From the breathtaking scenery of northern Scotland to the beauty of the southern English coast, Great Britain is packed with noteworthy tourist destinations.
Boasting more than 1,800 accredited museums, it’s little wonder why tourists flock to the island country for a dose of history and culture. The British Museum, Tate Modern and National Gallery each attracts more than 5 million visits per year alone.
But VisitBritain wanted to completely change how Americans saw Great Britain.
This ambitious idea would transform the perception that Great Britain is merely made of museums – instead, establishing it as a dynamic and evolving culinary destination. To drive this change, we chose to feature two of the nation’s incredible yet often overlooked exports – gin and sparkling wine.
But with our finger hovering over the “go live” button for this campaign, COVID-19 hit – temporarily thwarting our objective to launch our tourism campaign.
The global pandemic closed borders, indefinitely suspended travel plans and even shut down the vineyards and distilleries that lived at the heart of our content.
What didn’t shut down, however, was reader interest in travel inspiration.
Coronavirus only fueled our audience’s appetite for inspirational travel content and virtual experiences. This type of “armchair travel” grew 84% YOY (Meredith, 2020).
With a radical shift in consumer habits, we reshaped our strategy with the aim of satiating our audience’s desire for travel from the safety of their own homes, making Britain top of mind for their post-pandemic trip of a lifetime.
Whenever that may be.
Our overarching strategy for this campaign was to create a unique virtual travel experience that changes perceptions of Great Britain.
In partnership with Food & Wine, one of the US’s most popular culinary publications with more than 9 million unique online visitors every month, we showcased the brilliance, beauty, and bounty of Britain’s culinary world, inspiring readers to rethink their perceptions of British food.
We did this by taking people on a virtual tour of one of the nation’s top distilleries in the Cotswolds – an area punctuated by quaint towns and charming villages central England - and a winery Kent, appropriately nicknamed “The Garden of England”.
We developed two interactive POV-style videos which were housed on a custom-built microsite, creating an immersive digital experience. Visitors could “walk” through the distillery and winery at their own pace, using a mouse or trackpad to navigate their way around.
By doing this, we offered readers a virtual vacation and a taste of what they could see and do in Great Britain once the travel industry opened up.
Clickable hotspots and corresponding pop-ups with text and imagery further satisfied user curiosity by delivering interesting nuggets of information about the gin distillation and wine fermentation processes.
Certain hotspots linked to 2 articles crafted in conjunction with this campaign. These pieces, In Great Britain, Gin is Having a Dramatic Reawakening and 5 Restaurants That Will Change Your Perception of British Cuisine, offered guides to gin-focused experiences and new restaurants serving up contemporary British flavors.
Justin Chapple, Food & Wine’s Culinary Director-at-Large, contributed to each article, lending a respected and authentic voice to the narratives. Featuring bespoke designs shaped by an elegant selection of curated imagery, these articles provided an educational and engaging glimpse into Great Britain’s rapidly evolving food and beverage scene
Social media units - including posts from Justin Chapple himself - drove traffic to the landing page, videos, and articles.
This travel campaign was unparalleled.
Despite a global pandemic shutting down the tourism industry, we drove more than 211,000 virtual visits to Great Britain through our campaign, including views to our microsite which saw an engagement rate 58% above benchmark.
Viewers spent a remarkable 3 minutes and 59 seconds on average when they visited our Cotswold Distillery video experience – 251% above the benchmark of 68 seconds. They then spent an average of 3 minutes and 5 seconds exploring the Hush Heath experience, also well above benchmark.
Our custom articles saw an average time spent of 84s (+14% above benchmark) and an engagement rate of 1.39% (+57% above benchmark).
Social media was integral to our success, delivering more than 12 million impressions through Facebook and Instagram posts from the Food & Wine brand handle. Justin Chapple’s two Instagram posts, in addition, reached over 18k Instagram users.
This campaign simultaneously satisfied reader wanderlust at a time when travel was impossible and expanded perceptions surrounding all Great Britain has to offer.