When past reliance on low-hanging regional traffic and convention guests had finally topped out, the city determined that a shift in philosophy was required to fuel a new vision for the city’s growth. An evolved course was set for Choose Chicago.
Enter Destination ENV.
We are finishing our 5th year supporting Choose Chicago as their digital AOR. During our partnership with the nation’s third-largest city, we’ve guided them through a new digital forward approach, a complete overhaul of their website, an industry-devastating pandemic, an always-evolving digital landscape, and beyond.
Together, we’ve blown past benchmarks, including tripling campaign reach, connecting with high-value audience segments, and helping to smash annual visitation records — and we’re just getting started.
Setting the foundation
To help Choose Chicago accomplish their ambitious vision to expand beyond a regional audience, we set out to create a digital-forward program that wasn’t bound by geography but guided by consumer behavior.
First, we looked at search behavior and cross-device utilization to better understand our audience’s journey from the first touch through booking a trip. This set the course for migrating the organization away from large network and broadcast buys, instead tailoring channel utilization to more efficient investments where we could measure impact.
We developed a framework that capitalized on behavioral and contextual signals to guide media strategy — not just proximity to the destination. So whether it be regional, national, or international objectives, location no longer defined the program, it only represented a variable in our targeting mix.
- Segmentation: With a new emphasis on interest and travel intent, we prioritized investment to audience segments based on proclivity to spend, willingness to travel, and general perception of the destination.
- Content: We aligned our work to the city’s messaging strategy that emphasized an authentic and inclusive vision of Chicago.
- Targeting: Aligned audiences to digital partners who indexed highly against our segmentation, shifting from broadcast to a digital forward cross-device approach.
- Markets: Instead of letting state lines limit our scope, we shifted from a regional focus to a fully national and international effort.
I truly value Envisionit’s partnership as we’ve scaled our programs, evolving further towards digital forward as an organization. Bringing efficiency and insight into how we engage our audiences, we’ve seen continued growth since day one.
Our new digital-forward approach resulted in:
- 3x year-over-year household reach
- 20% increase in web traffic for national 10 DMA states (21% for regional)
- 7% more spending from national vs. regional
We also helped break the mayor’s three-year visitation goal… in just one year.
Growing the partnership
With a solid foundation in place, we were able to move the organization forward as we took on various initiatives and helped scale programs.
- Expanded Choose Chicago’s leisure program to add more endemic partnerships and support the organization as they hosted international influencers.
- With internal resources stretched thin, we built a dedicated team and resources specifically to improve organic content efforts and technical website support.
- Continued to scale with travel-centric data sets, including introducing Adara and Conversant into our program.
- Built a successful partner program that created new revenue capabilities for Choose Chicago and drove direct traffic to DMO members.
- Supported the organization’s convention program by creating a new B2B messaging strategy and sales enablement tools, like the attendance-boosting Connecting to Chicago program.
These efforts helped fuel year-over-year increases in visitation, including a record-shattering 58 million visitors in 2018.
Creating a new destination
In 2019, it was time to turn our attention to optimizing where we were driving the majority of traffic… the Choose Chicago website.
We embarked on a multi-year initiative to reimagine the property, including leading stakeholder interviews and requirement definition, auditing nearly 4,000 pages of content, and building a new visual identity from scratch.
The new website has exceeded all previous benchmarks for visitation, content engagement, and key conversion goals across hotel/trip bookings, visitor guide downloads, and meeting RFP lead inquiries.
Read more about the Choose Chicago website redesign.
Weathering the storm
The pandemic brought tourism to a halt. So we shifted our focus from supporting our programs to supporting the city and Choose Chicago.
From finding child care for frontline workers to helping kids trick-or-treat safely, we were on call day or night to pitch in and help wherever we could.
As travel restrictions shifted (almost daily) we planned, pivoted, planned again, and pivoted again.
When the city came back online, we restarted local and regional programming (with limited resources) and created new campaigns to welcome visitors back to Chicago.
Bringing home the awards
Along with earning accolades like best website and best marketing campaigns, one particular title has been the cherry on top of our partnership with Choose Chicago.
For every year of our partnership, Chicago has been recognized as the Best Big City in the U.S. from Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards — making us the only city to ever win this prestigious award five years in a row.