|By Jen Haberkorn, The Washington
TimesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 24, 200 7 - The District's advertising agency, worried that the name "Washington" doesn't scream excitement, culture or "come back to see me again," is putting "D.C." in the forefront.
"Washington" conjures up the image of the federal government, the Mall and eighth-grade class trips. "D.C.," generally the term locals use to identify the town, is more associated with its neighborhoods, growing restaurant scene, international culture and open green spaces.
The Washington, DC Convention & Tourism Corp. (WCTC) is rebranding the city to domestic and international visitors with a new logo that's literally almost all "D.C."
The WCTC isn't turning its back on the city's federal parks, buildings or Smithsonian museums. But it is hoping to let visitors in on the "D.C." part of the nation's capital that wasn't as strongly advertised in the old logo and brand, "Washington DC: The American Experience." That brand put equal emphasis on "Washington" and "D.C."
"The perception is still that D.C. is all bricks, marble and granite. There is much more to it," said William A. Hanbury, president and chief executive officer of the WCTC. "We have the same assets that some of the best cities in the world have -- Paris, Oslo, Tokyo."
This is the largest campaign effort in the WCTC's nearly seven-year history. It has hired Burson-Marsteller, a New York advertising firm with a local office, to design and test the brand in the fall. The first ads will be rolled out by the beginning of next year.
The slogan, which the WCTC has developed but won't announce yet, will be "as powerful as Vegas," Mr. Hanbury said. "That's the goal."
That's a tall order. Las Vegas' five-year-old "What happens here, stays here" slogan is considered the gold standard in destination marketing.
In WCTC's research, 86 percent of people were able to recall Las Vegas' slogan.
In comparison, only 25 percent of people remember the District's current slogan, "The American Experience."
WCTC promises the new brand will be bold and likely revolve around four ideas: that D.C. is powerful, inspiring, beautiful and celebratory.
The new brand is based on months of research by the WCTC. The agency and a consultant, Longwoods International of Toronto, surveyed 2,000 national consumers and 1,000 consumers in Canada and Britain; interviewed 25 city leaders; and held eight workshops with more than 120 locals. They also collected 2,500 slogan suggestions.
The new brand is coming online as the tourism marketplace revs up.
About 15.1 million visitors came to the District last year, a slight drop from the 15.3 million who visited in 2005. Business travel fell from 7 million in 2005 to 5.8 million last year, but leisure travel rose from 7.1 million to 8.1 million last year.
While the number of visitors fell, the collective amount of money they spent in the District rose, generating $5.24 billion in visitor spending in 2006, a 4 percent increase.
The District is already facing competition from Gaylord National. The 2,000-room hotel and convention center at National Harbor in Prince George's County has more rooms than any single D.C. hotel and has taken at least a few pieces of meeting business from the District. It is scheduled to open in April.
The city's restaurant and hotel groups say the new image is needed and like that it highlights the city that nearly 600,000 people call home.
"Sometimes even Congress forgets that they live in D.C.," said Lynne Breaux, president of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. The new brand is "all about the core of what's here."
"Our members are excited about this," said Liz DeBarros, vice president of the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C. "Of course, the issue is getting the finances together to support something like this. We need to get enough interest in this so that we can partner with the city or partner with corporations to pay for this."
The agency is putting $2 million behind the new brand and asking the city for additional funding.
"Two million dollars is a tepid amount" for such a rebranding, Mr. Hanbury said, comparing the District's total, $12 million advertising budget, with cities such as New York or Orlando, which spend $45 million and $68 million, respectively.
The brand "needs tens of millions of dollars over a sustained time period to be effective," he said.
The WCTC says it has a good return on investment. Last summer's "American Originals" advertising campaign cost $1 million but generated $193 million in direct spending and $9.3 million in city tax revenue, Mr. Hanbury said.
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