After a week of fixing times then flipping them, I finally managed to catch up with them after they landed in New York, having just returned from a whirlwind tour of northern India where they were participating in the first ever #Indiainstameet. In some ways they’re like functioning 21st-century vagabonds, only with golden tans, flawless smiles and acute business acumen. “Global Nomadic Itinerants” is a moniker a colleague recently coined to describe a generation of young entrepreneurs for whom the strictures of a fixed bricks-and-mortar office is anathema. For Jeremy and Tom, the world has become their boardroom, only there’s no glass ceiling and everyone is invited. That’s the whole point.
Since 2012, the Jaunceys have been in the business of inspiration and travel is their modus operandi. Together they have built Beautiful Destinations into the largest travel and lifestyle community on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, with an audience of over 12 million people across 180 countries. Beautiful Destinations has transformed into an award-winning creative marketing agency, developing ‘social-first’ content for global travel and lifestyle brands as well as national tourism boards. But perhaps more importantly, they have changed the face of traditional travel marketing. Through exquisite photography and film-making, their images not only document the world’s most beautiful destinations but they also serve as a springboard of influence and inspiration, a jumping-in point for a generation that places more emphasis on peer reviews and digital community narratives than tired advertisements and editorial endorsements in old media.
It’s a common misconception that all entrepreneurs and startups begin with a crystal-clear vision, and the Jaunceys are testament to that. “In the early days, we were absolutely winging it!” says Jeremy. “We didn’t build the business up with the intention of making it what it is now. We originally thought about creating an app that would help people book holidays or hotels but ended up settling on the current business model, which is shooting the advertising campaigns for hotel groups, tourism boards, airlines—anyone who is looking to tell a ‘social first’ story through digital advertising.”
It’s indicative of a rapidly shifting media landscape that a brand like Beautiful Destinations can be both inspired by and be a product of social media, while at the same time challenging the structure of old media. “Once we’d hit about a million followers, we realized actually that it was so much bigger than just social media,” says Tom. “The biggest challenge was approaching brands and having them believe that we were much more than just an Instagram account. If you’re looking at social media in isolation, then you’re missing the point.”
“It would be nice to say that we inherited our visual creativity from our father but really it all came from Instagram!” says Tom. “Growing up, I’d always have a camera in hand, taking pictures of friends and stuff like that, but it wasn’t until Instagram that we saw the power of the community, having that ability to create content on the fly and share it and almost instantly get a response.”
Tom is now an award-winning photographer and highly regarded in the industry for his drone work. “We just shot New York City’s new advertising campaign called See Your City; it’s over billboards, taxi cabs and all different things,” he says. “It was a great honor to have a huge tourism board like New York City feature my content and also because they asked for me personally, so it was a really big step in my career.”
Jeremy’s path could have been significantly different had injury not forced a new direction. “Initially, my life had always been focused around sport and playing rugby and I was on the path of a professional rugby career. That took me to New Zealand for 18 months, first to Christchurch where I played my first season and then to Wellington. In between those two seasons I moved around a lot, exploring swathes of the South Island and parts of the North Island and it really just opened my eyes to the world. New Zealand is such a beautiful place, it was probably the catalyst for our collective wanderlust.”
“When we came to social media, we realized that especially in travel, there was very little data about what sort of marketing imagery worked,” explains Jeremy. “Very quickly, we were generating massive amounts of data about what people liked, where they wanted to go, what they were interested in doing, so part of the investment we made in the business was to actually build out a data science team who are really pushing the envelope in terms of extracting trends and patterns from the data.
So we look at things like the percentage of sky in the image, the brightness, the hue, the color saturation, the amount of foreground vs background, all the way through to understanding what a particular demographic responds to. If you are a hotel chain and you want to attract the affluent 25- to 28-year-old Asian male market, how would you send them an image that would be different to an affluent 50- to 55-year-old female market in Melbourne, Australia? By targeting all these nuances, we can seriously boost the success of a travel brand’s marketing strategy.”
These two modern-day cartographers are, in a sense, remapping the mapped but in a more intuitive and dynamic way, while delivering instantly to an insatiable audience. On a business level, it’s fascinating to see how social media is evolving monetizable strategies that would have been unthinkable even five years ago. But perhaps more importantly and somewhat paradoxically, Jeremy and Tom are shrinking the world by expanding our horizons, and that’s no bad thing.