COUNTY – Efforts are under way to devise a brand identity for Waupaca County.
The Wisconsin Department of Tourism approved a $34,000 grant to help the county “uncover the community’s genuine brand,” according to the grant application.
The marketing project is a joint venture of the Waupaca County Visitors and Promotion Council (WCVPC), the Waupaca County Economic Development Corporation (WCEDC) and eight municipalities.
“Our goal is to increase the number of tourists coming to Waupaca County and to increase the amount of money spent by tourists in all of the communities,” said Dave Thiel, WCEDC’s executive director.
“Tourism is the third largest industry we have in Waupaca County,” Thiel said.
In 2010, travelers in Waupaca County spent $98 million and supported more than 2,500 area jobs, according to a study by Davidson-Peterson Associates.
But not all communities in the county have been able to successfully draw tourists. Outside of the Chain O’ Lakes and the Wolf River, only a handful of annual events, such as the Iola Old Car Show, the Symco Thresheree and the Manawa Rodeo, attract visitors to the smaller communities.
“Waupaca has been a world class tourist destination for over 100 years,” Thiel said. “It’s the rest of the county that hasn’t jumped into tourism. What we’re trying to do is bring everybody else up to that level.”
In his grant proposal, Thiel noted that “while these efforts have attracted visitors and revenue, the total dollars being spent in Waupaca County have not increased significantly in the recent past.”
Thiel said the project to promote tourism throughout Waupaca County is the latest step in a long-term plan to revitalize Main Street retail businesses in the communities.
The WCEDC is working with Bill Zeinert, a Clintonville marketing consultant, to assist with branding research, development and strategic planning.
Zeinert’s firm, My Marketing Director, has put together a team of experts in advertising, website development, social media, video production, art design and statistical research
Zeinart will work with the Tourism Task Force, an ad hoc committee comprised of two representatives (one from the private sector and one from the public sector) from each community and two representatives from the WCVPC. He will also meet with each of the eight municipal governments participating in the project.
As part of his research, Zeinart will conduct focus group sessions with tourism-related businesses, such as lodging, restaurants, retail and tourist attractions.
A key element in the two-year project will be to determine if the project has been successful.
First, My Marketing Director will establish a historical baseline that includes room tax revenues, information requests from local chambers of Commerce and the annual Davidson-Peterson traveler spending study.
The research will also look at leading indicators, such as the number of visitors to websites promoting tourism, social network activity and Google search trends, in addition to room tax revenues and visitor experience surveys.
Among the research tools that Zeinert brings to the project is his experience as a focus group moderator. This method of research allows Zeinert to develop models of the interests and personalities of people who like to come to Waupaca County. Such qualitative information about the county’s potential tourist market provides insight into the tone and communications styles most likely to persuade visitors.
The project is budgeted to cost $68,000 in 2012, with half of it covered by the state grant.
The eight municipalities and the WCVPC have committed a total of almost $40,000 over a two-year period to the project.