The shoulder seasons, those transitional periods between peak and off-peak travel times, present a unique set of opportunities and challenges for Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO’s). Watauga Group media planners understand that crafting a targeted and strategic media plan during shoulder seasons requires a nuanced approach to attract travelers looking for a balance between favorable weather, fewer crowds, and budget-friendly options. There is an art to planning advertising campaigns specifically tailored for shoulder season travel, exploring strategies to captivate the audience, showcase destination charm, and ultimately drive bookings during these offbeat yet enchanting times.

Understanding the Traveler’s Sweet Spot

Shoulder seasons typically fall between the peak and off-peak travel periods. These periods, characterized by mild weather, fewer crowds, and potential cost savings, offer a sweet spot for travelers seeking an authentic experience. Watauga Group starts with identifying the precise months that define shoulder seasons for your destination to lay the groundwork for an effective advertising strategy. We analyze historical travel patterns, weather trends, and booking data during shoulder seasons to help you understand the preferences and behaviors of travelers.

Knowing who is most likely to travel during shoulder seasons is another key element. One of our partners, Noble Studios, recently released a report called “Between Extremes: Targeting the Shoulder Season Traveler” that outlines the six main traveler personas that shape the shoulder seasons. Knowing who shoulder season travelers are can help your DMO tailor messaging and offers that resonate with these travelers.

Capitalizing on Online Presence and Engagement

In the digital age, online platforms are the heartbeat of travel planning. Our media strategists allocate a significant portion of the media plan budget to digital channels to leverage social media advertising, paid search (SEM), and programmatic advertising channels (OTT, Streaming Audio, Display, etc.) to reach potential travelers actively researching destinations. Your campaign’s ad creative needs to be aligned with the planned media strategy and targeted audiences, as well as designed for each platform it will be running on. Additionally, the creative should highlight the unique aspects of your DMO that make it appealing during shoulder season travel, such as pleasant weather, special events, or lower costs.

Creating Compelling Narratives for Shoulder Season Appeal

Content is king, and in the realm of shoulder season advertising, compelling narratives are your greatest assets. Craft engaging blog posts, articles, and multimedia content to describe the unique experiences available during these transitional periods. Whether it’s the blossoming landscapes of spring or the cozy charm of fall, let your content paint a vivid picture of the destination’s seasonal allure.

Lake Tahoe is primarily known for summer lake life and winter skiing, so our partner, Noble Studios, crafted a campaign for Visit Lake Tahoe that focused on hiking, biking, and kayaking for their Spring shoulder season and featured campfires and stunning foliage for their Fall shoulder season. The year-round attraction of casinos and concerts is another draw they used in both campaigns.

Visit Lake Tahoe Navigating the In-Between: Crafting Effective Media Strategies for Shoulder Season Travel
Visit Lake Tahoe created a Fall shoulder season campaign featuring a cozy campfire setting

Targeted and Tempting Email Offers

Targeted email marketing campaigns can be highly effective, especially when they feature exclusive offers, discounts, or special packages only available during your DMO’s shoulder seasons. Using paid media campaigns to capture first-party data that you can use to create personalized content based on the recipient’s preferences and past interactions can create a sense of exclusivity and urgency.

Leveraging Influencer Partnerships for Authenticity

Travel influencers are storytellers with a significant impact. Collaborate with influencers whose style aligns with your destination’s identity. The right influencer can help you reach people that you might not reach otherwise, but it’s important to be sure that they are influencing the target audiences that are right for your brand. To ensure a successful campaign, establish your goals and how to measure your campaign ahead of time and plan a full itinerary that will highlight the best of your DMO’s shoulder season experiences. An influencer’s authentic experiences during shoulder seasons can provide real-time insights and visual appeal that resonate with their audience.

Targeting Niche Audiences Through Print Media

In the age of pixels, don’t sleep on the power of print, especially for targeting niche audiences. Those big glossy ads capture the eye and the imagination! Consider travel magazines and regional publications that cater to specific interests or demographics. Partnering with print for editorial opportunities is a terrific way to show all the best shopping, dining, entertainment and experiences your destination has to offer.

Collaborating with the Pros for Package Deals and Promotions

Team up with travel agencies, tour operators, and other relevant partners to amplify your reach. These collaborative efforts can result in attractive package deals, exclusive promotions, and shared marketing initiatives. These partnerships can make your destination an ideal choice for those seeking an unforgettable curated travel experience.

Panama City Beach still has perfect beach weather after kids go back to school in August, so during this shoulder season, Visit Panama City Beach partnered with local hotels, attractions, and restaurants to create a program called PCB Perks, offering deals to entice travelers to enjoy beach time without the summer crowds. To promote the partner deals, Watauga Group created a digital and print campaign with ads linking to an easily navigated landing page with the partner offers collected in one place. From a targeting perspective, we wanted to reach audiences who are not your typical summer travelers, including parents with preschoolers, Gen Z, and older adults. These audiences aren’t tied to school calendars and are more likely to travel during the fall shoulder season.

PCB banner ad example Shoulder season travel
Visit Panama City Beach collaborated with local tourist spots to create PCB Perks, a collection of shoulder season offers.

Precision in Targeting Specific Geographic Regions

Elevate your geo-targeted advertising targeting precision during shoulder season months by targeting the markets with the most likely travelers. Strategically target cities with discounted airfares to your destination during shoulder seasons or weekend getaway markets where driving is an option. Tailor your destination’s messaging to feel like a perfect match for Canadian retirees who find the mild winter at a Florida beach an ideal way to escape a harsh winter. Events are another strategy to draw visitors during shoulder seasons, especially events like food and wine festivals that can bring weekend visitors from your DMO’s drive markets.

Evaluating and Adapting Strategies

The journey doesn’t end with the launch of your campaign. Regularly monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) and analytics to assess the success of your efforts. Evaluate booking trends, website traffic, and engagement metrics to understand the impact of your shoulder season campaigns. Use these insights to refine and adapt your strategy for continuous improvement.

Crafting Unforgettable Shoulder Season Travel Adventures

In the ever-evolving world of travel advertising, Watauga Group understands that mastering the art of planning campaigns for shoulder season travel requires a holistic and strategic approach. From understanding the nuances of your DMO’s shoulder seasons to leveraging digital campaigns and influencer collaborations, each element plays a crucial role in capturing the imagination of potential travelers. By targeting likely travel audiences, offering personalized experiences, working with print partners, forming strategic partnerships, and ensuring your campaign is reaching its goals, we can help you transform shoulder seasons into unforgettable adventures, enticing travelers to explore the hidden treasures of your destination.

Contact us to discover ways that Watauga Group can help with your media strategy. 

=> Contact us here <=