Monday, May 19, 2014

What do the beaches of South Carolina have in common with the new Porsche Macan?

Well, both were recently advertised in distinctive window displays at the world-famous Harrods store in London. As Harrods Media Director, Guy Cheston, says "Harrods' iconic exhibition windows are one of the most sought after and visited retail display areas in the world,” so it is refreshing to see marketers of South Carolina reach out to potential international travelers in such an innovative fashion. The initiative was partly funded by Brand USA, the organization established by the 2009 Travel Promotion Act to spearhead the nation’s first global marketing effort to promote the US as a premier travel destination. Brand USA is funded through a fee on tourists from the 37 countries whose citizens don’t require a visa to visit the US (called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization – ESTA - program). The organization is allowed to use up to $100 million a year, provided it obtains matching contributions from its private partners in the travel and tourism industry. In addition to the window displays, South Carolina was also promoted on the store’s multi-media video displays, in its 500,000 circulation publication, and on the side of its trademark green double decker buses. If you would like to know more about Brand USA, I published a white paper recently in the Journal of Destination Management & Marketing that digs a little deeper:

Thursday, May 1, 2014

ArtFields in Lake City Gathers Strength

I was in Lake City today where ArtFields was in full swing. The 10-day event is a celebration of all things creative, and features the largest art competition in the Southeast. Hundreds of artists compete for $100,000 in cash prizes, displaying their art in more than 50 downtown businesses, outdoor spaces and other venues. While I sat in the Downtown Bakery & Deli, people were wandering in off the wind-swept streets to view the spectacular art on the walls behind me – and if they wanted to, they could then vote for their favorite piece. Public votes factor into the top $50,000 prize, and a panel of visual art professionals name the $25,000 juried panel prize-winner.

The event is part of a larger effort to put Lake City on the map. When I first visited five years ago, there was barely a traffic signal to light up the city, but now crumbling buildings have been transformed into high-class restaurants, cafes, shops and museums, and a boutique hotel will be opening in the fall.  The Lake City Partnership Council is the key impetus behind this revitalization, with Darla Moore the catalyst supporting this economic development group that has invested generously in the rehabilitation of Lake City.  As a vehicle for economic revitalization, artistic expression, and community pride, Artfields itself attracts thousands of visitors, providing an estimated $5.4 million impact for Lake City community, and incalculable benefits for the merchants, artists, and citizens of the Pee Dee. More information about the festival can be found at