Thomson Safaris’ Leap of Faith
We firmly believe that good design and effective marketing are, at their heart, about stories: solving a problem, meeting a challenge, inventing a new way of doing things. In this series, we’re looking back at some memorable projects for great clients and, in doing so, telling our own story.
In this piece, we talk to Joel Cody, Director of Marketing for Thomson Safaris, an award-winning travel company that’s been providing people from all over the world with unforgettable travel experiences and building strong relationships with communities in Tanzania for over forty years. We launched a new website for them in 2017 and have been proud to call them our clients ever since.
Refreshing a brand for a digital world
Five years ago, the team at Thomson Safaris decided it was time for a new website. “Back in 2017, our website lagged behind where it needed to be,” Joel explains. “It didn’t represent our brand well and wasn’t responsive.” In contrast, every other part of the brand was performing well. “People loved us, our services were great, our catalogue was stunning—and then our website was tired and lacklustre.”
Joel had done her research and felt confident Leap could deliver what they were looking for, but she admits their team felt some trepidation at first. For one, Thomson Safaris is based in Boston, while Leap is another country and time zone away. The COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t yet made remote work as ubiquitous, and their team wondered what it would be like to work remotely with an agency. Another potential challenge was technological: they needed a flexible, robust site that could seamlessly integrate their leads form and allow their IT and marketing teams to easily make changes from the back-end. Finally, there was the apprehension that often accompanies change: the company was used to the current site, which had been serving them for decades, and the owners had never gone through the website redesign process before.
“It really was a leap of faith to choose to work with Leap,” she says. “We had to trust we could arrive at the right solutions, trust that the web developers could handle the technical requirements, trust that the creative vision would meet and even surpass our expectations.”
Thankfully, Joel wasn’t wrong to trust us. With good communication and one enjoyable trip to Boston, we established a strong working relationship. Our web developers ensured the site was an effective tool for the IT and sales teams, while our creative team brought in immersive video, large-scale photography, and appealing textures and colours to better capture the Thomson Safaris experience.
An Energizing Experience
Once the website launched, Joel recalls how everyone on the team seemed to feel differently about their company: “There was a palpable sense of excitement, a new energy.”
Their customers gravitated to it as well—and still do. “I tend to believe most websites need a refresh every five years, but this hasn’t been the case with ours,” Joel says. “Of course, we’ve grown with it, making content changes and expanding some sections, but the site holds up. People love it, and we still think it’s fantastic—classic and contemporary at the same time. When we ask people why they chose Thomson Safaris, they frequently point to the website. I agree—it captures the experience in a way that our static website did not.”
A Relationship Built on Trust
When asked what made our work together so productive and pleasant, Joel is ready with her thoughts. “When it looked like we were going beyond the scope of the budget, Leap told us ahead of time,” she said, “and we worked together to reach a solution. I appreciated the transparency, the reasonable approach to problem-solving, and the fact that there were never any surprises along the way.”
She also credits the strength of both teams and our shared sense of trust: “We had some absolutely fabulous people on our team—for instance, a marketing coordinator who was a pro at organization, an impressively talented art director, and dedicated owners with a real passion for the company—but I knew too many opinions could stall or compromise the process, so after we communicated our desires, we had to trust Leap and, to a large degree, stay out of the way of the creative process.”
Today, Thomson Safaris is feeling optimistic about the future. As for the website? Joel says they’re dreaming up new ways to better serve their customers, but for now she and her team are incredibly happy with their site and their experience with us. “Life is short,” she says, “It’s important to work with people you like and respect.” The feeling is mutual!