BY DAVE BLANK
It’s unlikely that you will visit, look for a job, or move to a place that you’ve never heard of. The first step is that you have to hear about the place – and that’s usually through a friend, seeing a story on television, online or in the newspaper, or even an advertisement. More often than not, it’s the destination marketing organization (DMO), Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) or in small towns, the Chamber of Commerce who helped behind the scenes to get the article written or placed the ad.
While tens of thousands of cars a day visit Racine County, the majority of them pass through on I-94 and are here for 12 minutes – the length of time it takes them to drive the 12 miles through the county. If they’re paying halfway attention to the highway signs, they may see the names of our villages and cities along the way. But, a green sign alone will not entice them to get off the road and visit us. That’s where the article they later read in a magazine or the Real Racine ad they see online, or even the Real Racine Activity Guide that they picked up at the hotel they stayed in last night, spurs them to finally turn off the road and visit us.
So they spend a couple hours here and follow the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail signs and the new wayfinding signage to discover the amenities of the community. We’ve found that all it takes is one visit, and we’ll leave a favorable impression on them. They will return in the future to spend more time here. Perhaps moving here, buying a second home here, or working here. It all starts with getting them here for the first time, and that’s often through the work of us tourism folks (like Real Racine). It’s called “The Halo Effect.”
In 2016 Longwoods International did a study for Destination Marketing Association International (now Destinations International) on “The Halo Effect.” They surveyed more than 18,000 consumers regarding 10 destination marketing campaigns, a combination of cities, states and regions. And while the data points varied somewhat by destination, the results of this research were consistent across all destinations. In every case, tourism advertising by a destination and subsequent visitation significantly improved the image of that destination not just as a place to visit, but also for a wide range of other economic development objectives.
Real Racine’s advertising targets a particular demographic that resides in the Chicago area. Our goal is to get them to visit Racine County once. We know that they’ll like what they see and experience and that they’ll be back again. It all gets back to the immortal words of my friend, Maura Gast from Irving, Texas who wrote years ago:
Build a place people want to visit, and you’ll build a place where people want to live.
Build a place where people want to live, and you’ll build a place where people want to work.
Build a place where people want to work, and you’ll build a place where business has to be.
Build a place where business has to be, and you’ll build a place where people have to visit.
It all starts with the visit, and that visit starts with us.
Dave Blank is the president/CEO of Real Racine (Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau).