This week, in an Ole Seagull’s opinion, Branson, in cooperation with the Virgin Group media team, “hit it out of the park” with one of the greatest social media marketing coups in Branson’s marketing history. Their #BransonToBranson April Fool’s online/social media event was a fresh “out of the box” marketing effort, coordinated with the very type of company that most communities would give their “eye teeth” to work with. He believes that it will not only favorably impact Branson tourism, but potential economic development along with the jobs and other community benefits inherent to such development.
Along with social media and other elements, its centerpiece was a video launched from a post entitled, Virgin moves to Branson Missouri on the Virgin.Com website. It “used branded humor that their fans love and know,” featured Sir Richard Branson “setting the stage” amid beautiful high quality video footage sharing what Branson has to offer with the world and a “welcome” from Branson Mayor Raenane Pressley. Although unusual in Branson, the event was a closely guarded “need to know” secret until it was flawlessly launched. Since then it has generated over $1.5 million in ad equivalency which is still growing, and, according to the April 1, 2015 edition of www.Time.Com, was received by the public as one of “The Best April Fools’ Pranks of 2015.”
When asked about the origin of the event, Mayor Presley said, “The opportunity arose when I was initially contacted by the Virgin Group media team as the Mayor of Branson. I knew this would have an impact on our extended community so I gathered our marketing experts at the Branson Chamber, CVB and our City Administrator to discuss the risks and rewards. Collectively we felt the opportunities were many; spreading our message to new visitors, new media contacts, and potentially new business investors in our city and at the Branson Airport. After planning and coordination with the Virgin Group, the announcement spread rapidly. Through the years Branson has been fortunate to have capitalized on many public relations efforts and I believe this is a great addition to that list.”
“Well Seagull it’s all well and good for you to say ‘it was one of the greatest social media marketing coups in Branson’s marketing history,’ but there are a few out there spreading a different opinion of the event.” “That’s true, but based on what? The Ole Seagull’s opinion is based on over 20 years of sharing what Branson is on the internet and his faith in the expertise of the following, as relates to the economic development and marketing value of the event to Branson:
Jeff Seifried, was recently hired as the President/Chief Executive Officer, of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau because of, among his many other qualifications, his experience in the area of economic development. When asked what he thought of the event as relates to potential economic development he said, “Looking through an economic development lens, the positive national and international coverage the Branson community received sets us apart in a big way. Communities around the country spend millions of dollars each year trying to educate corporate decision makers and influencers on their community’s unique strengths to consider when relocating or expanding. This event opened the door for us to share with the world the reasons companies and people chose to invest in Branson every day. That is priceless!”
Brad Thomas, President of Silver Dollar City Attractions said, “Our community works hard to tell our story to prospective visitors. It is rare that Richard Branson uses Virgin’s social channels to promote an entire vacation area. However, this week, Richard Branson’s most raving fans were given a rare chance to see fun and exciting images and videos of our area. Though they used branded humor that their fans love and know, they still told our area’s story. In that communication, they respected the brand of Branson as a wholesome family destination. These types of opportunities are rare for the CVB Team, for our city and for the airport.”
When asked about the marketing impact of the campaign, Mary Kellogg, co-owner of the Titanic Museum Attractions in Branson and Pigeon Forge, said, “I received many calls, tweets and emails from various executives around the country including L.A., New York, Chicago and San Francisco all saying – ‘Wow, what a brilliant, fun social media blitz.’ I agree. The visual pictures on the video showcased our beautiful Ozark Mountains and what we have to offer. We don’t have enough money in our marketing budget to get the amount of media coverage we received. We all need to stop, have some ‘fun’ and say thank you to our CVB Team and Mayor Raeanne Presley for working with the Virgin America group.”
The Ole Seagull’s good friend Lamar Patton, owner of Scotty’s Trout Dock and Marina, has said on more than one occasion, “If I tell you a rooster can pull a boxcar, hook him up.” In terms of the Virgin Group “Branson to Branson” marketing event, if people with experience of Jeff Seifried, Brad Thomas and Mary Kellogg say it was a success all an Ole Seagull would add is, “‘Hook em up’ and let’s develop the relationships resulting from this event even as we move on to seeking still more innovative opportunities to share Branson and all it has to offer with the world.”