Liam Neal

To connect Intrepid’s brand with a younger generation of travelers, the company launched a fresh and humanistic campaign to connect with the company’s ethos. The campaign, called Be Intrepid, focuses on responsible travel, rich experiences, and incorporates a youthful sensibility. Producer Liam Neal spoke with the Travel Video Awards to explain how the campaign came to be, and the response Intrepid has seen from its global audience.

What is the approach and goal of the “Be Intrepid” video? How does it interact with the larger Intrepid brand as a whole?

Liam Neal: The marketing brief outlined that we had become a vanilla brand in the adventure travel space. We needed to bring people in on our core reason for being: there’s a better way to see the word, to treat the world, and engage with the world. We also recognized a lack of connection and engagement with younger travelers aged between 25 and 35. We weren’t introducing enough new young travelers into the brand—many don’t know who we are, and, if they do, they don’t know what we stand for.

Our response to this brief—Be Intrepid—is essentially a creative articulation of Intrepid’s 30-year history, reflecting the ethos of the brand’s DNA and legacy. Intrepid is a company built on responsible tourism values. Leveraging the word ‘Intrepid’ let us shift our stories from what destinations are like, to what people are like, and how travel shapes and changes them for the better. It allowed us the chance to really own the meaning of our brand name and stop using the word Intrepid as a noun, and start using it as an adjective to leverage the power of the word Intrepid itself.

Who is the target audience for your digital content?

LN: Working with the concept of what it means to Be Intrepid, we established that our community of staff and travelers shared similar beliefs and values, particularly when it comes to sustainability, animal welfare, and humanist issues including gender equality, same-sex marriage, and refugees. We coined the term Intrepid People to define our community.

This is a counter-point from the people in the world right now who are submitting to views led by fear in an era defined by Trump and Brexit—[people] who want to build walls and stop boats—to save it all for themselves.

Intrepid People are the opposite of this: they are the people who are open and fearless, the ones who go out into the world and connect with communities and cultures, to learn from others. They are the ones who understand that our differences are what make us an incredible and diverse human race.

With this understanding, we developed our creative proposition on the basis that right now is a good time to grow because the world needs more Intrepid people.

What trends do you see in how and where people travel?

LN: Destinations like Vietnam, Morocco, India, Nepal, and Australia continue to be popular for Intrepid customers.

We are also seeing strong interest from travelers who are wanting to experience unique adventures away in destinations including Ethiopia, Georgia, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Central Asia, and Turkey. People are increasingly curious about the world and want to experience these destinations for themselves.

Our travelers are looking for true off the beaten track experience, and in response to this trend, as part of the Be Intrepid campaign, we created the Uncharted Expedition—a mystery trip designed to give travelers a similar adventure to the ones they would have experienced if they traveled with us in the early days. This was advertised using classified ads in print publications, with the call-out: ‘INTREPID PEOPLE WANTED 

The trip sold out immediately, so we had to create a second departure and are now running an Uncharted Expedition annually.

What is your selection process like when choosing partners to work with? Are you involved in the development of the video itself?

LN: We operate as a small internal production team (there are four of us!) sitting within a global brand team, and, as creatives, we rarely think of ourselves as sitting on the client-side of the fence!

We are very hands-on in the creation of our content, but over the past few years, we’ve developed very strong and collaborative relationships with several talented and equally passionate production crews and individuals who help us produce our hero video content.

Developing close relationships and having shared values are extremely important to us when choosing who we work with, to the point that we probably value that more than the paper credentials or client-list of a production crew, because if we all believe in what we are creating, and share that vision, the work will ultimately be better.

If you are involved in the development, how do you find and decide on the stories you tell in your content?

LN: We are very fortunate that Intrepid is an innovative company where everyone’s ideas are embraced and considered as valid, no matter what your standing in the corporate structure.

Intrepid is striving to be a true change-maker in the responsible travel space and has just become the world’s largest travel B-Corp. We have a very active Purpose Team and our non-profit, The Intrepid Foundation, gives back to the places and communities we visit.

Intrepid advocates for causes including child protection, environmental conservation, gender equality, and animal welfare, and have been industry leaders in speaking about the travel industry’s responsibility around issues like orphanage tourism and over-tourism.

Our trips are ever growing and evolving, and at the forefront of innovation. Last year alone we launched new trips including Solo-Parent Family trips, Vegan Food trips, and Women’s Expeditions in the Middle East.

