California North Coast marketers reveal how they engage consumers in local tourism, wine, cheese, hospitality, clean energy
Leaders from industries including tourism, wine, hospitality and food operations were among those represented at the Business Journal’s Marketing X Creative Summit, held Dec. 12.
Todd O’Leary, vice president of marketing and communications at Sonoma County Tourism, kicked off the conference presenting the tourism agency’s approach to promoting visitation to the county and encouraging overnight stays.
“Our best estimate is about 90% of our visitors are domestic, so we’re really focusing primarily, from a marketing standpoint, on the nonstop flights to STS (Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport),” O’Leary told the audience at the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country hotel in Santa Rosa. “We have an increasingly great story to tell there. … We’re going to be seeing increased air service into our airport, more cities, more frequency and bigger airplanes.”
Marketing efforts to international travelers are targeted to Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Mexico and Asia, he said.
Tourism’s impact on the county amounted to more than $2 billion in 2018, he said, adding that tourism-facing businesses represent one in 10 jobs in the county.
“This isn’t just a tourism brand,” O’Leary said. “It’s a Sonoma County brand.”
The tourism group’s ad agency conducted extensive research a couple of years ago that included input from 75 stakeholders, including local residents, business owners, chambers of commerce and government officials. The end result involved more focus sustainability and responsible stewardship to protect the county’s future.
“A good brand is like art,” he said. “It makes you feel something.”
Paul Dolan, CEO at Truett Hurst Winery, spoke about the winery’s rich history, focus on sustainability and the importance of customer loyalty and partner relationships.
Branding, he said, “is not about being different. It’s really about what is the difference I can make? What is unique and valuable?”
Dolan said the development of a brand is an opportunity to listen.
“Listen for what it is that you can’t see now because the responsibility you have is to speak of something that you haven’t identified yet,” he said. “Speak of the personality. It could be you, your organization or it could be your product—however you want to define it and it will show up for you.”
The conference included a panel of five marketing and business executives, discussing how to build a brand and deliver on promises made. Telling customers and the world who you are is central to a strong brand, and listening is key, they said.
“Your customers and people who interact with your brand, they will tell you what your brand is,” said Kate Kelly, director of public relations and marketing at Sonoma Clean Power.
According to its website, it is a local public electricity provider that sources energy from renewables including geothermal, water, wind, solar, and biomass, and delivering it to residents and businesses in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
Having recently gone through a brand refresh, the agency’s brand pillars center around its practical, innovative and inclusive nature, Kelly said.
“You don’t have to give up your car and live in a yurt,” she said.
That was one of the ideas the organization sought to communicate to potential new customers after doing research that told her company many people wanted to use clean power in Sonoma and Mendocino counties but assumed it would be expensive and require big lifestyle changes.