WIGCOT (without the sweat)

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I suppose that’s accurate more often than not.  Certainly it’s proving true for me with regard to Wisconsin’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism. Although WIGCOT is an event that I sweated over for 10 years–writing speeches, organizing press conferences, coordinating presentations—it is also one that I’ve skipped for the last two years.  Now that I’ve got enough distance  from it in the review mirror, I’m looking forward to coming back to it again as a “civilian,” hoping to pick up some valuable insights to help my travel and hospitality clients.

Like many conferences, the presentations are a mix of keynotes by big-name national speakers and breakout sessions led by other local marketing professionals.   While my inner skeptic is always set on edge by touring, motivational book-author types, there are two WIGCOT keynotes I’m really looking forward to: “How to Market to People Who Aren’t Like You” by Kelly McDonald and “How to Avoid the Biggest Mistakes in Travel Marketing” by Doug Lansky.

On the surface, McDonald should be the more relevant, since Lansky isn’t even a marketer—he’s a syndicated travel columnist and author.  His shtick is largely based on funny and absurd signs (“My Dung” restaurant, etc.) and other cultural malapropisms, as well as comically pompous or overstated travel marketing campaigns and brochures.  As always, there is a social media angle to all this, as both can be launching pads for viral humor.  Over-the-top ads and campaigns can also set the destination up to fall short of expectations with their customers—an often fatal mistake when cultivating a long-term visitor base (or any other kind of client base.) So while I’m expecting Lansky to be light I’m thinking he could be very relevant. McDonald, on the other hand, owns an ad agency (in addition to being a book author) so I’m expecting a little more “meat” in her presentation…including the section on marketing to vegans and vegetarians. Perhaps most of interest, however, are her insights on generational marketing  and on Hispanic and multicultural marketing.

There are a number of other sessions I’m looking forward to at WIGCOT, as well, particularly the social media breakouts each day.  And, yes, I will be critiquing the gala “Showcase” campaign presentation; I can’t help it. But I don’t have to sweat about it anymore. I’m OK with that.