While travelers don't necessarily see municipal boundaries, they are aware of proximity to major attractions thanks to mile markers.
Using the targeted approach of "Just 88 Smiles Away," the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau has raised brand awareness of the region as a destination for couples and families in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., markets.
"It was the first time this bureau made a major investment in key tier markets," Robin Scaer, the bureau's director of marketing, said of the decision to invest $350,000 in two marketing and advertising campaigns in fall 2011 and spring 2012.
The marketing push in these major metropolitan areas led to increased occupancy rates.
The bureau is now taking aim at the Philadelphia market. It will launch a "Just 100 Smiles Away" campaign from April 1 to May 12.
Digital banner ads have been created to highlight the region's key attractions — Hersheypark and Tröegs Brewing Co. are among those that "come to life" in vintage postcards — and tease the fact that there is "too much to see and do" so that visitors will have to come back repeatedly.
The $400,000 budget for this year's annual campaigns — the additional $50,000 is for supplemental public relations in these new markets through a contract with Philadelphia-based Tierney Communications — is an investment in maintaining awareness of the region during the shoulder seasons, spokesman Rick Dunlap said.
"The summer carries itself," he said, referring to Hersheypark and other peak season attractions.
The spring and fall campaigns will help retain that business, while creating new ways for people to find or rediscover everything the region has to offer, Dunlap said.
"It's an affordable and unique destination," Scaer said.
The Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau has used key anchor events to launch its seasonal campaigns in each market.
In the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., market, it took part in the Taste of DC event last fall.
With the new effort in Philadelphia, the bureau was a major sponsor of this year's Philadelphia Flower Show.
Both events provided the bureau's partner businesses with opportunities to pitch their individual attractions while helping to highlight the diversity of the area as a destination, officials said.
As part of the media buy in these new markets, the bureau has created co-op plans for members seeking to produce radio spots or place online banner ads.
For example, the bureau helped Hershey Harrisburg Wine Country maximize its media investment by bundling its radio spots in conjunction with the fall and spring campaigns.
It has three tiered packages available for both radio and digital. Those range between $2,500 and $10,000 for radio and $1,800 to $6,000 for digital, said Robin Scaer, the bureau's director of marketing.
About the bureau
*$2.5 million: projected operating budget (receives 1.25 percent of Dauphin County's 5 percent hotel room tax, which is largest source of bureau revenue)
300: business partners
48: hotel partners (of 78 hotels in Dauphin County that account for 8,060 rooms)
60.1 percent: hotel occupancy for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which was up 5 percent
10 million: estimated annual visitors in Dauphin County
Hershey-Harrisburg region (includes Perry County) ranked No. 4 in Pennsylvania in terms of annual visitor spending at $2.05 billion, according to 2010 study for the Pennsylvania Tourism Office
*The bureau's 2011-12 audited financials said total revenue was about $2.8 million with expenses of about $2.7 million. The bureau received about $2.3 million from the county's hotel room tax in 2011-12, which was 81 percent of its revenue. It spent nearly $1.1 million on marketing and communications.
Source: Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau
Campaigning for new faces
In its push to attract visitors from these affluent markets, the bureau has created radio spots and digital videos that appeal to families seeking vacation destinations and couples on the hunt for romantic getaways.
The 30-second partially animated videos deliver a pop-up book feel that showcase the "personality, charm and charisma" of our area, said marketing director Robin Scaer.
The couples spot plays up the area's wineries that are part of Hershey Harrisburg Wine Country, breweries such as Tröegs Brewing Co., Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Harrisburg's "Restaurant Row" on Second Street and the Pride of the Susquehanna.
The bureau is buying into a digital display ad network using geotargeting and spending on major radio stations, metro traffic networks and Pandora Internet radio.
"Mobile is a big deal," Scaer said.
The bureau also has launched a new blog, "Hershey Harrisburg Happenings," to drive website traffic and social media interaction. Travel guides and an itinerary builder are available, plus there is a navigation drop-down menu for things to do, places to eat and lodging options.
In addition, a digital remessaging ad campaign has been developed to target those visitors who have previously visited one of the landing pages on the bureau's site.
"These ads will increase brand awareness and serve as a reminder to the visitor that they still need to book their getaway," Scaer said.
Facebook ads and postings about promotions, along with other public relations, will supplement the efforts, officials said.