Two decades ago, Visit Philadelphia set out to prove that Greater Philadelphia is a fun destination with so much to see and do. Back then, people didn’t know much about Philadelphia. But we had confidence in the destination, and that in itself felt innovative at the time.
Long before content was a hot marketing buzzword or the subject of countless blog posts and TED Talks, we began creating content to build the region’s image.
We made commercials. In 1997, we advertised Philly on national TV for the first time in the city’s history. We positioned Philadelphia as The Place That Loves You Back – a tagline people still use today. We were the first destination in the world to launch an LGBT TV commercial, part of our Philadelphia – Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay® campaign.
We took photos. We wrote about Philadelphia. And we put those words and pictures online.
We were one of the first destinations on the web when we launched the region’s first and only official visitor website in 1998. Once again, in 2007, we saw the beginning of a trend and became an early adopter by launching uwishunu®, an in-the-know Philly blog – one of the first by a destination.
We showed journalists Philly’s awesomeness, and they became believers. In 2005, National Geographic Traveler declared Philadelphia the “Next Great City.” A decade and countless media stories later, Philadelphia took number three on the coveted New York Times’ “52 Places to Visit in 2015” list. And, just one year after that, in 2016, we worked with the writers of two destination-defining media stories. That year, Philly took the top spot on Lonely Planet’s “Best in the U.S.” list, and The New York Times’ “36 Hours in Philadelphia” highlighted the city’s vegan restaurants, bring-your-own-bottle culture, and bike-share program, Indego.
We also focused on social-media marketing when it was still emerging. We launched accounts and a call-to-action hashtag, #visitphilly, to connect with visitors and locals alike. We practically invented the Instagram takeover among destinations, and we gathered (and continue to gather) our online community in real life with meetups at Philly attractions, parks, neighborhoods, and restaurants.
For years, we’ve teamed up with partners to reach different people in different places. In the world of destination marketing, more collaboration means more visitation. So, we continue to design effective partnerships that benefit us, our partners, and our visitors.
We keep at it, staying ahead-of-the-curve online and on social media, with unique partnerships and, of course, innovative research. The idea to invest in this destination turned out to be a winning one for Philly, as Visit Philadelphia continues to develop innovative ways to build the region’s image, drive visitation, boosting the economy – and relishing all that comes with it.