Roger Brooks, revisited: Highlights from the Wisconsin Tourism Conference

So another Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism (WIGCOT) has come and gone.  The setting was the fabulous Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, WI.  This two and a half day conference is always a whirlwind of inspirational keynote speakers – particularly notable was Eric Whitacre, creator of the worldwide Virtual Choir project, as well as several of the presentations by tourism industry leaders.  The networking (mostly in the hotel lobby bar) was also world-class.  WIGCOT is one of the most highly attended tourism conference in the US, which is a testament to the industry’s significance in Wisconsin.

While some breakout sessions inspired attendees to research new destination marketing trends, some were really reminders of what you already know but may have strayed from over the years.  Not only are these relevant to the tourism industry, but there are many principles that can be applied to other industries, as well.

One example of this was Roger Brooks. Brooks is an internationally known expert in tourism, community branding, downtown development and destination marketing.  He has been a frequent presenter at the WIGCOT conference over the years. His branding “rules” are straightforward and are always a good reminder of what to stop doing and more importantly what to start doing.  Here are a few highlights from his presentation:

  • Great brands start with a plan. That should include…
    • Branding (what you are known for)
    • Development (what needs to be done for you to own your brand)
    • Marketing (how to tell everyone)
    • Action Plan (the to do list)
  • Avoid words and phrases that could describe every town, city, hotel or attraction in your area. If you look at your brochures and guidebooks you may be in violation of a few of these.
    • Explore
    • So much to see and do
    • Best kept secret
    • Unique
    • Discover
    • We have it all
    • Close to it all
    • The place for all ages
    • It’s all right here!
  • 45% of your budget should go to digital marketing – this includes advertising and web development
    • 90% of the population has access to the web and they are using your website to plan their vacations.  You have made sure that your desktop site is optimized and organized but have you made sure that your site is optimized for mobile and tablets?  If not, consumers will leave and find someone else’s whose site is.  Consumers have short attention spans and if they can’t find what they want in less than 30 seconds they are out.
  • According to Brooks, we are exposed to 5,000 marketing messages a day and 97% of dollars spent marketing communities is ineffective. (NOTE: This isn’t necessarily the viewpoint of the B+L Media Department!)
    • Consumers block out messages that do not appeal to them.  This reinforces doing your research so that you are reaching your audience at the right time and in the right place.  I am a firm believer that the context in which your message is delivered is very important.  Do I think that gas station advertising is important for my clients?  No.  Could it be for lottery sales?  Yes.  Context and the consumer’s state of mind when they are being exposed to your message is extremely important.

Again, these are only a few takeaways from this year’s conference.  This blog would be way too long if I mentioned all of them.  Besides, what you should really do right now is check out Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir series on YouTube. It’s amazing!