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Destinations Experiment With New Marketing Efforts

By / Mar 7, 2014 A screenshot from the "Chicago Made" initiative, formally launching at SXSW.

A look at how three U.S. destinations have unveiled new promotional campaigns to attract leisure and business travelers, along with meetings and conventions, to their locales.

You’ve probably heard this saying—or something close to it—before: “Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a trend.”

More and more U.S. cities and states are getting creative when it comes to how they market themselves.

If it’s true, it looks like there’s a new trend in the destinations space. More and more U.S. cities and states are getting creative when it comes to how they market themselves to attract new leisure and business travelers as well as meetings and conventions. Here’s a closer look at three of the more interesting examples I’ve stumbled upon in the past few weeks.

Showcase Your City

If you want to promote your city and all that it offers, why not do so in a completely different city and state? That’s what Chicago is thinking when it heads to Austin, Texas, next week for the annual music, film, and interactive conference South by Southwest (SXSW) to formally unveil its Chicago Made initiative.

The campaign—a first-time effort by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Choose Chicago, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), World Business Chicago, and the Illinois Office of Tourism—will promote Chicago’s technology, music, and film scene and educate attendees about Chicago natives who have left a mark on their industries while living and working in the Windy City.

Chicago Made events will include an exhibit booth at the SXSW tradeshow, a private reception for business leaders, and an official SXSW Chicago music showcase. The effort aims to increase awareness for Chicago as a business and tourism destination and showcase the city’s technology and cultural industries.

“I want them to walk away thinking that Chicago is a really innovative place,” Dylan Rice, director of creative industries and music for DCASE, told the Chicago Tribune. “[Chicago] is a taste-making place in the world. We want to keep Chicago in mind as a place to invest in, as well as a place to travel to.”

Organize a YouTube Takeover

Last week, Visit California, the state’s tourism board, did a 24-hour ad takeover of YouTube in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. Called “24 Hours. 24 Dreams,” the takeover featured a different video highlighting the state’s “Dream Big” brand every hour.

The 24 videos featured on February 28 included everything from Bob Burnquist’s floating skate ramp to the indie rock group Band of Horses playing at the Hollywood sign to a female surfing legend taking on one of the biggest, scariest waves in the world.

The takeover was the launch effort of the tourism board’s new Dream 365 project, which will feature a variety of cool, fun, thought-provoking content like videos, memes, tweets, time-lapses, photos, and more. The goal is to attract more visitors to the state and use content to highlight the things that make California what it is. It can also be used as a marketing tool by meeting planners to share with their attendees to see what they can look forward to.

“We want the launch of this campaign to emulate the pioneering attitude California is known for,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, in a statement. “Our first-of-its-kind content partnership with Google will showcase the unique and creative ways Californians from across the state realize their dreams; the land of boundless opportunity, epitomized by Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and its frontier heritage, California is the place where people don’t just dream, they dream big.”

Give Your Regards to Broadway

Late last month, the Greater Des Moines CVB combined efforts with the Greater Des Moines Partnership to showcase Iowa at the opening night of “The Bridges of Madison County” musical on Broadway. The groups invited business and event prospects to attend with the goal of using “Iowa’s cultural brand” to drive economic development and tourism in the state.

It made perfect sense given that the musical, based on the bestselling novel by Robert James Waller, uses Iowa and its Madison County covered bridges as its backdrop.

“Strategic marketing to meeting planners in New York City will open new doors for Greater Des Moines tourism,” Greg Edwards, president and CEO of the Greater Des Moines CVB, told Exhibitor magazine. “Our hope in this outreach initiative is to lure new events to Greater Des Moines, bringing more tourism dollars for the local economy.”

With destinations competing for travel and meetings and convention business, it’s likely more of these innovative marketing techniques will become the norm. What other creative things have you seen destinations and venues do to attract new business? Let us know in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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