Where did “Bahamavention” Go Wrong?

June 3, 2010 |  by admin  |  Advertising, Destination Branding  |  ,

You're probably familiar with the "Bahamavention" campaign, launched by Bahamas Tourism in late 2006.  Each of the quirky ads featured a stressed-out character ambushed by concerned friends staging a "Bahamavention" to encourage their tight-wound friend to take a much-needed vacation — a take-off on the "intervention" reality shows popular at the time.  If you need a refresher, you can see the ads here.

The ads became popular on YouTube.  The campaign won a Kelly Award from the Magazine Publishers of America, a Jay Chiat award for strategic planning, and as recently as this past July won an Atlas award for best branding of an international destination.  "Bahamavention" became part of popular culture and entered the vocabulary as a buzzword for being badly in need of a vacation.  Google "Bahamavention" and you'll get more than 800 results for this made-up word.

This week, Bahamas Tourism switched advertising agencies without even asking the incumbent, Fallon, to participate.

wha' happened?

The answer is probably both simple and complex.

The simple answer is that the ads didn't work.  Visitation to the Bahamas is down 9.1% in the first six months of 2007 at a time when destinations in Mexico are up over 30% and islands such as Anguilla, Bonaire and Curacao are enjoying double-digit growth.

While the campaign was memorable, entertaining and original, it didn't differentiate the Bahamas as a tourism destination or a travel experience.  "Bahamavention" might stick in the consumer's mind, but its effect was simply to remind the consumer of the generic category benefit of a vacation: you'll feel more relaxed.  And there are a lot of places (and a lot of them in direct competition with the Bahamas) where you can go to relax.

The ads failed to provide a single compelling reason why a "Bahamavention" should result in a trip to the Bahamas, or to make an argument for why the Bahamas were a better prescription for a "Bahamavention" than anywhere else.  Tropical destinations as a whole may have benefited from the campaign, but growing the category probably wasn't Bahamas Tourism's goal.

It's a common mistake in marketing: a concept looks so good and has the potential for the much-sought-after "buzz factor" (something Fallon is famous for), that tourism marketing organizations get caught up in the buzz themselves and forget to probe the tough questions about whether the campaign will actually drive consumers to take the desired action.

The other factor that may have influenced the Bahamas to decide to ditch the agency and the campaign is a bit more complex.

For a few years now, beginning around the time the Bahamas launched their new logo:

the tourism authority has been committed to the idea that "The Bahamas represents a series of independent, individual and highly differentiated destinations.  The Ministry is establishing individual identities
for each island and seeks to eliminate the current perception in the
minds of many consumers and members of the trade that once you have
seen one island in The Bahamas, you have seen all of The Bahamas."

The "Bahamavention" campaign did nothing to further this strategy.  In fact, the ads reinforced the idea that a "Bahamavention" was a one-dimensional experience of surf and sand, available in equal and generic abundance across the chain of islands.

Facing declines in visitation and no doubt a lot of pressure from the local industry over the campaign and the lack of strategic consistency, Bahamas Tourism decided to cut and run.  And they're probably right.

Note: We’ve re-published article as part of a series of the most popular pieces from our former blog (BrandCanadaBlog). We can’t promise all the links will work, and some of the references may be a bit dated, but we think the examples and insights are still valid.


1 Comment

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