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Smart pizza: Pizza Hut’s iPhone app generated $1 million in food orders within three months and a million downloads of the app within eight months.

The Best Job in the World: attracting tourists to little-known lands down under

The Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia has long been a famous magnet for scuba divers from all over the world. But the Tourism Queensland agency felt there was potential to develop the archipelago of islands near the reef as a prime tourist destination in its own right.

At the agency, a team led by CEO Anthony Hayes sifted through market research showing that the best target audience was young “self-challengers” with a high level of education, a penchant for technology, and a preference for holiday destinations off the beaten track. It needed to reach out to these go-getters across key international markets–and to engage their interest, it would need a really compelling hook.

In January of 2009, the agency hired the digital marketing firm Cummins Nitro, now part of Sapient, to start a global online recruitment race for “the best job in the world.” The new position of “island caretaker” would come with a generous six-month salary of $150,000 in Australian dollars (about $144,000 in U.S. dollars), plus luxury accommodations. The caretaker would experience everything the islands had to offer as a holiday destination and report those experiences to the world through a blog, online video, and other social media.

News of the opportunity spread quickly online and was picked up by traditional media channels as well. The response was so overwhelming that the agency’s server crashed for a short time. The agency received more than 34,000 online video applications from 195 countries. Fifty applicants were shortlisted, and 16 were flown to Queensland for the final selection process.

A 34-year-old Englishman named Ben Southall emerged victorious, and the news won a spot on The Oprah Winfrey Show. All told, nearly 8.5 million visitors flocked to the website (well surpassing the precampaign target of 400,000), and visitors spent an average of 8.22 minutes each on the site. More than 530 hours of user- generated video was created, and discussion was rampant across blogs, social networks, and traditional media channels worldwide. Despite the weak economy, tourist bookings to Hamilton Island, the campaign’s main destination, shot up 25 percent for the year.

Pizza Hut and Tourism Queenland launched two utterly different campaigns, for two completely different products, on different technology platforms. But they both used digital channels to devise innovative ways of engaging with their brands. Both campaigns had a built-in attention-grabbing factor that broke through the online clutter.

Both campaigns also succeeded by integrating multiple channels and, blurring the lines between digital and traditional media, leveraging online buzz to drive mass-media exposure that in turn inspired people to action.

Damian Ryan and Calvin Jones are the authors of The Best Digital Marketing Campaigns in the World: Mastering the Art of Customer Engagement (Kogan Page, 2011)

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Tagged: Business, Business Impact, digital marketing

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