The answer to the above heading is “probably not.”
But it may have caught your attention. And that’s the point.
Celebrities — celebrity news, celebrity endorsements, celebrity appearances — can help drive traffic to businesses, including travel businesses.
And while Miley Cyrus and her “twerking” routine — which Yahoo reported was one of the top-searched items of 2013 — may not be a baby boomer obsession, other, shall we say more mature, celebrities can be very helpful indeed.
In the theme cruise column I write for Porthole Cruise Magazine, some of the most successful cruises I’ve featured use appearances by old-time baseball stars, soap opera stars, Broadway music stars — even political pundits who often show up on TV — to attract passengers. The passengers get to mix and mingle with the celebrities, the cruise lines get to fill cabins, and the organizers and sponsors usually make a nice profit.
On most of these cruises, the passengers are typically of baby boomer age, in their 50s and 60s. They remember the ballplayers of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, they watch the political talk shows, they attend Broadway musicals and they may have caught a TV soap opera from time to time.
In a recent post, I wrote about the Discover Los Angeles tourism website, which had been named one of the best-designed destination travel sites in the U.S. One of its best-read sections, featured on its home page, is a descriptive list of what various celebrities like most about L.A. — activities, restaurants, sights to see in the area, and the like.
Among the celebrities featured are two baby boomers, basketball legend Magic Johnson and actor Rob Lowe. Both Johnson and Lowe named Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles as one of their favorite L.A. restaurants. I’ve eaten there and they do have good chicken and waffles, but I can only imagine how much business they’re doing these days because of these two website celebrity endorsements.
Of course, Los Angeles is built around celebrities and stars, but that doesn’t mean other destinations can’t use celebrity endorsements to drive visitors to their area.
Most places have some kind of celebrity, living or dead, that they can capitalize on. I grew up in a small town in Indiana called Greencastle, where the comedian Bob Hope was said to have gotten his start (or so I read in a Hope biography) and the notorious bank robber John Dillinger once knocked off the bank on the Courthouse Square, netting the most cash ($75,000) of any of his stick-ups. Former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle went to college at DePauw University there, as did some other notables such as the writers Barbara Kingsolver and John Jakes, pharmaceuticals magnate Eli Lilly (who once owned a drug store in Greencastle) , civil rights activist Vernon Jordan, and Angie Hicks of Angie’s List.
If I were trying to lure tourists to Greencastle, as local lodgings and restaurants would no doubt love to do, I’d find some way to play up the Dillinger and Bob Hope angles. I would definitely try to recruit Angie Hicks to do a “list of top ten things to do in Greencastle.” A local restaurant could even serve a “potatoe” casserole in honor of Dan Quayle.
Baby boomers, especially, might respond to some sort of historic walking tour of sites involving these personalities and others.
A quick check of Greencastle tourism-related sites shows one brief reference to Dillinger on the Putnam County Convention & Visitors Bureau website, and no references to Bob Hope or to any notable graduates of DePauw University that I could find. (Greencastle is the Putnam County seat.)
Instead, websites promoting Greencastle tourism (there are just a couple) focus on the numerous covered bridges in the region, as well as the World War II buzz bomb on Greencastle’s Courthouse Square and some of the historic buildings on the DePauw campus.
That’s all fine — the covered bridges and campus are well worth seeing and the buzz bomb is an interesting oddity — but a little celebrity power could put some real juice into the mix.
If you’re a marketer aiming your sites on attracting baby boomers, I suggest thinking about how you can mine the celebrities in your area for endorsements or even just mentions to attract attention. Set up a theme and work something around it. “Dillinger Country!” comes to mind for Greencastle.
In a later post I’ll talk about the power of movie settings in attracting baby boomers and other travelers.
Meanwhile, be sure to download my free report, “How to Ride the Coming Wave of Boomers,” available here. It’s all about the best ways to market travel to baby boomers — the biggest-spending group of travelers the world has ever seen. It’s also the easiest way to subscribe to my blog, so you won’t miss a posting. Thanks!
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