Originally Posted Online: May 09, 2013, 6:14 pm
Last Updated: May 09, 2013, 11:46 pm

Q-C visitors bureau to launch new brand

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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

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Photo: John Greenwood
The Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau released the results from a recent tourism branding research project. CVB president Joe Taylor and MindFire Communications president Dr. Lynn Manternach spoke during the presentation. The report stated that the Mississippi River and festivals, special events and music were the top reasons visitors come to the Quad Cities.

The Quad-Cities needs a new brand, logo and ad campaign to attract more tourists, according to survey results presented Thursday.

The Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau is working with MindFire Communications in LeClaire on the effort, it was announced Thursday. A new Q-C tourism brand is set to be unveiled Sept. 18, with advertising campaigns starting next spring.

"We are very excited about the development of a tourism brand for the Quad-Cities," said Charlotte Morrison, CVB vice president for marketing. "The brand, messaging and creative will work across all of our market segments to include leisure travelers, group tours, meetings and sports."

A mid-April email survey was sent to CVB partners, elected officials, residents and visitors.The 823 respondents included 335 Quad-Cities residents and 488 people from outside the area, mainly in Illinois and Iowa but also in Wisconsin, Indiana and Florida.

"While we have outstanding demographic research on our visitors, we lacked market research on the perceptions people have of the Quad-Cities, why they visit or if they would recommend someone to visit here," Ms. Morrison said.

"This new research will direct the development of a strong tourism brand, more effective marketing messages and better creative for our advertising campaigns. This will help generate more tourism business and give the Quad-Cities a stronger identity as a tourism getaway."

Lynn Manternach, president of MindFire Communications, said the CVB is "doing all the right things with this branding effort.

"A research-based approach will take the guesswork out of marketing and make certain that the new brand truly resonates," she said. "We're very excited to be working on this project with the CVB, and we can't wait to see the brand take shape."

Local residents cited two especially good reasons to visit the area:

-- The Mississippi River, with its riverfront parks and river-related activities.

-- Festivals, special events and live music.

They also said the area is an affordable, family-friendly place where visitors are welcomed with Midwestern hospitality, Ms. Manternach said. Residents said there is a lot to see and do -- something for everyone -- and they were "overwhelmingly likely to recommend the area as a place to visit."

Visitor perceptions were similar, she said. They liked the affordability, hospitality, festivals, special events, Mississippi River activities and casinos.Those most likely to visit the area perceived it as being nearby and a great place for couples and families.

"A theme we're seeing a lot is, people really see this area as affordable," and has many great things to do, without the traffic, high prices or other hassles of big cities, Ms. Manternach said.

She said recent and potential visitors of the Quad-Cities represented four categories:

-- Those seeking a getaway from a big city to an easy, relaxing area with a variety of things to see and do.
-- Those who love historical river towns where they can shop for antiques and visit museums and other historical sites and landmarks.
-- Those looking for a cool place with music, fun bars, craft breweries, wineries and distilleries.
-- They seeking an affordable family getaway for young children and teens with a variety of fun activities.

MindFire's work with the CVB will include "brand essence and promise" statements, a tagline, a new CVB logo and brand implementation using ads and marketing, mainly in Iowa and Illinois, focusing on Chicago, Peoria, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. The effectiveness of the brand will be measured throughout the campaign.

The survey also cited challenges the Q-C has in selling itself, Ms. Manternach said. They include:

-- Getting the two states and many communities to work together;
-- The lack of familiarity of the area by people outside the Quad-Cities;
-- The duplication of several small events instead of one large-scale, regional opportunity;
-- The lack of one big, exciting attraction, such as a theme park;
-- The difficulty in explaining what the Quad-Cities is and where it is.

Residents will be among the most powerful allies in promoting the area, Ms. Manternach said, noting "The very best marketing is word of mouth." Less than 10 percent of survey respondents were under 40 years old, she said, adding she'll work on gathering more data on younger visitors' travel priorities.