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Proof Positive

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

With this post, I mean no disrespect to Economic Development Agencies, Chambers of Commerce, Downtown Improvement Districts or Community Development Organizations. Each has a critical role in the future prosperity and long term sustainability of our regions.

But, let’s get one thing straight. None of these organizations has the ability to significantly alter the public perception of a place like a Destination Marketing Organization. None.

There. I’ve said it.

And, I’m saying what many of us in the Destination Marketing world have always silently believed... because we now have proof.

Virtually everyone I know in the world of promoting place knows and respects the work of Bill Siegel and Longwoods International. Even if they don’t know his name, they know his work. His research that first correlated the shuttering of the Colorado Tourism office in the early 1990s with a precipitous loss of visitation and visitor-generated taxes is a classic case study for every student of Destination Marketing in North America.

His newest work, however, has gone well beyond the impact that Destination advertising has on visitor spending, looking at whether this kind of marketing produces a “halo effect” in other ways. And, the results are startling, even to those of us that suspected some degree of haloing was occurring.

Those who have heard me speak over the past couple years, from DMO Boardrooms to national stages, have heard me suggest that the reason the sensational Pure Michigan TV campaign works goes well past the breathtaking scenes, evocative copy and Tim Allen’s voice. They are the envy of the Tourism Industry because…(wait for it)…they are not Tourism Spots. They are Quality of Life spots.

Which is why Michigan’s Economic Development Czar admitted that inquiries for investment opportunity in his State spike when those “tourism” spots run. But, he’s just one guy talking. Now, we have the responses of thousands of consumers.

Longwoods is finishing up its research into the broader impact of tourism marketing on other economic development markers in North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, North Dakota and Wisconsin. The full cache of results is slated for release this summer at DMAI’s 101st Annual Convention…but the North Dakota numbers have already leaked.

After seeing that State’s “Legendary” campaign, respondents said they were more likely to view North Dakota as a great place to live (up 41%), start a business (up 75%) purchase a second home (up 113%) and retire (up 75%).

Even for States that didn’t use a Quality of Life angle in the spots (like Wisconsin’s head-scratching infatuation with Airplane!), increases in appreciation for aspects of the State were seen in other economic development categories besides simple visitation.

The jury is in. The verdict is crystal. The visitor-focused advertising of DMOs has a pronounced impact on measures that many community leaders have long said are more important than “tourism.” Thus, there is no longer a rational reason for public and private sector interests to view DMOs as just “those tourism people.”

Destination Marketing is crucial to showcasing our communities to far more than visitors but, indeed, to future residents and investors.

And, now, no community leader can honestly argue with that.

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