Marketing a Small Town


Maximizing Budgets and Promoting Inherent Resources


By Chloe Ayres, Senior Graphic Designer


One of the principles of successful marketing (especially when marketing a destination) is to capitalize on honesty. Small towns and/or smaller destinations often imitate larger destinations in order to attract visitors, but that completely misses the point. Visitors go to smaller destinations for different reasons than they go to big destinations; more often than not, visitors who go to small towns and destinations want to see the quirks about that particular place and get a sense of the everyday life of locals.

Recently, the Faroe Islands off the coast of southeast Iceland (with the help of Denmark-based agency Liquidminds) accomplished this perfectly. The islands were facing the issue of anonymity – they were not even present on Google Street View.

Therefore, the islands and their creative team implemented some creative problem-solving by using their natural/inherent resources: They strapped some cameras to the one thing that goes literally everywhere on the island — sheep.

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According to an article in AdWeek: “Sheep outnumber people on the islands by a ratio of 2-to-1. In fact, the name Faroe Islands actually translates to ‘sheep islands,’ making the animals the perfect ambassadors for the destination, said Guðrið Højgaard, director of tourism at Visit Faroe Islands.”

By employing these sheep and using smart digital marketing to spread the word (and the video content) about their endeavors and the remarkable beauty of the islands, the program generated 2 billion media impressions and an estimated PR value of over $50 million – all on a budget of just $200,000.

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So what does this Faroe Islands project mean for destination marketing at large? It means that a destination (big or small) with a little out-of-the-box thinking, honesty about what makes its town/destination unique, a little modern touch, and a clever digital strategy can turn a small-to-moderate budget into something that has a massive impact.

The Faroe Islands is not the only destination to use its natural/inherent resources coupled with technology to make great advances in tourism. Since Cuba opened tourism up to the United States in December 2014, it has been promoting casa particulares, rooms or suites in private residences designed to connect the tourists with the local culture and bolster the economy with tourism on a very personal and local level. Most casa particulares even offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner – a true view into what it feels like to be a local in the Cuban community.

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This is happening here in the United States as well. The Goss Agency partnered with Haywood County, North Carolina, in 2014 to create a self-guided “Quilt Trail” mobile tour. Without budget dollars for a mobile application, Haywood County TDA was seeking a way to engage with visitors in the mobile environment. The Goss Agency’s social media team found a solution using Pinterest’s “Rich Pin” boards, allowing visitors to do self-guided tours through the Pinterest app.

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And, in Kansas, The Kansas Sampler Foundation is helping small communities take an honest look at themselves and identify the assets that they already have that can be promoted in a new way. The Foundation encourages residents to categorize their assets into eight areas: architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history, and people. This effort has not only grown the tourism effort but has also instilled a new love in the locals for their hometown.

What is the first step toward identifying your natural/inherent resources that you can turn into a tourism strategy? Categorizing them like The Kansas Sampler Foundation is a start, but categorization without strategy goes nowhere. The Digital team at The Goss Agency specializes in digital strategy for tourism, especially targeted Digital Direct campaigns and SEM strategy. The Goss Agency also has developed several tools over the years to help smaller destinations maximize their budget, such as the Co-Op Architecture program, the Passport Program, and V.E.E.P. (Visitor Experience Enhancement Program). For more information about any of these services, please call Troy Walker at (330) 808-9008 or email him at troy@thegossagency.com.

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