LOVE Brattleboro VT
Goal: Create visitor and tourism campaign featuring assets within the town limits assets with a mini campaign focused on diversity and inclusion.
Need: The small town of Brattleboro has largely been an undiscovered gem on the tourism scene despite exceptionally high-quality cultural offerings in the areas of performance arts, fine art, literary, crafts, and recreational outdoor offerings. An initiative was created by the town to apply 1% of a new meals and rooms tax revenue to a leverage these and other town assets in a marketing campaign to attract tourists. Our task was to work with a downtown organization and area chamber of commerce with little marketing experience in this area, teaming up on a first-time campaign.
The bounty of attractions was easy pickings. However, the funding came with the caveat that any campaign must include a focus on diversity and inclusion in some way. With some quick background research, it was evident that although the town has a thriving and well-established LGBTQIA community, no effort had been made to reach out to potential LGBTQIA visitors, which comprise a lucrative portion of the travel market. Nor was any site in the town indicated on the official “Gay Tourism Map” sponsored by the State of Vermont.
Additionally, the town lends the impression that it suffers from a bit of a self-esteem problem. We understood that it would be necessary to create a flexible campaign to show Brattleboro in a new light inspiring visitors and town members to love Brattleboro and show It, and celebrate love in all of its diverse forms.
Approach: We wanted to create a campaign that was easy to understand, malleable into various ideas both iconic to the town and reflective of its energy, and one that people could rally around, regardless of background. “Love Brattleboro VT” surfaced as a rich image and campaign theme. Conveniently, the campaign launch was to coincide with a busy Valentine’s Day week.
Since Brattleboro is rich with stunning imagery and artists that capture those images, we hired local photographers to share some of their existing images and create new ones for a photo library. We used these as a background to the LOVE graphic, advertising, social media, and for the website.
To address the LGBTQIA mini- campaign we consulted nine individuals within the community that were among leaders, business owners, and ally organizations. We also took the opportunity of celebrating the LGBTQIA culture in town by featuring LGBTQIA events in digital content. We built capacity for the local community by hiring a LGBTQIA public relations consultant, arranging free professional photo shoots for local LGBTQIA businesses, and featuring their businesses in advertising targeting an LGBTQIA traveler audience.
We knew that, because Brattleboro was not generally on top of mind, we needed to meet would-be visitors where they were and with valuable, captivating content. We chose a social media channels and a dynamic website to keep content varied and fresh, and advertising via print, digital, and radio. We worked hard to cultivate relationships with LGBTQIA publications to maximize exposure to those communities in key target markets and tailored our content to them.
We also capitalized on the fact that there was over 1000 arts and culture events in Brattleboro each year. We leveraged the bounty of local events by curating a list of largely pre-existing events for a “10 Days-to-Love-Brattleboro VT” launch promotion featuring arts, outdoors, performance, and cuisine, as well as partnering with selected organizations to present a “special offer” during that time so that we could track the response. We additionally sponsored one high-profile LGBTQIA event, providing PR, advertising, and social media as support.
Additionally, because we needed to build up the photo library and jump start social media efforts, we launched a #lovebrattleborovt photo contest where one winner was chosen each month receiving a $100 gift certificate to the Brattleboro business of their choice.
After the pandemic hit – about 8 weeks into the campaign, we took a short hiatus. When we rallied again, we provided curated itineraries of for different traveler profiles featuring shops, lodging, activities, and based on what was open in town at the time. These itineraries were published on the website with links directly to businesses. We capitalized on pent up travel frustration by launching a wave of print and digital ads within the state asking people to check out the “day and stay” itineraries as a call to action. We also created stickers and door clings so that when travelers arrived, they could see evidence of the campaign and love for the town, and a library of images showcasing diverse offerings and people to be featured in future rack card, advertising, and social media executions.
Results: The initial response to the campaign was phenomenal with click-through-rates much higher than average, and purchases of exclusive special offers driving business to retail and events. In just a couple of months, ad and PR response rates surprised even us. Targeted efforts to LGBTQIA were even stronger – some might say through the roof! While the response to all our digital advertising was exponentially higher than averages, response rates to ads within the LGBTQIA+ target market was up to 2100% higher. Throughout the short effort (9 months overall, with 4 months off in the middle due to Covid) branded social media accounts gained followers at a robust clip, and nearly 1000 Images were tagged with #lovebrattleborovt.
Overall, despite being hit with a global pandemic and the necessity to dramatically shift gears, we met or strongly exceeded all of our goals including areas such as advertising impressions, social media interaction, web activity, and direct sales through special promotions. We also saw an uptick in locals engaging with the campaign with public “guerilla art” efforts and sporting of the logo seen on vehicles and in social media images. The campaign will continue this year based on our groundbreaking and branding efforts.