What #MCRMonsters teaches us about destination marketing.



Perhaps one of the most memorable Halloween-themed destination marketing campaigns of recent times has been Manchester’s Monsters In The City (#MCRMonsters), now in its second year, which sees a bunch of giant, colourful and vaguely terrifying monsters pop up in unexpected locations around the city.

The promo urges visitors to look out for the monsters “taking over the city’s landmarks and buildings in a public art trail that weaves its way through the city centre. Look out, look up and share your monster pics across social,” and a quick scan of the hashtag shows they’re doing just that.

But what makes it such an effective destination marketing campaign? The answer lies in how simply it combines three key elements of modern leisure and tourism marketing.

Experience and memory-making

This is the big one. Over the past 12-18 months there has been a major increase in the value, especially among family audiences, placed on experiences, trying new things and forming unique memories when making decisions as to how to spend free time. In an increasingly competitive market, destinations and attractions are having to find increasingly compelling reasons for visitors to make the trip. Even traditional leisure attractions such as museums, theme parks, zoos and aquariums are embracing experiential and retail hooks as ways of boosting ticket sales – just look at the number of Halloween-themed exhibits and events taking place this October half term at attractions up and down the country.

Multi-stakeholder engagement

Perhaps unsurprisingly given #MCRMonsters is the brainchild of Manchester’s Business Improvement District team, there are plenty of other partners involved in the promo for the event. Namely, those whose buildings have been taken over by the inflatable invaders: Manchester Arndale, Selfridges, House of Fraser, The Printworks, Depot at Mayfield, The Royal Exchange, Spinningfields, Piccadilly Place, INNSiDE by Melia and Native at Ducie Street Warehouse. In working with partners and venues in this way, campaigns can massively amplify their promo potential, not just by increasing geographic and demographic reach but by boosting the number of voices talking about the event. Our work on campaigns such as Visit Manchester’s Come Together campaign or the award-winning #BlackpoolsBack campaign for Visit Blackpool both benefited hugely from engaging and collaborating with local stakeholders across retail, food and beverage, accommodation, travel and visitor attractions.

Social CTA and UGC

Of course, all of this effort would go to waste if no one actually talked about the event. Luckily, there’s no such problem for #MCRMonsters, which, while being very much a real-world, physical visitor experience, lends itself brilliantly to social media sharing. There are certain elements of the campaign which are designed perfectly to encourage and enable visitors to share their experience with friends. The hashtag is heavily promoted across all media with the call to action “share your monster pic” being central to the messaging; a standalone Twitter account has been created for the event (@HalloweenMCR; there are also accounts for Chinese New Year and the King Street Festival) which is promoted by the BID team and shares other people’s tweets about the monsters; and there is a downloadable map visitors can grab to plan their route around the city, making sure they see all the sights. This latter point is important as it encourages user generated content, which is increasingly powerful, particularly among millennial and Generation Z audiences, who are more likely to engage with and feel favourable towards authentic social content shared by people they relate to than to traditional online advertising.

So what have we learned?

  1. One of the key decision-driving factors for families choosing days out today is what the memory-making potential will be. If you’re a leisure destination or attraction, what experiential ideas can you conceive to help make that magic and provide a compelling reason for the visit?
  2. Working together with local partners can massively amplify your marketing message and provide mutual benefit for all involved. If you’re a leisure attraction, work with your local visitor economy team to understand the opportunities that exist for collaborations with retail, food and beverage, accommodation and travel partners.
  3. If you’re going to create experiential hooks and give visitors the chance to make memories, don’t forget to give them the chance – better still, encourage them – to share their experiences with friends and families. Putting social media and photography (hello, Instagram) at the heart of things is a great way of doing this – getting people to share snaps using a dedicated hashtag will greatly boost your reach.

To speak to one of our destination marketing experts or discuss any of the ideas in this post, just send us a message here or call us on 0161 848 4300 and we will be more than happy to chat!


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