TOURISM STAGNANT, BRANSON, MO., SINGS A MORE DIRECT TUNE

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Faced with stagnant tourism figures, officials in Branson, Mo., have revamped their ad strategy.

Gone are regional image ads and the Ozark Marketing Council, which created that advertising. Branson instead is turning to a national direct marketing campaign and its first outside ad agency, Bozell's Minneapolis office.

IMAGE ADS GONE

"We have shifted to direct response programs and away from image advertising, and have created a 12-page, four-color, USA Today-style newspaper to tell the total Branson story," said Jerry Stahl, Bozell general manager. "It is impossible to tell what Branson has in a 30-second spot."

What TV :30s are being used for now is to ask potential visitors to call Branson's 800-number and request the newspaper. Mr. Stahl said that in the first six weeks, more than 100,000 requests came in for the paper.

SECOND DROP PLANNED

A second issue is planned, but Mr. Stahl said he isn't sure if it will be supported by TV spots or just go to those who requested the first paper.

"We hope this new approach will translate into visitors," said Beth Wanser, director of consumer marketing for the Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau. Ms. Wanser was formerly marketing director for the Ozark Marketing Council until it disbanded earlier this year.

VISITORS LEVEL OFF

"We need to see some results from this program," she said.

Branson drew 4.1 million visitors in 1990 and the numbers grew steadily to 5.6 million in 1994, after which they have leveled off. But the increases before '94 were less than the 10% annual rise that Branson expected.

"We created a blueprint for success, had explosive growth and then leveled off," Ms. Wanser said.

Branson will no longer report tourism figures and will not use a head count to track tourism business, though it hasn't decided yet what the alternative method will be.

"We have changed companies that measure our visitors count, and we are shifting away from a head count," Ms. Wanser said.

The new company, Marketing Vision, Cincinnati, is now determining how to release information in the most effective and accurate way.

Ms. Wanser said Branson's marketing efforts this year will be helped by an anticipated 25% increase in tourism tax dollars.

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