Sometimes people in the tourism industry give Bill Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, a hard time about how easy his job must be promoting palm trees and beaches.

Marketing Miami wasn’t always so straight forward.

During a presentation at the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) conference this summer, Talbert held up an original copy of the November 23, 1981 issue of Time. The “Paradise Lost” cover story chronicled the rise of the drug trade in Miami, sparked by Cuba’s Mariel Boatlift in 1980, and its severe impact on the local visitor economy.

South Florida tourism was plagued with that identity throughout the 80s. However, the cocaine crisis inspired the Miami Vice television show in September 1984, which shifted Miami’s identity from a drug-riddled crime capital to a really, really sexy drug-riddled crime capital. Based on the neon and tropical visuals, the show eventually had a major impact on driving inbound tourism and positive brand awareness worldwide.

The television show also spurred a robust advertising industry in Miami in the 1990’s, luring everyone from Absolut to Versace, further fueling the glam factor. Then Will Smith unleashed his [Welcome to] Miami monster hit song in 1998 that basically sparked Miami’s transition into mainstream tourism and a first tier American city.

“We’ve come a long way, baby,” Talbert said at DMAI. He explained that the Miami destination marketing organization’s official name is Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, but the bureau does business as “Miami.” His point was that DMOs have to distill their brand down to its truest emotive message, whatever that might be, and then align tourism promotion and destination development around it.

In Talbert’s case, Miami as a brand stands on its own, and it’s the responsibility of the DMO to get out of its way.

“Destinations aren’t about geography, they’re about psychology, they’re about a feeling,” he said. “Get your brand and stay on it…. We sell one word, whether it’s our music on hold, our cufflinks or our Braille business cards. It’s one word: Miami, Miami, Miami, Miami.”

In a further push for brand solidarity over the last decade, the Miami CVB advocated for major local institutions to change their names if they didn’t have “Miami” in them. Talbert said the bureau has directly or indirectly influenced the following name changes: Metro Zoo to Zoo Miami; South Florida Historical Museum to History Miami; and Dade Foundation to Miami Foundation. He said the biggest coup was the shift from the Florida Marlins baseball team to Miami Marlins.

The bureau also licensed its proprietary font to the Miami Downtown Development Authority and Port Miami to again encourage brand cohesiveness.

“We have evolved to be what I would call the self-anointed brand managers for Miami,” added Talbert. “Self-anointed.”

There’s a lot of meaning behind that, addressing the trend among DMOs to proactively assume a more prominent seat at the table during destination development discussions with their city council members and business development agencies.

“You also need someone who’s involved in the brand police,” Talbert said. He then explained that in Miami, “I am the brand police.”

‘It’s So Miami’ Digital, Phase 1 & 2

In April 2012, the Miami CVB joined the trend to promote local, immersive travel to individual neighborhoods with the launch of the “It’s So Miami” campaign, developed by the local Turkel Brands agency.

In October 2013, the bureau then launched a corresponding digital platform with four “Go Native” videos themed around food, fashion, nightlife and active travel. Those were followed by videos showcasing the people and places in the city’s most visited neighborhoods, including South Beach, Coconut Grove, Wynwood Arts District and Brickell Avenue downtown.

Proving immediately popular, the CVB followed that up in January 2015 with an expanded roster of lesser known Miami neighborhoods. In the last eight months, the second round of videos have done surprisingly well considering they’re much less high profile. To date, the 11 newer videos have been viewed on YouTube over 86,000 times.

Six months after the last of those videos posted online, it’s now a good time to compare viewership numbers of the first and second phases (see chart below).

Among the earlier videos, the South Beach and Go Native party videos are among the least viewed, while the Wynwood Arts District and Go Native fashion videos were more popular. That’s in line with the rise of the cultural arts and fashion/shopping scenes in Miami. Among the newer videos, the shopping-centric Bal Harbour and Aventura neighborhoods are the most popular.

The outlier is Historic Overtown, where Nat King Cole, B.B. King and Count Basie once performed generations before the infamous 1980 Miami riots here. Overtown to Miami is like Harlem was to Manhattan two decades ago. Although, at the pace that Miami is developing, it’s only a matter of time before Overtown becomes the city’s newest hipster hotspot when the boats start heading back to Havana.

“It’s So Miami” Phase 1YouTube Views“It’s So Miami” Phase 2YouTube Views
Little Havana32,573Aventura15,464
Coconut Grove30,648Coral Gables8,776
North Beach24,684Doral4,460
Downtown Miami31,703Surfside5,339
Wynwood Arts District47,135Historic Overtown6,796
South Beach26,927Bal Harbour11,188
Go Native – Eat15,755Key Biscayne9,298
Go Native – Dress46,784Little Haiti6,953
Go Native – Play34,804Homestead7,536
Go Native – Party8,130The Everglades5,595
Sunny Isles5,208
Total299,143Total86,613

Photo Credit: Little Haiti is one of the neighborhoods featured in the popular "It's So Miami" campaign. Greater Miami CVB