Photobomb Marketing

For those living under a rock, a photobomb is when photograph is ruined by someone unexpectedly appearing in the background, distracting from what was originally intended for the image’s framing. Typically, photobombs occur in crowded areas frequented by oblivious or harried passersby, or interlopers commonly spoil pictures as a practical joke.

Definitions aside, photobombs seem like something for drunken college students. What do they have to do with hotels?

Photobomb marketing is a very niche tactic housed under the greater banner of experiential marketing, and it harks back to the relationship between the onsite experience and social media usage. The primary goal of this enterprise is to generate positive electronic word of mouth (word of mouse) in order to obtain strong third-party approval for your hotel with heightened brand awareness and new customers as outcomes.

With smartphones inseparable from their users nowadays, it’s easy to presume that while guests are at your hotel, the odd pose and camera flash is bound to occur with a summary posting to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or any other preferred digital avenue. This is a form of people ‘experiencing’ your hotel after all.

However, unless a user specifically earmarks your property via a caption or hashtag, it may a tad hard for outsiders to identify where your guests were when they were having all this fun. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to ensure that these candid shots are taken in such a way so that the photos are irrefutably set at your hotel and not any other.

A casual browser on social media should scroll through a friend’s most recent pictures and, boom, they immediately know that they were staying at your abode. While photobomb marketing may appear to be exclusive to leisure travelers, don’t dismiss business guests so quickly; people snap pics wherever they go, especially when there is something worth photographing. Five key tactics come to mind to accomplish this.

  1. Background Logos. Getting your hotel’s logo in the background is almost the same as laminating an image with a watermark. In essence, you want to strategically place your logo at certain key points around the property where photos are already a common occurrence. That way, when pics are snapped in the future, your logo subtly appears in the background. This can be tacky when done to the extreme, so proceed gingerly. As well, ask yourself whether your logo is picture-worthy? That is, is it elegantly simple so that it photographs well, even when off center and taken through a granular smartphone camera.
  1. Objects of Curiosity. People want images of themselves as well as any objects that they feel are worth remembering. Think moving pieces of art, sculptures or even decoratively presented food – physical things that guests will want to capture. Once you’ve identified these, subtly (or not so subtly) put your logo nearby so that it’s apparent as to the property in question. For art, put your logo on the adjacent description label. And for food, while printing your logo on plates and glassware is a tad expensive at this point, another option is to present it in edible form, that way your logo becomes the actual object of curiosity. Not that it isn’t already, but food photography will become all the more prevalent once cinemagraphs catch on.
  1. Sense of Place. More like surroundings of curiosity, a striking sense of place awes a guest and all but demands that they capture the moment in a still image. Beautiful floor arrangements by the front desk. Opulent chandeliers illuminating a grand ballroom with stone columns and wall frescos. Fountains and an air of tranquility as you walk towards the elevator bank. These are the settings that inspire; these are the settings worth photographing. While a million-dollar makeover is probably out of the question, a smaller budget just means you have to get more creative with your solution.
  1. Environment. Looping back to what was discussed with background logos, think hard about where on your property guests are most likely to take photographs. What are their motivations for engaging these places over others? Are there any creative ways that you can insert your logo into the background? Off the top of my head, could you mold your image into the scenery via a sculpture or artistic landscaping? Or, perhaps you could prompt guests to include a hashtag with some well-placed signage.
  1. Promotions. Running a photo-sharing promotion can be a great way to generate a social following in a fun and interactive way. For these sorts of contests, you must give people adequate incentive. That is, a prize that people actually want is a basic requirement while you must also focus on conveying your property’s unique experience and telling a story through photography in order to deliver ‘moving’ images. A quick Google search will yield dozens of examples of this working on both a large-scale, chain-wide as well as a single, independent property level.

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in HOTELS Magazine on October 13, 2015)