Bowling Green Tourism Claims ‘Geared for Fun’ and Begins Its Branding

Another destination branding project is underway. Our team has worked hard over the past several months in leading the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors’ Bureau to their current branding and marketing efforts. Recently we helped them introduce “Geared for Fun” as a theme for launching their work ahead. The entire organization appears to be excited and ready to create traction within the destination and poised to reach out to visitors with a strong compelling message.

The story below is from the local Bowling Green press covering the introduction.

“Bowling Green Rebranded As A Destination Geared for Fun”.

I am truly exited to watch them navigate their marketing efforts using their new brand direction and action plan.Image


Does Your City Sing? A Lesson In City Branding from Music City.

I have one of the best marketing jobs I know. For much of my business, I get to work with cities and communities for the purpose of helping them identify the best branding direction that can grow tourism and economic development. As a result, I have clients in different areas of the country. I learn about each one from the people that make the community what it is. I visit the best eateries they have to offer and experience the best spots of local interest. Culturally, it’s really amazing.


Many people ask me, “What does it take for a city to brand itself successfully?”

I don’t have an easy answer for that one, mainly because I believe a city has a more difficult challenge branding itself than any public or private company. This is because unlike Apple, Disney or McDonald’s, a city does not own its name. It must share it with other businesses that use it, as well as every single resident (imagine how many businesses include the name Nashville). As a result, anyone’s efforts could positively or negatively affect your brand image. And unlike other brands, since no single entity owns the name, a city cannot take legal action against someone for misusing its name. Yikes!

So what’s the key to city branding success? It’s not a new ad campaign, it’s not a logo, it’s not even a cool line such as “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.” The key is in a city’s ability to deliver authentic experiences and in how well its residents and visitors are engaged in evangelizing the city to others. In other words, pridewell spoken. Try crafting a marketing plan to make that happen. It’s not that easy. It takes buy-in and long-term commitment from local city organizations and private investors. This requires a deliberate process of collaboration with room for organic spontaneity. In other words, when everyone sings the same note, music happens.

Nashville does the above beautifully. Of course, it’s easy for the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau to market Music City. Honky tonks, the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame are just starters for delivering this experience. But the reason Nashville “sings” is because doses of Music City are sprinkled everywhere. Here is a small starter list:

  • The Nashville Technology Council gives out guitars as awards at their annual Technology Awards. By the way, they use the theme line, “Feel the Beat of Technology.”Image
  • Bicycle racks shaped like giant microphones and musical notes are a public art project.
  • The city serves as headquarters for Country Music Association, International Bluegrass Music Association, Gospel Music Association, the Americana Music Association and even the Barbershop Harmony Society.
  • Vanderbilt Medical Center frequently uses imagery of guitars in its advertising.
  • One downtown parking garage names its floors after iconic country music stars (yes there is a Johnny Cash floor).
  • In a brilliant collaboration between tourism and the City Public Works, “live music venue” signs map out the countless number of locations that deliver a live music experience.
  • And of course there are festivals, marathons, national TV shows (go “Nashville!”) and more.

So, what does it take for a city to “sing?” It takes a village. The more people that are united and proud of the place where they live, work and play, the louder one strong note can be heard. I encourage you to sing for your community. It will make your city’s voice stronger and louder, which creates more business for everyone.

Six Ways to Use Social Media So Your Event Rocks!

This past week I attended Deluna Fest in Pensacola Beach, Florida. Deluna Fest is a weekend-long music festival featuring a number of acts varying from Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts to a number of up and coming artists in various genres. Beyond being a fantastic weekend, I couldn’t help but notice how effectively they utilized social media before, during and after the event. It really enhanced the overall event experience. So I’ve compiled my list on how to promote and execute great events using social media like a rock star. Thanks to the folks behind Deluna Fest for doing a great job.

1. Start early. The Deluna Fest twitter account has over 6,000 followers and their Facebook page has over 39,000 Likes. To get that type of following they had to start promoting the event months in advance. And remember, the purpose of using social media is not so you can reach all people, it’s so you can engage the right people so THEY tell the world.

2. Use Twitter lists.  The people at Deluna Fest realized that music fans are rabid followers on social media. So they created a twitter list of all the participating musicians and bands on twitter. I was able to follow their list and receive live updates about all of the bands. It was my own personalized Deluna Fest news feed. Brilliant!

