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Buying in on It

Who's On Board With The City's New "Get In On It" Campaign?

By Gadi Dechter | Posted 7/12/2006

The success of a city "branding" effort depends in part on what marketing professionals call "buy-in," or whether brand "stakeholders"--in this case, tourist destinations, hospitality businesses, and various civic boosters--incorporate the new brand into their own marketing pitches.

A month after the fanfare-filled launch of Baltimore's new tourism brand, some stakeholders have already bought in on it, while others have so far stayed out of it.

Tourists staying at the Hyatt Regency hotel in the Inner Harbor may catch the "Get in on it" television commercial while waiting for the elevator. In addition to the elevator-side LCD screens, the sing-along spot is also playing in guest rooms, on an in-house channel. If they venture a few blocks north of the harbor, visitors to Baltimore may pass Downtown Partnership "Clean and Safe Team" workers wearing white get in on it buttons over their bright yellow shirts. Employees at the two Tremont Suites hotels are likewise donning the buttons.

Others who have heeded the tourism agency's call to get in on the "Get in on it" campaign, according to the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association (BACVA), include the Classic Catering Co., the Sheraton Inner Harbor hotel, and Ed Kane's Water Taxis, which has modified the tourism slogan to include a double entendre perhaps more suitable for a booze cruise than a shuttle service: "Get in on it . . . Get off on it!"

Not all stakeholders have been as enthusiastic. The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA), a city agency whose promotional mission has considerable overlap with BACVA's, has so far limited its involvement to allowing the tourism agency to hand out booster swag at BOPA-organized events, such as August's Artscape and the downtown farmers' market. "We're two different agencies," says BOPA spokeswoman Tracy Baskerville. "We did meet with BACVA and we talked about tying [the brand] in, we just haven't had a chance to figure out all the different ways that we can."

Though it promotes Baltimore, the state tourism office has not yet incorporated the "Get in on it" brand into its larger mission of marketing tourism statewide, though director Dennis Castleman says his office will employ the brand in the future. "When it comes time to focus on the Inner Harbor . . . we will certainly use their branded slogan, no doubt about it," says Castleman, who is also a BACVA board member.

City Hall will continue to use "The Greatest City in America" slogan to attempt to boost civic pride among residents, says mayoral spokeswoman Raquel Guillory. "`Get in on it' is a marketing tool for BACVA. It's not anything the mayor or the city or anything like that has anything to do with," she says.

Řity branding efforts are often challenged by territorial disputes between overlapping bureaucracies, says Eric Swartz, a branding specialist who runs TaglineGuru.com. "This is the problem that's so endemic with cities," says Swartz. "When you do corporate branding, the company is a self-contained hierarchy. When something changes, everyone gets on board. In a city you've got these disparate groups that are loosely related and no one reports to each other."

BACVA is still "aggressively working" to encourage local tourism interests to employ the new brand, says Kevin O'Keefe of public relations firm Weber Shandwick, which is a consultant to the tourism agency. For example, he says, BACVA will ask movie theaters and film festivals to show the "Get in on it" commercial before screenings.

But far more important than having the new logo and slogan used at Baltimore tourism destinations, O'Keefe says, is using the brand to drive tourists to the city. "If we've got them here, then obviously we've achieved a success," he says. "That's the whole point, to attract visitors from out of the market to come here. That's what this organization is charged with accomplishing and what it's measured on."

A BACVA official says the first concrete analysis of the branding campaign's progress on that score--measured by metrics such as visitor traffic to Baltimore.org and downloads of a summer-themed coupon book--will be made available at the end of this month.

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