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Five things modern travel marketers can learn from vintage travel posters

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Despite the technological bubble we inhabit and the sheer number of marketing tools at our disposal, there are plenty of home truths we can learn from the professionals who were plying their trade before Photoshop, stock photography, Instagram, et al.

Didn’t you know? Vintage advertising is cool – so cool, in fact, that even modern advertisers are aping the look.

But there are other reasons to look back in time. Despite the technological bubble we inhabit and the sheer number of marketing tools at our disposal, there are plenty of home truths we can learn from the professionals who were plying their trade before Photoshop, stock photography, Instagram, et al.

With that in mind, let’s look at some timeless truisms applicable to marketers of any era. 

Go iconic
No matter what you’re selling, a key visual signpost should shine through.

Back before video was a thing, when a single image had to do all the legwork, advertisers were brilliant at identifying a piece of iconography and sticking with it. 

This maxim is neatly illustrated in this retro-inspired poster for Bioshock Infinite, which focuses on the game’s defining landmark: the imposing statue of Zachary Comstock, visible early in the story.

No matter what you’re advertising, tether your work very tightly to an image that’ll have the potential to become iconic.

Tell it simply
Visual clutter only takes away from your message. The most impactful marketing message gets straight to the point. A travel poster circa 1960 captures a single moment in time and wrings the absolute most out of its meaning. Though we now have access to technology that can layer on complexity, simplicity remains the most effective way of talking to someone.

Know your audience
Back in the days of hand-drawn art, posters were commissioned at careful times and placed in careful spots to maximise impact. Imagine walking through a London train station in biting winter and seeing a beautiful hand-drawn picture of the French Riviera in summer?

The same principle applies today: be selective about when you deploy a campaign to maximise impact. Pulling the trigger too early – or too late – can hurt the work. First impressions don’t last and need to be timed well.

Work within your means
We’ve got so many tools at our disposal that’s possible to execute several different campaigns at the same time. But sometimes less is more. It’s more prudent to concentrate on doing one thing really well, in one medium, just like the marketers of the past.

By reining in your ambition you’ll minimise wasted spend and also give yourself the chance to really find out what you want to be saying. Once you’ve got your proverbial ducks in a row, it’s possible to then expand the scope of your marketing efforts.

Don’t do stock
Advertising is a visual medium, and there’s a good chance you’ll be trying to tell a story through images at least part of the time.

Stay clear of Shutterstock and the like. While stock images have their place, they shouldn’t be the main component of your campaign.

Always hire photographers or commissions artists to illustrate images for your project.

After all, travel is exciting, personal and unique to every individual. There’s nothing unique about using an image that thousands or millions of other marketers can use as well!

These five techniques might seem simple, but they always have their place. While technology opens up exciting avenues to explore, never forget the basics. A story told beautifully and positioned to the right audience will always do well, irrespective of the era one finds themselves in.

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