Putting Cincy on the map with a benchmark-shattering brand campaign

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to the Cincy region. (That is, Cincinnati or Newport, Covington or Florence in Northern Kentucky.)

No? A few yeses in the back? Well, we’re going to need to do better than that. 

Here’s why: Cincy is the most vibrant cultural destination in the midwest/south that travelers aren’t considering (yet). 

It’s a region with street art around every corner, boundary-pushing museums, dance and theater that features major Broadway shows, a bustling food scene getting noticed by James Beard Foundation, a legendary bourbon and beer scene, three major league sports teams (ahem, watch the Super Bowl this year?), and unique neighborhoods with their own flavor and charm.

Destination ENV has been tasked with transforming this undiscovered local gem to an unapologetic travel favorite. We know it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But just one quarter into it, and we’re on our way with 115 million impressions served and creative performing at or well above benchmarks across the board (I mean, as high as 24% CTRs on Twitter).

The challenge

Years of focusing on convention and sports-associated travel left a significant gap in inspiring audiences to choose Cincy as a leisure travel destination. Put simply: with more than a decade of renaissance and economic development, the reality of the Cincinnati region didn’t match the traveler’s perception. 

Furthermore, Cincinnati’s CVB and Meet NKY recently joined forces as the Cincy region — a unified brand with a colorful, energetic new look and feel that brings to life all things Cincy culture. What better time to harness their power with a new digital media campaign, especially considering the post-pandemic return to travel? 

The concept

Our Culture. Your Cincy was born from the insight that one of the most culturally packed destinations in the U.S. is also one of the friendliest. 

Across our display, paid social (including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), paid search, and partner direct, the creative uses bold color and high-impact video and imagery to extend a warm, open invitation for travelers to experience Cincy’s unrivaled culture. 

Our goal is to showcase all the refreshing collisions of culture that make the region so undeniably unique and exploration worthy, with a

strong emphasis on EDI.

The results

Since leisure travel is a new priority for Cincy, we honed in on shifting the region’s perception with prospective travelers, from weekend warriors to family road-trippers — and moving these folks from dreaming about their trip to booking one. 

Our initial focus has been on increasing travel for regional drive markets such as Nashville, Chicago, Detroit, Lexington, and more. Campaign performance has been consistently strong since launch, with some impressive initial metrics.

  • The overall media campaign has delivered over 115 million impressions, 1.2 million clicks, and 1.5 million website sessions
  • Overall engagement is high with each channel achieving or exceeding CTR benchmarks, with Twitter being the clear front runner with an average CTR of 24%
  • The campaign continues to drive new users to the Cincy website

We’re thrilled with the early momentum we’ve established — and we’re just getting started. 

This campaign has allowed us to collect new insights and understand how audiences react to new messaging. With a solid foundation in place, we’re expanding our efforts beyond media to establish a strong content program and organic presence for the region. 

And as air travel continues to pick up, we’ll be broadening our focus beyond the drive market and continuing to spread the good word about Cincy all around the country. 

Regional DMO partners rally, welcome back summer leisure travel to Chicagoland

Strength in numbers

A defining characteristic of promoting broad regional markets can be found in the symbiotic relationship between the urban center and its surrounding communities. Cosmopolitan diversity, quaint villages, outdoor adventure…no matter the initial draw, opportunities to extend a trip for broader exploration abound. Neighboring communities are often home to attractions attributed to the large city they are linked to. Working together to acknowledge the draw of the major urban center while also recognizing the added value of the entire area’s offerings leads to mutual success for all. Rising tide, if you will. 

For the DMOs comprising greater metropolitan Chicago, embracing this dynamic has never been more important.

The headwinds of our post-pandemic reality are felt across all of our industry’s stakeholders. With protocols varying by state, region, and city, supporting member’s safety messaging while responsibly informing consumers has increased the burden on DMOs already feeling the impact of constrained resources. 

With a tradition of partnership across the region, the greater Chicagoland collective see an opportunity to pool capability and resources to tackle these challenges together. As vaccinations increase, and core attractions begin to come online, inspiring drive markets to once again imagine the opportunities available to them is a must. 

However, co-branded messaging for “Visit Chicagoland” needed to be evolved to address today’s reality. Collaborating with our client Choose Chicago and 8 regional DMOs, the agency worked to quickly bring a campaign to life that reintroduced a safe, welcoming, inclusive region that is open for business.

 

How to let travelers know your destination is reopening responsibly

As the vaccine rollout continues and the end of the pandemic starts to feel like it’s within reach, destinations around the world are cautiously rolling back restrictions and getting ready to welcome visitors back. And travelers are eager to return. According to the U.S. Travel Association, 81% of travelers have tentative travel plans within the next six months — the highest since March 2020.

But this new era of travel is going to look a lot different than it did pre-pandemic. Today’s travelers are savvier about health and safety during every aspect of their trip, from their method of travel to choosing a destination. That means your DMO has to be actively communicating with your audience to show, not just tell, travelers what your destination is doing to keep them safe.

How DMOs can support partners during a crisis

The COVID-19 situation is wreaking havoc across a wide range of industries—but we all know that tourism and hospitality are being hit especially hard. And if your destination marketing organization is partner-based, you know that your members are feeling the effects as well.

During a crisis like this, partners will look to you for leadership and support. And it’s up to your organization to find ways to provide value and see your partners through these uncertain times. This is also an opportunity to support your tourism strategy while being mindful of local and national restrictions.

Here are four proactive ways your DMO can provide value to your partners during the current COVID pandemic.

Stay curious with 21c Museum Hotel Chicago

It’s now open in Chicago—21c Museum Hotels, a contemporary art museum with a hospitable side. At Envisionit, we’re excited to partner with this Louisville-based hotel concept for a brand awareness campaign to launch their 9th and newest property right in our backyard.

So, how does a new museum hotel stand out in a city with a world-class art scene and nearly 200 hotels? 

To connect with our social savvy, artistically minded target, we knew our campaign needed to capture attention, create curiosity and intrigue, and put the brand on display. 

In other words, be bold, artistic, and disruptive. 

Our campaign, “C U SOON, CHICAGO,” is our own take on contemporary art, using deconstructed 21c Museum Hotel brand elements, a motion-forward mobile-friendly paid social strategy, and an OOH approach with real stopping power to make the introduction of the brand as memorable and thought-provoking as the museum hotel itself. 

 

Destination ENV sponsors 2019 Experience Lab

Gadgets lose their luster. A trip can get lost in the day-to-day. But an experience? That can last a lifetime. For destination marketers, one of the greatest challenges they face is having to market a product they don’t control. From initial inspiration to post-visit advocacy, there are endless variables that impact the entire visitor engagement. However, by investing in experience development, not only does that give destination marketers a measure of control, but it creates a currency for your destination that your visitors can trade on time and again, and even at a multiple.

As a marketer and entrepreneur, I’m always looking for the ROI, and for Joe Veneto, experiences are where the money is at for destinations. Heck, they don’t call it “The Experience Economy” for nothing.

As the head of the Veneto Collaboratory, Joe has spent the last 30 years working across the tourism landscape, helping destinations and their partners realize the untapped potential of their visitor experience. And last month, Destination ENV proudly sponsored his 2019 Experience Lab.

With Madison, WI as a backdrop, marketers and experience managers from over 30 CVBs and DMOs gathered to workshop with Joe and immerse themselves in the various programs he developed with the Destination Madison team.