“GO” to Gaston County!
The “Gaston Outside” or “GO” marketing campaign is proving to be a runaway success.
Through leadership and funding, provided in large part by Gaston County Travel and Tourism, we recently collaborated with a multitude of community stakeholders, including the Gaston County Economic Development Commission (or EDC), our many municipal partners, local businesses, the Greater Gaston Development Corporation and the Ferebee-Lane Advertising Agency to develop and implement an image and branding campaign to promote our area’s strengths in an inspiring, compelling way. “Gaston Outside” was the result of nearly two years’ worth of research, input, discussion and feedback, all leveraged to spur local pride as well as business and tourism development.
Along with the brand roll-out in June of 2016, the agency created a video, now playing on a continuous loop in the Gaston County Visitors Center, and crossmarketed along with Gaston County Travel and Tourism on various destination materials, such as our annual visitors’ guide.
Another major focus in initiating the brand was designating October of 2016 as “‘GO’ Month.” During each week of that month, we highlighted and celebrated a different theme that described the many qualities that make Gaston County great, including restaurants and retail; education and work force training; art and culture; and outdoor recreation and scenic beauty.
Weekly “My Turn” articles were written by community leaders in each of these areas and printed in The Gaston Gazette and supported with full-page advertisements in both The Gazette and The Shelby Star. To further underscore this promotional effort, each municipality around the county also placed “GO”-branded light pole banners in their downtowns for the entire month.
Over the past two years, Gaston County Travel and Tourism and its partners––the Gaston County EDC, the Greater Gaston Development Corporation and our county’s municipalities––have worked closely together to find a way to take greater advantage of the vibrant growth occurring in the Charlotte Metropolitan Region. Infused by Travel and Tourism’s leadership, along with a $337,000 three-year investment, the Greater Gaston Development Corporation Image-Steering Committee hired Ferebee-Lane to develop a community brand that would define our identity, describe the essence of our visitor experience, generate local pride and stimulate additional investment.
As one of six counties comprising the Charlotte metropolitan statistical area, we recognized the importance of establishing an authentic, compelling story that differentiated us from Charlotte’s other suburban markets. “Gaston Outside” was the culmination of this concentrated effort. And “‘GO’ Month” showcased how the new brand is brought to bear within our borders every day by the people, events, venues and businesses that call our county home.
An award-worthy program
I felt our “‘GO’ Month” program deserving of a Centralina Council of Governments Region of Excellence Award for Improving the Quality of Life because of its innovation and how it has encouraged community participation through public and private sector leadership. In its first full year, the “Gaston Outside” brand has already brought positive attention, strengthened partnerships, engaged residents and compelled visitation to our area. It has truly been embraced by the community and received a very positive reception from it.
Never before has Gaston County strategically designed a program to communicate and embrace all that is unique and great about our community and destination. From the mountains in the west to the rivers in the east to charming small towns and big businesses everywhere in between, we have an abundance of features and benefits about which we can feel very good. Gaston County has tremendous natural assets and outdoor recreational opportunities to explore. All feature easy access, as we are just outside of uptown Charlotte and conveniently located within the metro region. As a destination, we are all about “outside” activity and experiences. As a location, we are right “outside” the country’s 22nd largest city.
Also for “‘GO’ Month,” we worked in partnership with other well-known outdoor brands, such as Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) and Roots Rated, to promote our message in a fun, participatory way through our “‘GO’ Hangout” sweepstakes. We awarded weekly prizes of outdoor gear for social media photographic submissions showing participants in their favorite places to “go hang out.”
Our results were amazing. For the month of October, we reached 216,401 people and created more than 520,000 total impressions. The sweepstakes Website we launched received 7,708 clicks and drove 559 total sweepstakes entries. The hash-tag “#GOGaston” has also generated another 680 posts on Instagram.
As for our project implementation, we are now wrapping up the second year of our community collaboration for brand messaging. And we have dedicated one more year of funding toward bolstering and more firmly establishing this “Gaston Outside” theme.
Moving forward into the future, continuity and consistency are keys in sharing the overall message of Gaston County. Travel and Tourism has taken steps to incorporate the hard work already completed––from study findings, recommendations and “GO” branding––into our marketing strategies and messaging in order to build a foundation for continuity and long-term success. Through destination marketing, Travel and Tourism will be executing the “Gaston Outside” brand identity to complement our first year’s progress for simplicity and uniformity. The “Gaston Outside” collective efforts have united the community, created a sense of place and provided a compelling, engaging common theme around which to position our county’s travel and tourism marketing efforts.
And we look forward to growing this exciting, on-point brand in the months and years ahead.