Intrepid is a very active business with exceptional talent across the departments. There are lots of stories to tell, so, fortunately for us as a creative team, we are in a situation where we find it much harder to narrow down the amount of stories to focus on rather than we do having to search for them.

How do you measure and track the success of a video?

LN: We are finding that the metrics and viewer behavior around videos are forever changing. With social media audiences suffering from shortening attention spans, a lot of our video content is being assessed within seconds of being viewed.

We know that short-form video is successfully driving a lot of engagement and traffic via our digital advertising, but the success of our longer form story-telling videos are somewhat subjective and measured more by gauging audience responses.

For us, the long-form style of video content marketing is most successful when we are able to witness the impact it has on an audience.

Shortly after launch, the Be Intrepid video was presented by our Head of Creative, Lucy Piper, at a Flight Centre conference in India. Following the screening, four travel agents believed in the values so much that they got “Be Intrepid” tattoos. We were pretty blown away and knew at that moment that we had created something special!

What were the KPIs and results of this campaign?

LN: Our broad KPIs were around brand uplift, which we will be measuring 12-18 months on from the completion of the roll-out, but, anecdotally, the campaign has been received really well and I think it would be fair to say that the sentiment of Be Intrepid has resonated with our core audience.

Some direct quotes include: ‘I ADORE this video, it actually brings a tear to my eye!’ ; ‘This video is really amazing.’ ; ‘Amazing advertising’ ; ‘Goosebumps! This is an amazing video and we couldn’t agree more with the message!’ ; ‘I’ve done 2 Intrepid tours in the past 4 years… Brilliant tour company, great destinations, informative & fun guides, well-paced with plenty of free time to do your own exploring. And I’m 55 – so not just for the young!!!’ ; ‘Thank you for showing me the most inspiring thing I’ve seen all day! My wanderlust desires will never rest and I think you’ve just ignited them again!!’

Another big goal for the campaign was engaging our staff internally and providing them with a strong brand viewpoint to be proud of that they could apply in their role. Much of the insights that Be Intrepid was built around came from our staff, so it’s been great to see the campaign widely embraced internally as well.

How are consumers interacting with your brand?

LN: Given we sell travel experiences and not tangible products, there is a real difference for us in the way people interact with our brand’s products versus buying consumer goods. That difference really is our locally-employed leaders whose expertise, personality, and local knowledge form a face to our brand and play an essential role in customers’ experience of our products. They are the key interaction point that our customers have with our brand and do such an incredible job of applying our brand values on the ground and letting our customer’s gain local insights and experiences in a destination.

We are becoming well known for our responsible travel policies and receive a lot of PR that many consumers are relating to, and that is also helping to build engagement and loyalty. We see our role in tourism as raising awareness about responsible tourism practices and actively applying those practices.

In a marketing sense, we really love to get feedback and engagement from our audiences. Obviously, social channels are one of the best ways to do this, so we openly encourage our customers to share their travel stories, feedback, and photos. We also ask for formal feedback from customers after they have traveled and experienced one of our products, which is an invaluable resource for us to improve and understand our audience more. It’s often also where we get some of our most valuable insights and, in fact, where we sometimes find our talent.

Authenticity is important to us, so it’s incredibly valuable to listen to our customers and understand their viewpoints. We don’t feature paid actors in our marketing and we didn’t in the ‘Be Intrepid’ video. ‘Be Intrepid’ features real people telling their own stories as our talent, including Mark Wilson, who is the bassist from Jet, and writer Lauren Taylor Steel who is the voice and hero talent in the ‘Be Intrepid’ video. Often our talent are our customers who have come to our attention via feedback they have given, or a story they have shared about their experience on one of our trips.

What role does video content play in your overall marketing and brand strategy?

LN: Like many brands, video is increasingly playing a stronger part in engaging audiences through our marketing. It is also becoming a more diverse medium. Whereas in the past video was considered to serve one purpose, nowadays we are finding it is being used in far more ways to drive engagement through digital advertising, providing information onsite, and inspiring audiences through social media and brand storytelling pieces.

Our internal production team sits within a broader global brand team to ensure we are aligned strategically and creating video content that is directly informed by the overall brand narrative. We also work closely with our marketing and PR teams around the world on briefs to ensure deliverables are going to meet their distribution needs.