When asked about Alberta, many non-Albertans will comment on the impressive beauty of the province, and may even say it's too good to be true. In fact, one of Alberta's most popular and photographed locations, Lake Louise, is often accused of being subject to human tampering. Some may tell you the beautiful blue hue of the water is achieved with dye, or even by painting the lakebed.
We've long communicated the appeal of the province through photography and video of its beauty. We've earned a large and engaged social following that is as excited to like one of our photos as it is to take and tag one of their own when they arrive. The challenge became, how do we reach those who are either not yet engaged with us socially, or perhaps are even a bit cynical about what Alberta is actually like.
Travel Alberta communicates its brand through the beauty of the province by featuring breathtaking landscapes. The strategy has been successful and earned the brand a loyal social following.
But to reach that little bit further we needed something else. Something that pushed the brand into a territory – and an audience – that wasn't quite as engaged as our existing fan base. Through our research, we discovered that people were sceptical about the photos they'd seen of Alberta. The mountains were just too impressive. The water was too pure. Something was just a little too picturesque.
Of course we knew there's nothing false about our landscape, but we saw that tension as a place to play. If we could tap into that belief, that gut feeling, we could reach people we hadn't been able to before.
So, we decided to focus on one of the most photographed and talked about places in Alberta: Lake Louise. For years there have been rumors that the water is dyed, the lakebed painted or some other form of trickery utilized to achieve it's pure, unique blue. Instead of disputing the myth, this time we'd let our long hidden sense of humor come out. We'd confirm it – at least just for a bit on April Fools – and watch the news spread, knowing it would only spread awareness and appreciation of the breathtaking landmark.
But if we were going to do it, we had to do more than just a press release and a post. So we got in touch with the authority of color, the Pantone company, and worked together to create a brand new, unique Pantone: Lake Louise Turquoise Blue. And then, we'd release it on the same day as our fake news.
From there, we developed a full story about the painting of the lake. We put together a press release and two images (one of the lake being painted on the day, and another that supposedly showed it being painted 100 years before), all of which proved that we paint the bottom of the lake once a century, and have done for generations.
On the day, we released our materials through our social channels and to the media. The news was picked up by our audience and authorities alike – with even the mayor of Banff, the town site nearest the lake itself, getting on board.Once the joke ran its course, we admitted the whole thing was in jest. Except, of course, the authentic beauty of our landscape and the brand new, official Alberta Lake Louise Pantone Blue color. Those were both real, and readily available for our audience to enjoy.
Our fake news caused quite a stir. From over 50,000 unique social engagements to the plethora of media coverage from Albertan and National news agencies, our simple little joke found a massive audience. In fact, we received several direct requests from fans wanting the Pantone color values so they could paint with it!
By playing along with a long running rumor, we were ultimately able to draw attention to our province's beauty, while proving the rumor itself false and giving audiences a new way of loving our iconic blue.