a QR code, and that was connected to a 360° camera in Valencia, so that our guests could experience the city in real time.
We planned a campaign to reposition a brand – in this case a destination – with a certain audience. This is a common need that most brands will encounter at some point, no matter how well-established they may be. This is particularly true within industries that are constantly evolving, and the travel industry is one such. Audiences that are not stimulated may lose interest or the brand might simply want to realign its values and attract different customers. When facing this challenge, there are two main options: clinging on to the old identity and waiting for the brand to become irrelevant, or changing with the market, thinking out of the box and redefining the brand vision to take control of its future development.