3. Enlist help by your event partners and participants. Event sponsors CAO Cigars (9,700 FB Likes) and Landshark Lager (132,000 FB Likes) and were very active in promoting the event to their followers (bravo). The local tourism organization, Visit Pensacola (43,000 FB Likes) was also very engaged in promoting interest to visit their beach. This participation by their partners created exponential exposure. Let’s not forget the rabid fan base of Foo Fighters (8.1 million FB Likes) and the Zac Brown band (4.7 million FB Likes). On Facebook alone, Deluna Fest went from talking to their 39,000 fans to well over 10 million people. And if you use the most recent average for number of friends each person has on Facebook (211), the reach of promoting the festival went even higher. Does this have your attention yet?

4. Utilize contest to create excitement and sharing. Deluna Fest consistently promoted ticket give-aways in the few weeks leading up to their event. This caused a reactive retweet-athon from all of their followers. Sure they gave away about 6-12 tickets, but created thousands of added exposure and demand. They were also active during the event. I won a cigar from CAO. That’s right. I’m proud. I received a tweet from @delunafest during the event indicating the first 20 people that visited the CAO sponsor tent would get a free cigar. A nice way to ensure traffic is being driven to your event sponsors. #freestuffrules

5. Encourage social sharing at the event. Deluna Fest used the traditional cut-out scenes we’ve all stuck our heads in at some point. But they included signage that encourage participation in twitter or Instagram! The incentive, they would assemble a Deluna Fest photo album using your pictures. What a great idea. Anyone can do this for any event. If you have a chalkboard you’re in business.

6. Provide insider news, photos and summaries.
Use your event photographers and public relations team to create live news. Send out tweets that show behind the scenes pictures (such as the cool one here of Eddie Vedder). Give updates on sound checks, green room pics, or my favorite, a shot of the set list! Twitter can be the reporter in your visitors’ hands throughout the event. Deluna Fest also sent out summaries each morning of the previous day’s highlights. Plus by using social photo tools like Instagram, your simple smartphone photos can be breathtakingingly cool!

You may not have a music festival with big name artists. But you have an event that can attract high interest and social savvy fans. Use these same principles for empowering and engaging your biggest fans so they promote your event to everyone else.

Now go off and tweet like a rock star. Thank you Pensacola and good night!

Three Lessons In Marketing from Hot Chicken

Today I ate at 400 Degrees. It’s a Nashville hot chicken restaurant. Although I am not a food critic like my friend Chris Chamberlain, I can promise you 400 Degrees delivers nothing short of spicy poultry goodness. However, I did see a simple but powerful lesson in bold marketing from my experience.


1. You are what you say you are. 

The name of the restaurant is 400 Degrees! That pretty much sets expectations that whatever you get, it’s gonna be pretty hot. They specialize in hot spicy chicken. In fact, practically everything on their menu is, well, hot chicken. There is a hot pork chop option. Many marketers could apply this lesson in naming products. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to brand yourself is your name.  Ask Scott, the Nametag Guy. That’s right. He’s a guy that is quite the successful speaker and author because he always wears a name tag. He calls himself The Nametag Guy. Go figure?

2. Go all In. If you’re gonna be something, OWN IT.

400 Degrees Hot Chicken is not warm. It’s not really mildly hot. It’s hotter than blazes. Your sweat glands may protest the meal. It tastes and makes you feel like – 400 degrees! Ahhhhhhhhhh. Get it? If you’re going to make a claim, deliver it loudly. I had a client last week claim to be the world’s best at their industry. Really? Are you ready to deliver on such a promise? The better decision is the adjust your promise so you can deliver it better than anyone else. And then own it in everything you do.

3. Make no apologies for who you are. 

If anyone is surprised and wants to complain to 400 Degrees because their chicken was too hot I hope the management says something like, “We told you it was 400 Degrees Hot Chicken you big dummy”. I’m not saying we should be rude or not listen to our customers, but once you develop your promise do not compromise who you are in order to make everyone happy. If you try, you still won’t make everyone happy but you will have walked away from what made you so distinct and wonderful. Be bold with whatever you are and make no apologies.

Now excuse me while I go drink 12 more glasses of water. I just ate some really spicy hot chicken!

