In true Contiki fashion, the tour operator dedicated to 18- to 35-year-old travellers hosted a party for past travellers and industry partners in Toronto last night to showcase the launch of its recently initiated #contikilegends campaign, plus new trip styles in Europe.
It's been a big year for the evolution of the brand, as Contiki continues to leverage social media connections, especially via YouTube, and share the bigger picture of its product experience.
According to President Brad Ford, the inspiration for change continues to come from past travellers, now referred to as "legends."
The #contikilegends campaign, which began in September, invites travellers to share a memorable moment from their Contiki experience, which have been curated at www.contiki.com/contikilegends. Ford described it as "a whole collection of stories that warm the heart - love, self-discovery, seeing things for the first time."
"That's one thing that people truly might not understand about Contiki," he told PAX. "There's something visceral about our product. There's something that is really connected spiritually when you're on a trip because it's so personal - it is your legend."
These "legends" are also the motivation behind a shift in the way the brand is positioning its product across all regions, and as such, instead of defining things by accommodation, the focus is now on trip style classified in eight categories: High Energy, Easy Pace, Discovery Plus, In-Depth Explorer, Sailing & Cruise, Festivals & Short Stays, Winter & Ski and Freestyle Camping.
"At the end of the day, we started adventure for young people...It's just bringing people back to our roots," Ford said. "It's about self discovery, it's about adventure and it's about really having the time of your life."
He explained that not only does the new trip-style approach make it easier for travel agents to match a client to the proper itinerary, it also helps define the brand beyond the party perception it has among many in the trade.
"We've simplified the offering so travel agents have an easier time understanding the full range available with Contiki," he said. "No one will throw a party like Contiki in Europe, I tell you...but we do other things - we're so much more."
These deeper experiences he's referring to are exactly the stories shared through the #contikilegends initiative, Ford said, noting that there's no need for the company to use any corporate messaging as brand promotion is always "based off of real life adventures in destination."
This ties in with the use of major YouTubers such as Nadine Sykora (@heynadine) and Andrew Gunadie (@gunnarolla), who tweet and video blog their way through Contiki trips, showcasing the organic experiences to be had.
In what Ford calls a "natural extension" to this communication tactic, Contiki recently brought on MTV stars The Buried Life, a foursome who made a name for themselves by creating a bucket list of '100 Things to Do Before You Die,' and actively checking items off one-by-one.
With that came the launch of ‘The Most #epicbucketlist Contest (Ever)’ (www.epicbucketlist2014.com), which invites millennials to select their top five “epic” list items from a list of adventures curated by the TBL boys, then share their personal lists through their social channels, complete challenges to gain points and ultimately enter to win a trip for the history books. The grand prize winner and a friend may possibly join Buried Life members Duncan Penn, Dave Lingwood, Ben Nemtin and Jonnie Penn on an adventure.
"We have an affinity with other young people who love to travel and love to change lives; it's pretty simple," Ford said about TBL partnership. "They caught our eye because they're Canadian, and because they have the kind of energy, spark and appreciation for social gravitas. They're fun and very high energy, but when you talk with them, there is so much more and I think they represent Contiki very well. We're like that on the surface too - fun and welcoming and crazy energy, and then there's something deeper."
So, what's next for the tour operator that seems to continue to outdo itself in the world of consumer engagement and marketing?
Ford would only admit that big things are coming in 2015, but remained mum on the details.