DETROIT, Jan. 31, 2007 - Hot cars. Leading-edge music. Vegas-style gaming. Diverse culture. Championship sports. These are the attributes that define metro Detroit and offer the most appeal as a tourism destination, according to the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (DMCVB) which unveiled a new "brand identity" for the region today (Wednesday, Jan. 31).
The brand positioning and its graphic representation: "D. Cars, Culture, Gaming, Music, Sports," was introduced at the Bureau's annual membership meeting at the Detroit Opera House and attended by nearly 400 tourism, hospitality, and civic leaders.
According to Larry Alexander, president & CEO of the DMCVB, the new identity was developed after more than a year of extensive research to positively shape tourist perceptions of the region over time. It will be the foundation of a long-term strategy for marketing metro Detroit worldwide as an exciting destination for leisure tourism, meetings and conventions.
"The brand identity resulted from surveys of more than 1,300 visitors and focus groups in five cities that identified Detroit as "the American city where cool comes from," said Alexander. "This identity focuses on five strengths that best set us apart from other cities -- our auto and music heritage, our distinctive cultural product, Vegas-style gaming, and sports. Together, these strengths, delivered the way metro Detroit delivers them, give us a rare opportunity to own a very powerful and compelling idea -- and that's the first order of business in building a world-class tourism brand identity."
Detroit "cool" was one of three ideas tested -- and one that resonated extremely well with focus groups in five regional cities (Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Grand Rapids, Mich; and London, Ontario) as well as with local civic, government and corporate stakeholders, Alexander said.
The research found that among 11 regional cities, including Chicago, Toronto, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, Detroit was the only city perceived to offer a travel experience appealing primarily to young adults. Within the adult focus, the study concluded that the 21 to 34-year-old demographic was the best visitor target audience for metro Detroit. Members of this demographic are most willing to spend disposable income on new travel and entertainment experiences, and they are open-minded and adventurous opinion- setters who are motivated to share their experiences with family and friends. This age group is considered to be the best type of visitor for whom Detroit can be positioned as a 'new' destination, ripe for discovery.
Notably, this target audience is significantly narrower than past efforts, which have tended to spread marketing and advertising dollars across a broader spectrum -- resulting in little increase in leisure tourism visitation over the past five years.
Alexander emphasized that "D. Cars, Culture, Gaming, Music, Sports," is an identity reinforcing the assets that define Detroit's 'cool' but stated that the Bureau will not use a slogan as a part of its branding campaign.
"The role of a slogan in spurring tourism is overestimated," he said. "With the exception of Las Vegas, destination slogans are rarely memorable or representative of the area's tourism product. We will use a variety of words and images to consistently convey metro Detroit's brand story."
He noted that the brand identity provides an opportunity for clear, consistent and compelling communications with value that can extend beyond an individual campaign. It provides the entire community with a common understanding and frame of reference to understand and communicate a unified message about metro Detroit.
"This new brand establishes a story about the region that we plan to use to its full potential to contribute to a measurable increase in tourism, and it can also have business-to-business applications. It offers a tremendous opportunity to also showcase metro Detroit as an attractive place to live and work."
Eric La Brecque, Principal, Applied Storytelling, Inc., a brand expert based in San Francisco, who worked with the Bureau's Tourism Economic Development Council (TEDC) subsidiary to conduct the research, said survey respondents did not distinguish between the city of Detroit and its suburbs.
"When a visitor or stakeholder was asked to describe an ideal three days in Detroit, the tendency was to include attractions and destinations throughout the metro area. Political boundaries are irrelevant to tourists."
Visitors noted that many of metro Detroit's tourism offerings were not always easy to identify nor well-promoted. As a result, the TEDC established five "Tourism Destination Districts" that provide a ready way to understand and relate metro Detroit's dispersed tourism product. The districts offer the opportunity for visitors to experience metro Detroit in concentrated, smaller destinations through marketing, advertising and hotel/attraction packages. Schematic maps will provide an easy way for visitors to discern each district and understand the link between them so they can navigate to attractions throughout the metro area.
The five districts that have been established are Downtown, Dearborn/Wayne, Macomb, South Oakland and North Oakland. In each district, the TEDC formed a committee of local business and economic development leaders to guide creation of specific marketing strategies for the area.
The DMCVB plans to use its new brand identity in all of its marketing materials, which will include several non-traditional campaign elements designed to reach the younger demographic. Podcasting, blogging, advertising on 21-34-year-old-oriented prime time television shows, and "The D-Rod" hot rod displaying the Bureau's brand logo at special events and tradeshows, will be among the marketing elements used to reach this market.
In addition to Applied Storytelling, Inc., whose firm conducted the primary research and analysis, metro Detroit's new brand identity strategy and execution were developed with a team of research, marketing and communications experts whose experience includes extensive destination branding and tourism marketing.
The team includes: Jim Townsend, executive director of the Tourism Economic Development Council, who spearheaded the brand research and development effort, created and currently leads the Tourism Destination District program; Berline, the Bureau's advertising agency of record; along with Christopher Baum, the Bureau's Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, developed the positioning line and creative executions.
Berline will continue to create the Bureau's specific advertising and marketing campaigns under the new brand umbrella, and an advertising campaign featuring the new brand identity is scheduled to launch late this spring. Target markets for spot regional television advertising which appeals to the new demographic will appear in Cleveland and Grand Rapids.
Web advertising will appear worldwide on key sites frequented by this demographic.
A secondary audience includes married and single adults with no children age 45 and older, using the same creative elements, but with different messaging focusing on travel-focused AAA publications and a partnership with Travel Michigan.
SOURCE Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau
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