BTMI: The Pothole on the Great American Road Trip
BTMI: The Pothole on the Great American Road Trip

Can brands ease the burden of too much information that stunts slow travel?

“How many miles to Birmingham?”

“Let... me... see,” Jamie taps the Apple Maps icon on her phone, “Says Exit 34, on the right in 13 mi--”

“IN THIRDEEN MILES, TAKEEXIT THIRDYFOUR TO-WARDS BIRMINGHAM”

“THANK YOU!” Jamie rushes to turn down the Bluetoothed shouting over the car’s speaker system.

“We really should turn that off and just try to follow the signs,” David remarks. Jamie registers the not-so-subtle dig at her map reading skills.

“I know. Especially because it freaks out half the time and thinks we’re in the GD forest.”

“PROCEED TO THE ROUTE”

Jamie and David both laugh at the timing. On the whole this trip has been pretty stress-free, save a few minor meltdowns getting out of Little Rock. They were taking a long weekend for David’s cousin’s wedding in Atlanta and decided to drive. While flying was surely quicker, this would give them more flexibility and control over their schedule. Definitely more cost effective too. And hey, neither of them had ever driven through the South before.

Jamie turns back to her phone and the task at hand: find the best music playlist about/originating from the South. She taps the Spotify icon and types her search:

[Spotify]

COUNTRY
… no, this isn’t country country …
SOUTHERN
… Eh …
SOUTHERN ROCK
… no ... all wrong … God, Kid Rock, no …
FOLK
SOUTHERN DRIVING
… who are these bands? Could be terrible … don’t want to ruin the mood …
SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY
DIXIE
… now I’m trying too hard …
COOL DIXIE

Overwhelmed and unsatisfied she changes course.

[Google search bar]

BEST PLAYLIST WHILE DRIVING THROUGH THE SOUTH THAT ISN’T CLICHÉ

As she’s scrolling the results, correlating bands from Google articles to Spotify lists, David interrupts, “Jamie, get your head out of your phone, look at these trees! You’re not paying attention.”

Yanked from her rabbit hole, Jamie sighs and plays Lynyrd Skynyrd.

“Just trying to orchestrate a moment here, David.”

They pass the next several minutes in thoughtful silence, listening to Jamie’s scene setting score. The trees really were so much taller here.

“We should find an audiobook about the Civil War!” Jamie’s really into audiobooks lately, having listened to a total of one so far.

[Audible]

CIVIL WAR
Ok it appears this topic has been written about a few times

To “aid” in her search, David suggests, “Find one that’s written in more of a narrative form and is interesting and not dry. And maybe something about Gettysburg. Or just a big battle. I don’t know. Just not boring.” Jamie is on it.

[Google]

BEST CIVIL WAR BOOKS THAT ARE WRITTEN IN NARRATIVE FORM ABOUT HISTORIC BATTLES NOT BORING
It’s a novel just to get through these descriptions … need quick result for dumb person

[YouTube search result]

“10 BEST CIVIL WAR BOOKS 2018, BY EZVID WIKI”
I can’t … handle … how bad … is that voice a British robot?

“Alright Jamie, we’re getting close. Where should we eat? Somewhere local, I’m sure there’s great food around here. Oh fried chicken! That sounds really good,” David suggested.

Jamie agreed, turned her head down and began her search. Her phone is starting to overheat.

[Google Maps]

FRIED CHICKEN
Ok confirmed, dots everywhere. Birmingham has fried chicken. This isn’t helping.

[Google search bar]

BEST FRIED CHICKEN IN BIRMINGHAM
Lists … lists … lists. Don’t have time for Reddit, and is Yellow Pages actually still a thing?

[Yelp]

TOP 10 BEST FRIED CHICKEN IN BIRMINGHAM, AL
I see the “most popular” … which one has the best vibe? Like just effortlessly local … and family owned … but good chicken … in a cool spot … EFF

[Instagram]

EUGENE’S HOT CHICKEN
Looking cool, annnnd they aren’t open yet. Great.

CHAMPY’S FAMOUS FRIED CHICKEN
No Instagram. So how am I supposed to know what the deal is here, it could be a dump. What to do … maybe I could find a Birmingham influencer---

“Jamie! You are missing everything! We just passed this … awesome … never mind. All good. So, did you find a chicken place?”

“NO, DAMMIT!!!!”

***

Uh oh! Jamie’s caught a really aggravated case of BTMI.

The Burden of Too Much Information is a sickness that plagues thousands of don’t-wanna-be-tourist travelers every year. And it’s at risk of spiraling into a worldwide epidemic if a travel brand doesn’t develop an antidote soon. BTMI can set in quickly and intensely, latching on to its victims after as little as one rabbit-hole Google search.

A little more on this unfortunate illness:

Causes of BTMI include: Listicles, stupid YouTube videos, star ratings, sponsored content, inability to access trusted human recommendations, unrealistic Instagram photos

Symptoms of BTMI include: Becoming obsessed with avoiding bad experiences, missing everything around you, forgetting the reason for travel in the first place, tripping, carpal tunnel, couples therapy

Treatment: Engage in some level of research and scene-setting before leaving your home. Do not operate motor vehicle without a sense of place and general knowledge of surroundings. Do not attempt to orchestrate perfect moments on the fly. Lower expectations. Tap into sense of humor. Put phone down. Hope a brand develops a cure.

Now look, it’s not Jamie’s fault. She was forced to navigate hundreds of data points, all supported to serve the masses and lacking any human overlay. With the proper support, she would’ve been able to slow down and enjoy the trip. A brand could have provided her with a collection of well-rounded content that didn’t even try to give her every possible option in the world, but instead guided her like an actual person would.

It might’ve gone something like this: Jamie and David are taking a road trip through the South. That’s what we know.

How can we help enhance the drive – with music, or audiobooks, or trivia, or talking points, or podcasts, or detours, or videos?

Do they care about the history of the area – can we help them feel like they are living in a different time?

Beyond a means to an end for food, what storied locations can we suggest? What experiences might they not find anywhere else? Are there any restaurant owners or local crowds that could introduce them to the culture of the place?

What events are happening right now in the area that they might stumble upon?

Which detours are worth it? Which hotels feel like home?

Would they be open to an ongoing text-message discussion to ask us questions? Or a quick phone call with a local before they arrive?

Has any brand thought to aggregate all of this information in one place? Can’t someone create a truly comprehensive resource, crafted totally by people? Perhaps this looks like mobilizing and better connecting the growing influencer network to the end user. Or maybe it’s more of a concierge network, a “local friend in every city”?

Travelers know that quaint, family-owned diners don’t just happen to you. It takes great skill to navigate the ocean of information to find that beaten path. With more travelers seeking stories, not star ratings, the opportunity for a brand to direct them through people could finally be the cure we need.

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