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.
“Similar to other parts of the country, regions often have brands that perhaps center on one major urban area and encompass a multitude of other destinations and experiences using kind of a hub-and-spoke framework. Chicagoland is no different, and due to a variety of reasons, regional cooperation is more important than ever before. A primary driver, simply put, is our entire region has to fully recover for us to return to the economic model that fuels our collective success.” — David Whitaker, President and CEO, Choose Chicago
In order to bring the program to life, we needed to establish a framework that promoted the entire region, while providing each DMO an equal voice.
- Updated regional identity
- Reimagined landing experience and campaign messaging
- Programmatic and paid social media distribution
- Organic social playbook and support assets
First out of the gate is the identity for “Visit Chicagoland.” It hadn’t been addressed in years and needed a contemporary evolution as we sought a unifying look and feel that showcases the ethos and identity of the region.
This was then carried through to a reimagined destination landing experience. Along with the essence of our campaign voice and information featuring each DMO, the landing page brings a number of tools together including; an interactive map to drive page engagement into each distinct region, a slider for promoting upcoming events, and a social gallery to capture imagery associated with our organic activities.
Additionally, utilizing landing page platform Unbounce, we developed 9 variations to allow each DMO’s content equal share of 1st position, as well as personalizing the experience depending on which campaign asset drives the traffic.
“The DMO’s outside of Chicago are thrilled to be able to work with Choose Chicago and their agency Envisionit to create a unified message that our area is open for business and ready to welcome visitors as they plan their late spring and summer travel plans post-pandemic. We have much to offer and the safety of our visitors is our number one priority – equal to them having a great experience.”— Gina Speckman, Executive Director, Chicago’s North Shore
To maximize the co-op, we looked to programmatic and paid social channels to reach audiences demonstrating travel intent across Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan as well as the state of Illinois. Along with providing targeting opportunities to increase program scale we were able to establish an asset framework to equally promote premier attractions of each market in tandem with the regional push. Programmatic ads were developed for each DMO, promoting two distinct attractions in their own ad unit, with even utilization of media investment to ensure equitable distribution for participants.
As part of the partnership, the DMOs have pooled their CRM databases to take advantage of Facebook’s 1-to-1 and look-alike modeling capabilities. Within our geo overlay, we were able to leverage behavioral criteria including audiences who:
- Engaged with a destination’s Facebook page
- Simply have visited the destination’s Facebook page
- Clicked any CTA button on the destination’s Facebook page
- Sent a message
- Saved the page or any post
Carousel ad units allowed us additional flexibility for promotion while maintaining equitable positioning.
Lastly, we wanted to equip DMOs with a toolkit to support their owned channels while encouraging partners and attractions to amplify the program in a concerted social media campaign using a campaign hashtag. With a coordinated launch day blitz, stakeholders and the communities they influence will combine the power of their Instagram and Twitter accounts to get the hashtag trending regionally. Post templates and Instagram stickers have been created for stakeholders, members, and anyone who loves Chicagoland, to use across the platform in Stories, and Reels.
Travel-starved audiences have been daydreaming long enough and the industry is beginning to take steps towards engaging them. Leveraging regional partnerships can help those steps go farther, you just need a thoughtful approach and an appreciation for the rising tide.