Positive words have their place. But at a time when trust in many organizations is waning and public license for tourism is in question, positive action is the best message.
Have you ever heard the old advice “show, don’t tell”? How about “walk your talk,” or “substance over style”? Pithy phrases like these are common advice. Here’s a translation for destination marketers and travel executives:
Make sure your organization’s good intentions turn into tangible, positive actions that improve people’s lives, because your place’s reputation depends on its integrity.
Tourism promotion is often full of positivity, and sometimes aspiration can outweigh the experiences on the ground. But in Tupelo, Mississippi, positivity truly means positive action. Destination Think developed a campaign platform called Where Tomorrows are Made for Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) that has helped the local community shine through the generous and inspiring actions of many businesses and residents.
Here’s how the campaign improved Tupelo’s experiences and storytelling in meaningful and surprising ways.
Tupelo’s local attitude toward positive action is embedded in its identity.
“Many times in Tupelo’s 150 years, the town has faced adversity and had to make changes to prosper,” says Kylie Boring, Director of Marketing at Tupelo CVB.
“The town’s leaders have always viewed these moments as opportunities. While self-interest has always been a key component of any success Tupelo has had, the ‘Tupelo Spirit’ is a way of thinking about things differently by reaching for success in an inclusive way that lifts everyone up and serves the interests of all.”
For Tupelo CVB, making the city better for everyone means connecting with the right travel markets.
“Our primary goals were to strengthen brand awareness and inspire people to add Tupelo to their list of places to travel,” she says. The CVB also aimed to differentiate the city while promoting it authentically.
At Destination Think, strategy and the creative process work hand-in-hand to ensure that what each place promotes stems from its day-to-day reality, while making progress on the most critical destination marketing objectives. “Our team focused on understanding the city’s identity,” says Chief Strategist William Bakker. “Strategically, what differentiates Tupelo? What can you draw from the local identity that would motivate visitors?”
Creative development began with Tupelo’s identity at the foundation.
“The Where Tomorrows are Made platform is all about local attitude,” says Steve Hanzic, Creative Director at Destination Think. “Tupelo’s community truly believes in the power of positive action, rather than just settling for wishful thinking. We saw their hunger for action in a stationary world could unite Tupelo, inspire travellers, and help the city differentiate itself from its giant neighbours.”
Tupelo operates in a crowded tourism market. Its competitors include big cities that form the Americana Music Triangle: Nashville, New Orleans and Memphis. Those three places are well-known music destinations and threaten to overshadow Tupelo, a place that also holds many musical landmarks, including the birthplace of Elvis Presley.
The Where Tomorrows are Made platform positions Tupelo’s musical output in context with the overarching story of Tupelo’s positive attitude. The campaign created and shared positive actions that made a meaningful difference in the community and the local tourism industry.
The multi-year platform began with a community rallying cry during 2020’s COVID-19 restrictions. Here are some examples of positive stories and actions from the platform’s first phase.
Meaningful actions and local stories
Tupelo First-Aid Kits for travelling nurses: Healthcare staff have been working tremendously hard during COVID-19, and we all wanted to recognize their services and the critical impact they have made. The First-Aid Kits were a way to put that positivity into action. The Kits made more positive tomorrows for the nurses toiling to make more positive tomorrows for us all. Care packages delivered by locals were designed to share the city’s warm community spirit, show people what makes Tupelo so special, and pass on local love during the nurses’ visits. The kits also supported local businesses.
Transformational Trails: These new trails feature stories, businesses and experiences that create more positive tomorrows. The Female Entrepreneurs Trail highlights women in the community who follow their hearts and blaze trails, while The Transformational Trail is dedicated to the positive thinkers and doers who embody Tupelo’s positivity.
Chickasaw heritage: The Chickasaw Nation has regained a strong presence in their Homeland that includes Tupelo. Today, more people are telling the city’s shared history, including the breathtaking stories of women Chickasaw warriors who allied to defeat the French army in the 18th century.
The generous barber: Aaron Washington of A Plus Barber Shop makes a positive difference by giving free haircuts to any child who comes in to read a book before school starts.
Blue Canoe’s talent search: This popular Tupelo bar and music venue is famous for finding up-and-coming artists. Owner Adam Morgan is an avid promoter of emerging talent. He also works closely with restaurant owners in town to bolster their businesses by serving amazing twists on iconic desserts, including Connie’s famous blueberry donuts.
“This was our first marketing effort with an agency in over 10 years and it was a very positive experience,” says Kylie Boring. “The fresh perspective on our brand from the creative team really inspired our team at a time when we needed it most. The holistic approach to who we are as a destination, the language we should be using, the platforms that made sense for us and the research put into the project were outstanding and a huge part of the success.
“Even though Destination Think didn’t have the luxury of visiting Tupelo, the team nailed our positive spirit and put in place a campaign that really inspired people to put us on their list of places to travel and created a differentiating statement, making us stand out in the marketplace.”
The campaign’s success has local, positive action at its heart.
“We were very happy with our campaign results and felt like the work we were able to accomplish together really strengthened our brand. Not to mention, it was uplifting for our employees to work on such a positive campaign! Our recovery gauged by our tax collection and STR data [which measures accommodation benchmarks] is going well.”
Are you looking to better express your city or place’s identity and brand? The Director of Marketing has a word for other destination marketers.
“It was not easy to take an approach that was very different from a lot of DMOs. There was a lot of money being spent in the marketplace to promote other destinations. We didn’t believe it was the right time to throw a bunch of money into the market. We chose to deepen our brand, building our ability to influence people to visit us. The approach matched the approach we’ve taken for Tupelo for years to build a loyalty-based visitor who becomes our ambassador.”
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Feature image provided by Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau.