Have you ever heard of Page County, Virginia? Probably not, although chances are good that you know of the county seat Luray, Virginia, because of Luray Caverns and their abundance of billboards along I-81. Well, it's time for everyone to know more about the charm of Luray and the indelible beauty of every square inch of Page County. About two weeks ago we launched www.luraypage.com to tell those stories to the world. I’d like to take you on the insiders tour of the website.

• The first thing on travel website visitor's minds is what is there to do at this destination. They are less interested in background, stats, amenities, etc. The bottom line is what can my family, friends and I do. With that in mind, this site places the Things to Do menu first where that question is answered in many ways and organized by subject. If the viewer’s eye is drawn to the unique Choose Your Level option first, those three pages are entirely about what exciting things there are to do.

• A focus group conducted by a state travel office revealed that visitors can’t get enough photos. Good photos help visitors project themselves into the scene. Even though some web “experts” suggest keeping photos to a minimum because too many can potentially slow the loading time, the focus group proves that rule simply doesn’t apply to tourism sites. The Luray & Page County site has lots of great photos that show a mix of beautiful scenery and people engaged in fun activities.

• The site plan was designed for easy navigation. Our objective was that a visitor could find whatever information they wanted within three clicks. Other times, viewers like to browse travel websites. This one sure is fun to browse. It’s rich in content with plenty of photos and concise, easy-to-read copy.

• Luray & Page County is a fantastic destination for families (although it’s also great for couples, seniors or a girlfriend getaway). Kids are as computer savvy as anyone, so we dedicated a page to telling young folks what they can do when they arrive in Luray & Page County. The Kids Page is designed and written specifically for kids. Of course, parents need to be assured that there are plenty of fun and safe things for their kids to enjoy. The Parents Page addresses that topic in detail.

• Multigenerational travel is a rapidly growing trend. Grandparents are frequently included on vacations and in many instances they’re footing the bill. Luray & Page County is ideally suited to multigenerational travel parties because of the opportunity to rent a cabin where family members can have private rooms but also share common kitchen, living room and porch/deck space. This site includes a Grandparents Page to explain exactly why Luray & Page County is the place to make memories with the grandkids. Note: Kids Pages on a travel site are few and far between, but I personally have never seen a Grandparents Page. I think it’s a unique and valuable addition to this site.

There is a lot more strategy and planning built into every section and page on the site. I could go on and on, but you’d probably prefer to just click around on the site at your own pace. Once you do, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Post them here on the blog or on our Facebook page.

By now you have probably seen an advertisement or magazine article sporting a QR Code. If you’re not familiar with this technology, Quick Response Codes are those strange looking little blocks of black and white squares that look like static on an old television screen. They are the next generation of bar codes. You simply scan the code on your smart phone using any one of several free downloadable apps and the code takes you almost instantly to a pre-determined website.

Like any new technology, you have to wonder if it will catch on with the general public or quickly go the way of betamax. From my point of view, I see big potential for this technology in marketing — if it’s used creatively. These codes make it possible to take print communication up a notch and integrate video or interactive elements to the message. A college viewbook could place a QR Code next to a paragraph on campus life and steer the audience to a video tour. A foodservice supplier (let’s say our longtime client U.S. Foodservice) could place a QR Code in their product catalog and take customers to a YouTube video demonstrating how to prepare and serve a new recipe.

Here at Inprint we are in the final stages of a project that we thought offered an ideal use of QR Codes. We recently designed informational kiosks that will be placed at access points along the Upper James River Water Trail in Botetourt County, Virginia. The 3’ x 5’ displays include maps and essential information about being responsible and safe on the river. The kiosk points out Virginia law regarding fishing licenses. We generated a QR Code that takes the user to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' site where he/she can buy a license right through their smart phone. Elsewhere on the kiosk, canoeists and kayakers are urged to monitor river levels for safety. A QR Code takes them directly to NOAA’s site for real time information. These are two good examples of using QR Codes to extend the usefulness of a printed sign and offer a genuinely valuable service to the user. The NOAA site's URL is nearly 50 characters long. It's doubtful that anyone would stand at the river's edge and type that URL into their smart phone browser.

The gratuitous use of this or any other technology diminishes its value. The key will be to use it to truly enhances an advertising concept or provide some sort of service or convenience to the user. We will undoubtedly find more creative ways to make use of QR Codes. If you’ve seen other innovative ways to use them, we’d love to hear your story.

At about this time 19 years ago my future business
partner and I were making plans to launch our business. We were two idealistic
kids (we were in our 20 then) with dreams of filling our days doing amazing
creative work. We chose our company name because we wanted to provide all the
creative services needed for any project that would end up in print. We wanted
to work on ad campaigns, brochures, annual reports, catalogs, publications,
packaging and more. We especially wanted to do lots of corporate identity work.
We were doing branding before branding was cool. It was fun and rewarding work.
Life was good.

Then the marketing landscape changed. Today no great
brand can thrive without a presence on the web. We recognized that fact early
and branched out beyond print to web design. As the world continued to evolve,
we grew to offer new services to our clients, such as e-mail marketing, SEO
guidance, and consultation on social media strategy. We have spent considerable
energy communicating to clients and potential clients that integrated campaigns
are the best avenue to marketing success and that as a well-rounded agency we
can help them through all media, not just print.

Then the pendulum swung further as pundits started to
proclaim that print is dead. Well, that was — and still is — a bit premature.
In my opinion, statements like that are made simply to be provocative. Can
anyone in their right mind really believe that print media is useless as a
marketing tool? Now that pendulum is moving in the other direction. There is a
terrific campaign underway by several large magazine publishers to convince
advertisers that print is very healthy indeed. Magazine subscriptions in
America reached a 10-year high in 2008. Even the number of young readers (age
18-34) has grown over the past five years.* Consider this fact, when websites
offer consumers an opportunity to request more information on their product or
service, what exactly are they offering? Answer: A printed brochure or catalog. My friends, print is nowhere near dead. It's more valuable than ever if it's used wisely.

Marketers need to
use any and all media that have the power to reach their potential customers.
The mix of media and the amount invested in each will vary for every unique
client (some things change), but an integrated approach remains the best advice
(some things don't).

* Source: Magazine Publishers of America


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