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 developed an ad campaign and strategy to show people that the entire mix of attractions truly makes Bedford County worth a longer stay. Another reason why Bedford County should be a tourist destination is not simply because of the volume of things to do, but also because of the caliber of the major attractions. They offer big adventures and memorable experiences. They are exceptional opportunities that may surprise visitors who only know Bedford as a rural community. That reality is perfectly captured in the ad campaign message “Where ordinary ends… Bedford Begins.”
In addition to the ad campaign, a new brochure, website and video are all in the works. All marketing material will carry the key brand messaging, as well as multiple other strategies for helping consumers connect all of Destination Bedford’s many assets as one big family of attractions.
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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