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Roanoke, Virginia
Recent Activity
To DIY or not to DIY? That is the question. A Do it Yourself craze is sweeping the nation. There is even a DIY television network and loads of instructional videos on the internet. I think people choose to tackle projects for various reasons: a. They are confident in their abilities; b. They want a new challenge; c. They have no choice because they don’t have the money to pay someone skilled to do it for them. Sometimes you just have to be realistic and face the fact that some tasks are best left to experts. This is not only... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2019 at Mikula|Harris
I was recently flipping through the January issue of a travel magazine that serves the mid-Atlantic region. Most of the ads and editorial content focused on snow sports like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and tubing. Keep in mind that I love winter sports. Those ads and articles appeal to me. Still, one ad in the issue practically jumped off the page. It was an ad for whitewater rafting, whose season begins late spring and runs through the summer. Kudos to this advertiser for understanding two things: • Lead times for booking getaways may be getting shorter, but people are still researching... Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2019 at Mikula|Harris
The definition of Brand Essence is “a brand’s fundamental nature or quality.” In other words, it’s the heart and soul of a brand. I've also heard it defined as the reason the brand exists in the first place, which may be accurate for corporate brands but is a bit of stretch for community or destination brands. To really understand the concept, consider what some famous brands say is their essence. Hallmark: Caring Shared. The Nature Conservancy: Saving Great Places. Nike: Authentic Athletic Performance. A Brand Essence is not always written in flowery marketing language. It’s not always meant for the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2019 at Mikula|Harris
With the recent passing of former President George H. W. Bush we heard a lot about the many virtues that he embodied in his daily life — service, decency, civility, gratitude and humility. What a great example to emulate as individuals and as businesses. As the year comes to an end, I'd like to reflect on how two of them in particular relate to Mikula-Harris. We are profoundly grateful for our wonderful clients. We remind ourselves daily that our clients have placed a great deal of trust in us. In some instances the marketing decision maker is staking his or... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2018 at Mikula|Harris
It's no secret in the tourism world that the things that make a community a great place to live are frequently the same things that make it an appealing place to visit. That's one reason why Tourism and Economic Development departments should work well together. As they recently did in Halifax County, Virginia, when they came together and chose Mikula-Harris to develop a video to showcase the quality of life in the county to be used to recruit people to relocate there. Today, I want to take you behind the scenes. This client did not want to join the ranks... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2018 at Mikula|Harris
There seems to be a never-ending race among marketers to stay on the cutting edge of both trends and technology. I have observed something ironic about trends. It helps to have an understanding of fundamental basics of advertising and marketing because certain time-tested principles can help make even cutting edge tactics more successful. In other words, it's not just the use of trends and technology that get results it's how they are applied. For Example: • It may seem ultra-cool for a brand to have a presence on the latest social media outlet or app. The reality just might be... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2018 at Mikula|Harris
Among the goals of a good conference agenda is introducing attendees to a variety of ideas and perspectives. At the recent VA-1 Virginia Tourism Summit, two sessions, which took place back-to-back, really got me thinking about a valuable lesson for tourism marketers. Unfortunately, the second session missed the opportunity to amplify an important point from the earlier one. The session was about making an impact on a small budget. It drew a larger than expected crowd. Everyone wants to know this secret. Of course, there are differing opinions on what exactly constitutes a small budget. The session leaders wanted to... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2018 at Mikula|Harris
"Too many ads that try not to go over the reader's head end up beneath his notice." – Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame This quote is from Leo Burnett, one of the great advertising minds of all time and founder of the global agency that still bears his name. He contributed to the United Airlines "Fly the Friendly Skies" and Allstate "Good Hands" campaigns as well as many others. Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. He is as quote worthy as Ben Franklin or Albert Einstein. From my perspective... Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2018 at Mikula|Harris
