GROWING A FOOD TOURISM EXPERIENCE
What makes Central New York a destination? The Erie Canal, a couple of halls of fame and the Turning Stone Resort and Casino might come to mind.
Sure, these are great attractions that put Central New York on the map. But, location is not enough to put heads in beds. Today’s traveler demands an experience.
ABC Creative Group set out to establish and share a fresh perspective of Central New York, one that would integrate this essential consideration. The agency’s decade-plus of working in and researching destination marketing revealed an evolution in the tourism industry fueled largely by the ubiquity of digital media.
People are inundated with media in virtually every facet of life. With so much content constantly swirling around, marketing focused on location won’t connect with the most lucrative demographics. Modern marketing must focus on them.
PEOPLE GATHER THE INFORMATION THEY WANT, HOW THEY WANT IT:
Digital platforms like social media, rss feeds and email or even good, old-fashioned word of mouth make connections. A broad message gets lost in that noise, but a well-defined brand built on a niche experience has a better chance to connect.
SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGNS SELL AN EXPERIENCE.
The choose-your-own-adventure allure of travel motivates people to move. They seek out the experiences they’ll share with friends.
A glance at any social media platform, location-based apps in particular, illustrates this. Our own experiences searching the world confirm the innate need to communicate.
But, before prospective visitors make the trip, they need to connect with the brand. A destination brand isn’t just a look or location; it’s a feeling.
The Finger Lakes evoke the clang of wine glasses, the Adirondacks embody the call of the wild and New York’s Capital Region encapsulates history. Despite popular attractions and extraordinary natural assets, Central New York sits in the middle in terms of geography and identity.
As longtime agency of record, ABC recognized Central New York’s agricultural assets as grounds for staking a claim in one of the travel industry’s fastest growing sectors.
Food and agritourism have enjoyed more than a decade of increasing interest worldwide. Research shows travelers are hungry for the immersive experience that taste generates.
A Canadian Tourism Commission survey of 60,650 U.S. travelers indicated agritourists are nearly 20 percent more likely to shop and dine in the places they visit.
They tend to take in cultural offerings at a similar clip.
When New York state began focusing on food and put agritourism grant funding on the table, Central New York’s niche became even more apparent. The Empire State Development Division of Tourism awarded the region funding for such a project in 2012 and ABC started cultivating a brand.
THE WORLD FOOD TRAVEL ASSOCIATION ESTIMATES TOURISTS SPEND ABOUT
OF VACATION MONEY ON FOOD AND DRINK.
PLANTING THE SEEDS
Central New York’s agricultural heritage and bucolic character laid fertile ground for a campaign rooted in the foodie experience. ABC’s growing reputation built on niche destination marketing initiatives across the state promised a fruitful partnership.
This project would require the collaboration of 10 counties to embrace a location-independent identity. ABC would need to unite this diverse group behind a single message to create an experience that transcends geographic location.
STUDIES CONFIRM THE FARM-TO-TABLE CULTURAL PHENOMENON THAT PLACES A PREMIUM ON LOCALLY SOURCED FRESH, ORGANIC AND SUSTAINABLE FOODS FACTORS INTO VACATION PLANS.
AS A FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND CAMPAIGN FOR THE REGION, IT WOULD NEED A SOLID FOUNDATION.
The first and most important step in ABC’s signature idea-based marketing process began.
The CNYFresh concept rooted itself in the agricultural history of Central New York and the current crop of producers carrying on the tradition. The assets of the brand were well established, but in need of creative interpretation.
ABC’s team dove into research of the evolving food tourism industry and tapped into its own knowledge of the region to seed the idea.
ABC’s experience suggested people travel for experiences, the chance to share good stories with others. Research established that travelers have an appetite for an experience, especially those tied to eating and drinking.
Many people choose destinations based on food and beverage-related festivals and events or seek out memorable dining experiences while traveling.
Central New York boasts both in terms of quantity and quality. In fact, ABC found that festivals and events already drew a great deal of traffic to the region. Previous experience showed that travel for work or family events like weddings also brought many people to the area.
ABC created CNYFresh to introduce the many “Flavors of Central New York” to all of its visitors, regardless of their destination. A trip to the canal, hall or resort should come with a side of New York state’s bounty.
CNYFresh casts Central New York as a focal point for fresh, local fare. With hundreds of producers growing some of the state’s finest ingredients, Central New York’s brand identity would need an equally varied image.
The logo bursts with a full, vibrant color palette intended to capture the wide array of “Flavors of Central New York.” It’s also designed to catch the eye of fitness-focused visitors searching for organic foods and the casual traveler making a visit for an unrelated event or attraction.
With a solid, research-based identity for Central New York in place, ABC set out to sell the brand.
SETTING THE TABLE
Creating an experience involves much more than a setting up a URL and developing a marketing strategy to drive people there. Good digital content and usability are critical to any tourism campaign.
