This campaign was snow joke – how this ski resort rallied an entire mountainside

Mount Hotham ski resort was stuck in a sea of sameness, unable to differentiate itself within the market. This campaign found its success by handing over to the people of Mount Hotham. Here’s how.

This article originally appeared in The Simplicity Issue, our August/September 2018 issue of Marketing magazine.

Campaign: True Spirit of Alpine Australia

Client: Mount Hotham

Agency: 10 Feet Tall

 

Background

simplicity cover 200Mount Hotham is one of Victoria’s premier ski resorts, with a history that reaches into Indigenous culture, as well as the rich context of the gold rush, mountain cattlemen, and the Great Alpine Road that takes travellers from north-east Victoria into Gippsland via the Victorian Alps. Mount Hotham boasts spectacular views, its own airport and 320 hectares of ski terrain during winter.

Considered the ‘Powder Capital’ of Australia, Mount Hotham is the only resort in the southern hemisphere where the village is located on top of the mountain, ensuring endless awe-inspiring views and ski-in, ski-out opportunities from wherever you are in the village.

The resort boasts 13 chair lifts, three terrain parks and 35 kilometres of cross country skiing, as well as complementary family friendly activities like tobogganing, dog sled tours and snow mobile rides, not to mention luxurious day spas and a range of restaurants and bars. Mount Hotham’s challenge was much of its branding had been built upon the idyll of a ski resort, promising experiences comparable to, and inspired by, overseas ski resorts.

This was not a position that was unique to Mount Hotham, with many Australian resorts communicating a similar message. However, this was in contrast to the modern consumers’ perceptions and expectations of the Australian alpine experience. To be completely honest, sometimes it rains at an Australian ski resort. And sometimes, it’s windy and you lose your glove, and your goggles fog up.

Yet, despite all this, there is a magic in Australian ski resorts that is not found anywhere else. Mount Hotham provides a unique compilation of experiences from the wildlife in the mountain pygmy possum, not found anywhere else in the world, to the lodges that were built by hand by locals. The snow resort experience in Australia can be an imperfect one, but that in itself is why it is perfect.

Mount Hotham recognised this need to embrace the Australian experience for what it is – still an awe-inspiring experience, but one that is different to that of overseas resorts. It was important to embrace the Australian experience and, in turn, create a distinctive brand for Mount Hotham.

 

Objectives

Mount Hotham Resort Management Board engaged 10 Feet Tall to recapture the essence of Mount Hotham in a branding campaign that aimed to achieve the following objectives:

  • raise Mount Hotham’s profile in the tourism market
  • develop a brand that functions all year round
  • create a harmonious voice for the mountain that represents the whole mountain experience, and
  • increase collaboration and involvement of locals and business operators

As a destination marketing campaign, the ultimate measure of success was to increase visitation to the resort.

 

Strategy

The strategy was simple – to be frank, honest and open, and state what the people of Mount Hotham truly believe in. This message would then be broadcast to a wide audience, so they too could share in the experience of the mountain.

By embracing the breadth of experiences on the mountain, the campaign intended to move beyond just the hardcore skiers and snowboarders, and foster appeal for a broad range of consumers, regardless of their snow experience.

The first step on the journey was to engage the locals of the mountain. From these workshops, it was clear that what the locals love most about Mount Hotham – and what has them returning season after season – is the natural beauty of the mountain. Mount Hotham has the unique benefit of being located on a ridgeline, ensuring spectacular views from sunrise to sunset.

The other clear takeout was the uniquely Australian culture evident through the pioneering spirit of the gold miners, cattlemen, early skiers, road crews and all the supporting cast throughout the mountain’s history delivering the experiences available today.

This resulted in the ‘True Spirit of Alpine Australia’ campaign, centred on one very clear proposition: ‘Australia’s highest village with the most down-to-earth people delivering unique experiences.’ The epic scenery and remote location of Mount Hotham has always been its draw card, but this campaign went beyond this by featuring the personality and values that make it truly unique to a broader audience.

1. Campaign Snapshot

 

Execution

In June 2017, Mount Hotham launched the destination brand the ‘True Spirit of Alpine Australia’ with an associated 12-week advertising campaign. To ensure it was truly authentic in execution, the campaign gave the voice to the mountain and the locals who inhabit it to explain what inspires them about Mount Hotham.

Indeed, the entire campaign can be summed up by the script of the film that launched the campaign: “It’s me, Mount Hotham, and it’s my view that you don’t tell stories around campfires, you create them; that fresh snow and salt of the earth are the secret to a good meal; that the higher your family gets, the less grip the world has on you that the taller the mountain, the shorter the day seems; that being bundled up in a coat sure beats being wrapped up in cotton wool… and that welcomes are made even warmer by the cold. It’s not a common view, but if you’d like to share it,
all I can say is that I am here, and I am waiting.”

The campaign came to life through film, social media, digital display, a radio partnership with Triple M Melbourne and the development of a microsite – a digital tool to allow consumers to discover how Mount Hotham could uniquely cater to their individual preferences.

The locals of the mountain were celebrated through videos where they provided undiluted insights into what they loved about Mount Hotham. These stories resonated with consumers for their down-to-earth nature, as one of Mount Hotham’s most loved locals, Bill Barker, Ski Patrol director, said, “The feedback I get from those that come to Hotham for the first time is they are blown away with how friendly everyone is… it’s a genuine thing, not fluffed out by too much marketing hype.”

 

Results

The campaign was an unqualified success. The initial 12-week campaign generated more than 31 million impressions, and nearly 90,000 clicks to the website with a bounce rate of 11%, indicating the relevance of the content and the targeting of the right consumers.

The campaign contributed to an increase in visitation of 24% in Winter 2017, exceeding the average growth of Victorian ski resorts. The branding efforts received industry acclaim, with Mount Hotham receiving the following acknowledgements:

  • Gold, Destination Marketing, RACV Victorian Tourism Awards,
  • winner, Breakthrough Destination of the Year, Mumbrella Travel Marketing Awards, and
  • Best Government Agency, Australasian Leisure Management Marketing and Communication Awards.

Perhaps even more impressive in a ski resort, the chairlift conversations with locals were all remarkably positive, with the overwhelming feedback being it was great to see Mount Hotham embracing its uniqueness and standing strong in what it could offer.

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