Bath County, Virginia
In 2018, Bath County found itself without a Tourism Director. In a county where tourism is vital to the local economy, they were losing momentum rapidly. In the spring of 2019, they chose to outsource most of the functions of the Office to Tourism to Mikula-Harris. Our team provided both strategic and creative marketing work for Bath County.
Bath County’s case study is unique. Other case studies on this site chronicle branding projects from The Discovery phase through completion. While we did not do our in-depth Brand Development Process for the county, our partnership allowed us to profoundly shape the direction of their tourism program. Over the course of 18 months working with the tourism stakeholders of Bath County, we created a strong marketing program that achieved extraordinary results.
The number one priority was to regain momentum quickly. With little or no marketing taking place for more than a year, the marketing funnel was practically empty. Our team had to prioritize which tools and tactics to implement immediately and which could wait until the second year of our partnership. Rebranding was not in the budget, nor was it needed. We did, however, develop a new ad campaign that was influenced by visitor surveys and our own personal knowledge of the county’s existing brand.
Three core principles guided our marketing strategy for the county:
1. Don’t skimp on the quality. Bath County is a breathtakingly beautiful destination with outstanding experiences for visitors. The resorts, inns, restaurants and arts community are all exceptional. We needed creative work befitting such a wonderful place.
2. Stretch the marketing budget as far as possible. We wanted to take advantage of every discount and Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) co-op as possible. While reaching the maximum number of people is always desirable, we had to ensure that we were targeting the right prospects.
3. Bring consistency to all marketing elements. It’s important for all Bath County marketing tools to be consistent visually, as well as in message and tone. The proper fonts, colors, logo usage and other design elements were carefully woven into ads, maps, rack cards, a new visitor guide, the website and more.
In addition to a new campaign that includes print, online and video ads, some news tools were added to the marketing program, including:
• A niche brochure and program on Motorcycle Rides & Scenic Drives
• A consumer e-newsletter sent to people who voluntarily opt-in
• A blog was added to the website
The rebound began in the second half of 2019, when website traffic increased 35% over the first half of the year. It continued to improve, as traffic for calendar year 2020 was up 80% over the previous year.
We invested a lot of work combined with a modest budget to make a big impact through social media. In calendar year 2020, social media has increased 380% as a source of traffic to the tourism website.
The Motorcycle Rides & Scenic Drives initiative has been a major success. In addition to the 20,000 printed guides in circulation, the online flip book has been viewed over 4,000 times. The Scenic Drives page is the second most viewed page of DiscoverBath.com. Between the organic reach of social media and paid advertising, the scenic drives video has been seen over 250,000 times.
The ad campaign and the scenic drives initiative both won VIRGO Awards, which are presented annually by the Virginia Association of Destination Marketing Organizations (VADMO). This award recognizes the best tourism marketing in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The ad campaign also received a Silver Summit Award, which is a creative competition that had over 4,100 entries from 27 countries.
How can your brand benefit from the talent and experience of the Mikula-Harris team? Let’s start a conversation. Make the call today.