Five Ways Destination Brands Can Be Built Organically

I help destinations and communities with the process of branding themselves. It’s not an easy task. Perhaps mostly because unlike any company, there is no sole organization or person that has control of the marketing efforts. A “place” is defined by ALL of the businesses, people, organizations, buildings and stories within it. And all of them speak in a different voice. It is very important for the lead organizations of a community to rally together and capture a unified voice that can be used for outward marketing of tourism and economic development. That process requires great collaboration, organization, expertise and resources. Even when that happens, I’ve learned the communities that are most successful, do so because of related (and sometimes not) organic events that give them instant identification. Here are five that jump to mind.

1.  What’s your team? Seems a little strange right? Does your community have a professional sports team? If so what is their name? Bowling Green, KY has the Hotrods. Chattanooga has the Lookouts. Green Bay has the Packers. Pittsburgh has the Steelers. Houston has the Oilers…oopImageps… I mean the Texans:) If you do not have a team, you can still ask the question, “What would it be called”? More often than not teams are named based on the heritage and the core identifier of the community.

2. What are your greatest exports? Exports are products that are marketed outside of your community to the rest of the world. You’d be amazed how much this influences perceptions of your community. Ask anyone about Augusta, GA and they’ll say the Masters. Gainesville, FL is almost always associated with the Florida Gators. Gibson guitars are known throughout the world but are all made in Nashville. Does your community have export products like Louisiana Hot Sauce? You’d be surprised at how many you have but no one knows they are from your town. Locating these partners and persuading use of your city name in their marketing (or at least their labels) can go a long way.

3. Tap into community pride. No one thinks your town is a great place to live, work and play more than the people who live, work and play in it. Arguably one of the greatest destination branding efforts of all time was “I Love NY”. This effort started by the need to give New Yorkers a sense of pride (and pick up their trash). You can do the same thing. Recently Bowling Green, KY dedicated an entire week and day to “I love BG day“. Merchants across the city were giving out specials to anyone who was wearing the “I love BG” button. Grand Prairie, TX had a similar effort using “100 Reasons Why I Love Grand Prairie“, where locals were encouraged to submit their own entry. In all cases, these bring out authentic experiences and stories that capture a sense of pride.

4. Your events. What are your showcase events and festivals? No, not your 4th of July festival or Christmas parade. Everyone has those. What are the signature events your community has that give it definition? An International BBQ Festival like the ones in Owensboro, KY or Memphis? Dublin, OH has an Irish Festival greater in size than it’s population. Shreveport-Bossier City, LA is know for its Mudbug Madness. Even Music City’s crowning event is the CMA Music Fest. Events are great because they first and foremost give the residents and businesses a common time and place to connect with each other. The breadth of it attracts outsiders and gives them a taste of your unique culture. What is your marquee event say about you. If you do not have one, what should it be?

5. A community’s appearance. We all define ourselves by what we wear. Whether its sweater vests, suits, daisy duke shorts, flip flops, tie-dye shirts or flannels. So of course, the “dress” of your destination does that same. If you destination’s skyline or first noticeable visual is a grain silo or a barn, then do not be surprised if people see you as a farm town. A community’s architecture, streetscapes, and cleanliness says a lot about who it is. Ask Columbus, IN who is constantly listed as one of the top five architecturally significant cities in the country. Their bridges, fire departments, libraries, churches and even city hall are testaments to their commitment to great design. It’s a little unexpected but definitely sets a new expectation for the type of thinking that comes out of this community of 30,000 people. So one BIG way to make a dent in your destination’s identity is to involve your local public works and area developers in your branding plans.

There are many ways to create a destination of distinction, but hopefully these will get your juices flowing towards action. I would submit these things can do far more for branding a destination than a great catchphrase or logo. One more thing, please refrain from using “A great place to live work and play as positioning message”. Everyone does it and no one outside of your community cares. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Truth.

A little hint for marketers of traditional public and private organizations, the idea behind all of these can apply to any business. Try it.

Fuel Your Thinking By Knowing Your Dominant Creative Style

I’ve been lucky to work alongside a lot of great creative people in my career. And for the record, yes, we are all creative but have different creative personalities. I recently was speaking at the AAF Birmingham and AAF Lexington ad clubs and shared my point of Imageview on the Four Types of Creative Styles. Everyone exercises a little of each but usually we have one dominant style. Let’s review and see which one best fits you.

