Connecticut's new "Still Revolutionary" branding campaign generated $161 million in economic impact in spring and summer, state officials estimate, but not all attractions are seeing benefits.
"Overall, we are getting good reports from it," said Randy Fiveash, director of the Connecticut Office of Tourism. "We are really, really happy about how things are going."
Connecticut and New York advertising firm Chowder Inc. launched the two-year, $27 million "Still Revolutionary" campaign with television and print advertisements, an updated tourism Web site, and several directed efforts for specific attractions.
The $15 million first half of campaign launched in May, focusing on tourism. The second half, focusing on attracting businesses and workers, started in September.
The $161 million in economic impacts from the first half of the campaign included increased visitors to area attractions, stays in hotels, visits to restaurants, and other expenses such as gasoline in parking. The effort also raised $16 million in tax revenue, Fiveash said.
"If you look at it in very simple terms, the campaign has paid for itself for that initial investment of $15 million," said Fiveash.
The benefits were not felt by every state attraction. Bristol theme park Lake Compounce said attendance levels remained flat in the summer, and its state-by-state breakdowns of visitors remained unchanged.
"Lake Compounce was not really involved in the campaign," said Sara Frias, marketing director for Lake Compounce. "We weren't mentioned. There weren't photos and videos of us."
Other attractions benefitted after "Still Revolutionary" launched. Through October, the study showed visits increased 6.68 percent year-over-year at Mystic Seaport, Mystic Aquarium, the Mark Twain House, the New England Air Museum, the Maritime Aquarium, and the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat.
"Those are people that go through the turnstiles," Fiveash said.
The Connecticut Science Center in Hartford received a campaign grant. The effort established the Connecticut Dinosaur Trail, linking the science center, Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, Nature's Art: the Dinosaur Place in Oakdale, and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven.
"Certainly, we had a terrific summer," said Tracy Shirer, science center spokeswoman. "We know the campaign had a positive effect on us."
The science center is on track to exceed its attendance projections for 2012 with an increase in out-of-state visitors, Shirer said. Since May, the science center has received more than 1,000 requests for information as a result from the campaign, and the revamped tourism Web site is the top referrer to CTScienceCenter.org. "Campaigns like 'Still Revolutionary' are critical to stretching our very limited ad dollars," Shirer said.
The state Office of Tourism also tracks other metrics, which Fiveash points to the campaign's success: Web site visits at CTVisit.com are up 50 percent, and the "Still Revolutionary" brand has received 600 million media impressions. The Connecticut tourism social networking page on Facebook has 136,000 likes, the 12th most of any state and the second largest in New England.
Before "Still Revolutionary," Connecticut was not marketed for tourism, with the state marketing budget slashed to a single dollar in 2009 and 2010. "Connecticut had spent next-to-nothing for years and years to attract tourists," said Eric Gjede, assistant counsel for the Connecticut Business & Industry Association. "Any expenditure above that is certainly welcome."
Since launching, "Still Revolutionary" resonated across the country, said Michael Van Parys, president of the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau.
"People are really excited about it, and it really helps us in what we do," Van Parys said.
When the campaign first launched, the brand did not catch on immediately, said Van Parys. It took some time, but awareness grew, creating more inquiries for events.
Van Parys said the campaign was key in helping bring the Association of State Flood Plain Managers to Connecticut for its annual meeting in 2014. His staff played them a "Still Revolutionary" television commercial, which helped showcase the state's facilities.
"People are really excited, and it really helps," Van Parys said. "It has been wonderful for us. We have been able to ride the coattails."
The sign of any good state branding campaign is its ability to help people visualize something appealing and create an emotional connection, said Stephen Richer, the Washington, D.C. public affairs advocate for tourism trade association NTA, who worked on branding in Mississippi, Georgia, and Nevada.
Campaigns such as "I Love NY" and "Virginia Is For Lovers" make the connection, but not so specifically to turn people away, Richer said.
"It is broad enough so the destination has an emotional appeal for large groups," Richer said.
Connecticut's "Still Revolutionary" slogan is an excellent choice because it fits with the perception of the state, Richer said. "It is pretty clever to use a position to talk about its modern-day leadership and its roots back to the American Revolution," Richer said. "It does conjure up a nice warm image."
The campaign is important not only for tourism, but improving the state's perception of Connecticut overall, Richer said.
"Tourism marketing leads to economic development … getting people to relocate their businesses and getting people to move into the state, which hopefully improves the workforce," Richer said.
"Still Revolutionary" ran advertising starting in September on business television networks such as MSNBC and launched a new Web site designed to attract businesses to Connecticut — ctforbusiness.com.
"Our new brand transcends into business development," Fiveash said.