Case Studies

Crossroads to Settlement

The Challenge

With such rich history in the region, it was natural for the Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau to want to tap into the lucrative heritage & cultural tourism market. The valley played an important role for early American pioneers heading west across the Blue Ridge Mountains to settle the untamed frontier. Several major migration routes collectively known as The Wilderness Road passed right through the region, making the Roanoke Valley a Crossroads to Settlement.

Heritage & cultural tourism is a growing niche in the travel and tourism market — one that presents unique marketing challenges. Heritage & cultural travelers are generally better educated and more affluent than other leisure travelers. They tend to spend more per trip and take slightly longer trips. They also have higher expectations for their travel experiences.

The Strategy

There are dozens of historic sites, museums and roadside historical markers for visitors to see, but the marketing material had to do more than just inform. It had to make history come alive and make the experience relevant to potential visitors. The brochure states: “The Wilderness Road is a story of people — courageous and pioneering people who made an indelible mark on our nation’s history.” George Washington and Daniel Boone are both connected to the Wilderness Road. At least 43 million Americans can trace their heritage to people who traveled the Wilderness Road. Today, with the help of detailed maps in the brochure and website, visitors are able to retrace the same routes that early settlers traveled, making the history of the migration both interesting and personal to potential visitors.

A secondary strategy was to appeal to more than just history fans. Families with children, couples or individuals not typically inclined to visit historic sites would all find the Crossroads to Settlement story interesting if they could be properly convinced to explore the sites. To lure these travelers off the interstate the brochure had to capture their imagination from the moment they laid eyes on it. The design uses rich colors and unique typography to convey the ruggedness of the pioneers’ journey. From the very first word, the reader is drawn into the real-life tales of the settlers and teased by what is just waiting to be experienced along the routes.

The Results

The campaign consisted of a brochure with a print run of 75,000, a website with engaging and interactive maps and an ad campaign that ran in several heritage travel publications. When the Virginia Tourism Corporation established the statewide Wilderness Road program, they envisioned communities partnering to establish local trails to entice visitors into their attractions. The Crossroads to Settlement initiative through the Roanoke Valley is the first full marketing campaign of its kind to fulfill that vision.

The response to the campaign has been overwhelming. All of the partners are thrilled with the creative work done by Mikula-Harris. In the first four months since the campaign was unveiled to the public, the web site has had over 1,300 page views with an impressive 3:05 average time on site. With the ongoing advertising campaign, we’re confident that a lot of visitors will come and experience the history of our region.

Debora Wright, Director of Marketing for the Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau

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