Before selling the CNYFresh experience, Central New York needed to organize the assets that fit the niche.
ABC WORKED WITH THE 10 COUNTIES TO COLLECT THE:
THAT WOULD POPULATE A DEFINITIVE DATABASE OF “THE FLAVORS OF CENTRAL NEW YORK.”
In collaboration with the county partners and the Cornell Cooperative Extension, ABC filtered that massive listing into 15 categories that would appeal to the interests of agritourists.
The process included months of updating details, many of which were outdated or inaccurate. ABC’s team had to roll up its sleeves to pursue the information using various forms of correspondence, including e-communications, mailers and even individual phone calls.
The responsive Web design presented this complex set of information and the agritourist friendly events intuitively, providing an efficient connection to specific listings while also encouraging exploration. The functionality extends seamlessly to mobile devices, an essential feature when catering to an audience on the go.
OF U.S. AGRITOURISTS SURVEYED BY THE CANADIAN TOURISM COMMISSION PLAN THEIR FOOD-FUELED JOURNEYS ON THE WEB
BOOKED TRIPS THERE AS WELL.
ABC built CNYFresh.com to integrate a booking agent offering lodging and packages that can be purchased right on the site.
The digital destination for CNYFresh was ready to inspire experiences among a niche audience and convert the curious as well.
DELIVERING THE EXPERIENCE
The CNYFresh campaign utilized multiple media platforms among the targeted audience and in feeder markets identified during the research and discovery phase.
ABC identified agritourists, locavores and the health conscious as the key demographics.
The digital campaign used geo- and behavior-targeted ads to optimize the budget. ABC monitored the analytics closely, rotating creative to keep conversion up. ABC teamed up with a woman-owned business to assist with media placement and fulfill grant requirements.
ABC complemented the extensive ad campaign with content that illustrated the CNYFresh experience. Video and photography from locations across the region populated the social media channels launched and maintained by ABC as well as the website.
The shoots produced assets used to build a variety of collateral, including a colorful travel guide. ABC worked with the county partners to develop beverage, farm and other trails mapped out in the publication.
Video and photography also fueled media outreach, which included a creatively packaged flash drive loaded with content and infographic-style pitch sheets for travel journalists, bloggers and others across the country. The public relations campaign targeted these influencers and earned invaluable coverage.
Successful execution of the CNYFresh campaign hinged on the education of the producers, the prime ambassadors of the message. In addition to the literature and digital communications ABC created, the agency also coordinated face-to-face meetings with this critical audience to inform them of the initiative and how they could take advantage of all the publicity.
CNYFresh is now promoted globally, with ABC-developed travel show displays appearing at events in the U.K. and Germany as well as Canada. A partnership with BrandUSA yielded a video aimed at British travelers and a Web page on an international site featuring content written by ABC.
THE DELIVERABLES REPRESENT THE GREATEST SUCCESS OF THE CNYFRESH INITIATIVE GIVEN THE LIMITED BUDGET. CENTRAL NEW YORK CHALLENGED ABC TO CREATE A BRAND IDENTITY, BUILD A DIGITAL RESOURCE AND EXECUTE A CAMPAIGN FOR THIS 10-COUNTY REGION USING JUST $190,000 SPREAD OUT OVER TWO YEARS.
CENTRAL NEW YORK BECAME THE FIRST STATE REGION TO CAPITALIZE ON THE AGRITOURISM TREND WITH A BRAND. THE CLIENT NOW OWNS AN EXTENSIVE, PERMANENT, ACCESSIBLE DATABASE THAT PUTS ALL AGRITOURISM LISTINGS IN ONE PLACE FOR THE FIRST TIME THANKS SPECIFICALLY TO THIS PROJECT.
ABC continues to pour creativity into the marketing strategy it executes with no additional budget considerations.
IN ADDITION, THE CENTRAL NEW YORK TRAVEL REGION SAW TOURISTS SPEND MORE THAN
IN 2014 FOR A
INCREASE OVER 2013.
CNYFRESH ALSO EARNED NATIONAL RECOGNITION WITH A COMMUNICATOR AWARD FROM THE ACADEMY OF INTERACTIVE AND VISUAL ARTS FOR PRINT AD CAMPAIGN.
Although media placement dollars dissolved following the sunset of grant funding, ABC continues to use the brand in all Central New York communications. The region’s website includes CNYFresh as a key experience as do collateral and public relations pitch sheets that integrate the campaign.
ABC takes pride in its endless pursuit of fresh ideas and strategy for all of its clients, always aiming to go above and beyond no matter their industry, budget or tenure with the agency.
CNYFresh created a travel experience in Central New York, something research shows is essential in modern destination marketing. Most importantly, the region has a solid brand and grant friendly initiative it can build on for years.