The Virginia Association of Destination Marketing Organizations (VADMO) Tourism Symposium was an excellent conference filled with expert speakers expounding on everything from economics to analytics. In my opinion, the most important takeaway for every local DMO in attendance came not from a presenter but from an extemporaneous remark. While accepting an award for a niche campaign, a CEO told the story of how his team first came to him with the idea and his initial response was, "You want to actually spend money on this?" He was, however, open-minded enough to hear the idea and the data-supported rationale behind it.... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2018 at Mikula|Harris
We are looking forward to participating in the Virginia Association of Destination Marketing Organization’s 2018 Tourism Symposium next week in Charlottesville. As a corporate supporter of the organization we will be sponsoring a breakout speaker and both breakfasts. The session we are sponsoring is a natural fit for us. It is about getting the most out of Google Analytics. As a firm that provides strategic guidance and creative services, generating results for our clients is our highest priority. The goals can vary widely from one campaign to another, so any tool that helps measure and quantify the results is helpful.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2018 at Mikula|Harris
How crucial is a brand awareness phase to the success of a destination brand? It's the ultimate objective. It's the end game. The key to securing conversions. The whole ball of wax. You get the point. It's pretty darn important. Yet too many destinations ignore it. That's probably because they don't fully understand it. The goal of brand awareness is not simply name recognition. Limiting brand awareness to recognition demonstrates an incomplete understanding of the concept much like the popular (and incredibly frustrating) notion that a logo is a brand. There are plenty of destinations that enjoy excellent name recognition... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2018 at Mikula|Harris
If you watch news on two different networks you might conclude that they are living in completely different worlds. Sometimes I like the idea of residing in a place where I make the decisions. In the ideal world that exists only in my imagination, here is how things would be for tourism marketers. • Employers would encourage their workers to take time off. In America alone, 662 million earned vacation days off were left on the table last year. I don't know if employees choose to give up those days in order to ingratiate themselves to the boss to get... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2018 at Mikula|Harris
West Virginia gets it. Well, at least the governor and the author of this insightful editorial do. The governor proposes increasing the budget for the Division of Tourism from $6 million to $20 million. That's a bold move considering that states everywhere are struggling to balance budgets. Sometimes it's helpful to see and truly understand the bigger picture. From a bean counter's perspective, this sounds like another increased expenditure. In reality, tourism marketing is an investment. As the editorial states, for every dollar spent on tourism advertising, the state takes in $8 in state and local taxes not to mention... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2018 at Mikula|Harris
Many small business owners admire business giants like Bill Gates, Elon Musk or Richard Branson. Let me tell you about one of my business idols. Warren Miller is considered by many to be the father of adventure films. After growing up poor during the depression and serving in the Navy, he lived in a tiny trailer in the parking lot of Sun Valley Idaho. He earned money as a ski instructor and began filming fellow instructors and skiers in order to critique and improve their technique. That winter a passion was ignited, a career launched and a legend soon followed.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2018 at Mikula|Harris
Joe was a small-town barber. He had served the community and his customers for decades, always treating them well and charging fair prices. One day, a national chain opened just across the street. They offered haircuts for $10. Joe watched as traffic poured in to the new salon and wondered how to compete. After some thought and serious reflection, Joe posted a large sign outside his shop saying “We fix $10 haircuts.” That’s an old anecdote that has been around for years. It was even made into a commercial for Office Depot a while back. This story contains a valuable... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2018 at Mikula|Harris
While everyone else is reflecting on 2017 or predicting trends for 2018, let’s take a moment and think about something more important. How healthy will your brand be in two years? What about five years? Now is the time to think about it and steer the ship in the right direction. What’s that you say? Your community doesn’t really have a proper brand. It doesn’t have a message and strategy that has been researched and formalized that can guide your marketing and PR. That’s a problem you need to address quickly. The true definition of a brand is how people... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2018 at Mikula|Harris
Never stop learning. That has been a guiding principle for me all of my life. There will never be a year when I am not taught or reminded about a valuable lesson. Learning a lesson is more valuable, and often more humbling, than learning facts from a book. Here are some things I learned firsthand or observed from those around me during the past year. The importance of getting the branding right the first time In two separate instances in 2017, we developed new ad campaigns for existing clients for whom our team developed the original branding in years past.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2017 at Mikula|Harris
