Re-aligning Strategy to Meet Changing Visitor Sentiment

How this Case Study may be relevant to you: This is an example of strategy and a deep understanding of the changing visitor landscape. The marketing campaign reached target audiences in New England and other nearby drive destinations to engage with events, purchase tickets, enjoy virtual workshops and plan a future trip to a cultural attraction and its surrounding region.

We lead digital and public relations efforts, driving over 65,000 clicks, 3,000,000 impressions from social media advertising, 350,000 new users to the website, 120 media placements and 3,800,000,000 impressions from earned media efforts.

photo credit: Old Sturbridge Village
photo credit: Old Sturbridge Village

Situational Analysis

Old Sturbridge Village is one of many cultural institutions that was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The typical start to the village’s busy season kicks off in April of each year, largely accommodating school trips and educational groups through June. However, due to state restrictions and safety protocols around the global pandemic, the village closed in mid-March 2020 and remained closed through late June 2020, missing out on large portions of its regular revenue streams.

Research told us that as state lockdowns were lifted and businesses began to reopen, the first visitors to return to places such as OS V would be from local and regional markets. These travelers cared about health, safety, trust and flexibility above all when making travel plans, and emphasized outdoor, open-air attractions. This was a space where OS V could thrive.

On the flip side, a study conducted by Wilkening Consulting noted that only about one-third of Americans were concerned about the state of museums in the COVID landscape, and also considered cultural institutions as a “luxury expense.” With less expendable income to go around, OSV needed to compete for visitor dollars.

The Challenges

Old Sturbridge Village faced the challenge of needing to stand out in the marketplace and drive high-levels of visitation, while also adhering to state guidelines and new guest safety protocols.

photo credit: Old Sturbridge Village
photo credit: Old Sturbridge Village

Objectives

  • Inspire travel and increase standard daytime admission ticket sales among visitors in local and regional drive markets.
  • Drive up to one-third of typical visitor capacity for front-gate visitation.
  • Build awareness of Old Sturbridge Village’s current museum offerings, changed guest experience and updated safety procedures.
  • Connect with an established audience of loyal customers who will make OSV visitation a priority.
  • Increase sales among established and new revenue streams, including events, merchandise, on-site dining and other museum experiences, as they become available.
  • Drive visitors to www.osv.org to learn more, purchase tickets and engage with virtual experiences.

Strategic Positioning

  • Differentiating OSV from other historic attractions, museums, and living history experiences within the region and leaning into its open-air, outdoor offerings.
  • Promoting the OSV experience for families, couples, solo travelers, and other identified verticals.
  • Highlighting the ongoing need for cultural institutions and their role in preserving history, memory, and identity.
  • Highlighting the educational opportunities presented by OSV and its role in engaging with school-age children.
  • Touting special events, demonstrations, or one-time offerings that enhance the OSV experience, as they become available.
  • Sharing action images from the Village upon reopening to encourage others to “follow the crowd” and plan a visit.

 

Photo Credit: Old Sturbridge Village

Key Messages

  • “More than a museum” touting all that OSV has to offer
  • Ongoing need for historical and cultural preservation
  • Ongoing need for community engagement and support as a major local attraction
  • Opportunity for enhanced educational experiences
  • Opportunity for “immersive” experiences (over hands-on, which can be a deterrent for visitors) for all ages and interests
  • Outdoor and open-air museum experiences, coupled with the universal benefits of fresh air
  • Enhanced safety procedures and new social distancing and cleanliness protocols to ensure guest health
  • Day-trip or multi-day destination, with hours of activity and exploration (lean into drivable/staycation messaging)
  • Flexible booking/ticket sales (standard daytime admission available year-round for purchased tickets)
  • On-site food, merchandise, and nearby lodging
photo credit: Old Sturbridge Village
photo credit: Old Sturbridge Village

Results

By the Numbers

  • 2 strategic marketing plans
  • 9 press releases
  • 120 media placements
  • 3,769 Facebook event responses
  • 65,000 link clicks
  • 350,000 new website users
  • 1.4 million advertising impressions
  • 3.8 billion media impressions

Photo Credit: Old Sturbridge Village

Result Highlights

  • Developed two strategic marketing plans to aid in reopening for Old Sturbridge Village and partner museum Coggeshall Farm Museum.
  • Developed and managed monthly social media and digital advertising on behalf of Old Sturbridge Village, resulting in 26,000+ link clicks, 1,400,000 impressions, 760,000 reached, and high engagement in three top DMA targets including Boston, MA, Manchester, NH, New Haven, CT and New York.
  • Developed and managed digital advertising strategies around two major events: Christmas by Candlelight with over 20,000 link clicks and 900,000 impressions and Phantoms & Fire with over 7,000 link clicks and 250,000 impressions at Old Sturbridge Village.
  • Drafted and sent nine press releases on behalf of Old Sturbridge Village covering reopening, major announcements and closures, events and activities.
  • Provided ongoing public relations support including active pitching and pitch writing, garnering 120 media placements and over 3,800,000,000 total impressions.