Experience Columbus, the convention and visitors bureau of Columbus, Ohio, has launched an unusual new marketing campaign—you might be even call it counterintuitive.
Unveiled at the ASAE annual convention in San Diego (August 16-19), the campaign doesn’t focus on what the city has to offer; instead, it hones in on what it doesn’t have to offer. “We don’t have pyramids in Columbus,” reads the slogan, with a picture of a pyramid with an X through it. Below, it reads, “But everything you’d want for a meeting is right here in Columbus.” There are also have variations on the theme, including a picture of the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, and Mount Everest, all with an X through them.
The idea, says Brian Ross, vice president, sales, at Experience Columbus, is to grab people’s attention, maybe make them laugh, and make it memorable. Typically, audiences are bombarded with messages and images that show a skyline or sell features of a destination. In effect, nothing stands out as distinct; it just blends together, he says. According to a statement on Experience Columbus’ website, “We've turned the table upside down and developed an approach that will promote our gems. After all, that's what it's all about. But first, we'll catch their attention in a nontraditional way.”
To promote this nontraditional campaign, the CVB is using nontraditional means. First, CVB staff invited area bloggers in to hear about the campaign and write their opinions about it, as well as about the city as a destination. The bureau also created a Twitter page to allow people write reviews and post thoughts about the city. The idea, says Ross, is to have individuals sell the city, not necessarily just the professionals at the CVB. Additionally, the bureau is in the process of creating a YouTube video about its ad campaign, showing the running of the bulls with the tag line, “You can’t run with the bulls in Columbus.” The hope is that it becomes viral, sent from one person to the next.
Whether or not it works remains to be seen, says Ross. But the research suggests that, since planners and others don’t always respond to typical marketing campaigns, it’s worth a try.