To better understand the big marketing challenges facing travel brands in an age when consumers are in control, Skift’s What Keeps CMOs Up at Night will talk with the leading voices in global marketing from across all the industry’s sectors.
These interviews with leaders of hotels, airlines, tourism boards, digital players, agents, tour operators and more will explore both shared and unique challenges they are facing, where they get insights, and how they best leverage digital insights to make smarter decisions.
This is the latest interview in the series.
Visit Dallas launched a new website last month that organizes the city by neighborhoods in order to provide a more local, layered perspective of the city to help attract more leisure visitors.
For many people who haven’t been to Texas before, or maybe not for a long time, they generally don’t think of Dallas as a leisure destination. In fact, they often don’t know the difference between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio in the first place.
Noelle LeVeaux, CMO of Visit Dallas, says the new website was designed to define the city’s destination brand identity for the leisure traveler. Specifically, she says Dallas has a distinct competitive advantage in the luxury travel space. The Dallas Arts District, for example, has one of the most high-profile museum collections between the coasts, and the best reputation in Texas for upscale dining, drinking, and shopping.
“We’ve never really branded ourselves as a leisure destination and now we need to do that,” LeVeaux told Skift. “So what does Dallas really have to offer a visitor? Our key message is Dallas is a place where you can go have a great dinner at a local restaurant, and George Bush or Jerry Jones might be a couple tables away. Dallas is a very accessible but high-end experience type of city.”
The new website’s focus on neighborhoods is designed to show that Dallas is more than one big central business district. The portal has a large map of the city broken down by the different communities with links to each. That provides a better platform for storytelling around each of the neighborhoods and the attractions in them.
On the meetings and conventions side of things, Dallas should be a juggernaut based on its central geographic location and unparalleled air access into Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. But the city needs to convey a richer destination experience for a more diverse audience, especially for association conferences, to create stickier interest in attendees’ minds.
Presently, the meetings content at VisitDallas.com is fairly basic, but LeVeaux says the plan is to blow that out eventually with much richer, group-specific dialogue about Dallas’ defining value propositions as an upscale, global convention city.
We spoke at length with LeVeaux about rebranding Dallas in the digital age for both leisure travelers and meetings delegates of all ages.
Skift: What keeps you up at night thinking about the future of digital marketing?
LeVeaux: What keeps me up is asking, what are we missing? Is there something that we’re just really missing the boat on? I say that for a couple of reasons. One, things change so quickly in the digital space in regards to whether you’re talking social or the tools that can be used in digital now. The other part is data. What you should really be able to get the most out of digital is data. So how do we mine that data better? How do we use it to really influence travelers?
Because at the end of the day, what I’m really trying to do is increase visitation to Dallas, and digital is the place where I should be able to gather that information about you to basically be able to do that. It’s always about how we actually use the data. A lot of us are great at gathering data, but we haven’t always been very good about turning around and using it?
Skift: What was the motivation behind the overall design and strategy of the new Visit Dallas website?
Noelle LeVeaux: That’s what a lot of this year has really been about, redesigning our website. We knew that most people who come to our site already have a trip planned to Dallas, so they’re really looking for what they should do when they get here. We wanted to design a website that really focused on the travel experience, whether you’re an art lover or you’re a culinary expert. Whatever those things are, you can find a click-through quickly that will tell you all about those different things.
It’s a very clean website. We have come so far from where we were with websites when they had all kinds of color and everything. Ours has a completely white background with photograph cards that you flip through. It’s just a very different approach than what we’ve been doing in the past several years. Today, it’s all about delivering the experience and the information that people really want in the easiest way.
Skift: Can you talk about how the website focuses more on the neighborhoods, and the reasoning behind that?
LeVeaux: The goal is to show the different community experiences throughout Dallas. We struggle with identifying and naming these neighborhood districts that we have. If you’ve never been to Dallas, then you don’t know where Bishop Arts District is, right? Our map is done basically by neighborhoods so if you click and hover over the south, you’ll see that Bishop Arts is in the southern area of the city.
It was a very conscious decision because Dallas is constantly changing, reinventing itself, and it’s not just about the city center. It’s places like Deep Ellum, which was hot in the 90’s. Now it’s a whole different place with a lot of the same flare that it had back then, but all of the businesses are different, including the restaurants. As a visitor, you have no idea, and so we thought it was really important to put those neighborhoods upfront.
It’s really for you to dive in and start discovering what Dallas has to offer because we know that one of the things we still combat is perception, and so Discover Dallas is really important. The other part is that concierge approach and knowing that most people that go to our website are actually coming to Dallas. So how can we help you? Where are you staying and when are you staying? If you put in your dates of when your trip is, then our events calendar will actually show you things happening in that time frame.
Skift: What are the long-term goals for the meetings content?
LeVeaux: We know that meeting planners aren’t the ones spending time on our website that much, because we don’t separate B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) well enough. Typically, we’ve tried to keep the creative very similar, although it might be slanted toward the meeting planner, but it was still the same creative concept. We have a one-size-fits-all website. There is a meeting planner section but I agree with what other DMOs are doing, which is really having a truly distinct meeting planner website experience.
It needs to be separated. The content is very different. The information that they want is more of that B2B information, and we are absolutely focusing on creating an entire B2B website. We’re definitely taking a different approach to that by segmenting planners out, and looking at them as a totally different audience.
Skift: What are you planning next to further rebrand and differentiate Dallas across Texas and nationwide?
LeVeaux: We’re actually in the middle of a brand refresh. Previously, the Dallas Big campaign focused more on high-level, overall brand awareness. The new creative focuses on certain specific elements within the destination. It’s really driving people to visit the destination for our arts, our culinary, our craft beer, our sports, and all those things that Dallas has to offer.
In refreshing the advertising, we were taking another look in regards to what leisure markets we’re in. When we first started out, our approach was targeting the regional drive market, largely in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Now, we’ve decided to take another look at what areas we should be in, and we decided to go with an approach of extended regional.
Dallas is a getaway destination. It’s a popular visit for two to three days, not five to seven days, but people are definitely willing to take a two-hour flight to get here. Based on our location in the nation, that will take us out as far as Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, Arizona, and New Mexico. So our extended regional plan pulls in eight states versus the four from before.
Skift: What about in terms of redefining the image of Dallas?
LeVeaux: We’re focusing on what Dallas has to offer as a big city without the big city hassles. We’re a place where people can kind of upgrade their experience, because Dallas likes things that are new, fresh, and innovative. So for a lot of places in our extended regional markets, Dallas is an upgrade, and that’s kind of how we shifted our positioning a little bit. It’s a big city experience without the big city hassle where you can come and have a great upscale, upgraded getaway. I think that’s what differentiates us now, whether you’re talking about any other state, or Houston, San Antonio, and Austin.
For the new campaign, we’re focusing on food, we’re focusing on shopping, we’re focusing on the art. It’s all designed to answer the question: “Well, what am I going to do when I get to Dallas? Oh, definitely, I’m definitely going to go shopping. I’m going to go see a great show and have a great dinner, and I don’t have to get all stressed out to make it happen and have a really good time.”
This series is presented by Boxever. The Skift content team maintains complete editorial control over these interviews and the selection of subjects.
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