Over the years, I have advised several businesses on their digital marketing strategies. Reputation management continues to be the focus because of the importance of online reviews and the role they play in the consumer journey. In addition, Google uses reviews and star ratings for “signals” as part of their algorithms to determine which local businesses show at the top of search engine results pages. With the increased importance of reviews, businesses tend to “freak out” when they get the dreaded 1-star review. Not Snowbird Ski Resort –they took those 1-star reviews and turned them into a 5-star marketing campaign.

Snowbird ran ads that contrast the gorgeous, sweeping views that you see from the typical ski resort, with one-star reviews complaining about aspects of the resort that others might find appealing. Snowbird built an entire print and digital marketing campaign around frustrated customers so they could appeal to the audience that they are truly trying to target – the 20-year-old males from California that are hardcore skiers and snowboarders – to ski the better slopes in Utah. They also took a little dig at the California “snowflakes” by featuring an ad with a 1-star review from a guy named “Greg” in Los Angeles, California.

Too Advanced. I’ve heard Snowbird is a tough mountain, but this is ridiculous. It felt like every trail was a steep chute or littered with tree wells. How is anyone supposed to ride in that? Not fun!

Greg, Los Angeles, CA

Disappointed. Are the people who operate the grooming equipment on strike or something? Was hoping for a little more corduroy to dig my skis into.

Elizabeth, Dallas, TX

There are NO Easy Runs. We felt like our lives were in our own hands. Make a wrong turn and you’re stuck on a double black diamond. It took us 90 minutes to shimmy down the Peruvian Gulch before we could even find a blue square safe enough to ride.

Jeremiah, Manchester, NH

Snowbird wanted to embrace the unique aspects of what makes Snowbird special and be true to the product they sell.  Snowbird is known for their steep terrain, long runs, and deep snow. Beginner skiers and snowboarders often find this to be a challenge. However, these unique aspects are what makes their core guest come back year after year. The creative team dove through years of reviews for Snowbird on all their social platforms and hand-selected the ones that would best work with images juxtaposing them. The print ads appeared in all the usual ski magazines that included Freeskier, Powder, Ski, Transworld Snowboarding and Ski Utah magazines. The digital ads were promoted through the Google Display Network and the resort’s social media channels that included Facebook and Instagram.

CHALLENGE

Snowbird is a mountain that knows its audience. While resorts all across the west get gobbled up and watered down by VC firms and international mega-resorts, Snowbird has remained true to their core skiers and riders by offering challenging terrain with waist-deep powder around every turn. That said, a weekend at Snowbird isn’t for everyone. And nowadays, you don’t have to look far to find someone not buying what you’re selling (who also has no problem loudly saying so).

APPROACH

Taking quotes from one-star reviews of the resort and using their own words against them, Snowbird positioned itself as one of the most unforgiving and rewarding mountains in Utah. They sifted through hundreds of reviews to find the most compelling and dismaying one-star reviews. They juxtaposed the one-star review with outstanding shots of vertiginous vistas and knee-deep-in-powder skiers. They let the viewers do the rest. And they loved it.

With limited media and production budget, the humble print and digital ads turned into a viral, share-worthy piece of content overnight and well ahead of the ski season. Released in all the usual ski magazines, the ad was picked up on Reddit and was a top thread for weeks.

Thomas Peroutka

Author Thomas Peroutka

Thomas Peroutka is a digital strategist with more than 15 years of experience in digital marketing strategy at the local, regional, and national levels for both start-up and established companies by focusing on core business objectives, creating high-impact marketing strategies, and delivering conversion-based results.

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