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What’s Next

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Blackberry ruled the mobile device world before Apple introduced a product that should never have gained traction…but did in a fairly sensational way.

I’m not sure there was any way that Blackberry could have responded, but management’s approach to the iPhone ensured they wouldn’t. They judged the iPhone as illogical, with an only 8-hour battery life and an older, slower network and a lousy keypad. For months, they did nothing, believing the initial iPhone to be an inferior product.

According to Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff, authors of the new book Losing the Signal, “Apple changed the competitive landscape by shifting the raison d’être of smartphones from something that was functional to something that was beautiful.”

Blackberry CEO Jim Balsillie said “we’re grappling with who we are because we can’t be who we used to be anymore.”

Is any of this sounding suspiciously familiar?

The first white paper on the future of Destination Marketing introduced a new word into the industry’s lexicon: “disintermediation.” It warned that DMOs were being disintermediated by third parties utilizing the internet in ways that DMOs had not yet considered. Today, we’d simply call that “disruption.”

As much fun as it was to say “disintermediation,” precious few heeded the warning of that first “Future Study.”

The next study, which came out in 2008, amplified upon the concerns voiced in its precursor and suggested that some serious re-imagining of the role and focus of DMOs was in order. That it was issued as a suggestion, however, meant that, again, very few DMO pros did more than acknowledge the concept in the waning days of the century’s first decade.

In the past three years, however, the best and brightest in DMOland have begun to reimagine the raison d’être of Destination Marketing and redesign their organizations to maximize new opportunities. While the seeds of their actions may have been planted by the 2008 Futures Study, I’m more of the mind that these revolutionaries simply looked at the past body of work of DMOs and thought, “that’s too limiting.”

And, each, independently and in their own way, decided they were going to move in a different direction. The results…nothing short of sensational.

They were right. The box we’ve occupied as DMO pros has been too limiting. Whether by momentum, convention or fear, most of us have not had the nerve to explore just how much larger our impact could have (should have) been. These pioneers, however, refused to be defined by job security (e.g., not rocking the boat). Instead, they chose to call the shot…and their destinations (and organizations) are better because they did.

My hope for next month’s release of the next DMAI Future Study (codename: Destination Next) is that it will serve as the training wheels for DMO pros that know that the status quo isn’t sustainable but don’t have the fearlessness to break from the “rules” of Destination Marketing. That it will be a shield to fight back against local partners and politicians who say, “that’s not how it’s done.” That it allows DMOs to ascend to their rightful place in the community development food chain.

It’s our time. Our communities and partners need us more than ever.

When we gather in Austin, let us pledge to break the all the rules that no longer exist.

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