Kent County Tourism unveils new branding

 

DOVER — “There is something, when we are looking outside of Delaware, to being able to say that we’re in Delaware and we are the quaint villages,” said Thomas Frank, Chief Creative Officer of Delucchi Plus, the firm responsible for Kent County’s new branding.

“We’re not the beaches, we’re not Wilmington, we’re everything in between and it’s an amazing collection. I’ve been asked ‘why would you call it villages? We’re in towns’. Villages does immediately have a sense of history, and you were established in 1683.

“That’s pretty amazing in itself. We wanted to create a brand that immediately tells things.”

On Thursday, Kent County Tourism threw its Celebration of Tourism luncheon at the Duncan Center in Dover. On the agenda was unveiling its new branding, visitor profile for Kent County and annual awards.

The organization revealed its new Kent County brand identity as “Delaware’s Quaint Villages — At Your Own Pace.” They plan to use the branding in marketing materials such as visitor guides, brochures, print/digital advertising and social media. The organization also has a new website in the works based on the brand that is set to launch toward the end of January 2017.

“When I moved here about 9 months ago and all I heard was ‘we’re just Kent County, we’re just the middle’ — well, now we have an identity,” said Wendie Vestfall, executive director of Kent County Tourism. “We are more than just the middle, we are Delaware’s quaint villages. I am really proud of it, and I hope the community will be too.”

The branding was created by Delucchi Plus, a Washington D.C firm, with research done by Dr. James Petrick from Texas A&M University. Mr. Petrick’s research claims that the new branding has the potential to bring over $101 million in incremental visitor spending to the area and raise hotel occupancy by 24 percent points over the next few years. Kent County Tourism is currently working on a media plan with Delucchi Plus that they say would guarantee $4.5 million in economic impact to the area in the first year.

“We were told when we first got here, ‘well, there aren’t a whole lot of places to go’ — you guys are crazy!” said Mr. Petrick, referring to his local research. “There are so many amazing restaurants, you have wineries and you have breweries. These are things that urban people love to come visit and you have ease of access. Some locals told us there parking was a problem here. Have you ever tried to park in New York City?”

According to Kent County Tourism, the research was gathered in a three-step process that started with input from residents and businesses at three branding round tables that were held in Dover, Milford and Smyrna in mid-July. This was done to determine local perception of Kent County’s image and what tourism attributes residents found were assets. Online panel studies were also done in 13 metropolitan areas within a 250-mile radius of Kent County. Potential visitors were asked to rate Kent County on its attributes based on performance, importance, value, intent to visit and overall rating. The agency also utilized an online conversation technology tool called “Sysomos” to listen to what visitors from outside the area where saying about Kent County and its attributes on Social Media over the past few years.

Mr. Petrick said his research showed that what potential visitors found appealing about Kent County was its ease of access from larger metropolitan areas like Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, its slower pace, its farm to table cuisine, its history and culture and quaint towns were also ranked high. NASCAR, cycling, birding, gambling and water activities were also mentioned as favorite things to do while visiting. The research also indicated that there is an estimated 45 million people in that 250-mile radius of Kent County that are potential visitors. It was from this research that the new logo and tag line were crafted.

Ms. Vestfall hopes that now that Kent County has a defined brand she can start rallying local businesses and organizations together to form beneficial partnerships that will ultimately drive tourism.

“What I’m really excited about is getting a chance to bring this community together,” she said. “We’re looking for big partnerships and this brand gives us a chance to link everyone together. We’re going to be having conversations and pushing people to together on a regular basis and start talking about packaging events and businesses. For instance, let’s build on the success of Firefly and make sure that there is a food tour that attendees can take. We’re going to be talking to the Firefly folks about how we can bring some local flair to the event.”

Ms. Vestfall said the main vehicle for the new brand will be a new responsive design website set to launch in January. All attractions, hotels, restaurants, retail shops will have opportunities to have pages and listings that can be updated by the staff of those establishments. The site will also feature a universal event calendar. Kent County Tourism plans to hold several workshops before the website launches to train businesses on how to create their listings and how to utilize the universal event calendar. Businesses wishing to be included in these workshops should contact Kent County Tourism by emailing KCTC@visitdover.com.

Tourism Awards

As part of the Tourism Celebrations additional fare, Kent County Tourism issued their annual gamut of awards. The Legacy Award was given to Michael Leister of the Air Mobility Command Museum. Kent Count Tourism chose Mr. Leister because he has dedicated over 20 years to the their organization as a board member and has been at the helm of the Air Mobility Command Museum for more than 30 years. He is retiring from the Museum in December.

“Kent County Tourism is a vital part of the state,” Mr. Leister said. “I continually tell people that tourism is clean industry and it brings in people and money to the state and shows off what we have. We can’t help but be proud of our little tiny state with all of its jewels.”

For their active partnership with the Tourism organization, the Delaware Department of State was awarded the Tourism Champion Award.

They were selected because of their work with the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the Delaware Public Archives, the Division of the Arts, the Division of Libraries, the Delaware Heritage Commission, and the First State Heritage Park. Kent County Tourism noted that over 97,000 visitors per year make their way over to the museums, historic sites, welcome centers and cultural and arts organizations that are part of the Department of State. Secretary of State, Jeffrey Bullock was at the event to receive the award.

“I have a great department and most of it is centered here in Kent County,” he said, referring to his staff. “To all of you from the Department of State who contribute to the economy of Kent County, thank you for the terrific job you do,”

The Firefly Music Festival was selected as the Tourism Attraction of the Year. The music festival, which first came to Dover in June 2012 with 30,000 attendees has grown to nearly 100,000 attendees as it celebrated its fifth year anniversary this past June.

Redner’s Warehouse Markets was awarded Tourism Partner of Year for their partnership and support of the Amish Country Bike Tour, for which they provide hundreds of baked goods, water and bananas to bike riders.

Jim Rafte of Proforma was awarded Tourism Volunteer of the year for giving hundreds of volunteer hours over his 7 years with the Dover Days Festival and Sarah Zimmerman, Superintendent of First State Heritage Park was awarded Tourism Person of the Year. Jonathan Wickert of DNREC presented Ms. Zimmerman with her award.

“When we thought about who personifies what tourism in Kent County is, Sarah Zimmerman’s name came up over and over again,” he said. “In the 2016 financial year, the First State Heritage Park presented 1,489 programs to 18,878 people. We had 58,500 people from 49 states, 15 countries and 5 continents visit the park during that time. Sarah makes you excited about history, makes you want to know more about Delaware and she makes you proud to live in and conduct business in Kent County.”

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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