NYC & Company's CMO talks data, influencers and why the city doesn't market itself
Nancy Mammana also chatted to Marketing Dive about digital initiatives, Hudson Yards and how the city's official tourism body is winning over emerging markets like China.
There are few U.S. cities with as many outsized landmarks as New York, from the Statue of Liberty and Times Square to the Empire State Building and Central Park. But just because the city teems with popular destinations doesn't mean that marketing it to consumers is easy, according to Nancy Mammana, who was recently appointed chief marketer at NYC & Company, the official tourism body of the five boroughs.
"People think you don't necessarily promote New York City — some people would say it sells itself,” Mammana told Marketing Dive in a phone interview. "In reality, there are a lot of competitors out there and a lot of options for travel."
But Mammana, with a career that includes roughly a decade on the agency side of the business, feels well-attuned to what consumers want today and how marketers can reach them. She's quickly climbed through the ranks after joining NYC & Company as SVP of marketing last year and, in the midst of Women's History Month, has found its leadership a nice change of pace from some of her prior areas of work.
"We have now a female general counsel, female senior leadership on our membership side and our government affairs department," Mammana said. "We're pretty strong here on the female side of things, which is really refreshing."
Below, she further dished to Marketing Dive on tapping into an increasingly global consumer base and what she's most excited about in 2019, including the debut of Hudson Yards and a historic World Pride event arriving this summer.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
MARKETING DIVE: How has digital disruption affected your organization, especially due to the amount of travel and tourism that's now done via mobile and digital platforms? That's especially true of segments that claim they love to travel, like millennials.
NANCY MAMMANA: We're focusing very heavily on digital. Like any other brand, we're trying to understand the path to purchase. We don't control the actual travel transaction the majority of the time, as most CMOs do. We're trying to get people to explore the neighborhoods and the boroughs and travel like a local, which we see across the country as a travel trend. That's been a priority of ours conceptually, and digital is a huge part of that. We are doing a lot more in the name of web personalization and the web experience.
We also have an in-house analytics team, which is truly a gift. We have 17 global offices, so coupled with what they're doing on the ground and the data we can pull ourselves, we're making sure our media and our content is relevant. Digital is the way we make sure we can do that.
The analytics team is all in-house?
MAMMANA: Yeah, we do most things in-house. We have in-house creative, video production, research and analytics. We use agencies sparingly. We do have a media agency that helps us with all of our paid efforts. But for the most part, everything else in-house, which has been terrific. It allows us to be a lot more efficient.
You also mentioned 17 global offices. Could you expand on how you're marketing to emerging audiences for travel and tourism, like in China.
MAMMANA: We've developed our own channels in Weibo and WeChat, and largely it's been awareness building to date. We're the No. 1 channel in the destination category on Weibo. We do work with an agency in China called Mailman Group, and they've been really helpful for us in terms of understanding the market with a really targeted approach.
You do need help on the ground in China. We work in partnership with them in terms of coupling our understanding of the marketplace with what we can do from a promotional and content perspective here. We have a tourism development department here that is divided into established versus emerging markets. Those teams work in tandem with mine and the agencies we have on the ground to determine what makes sense.
We've spent the last year or two developing the framework and building the foundation in China, and now we're in a phase two approach in working to develop more content, more offerings and potential transactions in the app and in the channel that are really relevant.
Can you talk about some of the new stuff that New York offers, particularly Hudson Yards. How are you planning for these marquee locations and events?
MAMMANA: Hudson Yards is a member [of our organization]. We have to make sure from a comms perspective that our press team is focused and spreading the word. For us it's a combined effort — we are a membership organization. We want to make sure that our folks on the ground in the marketplace and at our offices are fully aware of the product updates and what's happening.
We also have a roster of social media influencers and we'll bring them in as well to make sure they're seeing what's new, what's big, what's different, including Hudson Yards.
It seems like influencers could be a really powerful tool for an organization like yours. Could you dish a little more on how you've leveraged them in the past and for these types of initiatives?
MAMMANA: We work with influencers on a regular basis for almost all of our programs. We use them for what we call our Vibrancy Programs — Restaurant Week, Broadway Week, Must-see Week — which are designed to drive vibrancy during economic need periods, so January-February, July-August.
We will, for example, use culinary influencers during Restaurant Week to spread the word more organically and on their channels. Influencers are built and born for these types of things. We had a program called Winter Outing in January, which was the first time that these programs overlapped, Must-see Week, Restaurant Week and Broadway Week. We promoted it together and brought in influencers to experience all three events under the umbrella.
We are made for influencers — we are nothing but experiences — it's a great tool for us. We work with Jeremy Jauncey of [the WWF] and Beautiful Destinations. We have a long-standing partnership with him. We will feature his content on our site and he has been terrific with us.
Moving from influencers to platforms, could you talk about some of the work you're doing there, especially in regards to Facebook?
MAMMANA: We've been a long-time partner with Facebook. We've had a great relationship there, we did a brand study with them and were very happy with those results. We also partnered with their content team for a global tourism campaign we do every year. We launch it in the fall and it runs through the summer on a rolling basis in 10 markets around the world. We launched it in the U.K. in September of last year and it will continue through July of this year. The tagline is "New York City Welcomes You, Always" — we were making sure we have a message of welcome no matter where you're from.
Through that, we had a paid social video campaign where we were awarded the opportunity to have Facebook produce some content for us and run it alongside our ad campaigns. It was great to get some key learnings in the space and observe how they approach video.
Any other things you're excited about for the year ahead and as you continue to settle into the CMO role?
MAMMANA: World Pride is a big initiative for us. The event is run by Heritage of Pride, but New York is the first U.S. host city [for the event]. Last time, it was hosted in Madrid. It's a history and a precedent that the host city rolls out a welcome for the throngs of folks that will be visiting to celebrate in June. Typically you'd see two million people coming in to celebrate World Pride but because it's New York City, it's likely to be closer to four million. It's a lot of day trippers.
We're helping Heritage of Pride support and promote the event. We're using our channels and bringing in influencers. We're working with Virgin Atlantic on their first-ever Pride flight, and they're flying in 50 media and influencers on a flight that's going to be full of entertainment — glitter bombs, flight attendants in drag, music performances.
We will be hosting all of those folks in New York for the weekend. It's another way of supporting Pride and shining a light on how welcoming and inclusive the city is.
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