I recently read this month’s issue of a statewide magazine focused on the business community here in Virginia. This month features a look at the economic climate throughout the commonwealth. They asked five CPAs from different regions a series of questions about the overall economic climate, impediments to economic growth, what their respective region is doing well and any major economic development news. In addition to these five Q&As, there was a separate and unrelated article in the magazine about boom times in Frederick County, which is about 60 miles west of Washington, DC. I don’t intend to pick a... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2017 at Mikula|Harris
"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." I don't know precisely when John Wanamaker uttered this famous quote. He built his retail empire in the late 1800s so he said it long before terms like content marketing, search engine marketing, pay-per-click, or even television had entered the advertising industry consciousness. Fast forward to 2017... specifically focusing on the destination marketing world... more precisely small to medium-sized destinations that don't enjoy universal brand recognition. I know that far too many communities are wasting money. How? By boring the general public with... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2017 at Mikula|Harris
Last week I had the pleasure of being in the beautiful central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia at Massanutten Resort, where I was the featured speaker at the Shenandoah Valley Partnership's Fall Forum. The partnership's efforts are mostly focused on economic development but they wisely understand the role of tourism not only as an injection of money into the local economy but also because visitors sometimes fall in love with a place they visit and relocate and become members of the community. A group of Shenandoah Valley tourism offices recently launched a regional brand initiative. In addition, local cities and towns... Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2017 at Mikula|Harris
This morning I read a news story about yet another small community getting its first local craft brewery. Visitors definitely enjoy trying local beer just as they enjoy sampling local cuisine. It’s exciting to see the small brewpub scene thrive. It has exploded in growth over the past couple of years. In fact, it has long passed the point where craft beer is a differentiator for any community’s tourism marketing. Locally produced craft beer is a reasonable expectation now in cities and towns all across the country. Like wifi in a hotel room — you know it’s going to be... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2017 at Mikula|Harris
Who would inadvertently re-brand? It sounds a little crazy when you put it in those terms but it occurs a lot. It happens because even seasoned professionals sometimes don’t have a true understanding of the value of a destination’s brand or how advertising should work to support it. When I speak to groups about branding I often suggest that they substitute the word “reputation” every time they hear me say “brand.” It’s the closest available synonym. A destination’s brand is the feeling that a person has about the place whenever they are reminded of it. Those emotions can be positive... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2017 at Mikula|Harris
We think that every destination should have a solid, unique and comprehensive brand strategy to steer their marketing and public relations. Some may think the branding process is just for larger communities. Ironically, the smaller ones need the direction and differentiation that comes from branding even more. There are two sides to every issue. For the naysayers, today we offer an argument (yes, it's very sarcastic) for doing nothing. For taking it one day at a time and deciding what the marketing message for your destination will be each morning when you get out of bed. For ensuring that the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2017 at Mikula|Harris
Advertising has changed dramatically over the 25 years that I have been in the business — the tactics available to marketers, the amount of data behind every strategy, the media options, the blurring of lines between advertising and other forms of communication including journalism. One thing, however, has not changed. Advertising works. It always has and it always will. Consumers can still be influenced. Indeed, they genuinely want to be. A 2016 survey showed that 71% of consumers preferred ads tailored to their interests and shopping habits. One of the main reasons consumers want targeted advertising is because it cuts... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2017 at Mikula|Harris
Albert Einstein once said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." Of course, he only worked in theoretical physics not marketing. I wish that marketing, especially tourism marketing, were simple. But every destination is unique. Target demographics, feeder markets, budgets and just about every other variable comes into play. While these may not be iron-clad "rules" in the scientific sense, they are certainly rules to live by in tourism marketing that will lead to results. • Focus on the long term. Even though all DMOs are under pressure to produce immediate results, it's important to take... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2017 at Mikula|Harris