Ely takes new approach to marketing

by Tom Coombe

Baseball was probably on the minds of most of those who attended the Chicago Cubs’ home-opener at historic Wrigley Field in early-April.<BR><BR>But for at least a few moments, many in the sellout crowd were introduced to Ely, and in a very unique fashion.<BR><BR>Two people dressed as bears were holding placards, while another walked through the crowds mouthing the line ‘I’d rather be in Ely.’ Down the street, two people attempted to paddle through traffic while in a canoe.<BR><BR>And one misguided fisherman tried to reel in the big one... from a sewage drain.<BR><BR>It was all part of a brand-new marketing campaign sponsored by the Ely Chamber of Commerce, and put into action by a Twin Cities promotional firm.<BR><BR>In hopes of luring Chicago-area tourists to the Ely area, the Chamber has launched “The Last Great Pure Experience” campaign, supplementing conventional newspaper, magazine and radio advertisements with a new wave of innovative techniques.<BR><BR>Olson and Company, a national marketing firm with a long list of recognizable clients including the Minnesota Wild and Old Dutch Potato Chips, has unveiled its ‘guerilla marketing’ component on the streets of Chicago.<BR><BR>Its primary focus are five ‘street theater’ vignettes developed to communicate the variety of activities and vacation options available in Ely throughout the year.<BR><BR>In each, ‘misplaced tourists’ declare that ‘I’d rather be in Ely.’<BR><BR>From a fisherman looking to reel in a lunker from a sewage drain, to a man trying to nap on a hammock on a busy Chicago street, the campaign is designed to get people thinking about Ely.<BR><BR>And according to Ely tourism officials, the effort is already paying off.<BR><BR>Linda Fryer, administrative director of the Ely Chamber of Commerce, said the organization has already experienced an increase both in web site traffic and telephone inquiries since the campaign kicked off.<BR><BR>Guerilla tactics are becoming a more popular tool, marketers say, because they’re both relatively inexpensive and designed to have a more personal touch.<BR><BR>“It’s a growing trend,” said Rebecca Herbst, spokesperson for Olson and Company. “To have that direct contact with the consumer is something we’re looking for. And it’s a little bit unexpected. It catches people someplace when they’re not expecting it.”<BR><BR>The bears, canoeists and fishermen attracted plenty of attention outside Wrigley Field. The campaign was also employed outside Chicago’s Comiskey Park prior to the White Sox home opener, and on downtown streets.<BR><BR>“People were very curious,” said Herbst. “They were taken by surprise by some of the unusual things going on. Some people when they see these things are very intrigued by what’s going on and they draw a crowd. Along with the bear there are people who are there to talk specifically about Ely and let them know what’s going on.”<BR><BR>That’s exactly what Chamber officials are looking for as they look to further tap into the Chicago market.<BR><BR>“Chicago has long been our number one draw for tourism,” said Fryer. “This campaign is designed to reach a new generation of Chicagoan who might not be aware of everything Ely has to offer.”<BR><BR>John Schiefelbein, president of the Ely Tourism Board, appeared on WRMN-AM, a leading Chicago radio station, for an interview. The tactics also prompted a feature story in the Chicago Sun-Times.<BR><BR>The campaign is expected to last two months and also includes online advertising, public relations and an online promotion.<BR><BR>“The online advertising component is running in a few different places, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Weather Channel,” said Herbst. “People are being hit a couple of different ways. There’s street marketing and there’s an online promotion to drive people to the Ely website (www.ely.org).”<BR><BR>Those who witness the street theater will have a chance to win a trip to Ely. Postcards and posters featuring photography by Ely’s Jim Brandenburg will also include directions to enter an Ely vacation sweepstakes<BR><BR>The winner receives a seven-night vacation, including a stay at an Ely area resort and a choice of either a summer canoe trip or winter vacation.<BR><BR>With nearly $200,000 available for marketing - thanks to revenues collected from the local three percent lodging tax - the Chamber’s tourism board authorizes advertising and promotion efforts in both print and broadcast media outlets.<BR><BR>But Fryer said that several factors, including circulation declines in some magazines that Ely advertises in, have prompted a new approach and the move to hire Olson and Company.<BR><BR>Ely is attempting to position itself in the competitive vacation industry and the result is an effort to set the community apart from other popular vacation destinations, as well as an attempt to debunk any misconceptions about what an Ely vacation requires.<BR><BR>