Commitment to Place Branding
For more than a decade, we prided ourselves on the statement that “Charlotte’s got a lot.” And while this continues to ring true, we found that Charlotte had hit a noticeable stride in recent years and become so much more than the assets which once defined us.
While destination branding has long been one of the CRVA’s top priorities, and our efforts had results-driven success, we knew that our community had to come together and make a commitment to evolve into a unified place brand to benefit both the visitor economy and economic development. Destination branding is solely centered on the attraction of visitors, where place branding works to achieve a higher level of connectivity, recognition and elevated perception among many audiences. Place branding is about bridging gaps. Gaps between a place’s identity, its product offerings and image - the perceptions people have through personal experiences when they visit.
Because it takes many speaking with one voice to make real impact, our partners served as the invaluable backbone of our place branding efforts. These stakeholders spanned a number of industries and people – from the City of Charlotte to the Charlotte Chamber and Charlotte Regional Partnership (now the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance) to economic development agencies like Center City Partners and others who have a stake in the livability and economic prosperity of our region. All were essential to collaborate with to tell the story of Charlotte.
In such a highly competitive environment, place branding can help build competitive identity, influence perceptions and capture the hearts and attentions of visitors. Place branding is above all about the distinctiveness of place. It addresses what makes our community unique when compared to other places and competitors.
At the heart of our brand work is a brand promise, developed collaboratively with input from our strategic partners across Charlotte. As the city has grown and come into its own, we’ve found that the real soul lies in our increasingly diverse community and the people who are shaping those experiences. Our brand promise positions us to tell our stories through the people who are making this city and region what it is.
Place branding is often criticized as being a top-down practice, reflecting the interests of a select group of powerful stakeholders. More than anything, we believe Charlotte’s brand is meant to be owned by the visitors and residents who love and advocate for this city. While the CRVA spends millions to market our destination annually, we believe the true power of the brand lies within the people who embrace it.
A logo is a mark that should create some kind of connection with a brand and build recognition, recall and differentiation. Look around Charlotte and you’ll see the “Crown” symbol found on street signs, T-shirts, business names, local universities and even tattoos on certain Charlotte residents. When considering the visual execution of our brand promise, it became increasingly important for us to tap into a brand adoption that was already authentically and rapidly taking shape.
When designing the Charlotte brand marks, we sought to encapsulate the city’s most organically adopted symbol into its logo – the crown – in recognition of its nickname, the Queen City. By adding sectional color-blocking layers, marks took on a more energetic form, representing the diversity of culture, industry and opportunity that Charlotte has to offer. There’s a full suite of brand marks intended to provide versatility in usage and represent the monikers “CLT” and the “QC”.
While the logo or brand mark is but one element of our visual display, the core of the brand emphasizes memorable experiences over assets, game-changing people over places, and the soul of the city over its picturesque skyline. It’s about how the people of this city make you feel, and it celebrates a culturally diverse place where everyone has the opportunity to make Charlotte their own.
Beginning in early March 2018, we rolled out an extensive paid media campaign targeted within 12 strategic markets.
The CRVA’s paid media investment seeks to generate awareness for the destination and inspire travel – both early phases in the customer journey which lead to conversion.
Since 2018, we have injected more than $7 Million into our media buy markets focusing on four key themes to help guide our brand messaging and reach our target audiences. Using key travel research data about Charlotte, we identified our top target audience segments who share similar motivations for travel. The four themes of Culinary, Arts & Culture, Diversity & Inclusion and Outdoor Recreation & Adventure help connect people to Charlotte and inspire them to experience the city.
Charlotte’s print campaign features strong visuals, leading with experience and people first; locations are also geo-tagged. And standing on the shoulders of ‘Charlotte’s got a lot’, our copy expands on our headlines, embodying the “a lot” the city has to offer.
Additionally, we have developed a series of advertorial-style ads which aid in our ability to emphasize our memorable experiences through the stories of our people.
The CRVA’s paid advertising and earned media efforts are changing perceptions, positively impacting Charlotte’s image. With recall of just one paid or earned placement, we know our efforts are able to positively impact perceptions of Charlotte’s image in some cases by almost double.
We also know that cities and states that prioritize destination marketing and coordinate these efforts with economic development initiatives have experienced significant site relocations and new investments as a direct result. Place branding is about bringing community together.
Through research, we know that destination marketing also has what’s referred to as a “halo effect” on economic development. When asked about attributes like Charlotte being a “good place to retire, purchase a second home, attend college, live, start a business or a career”, the perception of Charlotte was significantly positively changed with recall of at least one of our paid advertisements or one earned media article. And these attributes are never mentioned in any of our ads.
One of the first collaborative marketing/communications efforts involving the place brand came through the launch of a marketing program the CRVA developed to support the efforts of our economic development partners. The CRVA invested in a Research, Media Relations and a Digital Ambassador Program and produced an advertisement to support the region’s economic development efforts to reach targeted sectors and industries.
Every two years we engage in a Return on Investment study with Longwoods International, a respected leader in destination marketing research.
Using our 2018 paid advertising spend, Longwoods found that our efforts raised the ‘Destination Profile’ and positively changed perceptions across our key themes by 38%. More than 55% of respondents said they were more likely to take an overnight trip to Charlotte after seeing just one of our ads. Based on a $5 million advertising spend, our efforts generated 3.3 million new visits, resulting in $670 million in economic impact, $370 million in visitor spending and $20 million in new Mecklenburg County taxes.
More than half of the people who visit Charlotte are visiting friends and relatives. And we believe the true power of the brand lies within the people who embrace it – our visitors and residents serve as passionate brand ambassadors. We strive to design merchandise bearing the brand mark as a direct reflection of the city and our people.
We encourage you to stop by our Visitor Info Center located on the Wells Fargo Plaza to see more.
View our Brand Guidelines.