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Greater Greenville had its best tourism year ever in 2012, and its first full-bore multimedia marketing campaign aims to build on that success.
It is not an ordinary campaign, the first major effort to promote and brand Greenville as a special place of people and attractions – a place to meet, stay, eat, play, shop and live.
The "Yeah, THAT Greenville," tagline is everywhere, on TV commercials, magazine advertise-ments, social media, a glossy visitor's companion (rather than "guide") and giveaways from pens to bags and stickers to T-shirts.
Even the agency that promotes tourism is being rebranded. What had been the Greater Greenville Convention & Visitor's Bureau now will henceforth be known as VisitGreenvilleSC.
And the staff?
"We are the Yeah team," they said, as in "Yeah, THAT Greenville."
The phrase is personified by a new logo nicknamed the "happy 'g'" that can be found everywhere – which is the point, said Chris Stone, president of the tourism agency, in an unveiling to more than 300 invited guests at a party at the Zen event venue on Greenville's West Side.
Greenville, S.C. is not like any of the other 35 Greenvilles in this nation, Stone said. Ergo the tag line "Yeah, THAT Greenville," to make it known "we're not just any ordinary Greenville, we're THAT Greenville."
The party scene itself, a décor mixing east and west, could well personify the Zen expression down Main Street to Liberty Bridge and the Reedy riverfront where kids play, families picnic, plays are staged, art is displayed, Frisbees sail, books open, people doze.
"The happiest place in the United States," is the way Stone put it. "A magical place."
The promotion unveiled on TV screens and displays at Zen was, in fact, already underway across the Southeast.
The TV spots began airing Feb. 19 and will run through June 9. VisitGreenvilleSC has scheduled 2,000 commercials on network and high-viewer cable channel slots in major cities throughout the Southeast.
The TV promotion is comple-mented with full-page, full-color ads in major local and regional magazines and integrated, inter-active social media.
Jennifer Stilwell, chief marketing director, said the promotion is costing $450,000 and the re-branding of the agency $100,000. It's an investment with a big return, she said in a later interview.
"Everybody seems to focus on the sexy, creative stuff, which is terrific and critically important, but ultimately the bottom line is this is a business," she said.
Just as Greenville has moved well past being the world's center for cutting, weaving and sewing to become an international home of soft and hard industry, so, Stilwell says, it must recognize tourism as an economic engine.
The spending for the major promotion was made possible through the first year of revenue from a fund whereby the state matches every dollar collected locally with 50 cents.
In Greenville, with only 12 of the county's 82 hotels adding a $1 surcharge per room, VisitGreenville-SC netted an estimated $500,000, including the state match.
"If we can get more hoteliers on board or more private investment for that matter, we can bring those dollars to the table when applying for grant dollars ... (and) those dollars go straight for out-of-market promotion," Stilwell said.
The new campaign seeks to build on the growing visitor traffic that has been happening without it. 2012 was Greenville's "best year ever" with hotel occupancy at 66 percent, up from 61 percent in 2011 and 57 percent in 2010, Stilwell said.
"Anytime you can build equity from a brand and marketing perspective, that's worth its weight in gold," she said. "That's not something you walk away from but continue to capitalize on it and look at different ways to take advantage of it."
The new campaign, Stone and Stilwell said, came out of research, including on-the-street interviews with visitors and surveys from their database.
"The communication that came back was about our people," Stilwell said. "People kept saying there really isn't one thing. Sometimes with destinations, it is an Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty or the Space Needle, where people point more to a structure than on the emotion side, and 'people' is an emotional thing."
With Greater Greenville, she said, people talked about many attractions – Greenville's down-town, the parks, the Blue Ridge, the Swamp Rabbit Trail, the festivals, Bob Jones University's world-renowned collection of religious art.
"But at the end of the day it was about people," Stilwell said.