While it's home to the state capital, Dover Air Force Base, Dover Downs International Speedway and Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, Kent County is also liberally laced with arts and cultural attractions, farmland and small towns with character. To reflect the diversity, Kent County Tourism Corporation in 2016 revealed a new brand identity: "Delaware's Quaint Villages." The marketing strategy was spearheaded by Wendie Vestfall, who became the organization's third executive director in January 2016.
Q: How did you come up with the "Delaware's Quaint Villages" brand?
Wendie Vestfall: We started with three branding roundtables, held in Dover, Milford and Smyrna, to determine the local perception of Kent County's image and its assets. Then we did online panel studies in 13 metropolitan areas within a 25-mile radius of Kent County. We asked potential visitors to rate the county's attributes based on performance, importance, value, intent to visit and overall rating. An online conversation technology tool, Sysomos, "listened" to what visitors from outside the area were saying about Kent County and its attributes on social media over the past few years.
Q: What did the research show?
WV: Potential visitors to Kent County were attracted to its ease of access from larger metropolitan areas like Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. They liked its slower pace, farm-to-table cuisine, history and culture, and quaint towns. NASCAR, cycling, birding, gambling and water activities were mentioned as favorite things to do while visiting. From this research, the new logo and tagline "Delaware's Quaint Villages, At Your Own Pace" were created.
Q: How did this impact the website?
WV: The new website has a compelling online identity that better engages website visitors for the target audiences we identified from the research. There is specific content that speaks to each group.
WV: Kent County Tourism partnered with Chesapeake Utilities to create a Mobile Visitor Center, The Villager, which runs on compressed natural gas instead of gasoline to minimize its economic footprint. We unveiled it in October 2017. The Villager can travel to various cities and towns during peak times to the areas we promote. We can proactively engage with locals and visitors to let them know what to do in Kent County. We can assist with making tour arrangements and recommend attractions and restaurants. The Villager can travel to DE Turf sports tournaments, the Firefly music festival and NASCAR races. It can also go to meetings at hotels.
Q: How has tourism grown since the launch of the brand in November 2016?
WV: We're on track to achieve about $12.8 million in tracked incremental visitor spending by June 30, 2018.
[The business year is July 1 to June 30.] Ultimately, the more tourist dollars that come in, the larger the economic benefit for our businesses and residents.