Hayden Quinn & Dan Churchill’s Foodie Road Trip

To reframe California’s culinary experiences with a millennial audience, Gate 7 partnered with Qantas to send two Australian celebrity chefs and social media influencers, Dan Churchill and Hayden Quinn, to three northern California destinations.

Integrating unique and visually stunning culinary experiences into a “foodie adventure” road trip, the campaign produced six social videos distributed across Visit California and Qantas’ channels (social, website, and email). The campaign, with the help of a tactical fare from Qantas and a targeted social media ad buy, generated more than 1.6 million impressions and increased searches for flights on two new Qantas routes to San Francisco by 25%.

Background & Challenge
California is well-known as a home of abundant and unique dining experiences through its incredible cultural melting pot of cuisines. Visit California highlights the state’s culinary prowess in its global marketing campaigns, however, the state’s foodie scene hadn’t resonated with millennial consumers in the Australian/New Zealand markets. Aiming to turn this around, the state’s DMO tasked Gate 7 with creating a shareable solution that elevated culinary experiences within the overall road trip-themed messaging of the destination to drive sales and push boundaries in the way that only Gate 7 can.

Strategy & Solution
While Australian millennial travellers regularly ranked culinary experiences as a key trip motivator, they had not been receptive to California’s messaging as a culinary destination, pointing to a sizeable opportunity for California to simply reposition its messaging for these markets. Young Australians, as some of the most technologically savvy travellers, love to share unique, eye-popping content across their social media channels and engage heavily with snackable (pun-intended) videos. It became clear that repositioning should be through this lens; presenting the state’s bold, colourful, mouth-watering dishes in easily shareable video bites.

Gate 7 quickly identified Qantas as the perfect airline partner for distribution and campaign integration noting their newly debuted Melbourne to San Francisco route and then-recently announced Brisbane to San Francisco route. These new gateway connections into northern California provided a significant opportunity as Qantas was keen to promote the region to Australian travellers.

Qantas serendipitously also maintains a stable of social media influencers and content creators labelled the ‘Q-Collective’. Leveraging this collective was an obvious avenue to create the desired social campaign featuring celebrity chefs, Hayden Quinn and Dan Churchill, with distribution through both Visit California and Qantas’ distribution channels.

The outcome was a series of 60-second road trip videos infused with Quinn and Churchill’s infectious cheeriness—an easy reflection of the Golden State itself. Clips highlighted San Francisco’s famous culinary neighbourhoods, Santa Cruz’s historic surf culture, adventures in the state’s Redwood forests, and the unique culinary experiences found in Sacramento.

Gate 7’s “create once, publish often” mantra ensured that all content produced could be easily repurposed for other projects to maximise cost-effectiveness. These videos were published on both Visit California and Qantas’ social media channels, with paid ad spend targeting millennial travellers. The videos were also integrated into eDM deployments, blog posts and landing pages hosted by Visit California and Qantas, the former providing more contextual information and maps from the destination, while the latter offered a tactical fare to fully integrate the airline as a trade partner to this content campaign.

Learnings & Results
The campaign generated significant social engagement with Qantas, recording over 1.6 million impressions with nearly half a million of those views reaching a 75% completion rate. Visit California saw over 70,000 organic views and a total reach of over 118,000 for the video series.

Search traffic for Qantas’ routes to San Francisco airport increased a massive 25%, a huge boon for the new 787-flying MEL-SFO route. Similarly, during and immediately following the campaign period, Visit California noted an 8% increase in website traffic to pages related to culinary experiences, while San Francisco-related page traffic more than doubled.

Social sentiment also shifted following the campaign, with culinary-themed posts performing better, and receiving more positive comments. This reflected both a change in the markets’ perception of the destination through a simple change in the style and format of content produced, localised, and shared by Gate 7.