Friday, April 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Marketing college towns to tourists

Sporting events, like this Aggie football scrimmage, are a natural college-based tourist attraction. But successful college towns also know how to draw on other university assets, like academic expertise that can be translated into retreats, culture-based vacations or therapeutic experiences. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

By John L. Gann Jr.

College towns always have drawn students and their families for campus visits and commencements and scholars for academic meetings or visiting professor engagements. But many of them have, or could have, appeal for other kinds of visitors to the benefit of local businesses and taxing bodies.

Because this appeal is not usually obvious, however, college towns wanting revenues from tourists usually have to market their attractions. There are some ideas worth considering in going about this.

* Develop college-based attractions: At one university I know, there are at least two professors who have written bestselling popular books that I bet could be spun off into related offerings that could bring people into town.

Traditional tourism offers pleasures but not the useful information, instruction, inspiration, skills development, or sense of accomplishment that colleges can provide. Academic expertise can be translated into retreats, culture-based vacations, or therapeutic experiences. Cornell University’s summer programs are a good example.

Universities’ athletic facilities can be draws for those inclined to active holidays. Their art studios and theaters could attract others. Many older college campuses boast architectural and landscape amenities that rival the nicest resorts and vacation towns. Campus resources go largely to waste during the summer, when tourism peaks.

If youth is wasted on the young, why should enjoyment of the delights of college towns be restricted to students? With a little imagination, initiative, and smart marketing, it doesn’t have to be.

* Market the right name: One rural college town wanted — perhaps for political reasons — to expand its tourism marketing to include the entire county. I advised against prominent use of the county’s name, which had a Mayberry flavor that might deter those not already familiar with the area. And a county’s name is almost never as well-known as a college town’s.

So selling a place in the name of Centre, Story, Dane, Alachua, Tompkins or Riley County — all home to large universities — presents a challenge. It’s usually better to market in the name of the town and include any hinterland attractions as a bonus.

* Don’t mistake media buying for marketing: A common confusion is assuming that just buying a lot of advertising media constitutes effective marketing. Even in sophisticated college towns, tourist marketers can exhibit this confusion.

The latter-day proliferation of trendy new electronic media has kept the media focus going. We are discovering, however, that despite all the hype, people don’t like, and largely ignore, things like banner ads, unsolicited emails and poorly thought-out websites.

Media are essential to marketing. Marketers nonetheless are smart to carefully consider what and how much media to buy, how best to use it, and, most important, what message to convey whatever the media chosen.

* Tap academia: College towns sometimes take surprisingly little advantage of the wealth of knowledge available on campus. Their local governments and civic institutions seldom show evidence of superior performance based on the expert knowledge that’s so close by.

In my experience, the chief shortcoming of communities’ marketing efforts is lack of good thinking. Thought is presumably what universities are all about (that and football). Community marketers do well to fully tap the knowledge of relevant academic experts.

* Think global, not just local: Even in university towns, community marketing staff and consulting talent are predominantly drawn from the local folks. The local knowledge these people have is important, but it’s not enough for the greatest effectiveness.

It would hardly be beneficial for university students to study only the work of poets or scientists from the county or region where their school is located. Local programs similarly need a broader perspective.

Colleges and universities have connections to expert knowledge worldwide. Through the Web we can also tap the most knowledgeable specialists wherever they are. College town tourism marketers do well to take maximum advantage to supplement local capabilities.

* Measure results, evaluate and improve: Marketing is not about just spending a marketing budget: It’s about getting results. But communities seldom measure what results their various marketing initiatives are, in fact, producing. Or they track outcomes not directly related to meaningful results. Name recognition, image and website hits do not necessarily produce business.

Also surprisingly rare has been meaningful evaluation of community marketing programs to identify improvements that can boost results or save money. In 2008, I wrote for the International City Management Association what incredibly didn’t exist before: a guide specifically to evaluate the marketing that cities and towns do. Three years later, I wrote the only guide to marketing college towns. You’d think someone would have beaten me to both of them decades ago.

I found the college towns I studied when researching “The Third Lifetime Place” had great unexplored economic development potential but had been mediocre marketers. Underperforming community marketing doesn’t have to be, especially in college towns that so value knowledge and expertise. Good thinking can make marketing budgets do better in growing sales to tourists.

— John L. Gann Jr. consults and trains in economic development marketing as president of Gann Associates, based in Chicago. Reach him at citykid@uwalumni.com

Special to The Enterprise

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Old friend helps Brad and others find kidneys

    By Dave Jones | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Chuck Rairdan joins school board race

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1

    Davis United Methodist Church, Holmes Green Team leaders honored

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    ‘Hitchhiking’ dog looking for new home

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Online K-12 school holds info night

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Volkssporting Club plans North Davis walks

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Schwenger lawn signs available

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    Volunteers needed for Grad Night

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis grad makes rain collection a business

    By Jason McAlister | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    A few spots left on history tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Chipotle fundraiser boosts Emerson tech upgrade

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Event to provide nature scholarship

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Students have new options on leasing front

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Author discusses memoirs of Appalachia at The Avid Reader

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    NAMI backers walk in Sacramento

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    Food for the hungry

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

    Groups join for a day of service

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Forum

    Dad makes mom look bad

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    More tax money? Answer the question

    By Rich Rifkin | From Page: A6

     
    UCD IS responsible for students

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

     
    In search of great ideas

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    Please keep the nursery open

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Early help is a great investment

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    Sharks double up Kings in Game 1

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Aggies lose a slugfest in opener at Riverside

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Fox coming to UCD; Riffle heads to Florida

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    DHS’ Golston goes full-bore on the diamond

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils show more life in loss to Mitty

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    DYSA roundup: Intensity has big week; 10U games dominate schedule

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Pro baseball roundup: Susac sends Sacramento to a rare loss

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

     
    Sports briefs: Aggies set the academic bar high

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    ‘The Bloom’ paves way for Whole Earth Festival

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    DHS tribute to Tony Fields slated for April 25-26

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    UCD, city team up for Music on the Green

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    ‘Transcendence’: A whole new level of tedium

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    Ford turns its Focus to domestic market

    By Ali Arsham | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, April 18, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Real Estate Review

    Featured Listing

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

    Professional Services Directory

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

    Lyon Real Estate

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

    Acacia at Huntington Square

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Jamie Madison

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Yolo FCU

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Travis Credit Union

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

    Kim Eichorn

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

    Suzanne Kimmel

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

    Lynne Wegner

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

    Kim Merrel Lamb

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

    Patricia Echevarria

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

    Chris Snow

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

    Sheryl Patterson

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

    Don Guthrie

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

    Andrew Dowling

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

    Coldwell Banker

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER10

    Coldwell Banker

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

    Heather Barnes

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

    Julie Partain & Dick Partain

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

    Malek Baroody

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER13

    Karen Waggoner

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

    Willowbank Park

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

    Julie Leonard

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

    Tim Harrison

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

    Team Traverso

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

    Tracy Harris

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

    Lori Prizmich

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

    Joe Kaplan

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

    Raul Zamora

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

    Coldwell Banker

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

    Open House Map

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

    F1rst Street Real Estate

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER20