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Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

The Challenge
Smith Mountain Lake is the largest lake contained entirely in Virginia. Its 500 miles of shoreline are surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, which makes the scenery postcard-perfect from just about any spot on the lake. The sunsets over the mountains will leave a visitor breathless. So, what kind of challenge could we possibly face?

An essential element in successful destination branding is differentiation. There are plenty of lakes in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee that visitors can choose from. Some are even located in the mountains. Anyone who has ever spent time at Smith Mountain Lake knows it’s a special place. There is no shortage of adjectives to describe its beauty, scenery and even expansiveness. We had to figure out what makes the experience of being there so unique.

The Strategy
Because Smith Mountain Lake is a short drive from Roanoke, our team members had already spent plenty of time there with friends and family over the course of many years. That familiarity was helpful as we spoke with stakeholders and local business owners around the region. We then did an online survey of visitors to better understand their impressions of the region and their favorite activities during their stay.

The data collected from all our interviews and surveys showed that not only did people love on the water activities like boating, swimming and waterskiing, they also enjoyed the variety of fun experiences in the vicinity around the lake. The popularity of Smith Mountain Lake as a place to visit or reside has created a thriving community of businesses, restaurants and attractions for family fun. Add in the incredible outdoor recreation opportunities in the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and it adds up to a wonderful quality of life and an enormous array of activities for visitors.

The vibrancy of the community and abundance of opportunities all around the lake are a major differentiator. Many of the other lakes, especially in Virginia, are smaller and less developed. Some are entirely owned by government or forest service land and offer little or no services. Those lakes offer an experience that certainly appeals to some visitors. Smith Mountain Lake is able to offer a clear choice to visitors looking for a fun-filled getaway that can include peaceful moments watching a sunset, as well as lots of great options for dining, exploring and adventures.

Smith Mountain Lake Virginia tourism ad samples

The Results
After careful consideration, our team recommended that Smith Mountain Lake retain its current logo. It is widely used and recognized. It’s even on some automobile license plates. However, we developed brand guidelines for using the logo for both destination marketing and Chamber of Commerce business.

A new ad campaign perfectly captures the essence of the brand strategy. The campaign is built around the message that the Smith Mountain Lake Region is “Filled with Life.” It’s versatile enough to showcase both the magic of the lake and the fun times that await in the surrounding communities. There is an almost endless list of options for future ads, including Filled with Memories, Filled with Adventure or Filled with Beauty. One thing is certain, tourism at Smith Mountain Lake is filled with potential.


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