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This example of work illustrates our strengths in strategic planning and the tool we developed to help destinations plan for strategic recovery during the pandemic. It also demonstrates how we executed an integrated, short-term campaign. We drove strong results in a very short period, using a high-impact, strategic approach.

An integrated, holistic approach is more effective than siloed tactics. We started by taking the Finger Lakes Countrysides through our Recovery RoadmapTM process: a two-hour planning workshop with their team and stakeholders followed by a full strategic plan outlining goals, strategy, audiences and key messages. Through that process, we determined that the following tactics would best engage with the visitor in the short-term, at each step of the customer journey, with each touchpoint and channel working together to provide a unified, strategic message. 

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Yates County is in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. It borders three of the area’s major lakes – Seneca, Keuka and Canandaigua and encompasses 30 of the region’s world-class wineries and two wine trails. Its convenient location among the region’s attractions give visitors access to shape their own vacation. The area is known for its beautiful countryside, boutique offerings, and small-town atmosphere where visitors come to escape – all of which tied into the county’s effort to rebrand as “Finger Lakes Countrysides.”

Photo Credit: Yates County Chamber of Commerce
Photo Credit: Yates County Chamber of Commerce

Situational Analysis

Yates County wanted to engage in a robust campaign to increase occupancy at area lodging establishments to mitigate and recover from the lack of travel and economic effects of COVID-19. Their goal was to increase single-day and overnight trips, looking towards an aggressive, short-term and high-impact campaign concentrating on driving leisure travel from August through October 2020.

Research told us that as state lockdowns are lifted and businesses begin to reopen, the first visitors to return were seeking out small-town destinations over big cities. They were finding and frequenting open-air spaces and participating in outdoor activities first, traveling primarily from local and regional markets, within a 2- to 4-hour drive. Travelers cared most about health, safety, trust and flexibility above all when making travel plans during the pandemic, and, by leaning into its unique positioning as a scenic, outdoor, small-town and “countryside” destination and leveraging the Finger Lakes brand, Yates County had an opportunity to stand out in the marketplace and thrive. 

The Challenge

Engage in a robust digital marketing and public relations campaign to

  • Increase occupancy at area lodging establishments
  • Increase single-day and overnight trips
  • Drive leisure travel from August through October. 
Photo Credit: Yates County Chamber of Commerce
Photo Credit: Yates County Chamber of Commerce

Objectives

  • Increase overnight bookings among accommodation partners within Yates County that will lead to increased occupancy tax collections. 
  • Increase revenues for Yates County businesses that will lead to increased sales tax revenue. 
  • Create a foundation for the Yates County Tourism office to build upon in 2021 and beyond. 

Strategic Insight

​Create your own wide-open escape in the Finger Lakes Countrysides, your hometown away from home. ​

The area may feel rural but with access to so many experiences nearby, you can craft your own memorable experience. Finger Lakes Countrysides is full of outdoor beauty – from wide-open spaces to water and waterfalls to wilderness. The community is friendly and laidback, making visitors feel right at home. Travelers will choose Finger Lakes Countrysides because they are looking for a close and safe vacation spot where they can connect with their family or friends.

Photo Credit: Yates County Chamber of Commerce

Strategic Approach

  • Build awareness for the new “Finger Lakes Countrysides” brand and new strategic positioning
  • Build awareness of the Finger Lakes Countrysides destination experience, its tourism stakeholders and its major assets
  • Promote single and multi-day trips with overnight stays in the destination among regional markets within a 3- to 6-hour drive to increase overnight accommodation bookings
  • Bolster late summer and fall season visitation and sales tax revenues by increasing demand for destination experiences
  • Drive visitation to the new Finger Lakes Countrysides website to encourage further engagement with destination materials and future bookings
Photo Credit: Yates County Chamber of Commerce
Photo Credit: Yates County Chamber of Commerce
Photo Credit: Yates County Chamber of Commerce
Photo Credit: Yates County Chamber of Commerce

Key Messages

  • Create your own home away from home. Settle down and snuggle up in one of Finger Lakes Countrysides’ established hotels, boutique B&Bs or private vacation rentals. 
  • Create your own relaxation. Slow down and sit back as you enjoy the quiet escape of Finger Lakes Countrysides
  • Create your own connection. Feel right at home with the friendly shops and small businesses who provide personalized experiences. 
  • Create your own memories. Enjoy established traditions or create new ones. Finger Lakes Countrysides leaves an impression you will crave. 
  • Create your own outdoors. Get outside and explore the beauty of Finger Lakes Countrysides, whether you prefer water activities or on-land experiences. 
  • Create your own fun. Find what you enjoy in Finger Lakes Countrysides among water, wine and wilderness. 
  • Create your own sophistication. Choose from a diverse blend of culinary and craft beverage experiences. 
  • Create your own nightlife. Cozy up to the local wine bar or stargaze next to a bonfire on the beach. 
  • Create your own vacation. Finger Lakes Countrysides is full of exciting possibilities, all within reach. 

Targeting

Targeting Method

A key cornerstone of this campaign was the use of 2019 mobile ID data, collected from visitors who had made a daytrip or booked an overnight visit to the Finger Lakes Region at any point within the previous year. ​​

We used this data in our Digital Retargeting, Pay per click (PPC), Over the Top (OTT), Facebook and Instagram campaigns to find and target visitors who are loyal to the region and most likely to make a return visit in 2020. 

Photo Credit: Yates County Chamber of Commerce

Result Highlights (to date, December 2020)

  • Launch of Finger Lakes Countrysides website, brand and new social channels, with over 8,800 fans/page likes gained on Facebook July-October among target audience.
  • 4,336,617 impressions garnered July-October through digital retargeting, PPC, OTT, Facebook and Instagram ads.
  • 32,493 clicks driven to the landing page July-October through digital retargeting, PPC, OTT, Facebook and Instagram ads.
  • 7,891 conversions tracked July-October from the landing page to Finger Lakes Countrysides lodging pages and lodging partners. 
  • Two regional travel writers hosted in the destination, during the time of COVID-19, with 37 social media placements totaling over 64,000 impressions and two dedicated feature stories to-date. 
  • Ongoing implementation of COVID Response Satisfaction Survey among regional partners and stakeholders, to survey current visitors and track responses on health, safety, cleanliness, customer service, adaptability and more. 

ROMI based on Mobile ID Tracking Results:

  • 12,810 Total Visitors came to the Finger Lakes Countrysides during the months of August-October 2020.
  • 7,155 of those visitors booked an overnight stay spending an average of 2.3 days in the county
  • 5,655 of those visitors came for a daytrip spending an average of 4.5 hours in the area

This represented $2,899,381 in total visitor spend over the three-month campaign.

For every $1 invested in this campaign, we delivered $41 in visitor spending to the Finger Lakes Countrysides.

A 4042% Return on Marketing Investment

Finger Lakes Countrysides Landing Page

Finger Lakes Countrysides Digital Ads

Finger Lakes Countryside Facebook Ads