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FEbruary 20, 2020

Trails of Profitability

Meara bridges

The Impact of a Tourism Attraction

Twisting the Throttle on Tourism

The Southern Dozen is a curated collection of nationally recognized rides targeted towards motorists and, more specifically, motorcycle enthusiasts. It has positioned Johnson City, Tennessee as a welcoming, motorcyclist-friendly destination and has led to the city hosting more than 13,000 motorcycle rallies, with a resulting published economic impact of $6 million in the past 8 years.

As the agency on record for the Johnson City Convention and Visitors Bureau (JCCVB), we were excited for the opportunity to take on the branding for the Southern Dozen in 2009. For the past 11 years we have been proud to lead the effort to define this tourism attraction and establish Johnson City as a tourism hub for motorcyclists. But let’s pump the brakes on that discussion for now and turn our attention to the evolution of the Southern Dozen brand.

Separating from the Pack

When we partnered with the JCCVB, they had a series of 12 predetermined motorcycle rides and the need to increase tourism. Although these rides had unique names such as “The Snake,” “Vinegar Pie,” and “Two Rivers, One Mountain, and Ten Million Trout Eggs,” there was no significant brand in place to promote them as a package that could compete against established rides like Tail of the Dragon, the Cherohala Skyway, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. We set to work to change all of that.

Before we could develop the brand, we needed to determine the demographic. Because the JCCVB is funded by the hospitality tax from area hotels, motels, and lodging, we needed to attract tourists who would stay for a long weekend at the very least. This defined our range—anyone within a 5-hour drive from Johnson City. Then we honed in, considering who could really afford the lifestyle of a “weekend road warrior,” so to speak. The answer? Boomers. With flexible schedules and disposable income, they were the ideal group with which to create a brand connection. This insight into segment targeting was key to creating today’s nationally recognized brand that continues to generate awareness, commerce and sales tax dollars for Johnson City.

After identifying who we wanted to connect with, we built out the brand with the name “Southern Dozen,” creating a charming sense of place and giving a nod to the number of rides. Then we set to work identifying the valuable experiences each of the rides imparts and crafting ride itineraries to promote the hidden gems and attractions along the way. We recognized to get the buy-in we needed to sell the full experience, not just the rides. As we grew the brand strategically, we developed the aesthetic and adopted an edgy, rugged style that spoke to the motorcyclist’s fantasy of a gritty rebel spirit.

We translated this brand to an integrated marketing plan, building a website, mailing monthly ride-themed postcards promoting each of the rides, creating promotional brochures for welcome centers and hotels, and running print ads. We hit public relations hard, organizing fan tours for motorcycle magazines and inviting travel writers to come experience the Southern Dozen. We also partnered with hotels to offer motorcycle riders special visitor packages to make them feel welcome and encourage them to return. As the brand has gained traction, we have expanded our audience to include automobile enthusiasts as a secondary demographic, promoting the Southern Dozen to a variety of car clubs.

At the time the Southern Dozen was gearing up, the value of social media was just beginning to be realized in the industry. We took full advantage of Facebook and launched a scavenger hunt contest that encouraged visitors to locate branded signs on each of the rides, take a photo, and share it to be entered to win a variety of prizes. The response was great! Riders developed such a love for the Southern Dozen brand that some signs even had to be reproduced to replace ones that had been taken as “souvenirs.”

As technology advanced, so did our tactics. When GoPro technology was developed, we leveraged the opportunity to give our audience a taste of the Southern Dozen by creating user-perspective videos of each of the rides. We began integrating our advertising further, utilizing geofencing and ad retargeting.

Recently, we took the brand down a new road with a rebrand. The rebrand resulted in logo refinement with a new overall look and a voice that speaks to an edgy, contemporary audience of motorcycle enthusiasts who appreciate the classic, romanticized appeal of the biker aesthetic. The new brand embodies the bold confidence of our audience while celebrating each of the rides individually. This effort has stretched across video, print and digital platforms, including the development of a rider’s pocket guide app with user-friendly attraction-mapping. We even struck up a collaboration with a local tattoo artist to create custom illustrations in the Traditional tattoo art style as branding for each of the rides.

Over time, our advertising efforts have become fully inclusive with print, digital, public relations, social media, website development, outdoor, marketing collateral, photography, video, and media services. Each year we have been tasked with producing great ideas on a limited budget. We have welcomed the challenge readily, viewing it as an opportunity to work smarter and keenly listened to audience feedback. The creative and marketing solutions we have developed as a result have built the Southern Dozen brand and further-strengthened our client relationship. We are lucky to be partnered with a client who, from the start, has trusted us and allowed for creative freedom. This has resulted in a great relationship with continued advertising success. And with each achievement, the client has allowed us to push the brand to reach new heights. It turns out, that has served to benefit everyone involved.

Engines Roaring Towards Success

The Southern Dozen has received recognition and numerous awards across tourism, including taking home awards from The Pinnacle Awards, earning “Best of Show” for small regional tourism campaigns by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, and being featured in various travel and motorcyclist magazines. It’s even gained attention from the Tennessee Department of Tourism due to its impact on the region.

Tourists aren’t the only ones who have responded positively to the brand. The Southern Dozen material we’ve created over the years has been featured on, and taken home several awards, including multiple silver and gold Addys in the American Advertising Awards, as well as a Gold Graphis in 2018.

The Power of Riding Together

After all these years on the account, we’re still hungry to continue growing the brand. One thing is clear, though: The Southern Dozen is a trailblazer. It has charted a clear path showcasing the impact that can be had by a group of potential tourists when you give them a cult brand that speaks to and celebrates them.

Ready to see what we can do to improve your tourism efforts? Let’s start a conversation.