How Vancouver’s Community Rescued Its Brand

This post is a follow up to my previous post on It’s Not Social Media, It’s Social Business – Do you Care?  and the thoughts expressed by Troy Thompson in his post titled DMO Strategy: Technology or Inspiration?  in which he muses:

…in our subconscious quest to grab at anything and everything possibly related to destination visitation, have we gone too far? Have we stretched beyond our goals and mission to become more technology company than inspiration company.

Eventually, those in the destination vertical will have to make a choice due to the simple pressures of time, budget, staff and goals.

What is my area of  focus?
Are you a technology company with inspirational tourism content?
Or are you a tourism inspiration company with a measured approach to technology?

If we stay stuck in the mindset of traditional marketing, there’s a tendency to view Facebook, Twitter, blogging etc as nothing more than additional distribution channels for a carefully crafted brand message or specific product offering pitched to targeted market segments.

Conscious marketers understand that it’s about creating relationships first and encouraging the emergence of communities of interest and support. Social media is not so much a channel as a powerful platform or engine that can be deployed by all members of the “tourism ecosystem.” Social media provides both a listening post and a mirror into which one can see how your community is really perceived.

This different mindset was much in evidence in Vancouver this past year – an exciting year for a young City that successfully hosted the Winter Olympics and then experienced some of the worst public riots in its entire history. Social media played a critically important role in both events.

This morning Paul Vallee, Candice Gibson and Stephen Pearce of Tourism Vancouver shared with me just how powerful social media can be and the critical importance of building community first and allowing its members to co-create authentic responses to the negative actions of a minority. They have given me permission to share the 20 minute Pecha Kucha presentation (20 slides, 20 minutes, 20 notes pages too!) that speaks for itself.

The real takeaway from this was the role that ordinary community members played in rescuing the brand. Tourism Vancouver didn’t respond in a traditional manner by pushing out a stiff formal message minimizing, covering up or even apologizing for the behaviour of a small irresponsible minority. They simply, but effectively, enabled and allowed.

They enabled the community to express their dismay by creating ThisisOurVancouver and allowed the voice of Vancouver’s responsible residents to leave a more authentic, enduringly positive impression. It can take courage for a DMO to do less and enable more but the end result is nearly always more effective.

Random Screen Grab From This is Our Vancouver

DMOs are not the hosts of a community. Its residents are. The more they can be enabled to extend the invitation in their own and by definition, authentic way, the more the cliché “tourism is everybody’s business” will assume real meaning and clout.

As DMOs become more conscious of the power of social media and the way it is radically changing how marketing gets done, expect to see less doing (as in leading and controlling) and more enabling and supporting in the years to come.

4 Responses to “How Vancouver’s Community Rescued Its Brand”

  1. Well put Joe! Thanks for reading and for adding to the conversation.


  2. Excellent case study. Supports the premise that while the DMO can and should be the brand steward it is not in control of how the overall destination will be perceived by visitors. The residents as hosts are a very essential element shaping and impacting the overall experience. Also, contrast this response by Vancouver with how Mexico is handling its not insignificant image issues. Even proclamations by the President and Minister can’t change perceptions as effectively as actual visitors can. Without a solid and constant effort to increase the number of advocates that voice can’t become effective and it also can’t be turned on at short notice either.



  1. Forget branding – let people, place & personality shine through | ConsciousTourism - December 9, 2016

    […] How Vancouver’s Community Rescued its Brand […]


  2. Forget branding – let people, place & personality shine through | Conscious.Travel - November 16, 2012

    […] How Vancouver’s Community Rescued its Brand […]


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