CAPC workshop focuses on marketing strategies
The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission heard from a marketing expert at its regular workshop on Wednesday, March 27.
Ryan Thompson, senior vice president of Miles Partnership, addressed ways the commission can work in the digital world while keeping the consumer at the forefront of marketing campaigns. CAPC chairwoman Carol Wright introduced Thompson, saying she's hoping the commission will take a deeper look at where its advertising dollars go.
"It's easy to spend a lot of money on advertising and keep spending it," Wright said. "If you don't know it's effective or not, that may not be the best course of action."
Thompson said his company has worked with tourism destinations all over the country, with offices in Little Rock, Dallas, Sarasota, Fla., and Denver.
"What we want to do is talk about how we look at tourism trends and markets," Thompson said. "We are one of the agencies for the state of Arkansas, so we have a lot of knowledge about that."
Tourism is on the upswing, Thompson said, and now's the time for Eureka Springs to get its message out there.
"The biggest thing we're seeing in 2019 is that it's going to be a full year of tourism," Thompson said. "People are traveling more and spending more discretionary money."
These days, Thompson said, consumers are less trusting of stalwart brands like Facebook and American Airlines. That means tourism destinations need to find new ways to market their product, he said.
"What's the emotive message we want to put out?" Thompson asked. "This little village is so interesting and so diverse. We think there's a lot of opportunity to tell that story in new and different ways."
He continued, "How do we create brand solidarity? We're only as good as the parts within this community. Find the partners, be it your agency or others, and get your messaging out."
Thompson described a marketing campaign he worked on in Dallas called the Margarita Mile, saying the frozen margarita was invented at Mariano's in Dallas in 1971. The Margarita Mile campaign focused on Mexican restaurants within one mile of Mariano's, Thompson said, and users were invited to record their own videos enjoying margaritas at participating restaurants. Thompson said the campaign was extremely successful because it appealed to consumers who want to hear from other consumers.
"We see it as more authentic than brand advertising," Thompson said. "If someone posts something they filmed on social media, I'll probably trust it more than an ad even if I don't know that person. It's just the way we think."
Some of the participants in Margarita Mile became brand ambassadors for Miles Partnership, Thompson said.
"We have all this content that we couldn't have afforded to shoot in any other way," Thompson said. "We can do with it what we want, best of all … these people are doing a lot of the work for us."
When thinking of how to market your destination, Thompson said, it's important to shift how you see demographics.
"One of the things we're looking at is called cognitive segmentation. How do you collect information across all these different devices?" Thompson said. "We can get things like anonymous data points from Google analytics."
Thompson said organic clicks on websites have decreased in past years because Google provides instant answers to up to 40 percent of its queries.
“Let's embrace [Google] and say, 'OK, we don't necessarily care about website traffic,' " Thompson said. "Maybe we can change the metrics we're looking at."
Commissioner Susan Harman asked Thompson if he sees the value in locals sharing marketing content, and Thompson said he does.
"We're only as good as our partners' delivery," Thompson said. "In our opinion, we need to get all that information out and try to find ways to motivate our partners if they're not already."
"I believe that's one of the things we miss," Harman said, "is that we produce all kinds of things, but we've got to get people to share it. It's a great city. It's just a matter of educating people to share that to use that information and really help promote that much more."
Wright said she wants to see everyone in the region working together
"Rogers, Bentonville, Fayetteville and Eureka are all incredible for each other," Wright said. "We have the ability to overlap and do large regional types of things."
Lodging owner Damon Henke said he's amazed at the kind of content consumers produce to promote the city.
"The videos that are being produced at Leatherwood are unbelievably professional, and that's totally organic," Henke said.
Commissioner Bobbi Foster said she'd like to market more toward families, and CAPC employee Karen Pryor said she feels that everyone has a different segment they'd like to see in town.
"I believe we need someone to help us determine who we are," Pryor said. "Are we the extraordinary escape, and does that brand truly encompass everything?"
Thompson said that would be the first step toward determining how to market Eureka Springs.
"Everything related to branding and creative is an emotional process. I like it. You hate it," Thompson said. "I'm not right, and you're not wrong. It's just how we feel. Our job is to be a moderator, to bring people together."