Best/Worst Marketing, 2014-15


Bloopers. Games. Champagne toasts. Exquisite images. This season, resorts delivered a wide variety of original and cool marketing concepts that were both inside and outside the realm of traditional marketing. From carefully planned and thought-out campaigns to glorious bursts of spontaneous genius, resorts produced some remarkable successes, along with the occasional dud.

Today, fun sells. Millennials have become accustomed to gamification promotions, which apply the typical elements of game playing—competition, point scoring, rules of play—to marketing and promotion. Rather than just announcing a deal, for example, resorts engaged guests in a game-like experience online where they have a stake in the results—lower lift ticket or pass prices. Gamificatilon allows guests to build a stake in the outcome, and ski industry marketers embraced this trend in a big way.

This is one element of the new normal in resort marketing, which has embraced social media. This year’s “bests” focused on this move toward digital while using creativity, relevance to current events, and the fun factor. We doubt these campaigns were expensive to implement, but all of them helped drive consumer engagement on and off the slopes.

Regardless of what you’ve heard—or just read—print has not disappeared. Print advertising remains an effective way to establish or reinforce a brand, present a call to action, or spread your news. And beyond traditional print advertising, resort-branded print magazines have become a powerful tool in marketing arsenals.

This past year’s big marketing challenge was the lack of snow on the West Coast, and resorts used a variety of online forums to address it. A few campaigns, though, were undone by the weather.

With all the changes and challenges in marketing, we asked a diverse group of observers to root out the season’s best and worst (see box below). We asked them to identify the campaigns and spontaneous creations that stood out, in either a good or bad way, and to explain what made these efforts exemplary. We sought out items that caught our attention, which means guests noticed them, too.

As in the past, the selections are the writers’ own, not the result of a group decision. Nor do we try to quantify the results, which would be difficult to do in some cases, and impossible in others.

In the end, skiers and riders respond to authenticity, however it’s delivered. As do our reviewers. If there’s a single thread that ties all these marketing efforts together, that’s it.