To many people, Bedford County is thought of as a quiet, albeit scenic place located between the better-known cities of Roanoke and Lynchburg. At first, we thought that convincing visitors to spend more time here would be our biggest challenge.
We soon realized that Bedford County, which includes the charming small town of the same name, has a list of tourism draws a mile long. Several of the attractions are world-class. The challenge became how to build a brand around the county’s complete and varied offerings.
Our research included surveys of both visitors and local stakeholders. Their opinions of Bedford County were remarkably similar. Other data, such as attendance figures at local attractions, indicated that four top-notch attractions serve as the anchors to their tourism assets — The Blue Ridge Parkway, The National D-Day Memorial, Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest and Smith Mountain Lake. In addition, the Town of Bedford offers a quaint downtown with cool shops, good food and a hip new craft brewery.
With four major attractions, we chose not to hitch the brand messaging to just one thing. Capitalizing on all four, along with other factors, including the convenient location and scenic surroundings of the Blue Ridge Mountains, we knew we could position Bedford County as much more than a day trip location or brief stop on a journey to someplace else.
We recommended marketing tourism under the name Destination Bedford.
We then created a cohesive family of marketing materials to support the brand messaging that the full mix of experiences in Bedford County make it a great destination for an extended stay. Not only are there a lot of attractions available for visitors, but many of them are world-class or one-of-a-kind. The presence of such exceptional opportunities may surprise visitors who only know Bedford as a rural community. That reality is perfectly captured in the campaign message, “Where ordinary ends… Bedford Begins.”
The campaign includes print, online and video components, all of which steer visitors to a new website. From the site, visitors can view dining, lodging and shopping information, read a blog, download a suggested itinerary, or request additional printed material. The Destination Bedford brand will surely win over visitors. How can we be so confident? It is being enthusiastically embraced within the community — a sure sign that the branding is creative, memorable and truthful.
Developing a destination brand package is a big project. Bedford tourism has never really had a brand, and the Mikula-Harris team has been a pleasure to work with throughout the process. It has been a great learning experience for our team. Our new logo and ad campaign have received high praise from our tourism assets and community members alike, and we have only just begun to roll it out. We look forward to working with them to build our new website, produce a series of marketing videos, and design a new visitor guide.
— NICOLE JOHNSON, Director of Tourism, Destination Bedford
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