Tourism head Bergstrom wants to fast-track marketing Connecticut
Kip Bergstrom of Old Saybrook is deputy commissioner of the state’s Department of Economic & Development (DECD) as well as executive director of the Commission on Culture and Tourism. Bergstrom has been in economic development for 30 years at the state and local level in both Connecticut and Rhode Island. He also headed economic development for the city of Stamford under the mayoral administration of Dannel P. Malloy. Now he is spearheading a new tourism promotion effort for Connecticut, part of a three-year, $27 million investment in stateÂ’s tourism industry. (Gov. M. Jodi Rell had cut annual state tourism marketing spending to $1.)
On your bio and in media reports youÂ’re referred to as a Â‘placemaker.Â’ What does Â‘placeÂ’ mean in this context?
ItÂ’s the difference between a real place, a great place or a generic place. A lot of the American landscape is combination of industrial, agriculture, strip malls and subdivisions. And then every so often you have one of these places that is one-of-a-kind: They sparkle, theyÂ’re generally mixed-use, theyÂ’re walkable, oftentimes they are transit-connected, they have a history. The lives of the folks that have come before us have left their mark on the buildings and the landscapes. Usually there is a tremendous infusion of art and other kind of cultural activities.
How does that relate back to Connecticut?
Connecticut is a state that is filled with places like that Â— that matter, they matter to us. We didnÂ’t make them for tourists; we made them for ourselves. But the places that matter to tourists are precisely the places that matter to residents. WeÂ’re not a theme park or a resort; weÂ’re a state of these intimate places.
Do you think Connecticut residents fully appreciate this?
Frankly, most of the folks in Connecticut donÂ’t know about each otherÂ’s cultural treasures Â— they know about their own. You actually have to work to find them; itÂ’s not easy to see them because of that. You have this experience of discovering something new, something you didnÂ’t know.
During the budget discussions at the start of Gov. MalloyÂ’s administration, there was a proposal from the Department of Transportation to shut down two historic ferries Â— one in Hadlyme, one in Glastonbury. If we were sensitive to this concept of Â‘place,Â’ would those ferries have been up for discussion?
Let me put it this way. Of everything the state has proposed to do during my one-year tenure in office, nothing Â— nothing Â— can remotely come close to the number of phone calls that I got about the ferries.
WeÂ’re talking to you just as youÂ’re putting forward a new proposal for promoting the state. Wow would you describe the effort Â— is it a strategy, an ad campaign?
Any good ad campaign needs to be based on a brand, and the brand needs to be based on a strategy, and the strategy needs to be based on solid research Â— which is what we did. Quantitative as well as qualitative research, focus groups as well as surveys with folks outside the state, as well as our own residents. We talked to over 1,500 Connecticut residents about what Connecticut means to them. We also launched Myctstory.com, where we asked folks to put online stories about the people, places, experiences that they love about Connecticut. We took all of that in, and from that we distilled the notion that Connecticut is a place of intimacy, of direct personal experience.
So people come here for the Little Leagues, not the Major Leagues?
[Laughs] You know, there are 169 towns here Â— [that] means there are 169 Little Leagues. I think they come to Connecticut because they want to have impact. ItÂ’s not only that they can have impact; it is that they do have impact. It is a place where you leave your mark and a place that gets under your skin. What folks were telling us is about this sense of place Â— intimate place, hidden gems Â— and we took that and used it as the basis of valium online positioning. Part of that is about history. When you talk about inspiration, probably the two biggest sources [of inspiration] are natural grandeur and history. You can say the West has us beat on natural grandeur, where the human presence is muted or absent, but weÂ’ve got them on history.
How does history play out in a more contemporary way so that it has real effect to a marketing or other effort?
History infuses this place. ItÂ’s all cheap adderall us. We live in it. While we have these remarkable stories that are embedded in our buildings and our places that bring meaning to our lives, we actually make our own stories. WeÂ’re still making history. WeÂ’re not a fossil. Over two-thirds of people when they travel want to add history or culture [to their experience]. Some kind of Â‘dipÂ’ into the place. In most places they canÂ’t, because there is nothing there.
We have it. ItÂ’s not just history in the buildings; itÂ’s history in our landscapes. ItÂ’s a creation of human interaction with nature over several hundred years. ThatÂ’s whatÂ’s sweet about it.
The hospitality industry is often portrayed as creating more than 110,000 jobs and more than $1 billion of total tax revenue created. Are those numbers accurate?
Yes. I think I probably put that out. Tourism promotion is not an expense; it generates revenue. The economists weÂ’ve talked to tell us we should expect a tax return on our tourism investment of three to one. If we put $15 million a year into tourism promotion, that tourism promotion should generate $45 million in new tax revenue.
WhatÂ’s the demographic target to which this campaign is being pitched?
The people who spend the most on travel, which are households with $70,000 income and above, age 25 and above. We are targeting in this initial marketing [campaign] ages xanax generic to 55, and there is a couple of different segments. The Â‘frugal familyÂ’ segment tends to be the younger part of the group. [This group is] working, harried, raising a family, trying to find things to do with their kids. There are certain channels we can use to reach them. Then there is an older group that has more time, more money, traveling a lot. The term our marketing group uses is Â‘Drive and Discover.Â’
What is the geographic and the Â“emotionalÂ” focus?
The tri-state area, Northern new Jersey, New York and Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the Philadelphia area. valium online are 13 states [original colonies] that could have claimed history in some way as part of their [marketing] positioning. None of them has. It was ours for the taking.
HasnÂ’t Massachusetts staked that out?
No, not really Â— not in their tourism marketing and not in the way theyÂ’ve branded the state. The problem with position[ing based on] history: If youÂ’re not careful it can come across as youÂ’re stuck Â— youÂ’re a fossil stuck in the past. But in fact our [Connecticut] history is a history of change. WeÂ’ve been at the center of every political, cultural, social and economic revolution in the nation. Connecticut has been at the center of it and we continue to be. We continue to be a revolutionary place, a place of innovation Â— and we have been for 400 years.
We can see why that might be a good approach to business branding, and youÂ’re in the Department of Economic & Community Development. But why do I care about that if IÂ’m just trying to find a place to have a good vacation?
Two-thirds of the folks who travel overnight want to add a cultural experience to their trip. Yes, they may want to go to the beach Â— but hey, also want to dip into the history of a place at the same time.
But the Â‘RevolutionaryÂ’ part of that?
ItÂ’s saying this is a place that has a story to tell. We have all these incredible landscapes, the coastline, the lower Connecticut River, which the Nature Conservancy calls one of the 40 last great places in the hemisphere. IÂ’ll put the Litchfield Hills against any landscape in New England. But we also haveÂ with these wonderful villages, towns and small cities, almost every one of them having a one-of-a-kind cultural treasure Â— an art museum, a restored theater, an historic district, a science center, an aquarium or some kind of ethnic neighborhood that is entwined with them. There are 200 nations; 100 of them are here in such depth in Connecticut that they have organized historical societies. ItÂ’s an amazing combination. It is not a theme park in the middle of a soybean field.
The slogan that is in the ads is Â‘Still Revolutionary.Â’ Will that be used in the business-to-business environment as well?
YouÂ’re going to see it everywhere. Once you commit to a brand, the only way to [build] it is to use it everywhere. Use it constantly.
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