Trapp Family Lodge
Turning storytelling into business growth
[From Marketing Profs]

When you have a well-known and fabled story attached to your business, it should be easy to go out and succeed in social media, right? For the Trapp Family Lodge resort in Stowe, Vermont, the challenge wasn't telling the old story; it was finding a way to connect the past with the present. Ultimately, the von Trapps turned to social media to tell stories of the next generation and, in turn, found they could use their stories to help grow their resort business.

When the youngest son of Maria in the Sound of Music, Johannes von Trapp, started transitioning the business over to his son Sam, they turned to my firm, Digalicious, to see how we could use online marketing. We noticed two things right away. The first was that Sam was starting to implement a lot of changes. The second was that he was always telling us stories about these changes every time we saw him.

We realized we had an opportunity in front of us and needed to put some structure around it:

  1. Granted there were a lot of changes and stories. But how could we develop a structure and format for capturing the stories from Sam, his sister Kristina, and others and then writing them in a very personalized way?
  2. Once we had the stories, what channels should we push them in?
  3. How would we monitor the responses the stories elicited?

The challenge for most companies isn't that they don't have any stories to tell. Every one of them has lots of stories. They just can't figure out a process for telling them.

For Trapp, we started by

We had one of Digalicious' copywriters write the first two stories, then the Trapp Family team took it over and followed the style. Remember, the style was a complete reflection of how Sam and his sister actually talked. We just translated.

In one of our initial stories Sam told how he was gathering sap up on the mountain to make maple syrup when two owls attacked him. The response to this story was overwhelming. People responded, in e-mail and on social media, as if he had told them the story personally. In another story, Sam's sister Kristina wrote how she and her kids nursed a highland cow back to health. Again, the response was strong and immediate.

That's when our monitoring started paying off. Or, should I say, when our listening started leading to insights. We found that

This listening got us thinking. What would entice Sound of Music fans to overcome their inertia and finally visit the resort?

Around that time, Sam von Trapp had started giving family history tours with his father and sister for resort guests. So we came up with the idea:

What would happen if we created a Meet the von Trapp package for new visitors? They would stay at the lodge for 2-3 days, and have the opportunity to take a virtual experience with the Sound of Music and turn into a personal connection.

In the deadest travel time of the year (what we call Stick Season in Vermont, between foliage season and Thanksgiving), we launched the package. We did that by:

At a time when many hotels close up for the month, the Meet the von Trapp started driving new business. It was business that dropped right to the bottom line. And it was business that turned into repeat business.

It all started with the stories and listening. It helped us figure out what people really wanted and needed and how we could deliver it. Because, at the end of the day, people don't want relationships with brands, they want relationships with other people, like with Sam, Kristina and Johannes von Trapp.

You can read more about this work on

Some of the best validation came from our monitoring after the package launched. People weren't only signing up, they were just happy to see our ads. When was the last time that happened to your business?