The Dumper

The Dumper vomits ideas by the dozens. They speak first and often. They believe the best ideas happen as a result of volume; therefore, they do not hold back in throwing out anything that hits their mind. Good ideas. Bad ideas. Silly ideas. Squirrel? If you need someone to break the awkward silence at the beginning of a brainstorm, a Dumper, is the one to get things going. Beware, a dumper can polarize the rest of the group and they are not controlled. A dumper is great for generating lots of ideas quickly.

Examples of Dumpers are the “mad scientist” types. Think Tasmanian Devil.

The Processor

A Processor takes their time. They understand and embrace the subconscious. They believe that a great idea happens when you feed the brain and let it percolate. First, they hate brainstorm meetings (it requires spontaneity) and they detest Dumpers. They probably think Dumpers are not “real creative” and are unsophisticated in their process. Do not be fooled by the quietness of a Processor. They may not speak often but when they do great things follow. Their ideas are also fewer in numbers but more thought through. Ideas from Processors often are already thought through to the level of implementation.

Examples of Processors are the “Yodas” of the workplace. Quiet but wise.

The Thespian

Drama. Everything. The ideas are dramatic. The presentation of the idea is equally large. No one has ever heard of such as great idea as the one that is about to be heard from a Thespian. In brainstorms Thespians will sit back and wait for others to get their petty ideas out of the way. Then, at just the right time, they will seize the room (standing no doubt) to tell you the best idea you’ve ever heard. Truth is, they do bring great ideas. Sure, they’re pompous but they deliver.

Examples of Thespians are the stereotypical Creative Director from a big ad agency.

The Rip-Off Artist (also known as the Elbow Guy)

The Rip-Off Artist has never seen an idea that they couldn’t use for themselves. They have no problems borrowing from others. “Got Ideas?”. “Just Think It”. “I don’t usually steal other people’s ideas, but when I do they’re from the Dos Eqquis commercials”. Get it? These people are also nice to have at brainstorm meetings because they will throw the most obvious thing onto the table, freeing your minds to fresh thinking. Just laugh at their cheesy version of the trendy tagline and then move on.

One great thing about the Rip-Off Artist is they are great at jumping on the ideas of others. They are great collaborators and team players.

Examples of Rip-Off Artists are most local radio commercials, roadside retailers (car lots) and home-based business signs.

So which one are you? Be honest. Yes, I am a Dumper with a hint of Thespian. A dramatic mad scientist? Yes I am.

Do You Self Educate? PodCamp is a No-Brainer.

Remember the days when corporate America would send employees to training boondoggles? We’d stay at nice hotels and go to 2 day workshops learning how to communicate better and learn the latest marketing trends. Expense reports. Beach locations. Ahhh, those were the days. Those days are history. Today’s world of less time, more demands, smaller budgets, and changing media requires you self educate. The truth is, you either teach yourself on your own time or you’ll become a dinosaur.

Introducing PodCamp Nashville. If you have never heard of PodCamp Nashville, then you are welcome. It’s labeled as an “un-conference” which is 2012 for sticking the old days of conference rules to “the man”.  It’s one day on April 14 in downtown Nashville filled (at the new Tequila Cowboy) with technologically savvy marketers teaching each other about what works and what doesn’t. They share predictions for what’s next and perspectives on what’s happened. Oh, and it’s FREE. No joke.

In one day worth of your time you will learn about a ton of things. Here’s 10 reasons to attend and fill your brain with knowledge:

1. Producing video for content strategy and more from @gammaliz @lauracreekmore and @jeffdolan

2. Smart web design by @studionashvegas

3. Social media from multiple speakers including @davedelaney @lauraclick and @buzzplant

4. Podcasting tips and advice from @gspn and @jonathan_taylor

5. The smartest question you could ever ask yourself as a marketer is “Why”. See why this matters from @mdave

6. How to develop smart web launch strategies from @aimeeshiree

7. Tons of topics related to music and tech marketing including advice from @musiccharles

8. A new sneak peak into building your own quick and simple website from @nicholasholland

9. Target marketing form @JohnWEllis

10. They serve beer.

So self-educate folks. Teach thyself. Learn from each other. Not to mention network with Nashville movers and shakers of the digital marketing community.

And if you want more, the day before is the start of the AAF District 7 Spring Convention, also in downtown Nashville. The main speaker will be Taylor Swift’s Digital Marketing Manager. Big stuff. Find out more at

Details on PodCamp can be found at