Successful community marketing campaign on pause
BRATTLEBORO — Although mostly on hold now as coronavirus concerns have led to businesses all around town closing their doors, a community marketing initiative had gotten off to a good start.
Kate O'Connor, executive director of the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, said the groups involved in the Love Brattleboro campaign are "really happy" with the results so far.
"But we're also really happy the town is embracing it, which is a good thing," she said, "because if people in town didn't like it, it's a tough sell."
Last year, the chamber and Downtown Brattleboro Alliance received $42,119 for the initiative at annual Representative Town Meeting. While this year's meeting has been postponed indefinitely as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Town Meeting members are expected to consider at some point whether to give the groups $43,748 to continue the program. The figures respectively represent 10 percent of revenue collected for rooms and meals taxes in 2018 and 2019.
Penniless Projects of South Newfane was hired to take on a six-month marketing campaign that started in January.
"It's just been a crazy success," said Daimian Lix, creative catalyst at Penniless Projects. "You know, even our advertisers we work with ... they were like, 'these numbers are nuts.'"
The measuring stick mainly has to do with what is known as the click-through rate or CTR. Lix explained that the rate is defined by expressions, which are the number of times an advertisement is seen online, and clicks, which are counted when someone hits a link within the ad and is brought to lovebrattleboro.com, the website dedicated to the initiative. He said industry average for CTR tends to be 0.05 percent.
The campaign's average was 0.74 percent, according to a report tracking results from Jan. 15 to March 4.
The Rainbow Times, which calls itself "New England's Largest LGBTQ Newspaper," had the most impressive numbers. From Feb. 21 to March 5, the publication reported getting 12,759 clicks out of 898,524 impressions, or a 1.42 percent CTR. From Feb. 18 to 24, there were 6,001 clicks out of 487,915 impressions or a 1.23 percent CTR. From Feb. 5 to 17, there were 4,852 clicks out of 401,026 impressions or a 1.21 percent CTR. And from Jan. 27 to Feb. 1, there were 4,258 clicks out of 387,096 impressions or a 1.11 percent CTR.
Valley Advocate, an alternative weekly newspaper based out of the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts, reported a 0.5 percent CTR with 126 clicks out of 25,400 impressions. Yankee Magazine, another New England publication, reported a 0.21 percent CTR with 339 clicks out of 52,665 impressions.
Seven Days, an alternative weekly newspaper, reported a 0.14 percent CTR with 69 clicks out of 50,004 impressions.
Digital ads started appearing Feb. 28 on Vermont Public Radio and Fugues, a magazine published in Canada for a gay audience. Fugues reported 6 clicks out of 9,153 at the time the report was published. Data had not yet been available for VPR.
Lix said ads were purchased for digital newsletters sent by the Rainbow Times via email. He noted that links continue to be shared from the publication's website through social media.
"We're really enjoying seeing how the idea of focusing the campaign on the LGBTQQIA community has really gained some ground," he said, referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and allies community.
Digital efforts also included the purchase of an entire email newsletter from Yankee, which Lix said also performed very well. But some clicks, which sent people to webpages to buy tickets or sign up for an event instead of the campaign website, were not tracked.
Print advertising is very difficult to measure, Lix said. His team can only look at circulation numbers to estimate how many people might have seen the ads.
"We were lucky enough to have the Rainbow Times give us their back cover," he said.
Two ads were placed in that monthly publication, which says it has a circulation of about 75,000. One ad went in Fugues, which reports a monthly circulation of 38,500. Three ads were in Seven Days, which says it has a circulation of 36,000. And two ads went in the Valley Advocate, which reports a circulation of 25,000.
Lix said some ads are still going to be published.
"But currently the campaign is on pause," he said. "We're really trying to be mindful about telling people to come to Brattleboro right now."
The steering committee, which includes community members as well as representatives of the chamber and DBA, made the decision to hold off on advertising given the coronavirus pandemic that has brought about the closure of businesses around the community as officials try to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Lix said the Love Brattleboro campaign is still good for the community to see. He described it as "something to rally behind."
So, those involved in the initiative will still engage with followers on social media. Part of the campaign called for sharing photographs of Brattleboro with #lovebrattleboro and the best pictures would be awarded with gift certificates to local establishments.
The goal for Lix is to have engagement with both locals and potential guests, and to create "a welcoming spirit in Brattleboro."
The campaign seeks to get businesses and organizations involved. Window clings with the Love Brattleboro logo in rainbow lettering have been cited as an effective tool in creating a welcoming aura.
Lix pointed to proof that the campaign brought in people from outside the area: About 40 people used the website to purchase tickets to local events during a promotion around the time of Valentine's Day, according to report. The goal had been to sell about 20.
O'Connor envisions discussions happening sometime in the near future about different tweaks that will be made to the marketing efforts. She said the campaign will continue to look for organizations or performances to highlight while most people are home due to the coronavirus outbreak, as some groups are still doing things virtually.
The goal is to keep the Love Brattleboro message "out there in a fun and community-spirited way," O'Connor said.
"It is a way for us to be helpful, you know what I mean?" she said. "We don't want to shut everything down. We want, when this is over, for people to have Brattleboro on their radar screen. But it doesn't make sense right now to urge people to come up."
Lix said in the future, his group would like to bring attention to additional things to get more interest in the community.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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