This article was originally published on reverb, Drake Cooper’s reflections on advertising, creativity, and trends. Read more.

The Emotion of Travel

It is this ‘Travel as a Narrative’ that people are beginning to demand—not only are they looking for authenticity, but because of this ‘fear factor’ induced by the recession, they are investigating exactly what their money will purchase and whether this constitutes added value. Or, more importantly, a unique emotional experience.

-Digital Cortex, 2010

 86% of US Travelers are planning leisure trips this summer. 40% say they’re going to a favorite destination, while 27% are going for a new experience.

-Travel Daily News, 2012

This past week Expedia launched a new campaign, “Find Yours.” It’s a wonderful idea that captures the emotion of why we travel.

The ad is made of consumer generated content. This is largely the result of successful travel blogger outreach that explores why travel is so important. Many leading bloggers shared their stories:

Trish @ Tripstyler:

Dave and Deb @ The Planet D:

While the content is all consumer video the professional editing, arrangement and music is key to making them effective.

The other thing Expedia has done is to choose bloggers with niche audiences. Which is smart. Just last week at the Seattle Chamber’s Executive Speaker Series on Travel and Tourism, Mark Kammerer, SVP Marketing & Sales at Holland America, asked the audience to a modest show of hands if they were “activating the networks of people who can sell your product for you?”

By adding more authenticity, Expedia has furthered a storytelling movement that was seen recently with Emirates and STA. These brands added more human emotion to the standard formula of beautiful imagery and unique activities.

DC loves all of this. The emotional narrative for travel marketing is something we strongly believe in, and it can be seen in 2010’s Great Idaho Getaway. It’s what consumers want and is a significant part of how they make their decisions.

In Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy volunteered five things that travel advertising needs to do:

  1. Advertising for destinations should be designed to plant a long-term image in the reader’s mind.
  2. Choose to illustrate things that are unique to the area and not something people can do at home.
  3. The job of the advertising is to convert people’s dreams about visiting foreign areas into action; this is best done by combining “mouth-watering photographs with specific how-to-do-it information.”
  4. Whenever the advertising is for a little-known place, it is important to give the people a lot of information in the advertisement, such as the weather, language, food, etc.
  5. Charm and differentiation work well in tourism advertising.

Those ideas are from 1983. Today, the web largely fills #3 and #4, which everyone talks about a lot at travel marketing conferences. Google even broke down the purchase funnel for travel last year in quite a logical way:

[ click to enlarge ]

Ogilvy and Google are both correct. But the word “emotion” is void in both.

It’s not enough to only show amazing places, provide a collage of “there’s everything here” and pragmatically align decision stages with technology. Consumers want the emotion.

In fact, they need it…

McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey is a good reminder that booking the trip is only the halfway point.  Today “advocacy” follows “purchase” and the chosen media path for advocacy is social which allows travelers to add their own emotional experience as they re-tell and share their vacations.

Emotion is the key. As Paul Feldwick, the author of What Is Brand Equity Anyway, reminds us:

“Advertising which is enjoyed, found involving, and stimulates the emotions in a way that other advertising doesn’t, should be encouraged and rewarded… It is all very well for an ad to leave vibrant memories, but do these memories link to your brand uniquely? Branding has nothing to do with repeating the brand name; it has everything to do with making the brand the center of, and the reason for, the creative idea.”

Emotion for nearly all travel destinations—from Idaho to Milan to somewhere else—has a sense of optimism. Which is perfect for this industry. When TIME wrote about The Optimism Bias last year, they focused on how important the emotion of optimism is:

“Optimism starts with what may be the most extraordinary of human talents: mental time travel, the ability to move back and forth through time and space in one’s mind. Although most of us take this ability for granted, our capacity to envision a different time and place is in fact critical to our survival.”

Mental time travel. Isn’t that what we do when we start dreaming about our next vacation? That’s what amazing travel marketing needs to do.