Mississippi River Country is vast—it encompasses all 10 states along America’s most famous river—and is home to truly iconic American destinations, from the river itself to Chicago’s skyscrapers to the stunning Smoky Mountains. Initially started as a marketing effort targeting Japanese travelers, changes in international travel—not to mention a pandemic—led us to reconsider who we’re asking to visit “the heart of America.”
Meeting with stakeholders
Mississippi River Country’s new brand and website were born out of discussions with our state partners at quarterly meetings and in-depth strategic planning sessions. From there, we were able to streamline our international marketing efforts by grouping destinations and attractions by overarching themes, a strategy we carried into the structure of the new website.
A new market emerges
These meetings also led to us to add Canada to our international marketing efforts, with the reasoning that Canada-to-U.S. travel was likely going to recover more quickly than Japan-to-U.S. travel after the pandemic. The Canadian market was generally thought to be more familiar with the Mississippi River region, too, and it’s also closer, meaning road trips would be an option for this market.
The MRC states account for more than $65 billion in annual visitor spending.
‘The heart of America’
That led to our new brand, which identifies MRC as “the heart of America,” not just geographically but figuratively. While not necessarily a tagline, we use the phrase in copy on our website and other copy, and the heart icon became the centerpiece of our new logo. Bold colors and engaging imagery on our website and in other marketing materials emphasize the vitality of the region.
Centering the river
When you represent a vast geographic area and are targeting a new market, you need to make sure your audience knows who—and, more importantly, where—you are. The Mississippi River is the backbone of the 10-state MRC region, so keeping that at the center of the brand was vital. (Plus, it’s a good geographical identifier for an international audience.) In addition, we wanted to give our audience a clearer picture of exactly where MRC sits in the United States.
A new website
Since its inception in 1988, MRC has mostly focused its international marketing efforts on Japan, so all the materials we had created (including a website) were in Japanese, meaning we’d need to start from scratch to create an English-language website for our new Canadian audience.
We needed to incorporate a lot of information into the new website to represent the travel assets from our partner state tourism offices. P&B found exceptional ways to present and organize a great deal of content and make it extremely easy for visitors to navigate. We are very proud of the site and were not surprised when it won a Gold Addy for website design.
Mississippi River Country Chair
Assistant Secretary Louisiana Office of Tourism
Themes & site structure
The new site had to convey information about our member states as well as MRC as a whole—a tough task when that includes everything from Louisiana’s bayous to Chicago’s famous architecture. So, we organized the article-based site by easily identifiable themes that covered the “greatest hits,” then subdivided categories more specifically. Articles can appear multiple places on the site, encouraging extended exploration of the site.
We wanted to make it easy for people to find what they're looking for, so related content shows up in a lot of different places on the website, like in articles and searches. This keeps people on the site longer and lets them discover even more about what MRC has to offer.
Lead Web + App Developer
‘Greatest hits’ collection
Writing about the “greatest hits” of MRC presents its own challenges, too—we know state tourism sites and destination partner sites already have lots of information about the top attractions and things to see in MRC, so we decided to pack the site with SEO-friendly content to help bring in visitors.
There's a lot of ground to cover when you're talking about an area as big as Mississippi River Country. Categorizing posts by theme and even more specific secondary themes meant we can incorporate lots of different states and attractions into a single article or itinerary, making it easier to show off MRC's greatest hits.
Regional articles & itineraries
The new website’s themes and multi-state itineraries also help tie together Mississippi River Country as a region. Most of the site’s articles feature multiple states, letting visitors see how all the MRC states fit together And tagging articles by theme means that someone who might be searching for information on Route 66 could also find articles on other famous road trips.
Targeting first-time visitors
We also added content that would be helpful for first-time visitors to MRC, such as an in-depth explanation of what MRC is and its member states, as well as information on major airports in each of the states, public transportation options, and group travel. All site content was written in-house, with some state-specific articles pulled from state tourism websites.
Meeting a new market
Working with a Canada-based travel marketing and consulting firm, we decided on a launch event with Canadian media, bloggers, and photographers. Covid meant we couldn’t do it in person, so we held a virtual session with a video introducing Mississippi River Country and each of our partner states.
40+ journalists, bloggers, and photographers participated in the brand launch event
Getting the message out
Since then, we have continued our outreach to Canadian media and bloggers, distributing quarterly e-newsletters highlighting some of the newest attractions and updates from member states and encouraging them to book media trips to Mississippi River Country.
International marketing efforts
We have also continued promoting MRC to the Japanese travel market—incorporating the new branding elements but not the website—in meetings with travel trade representatives domestically (in California) and internationally (sales missions to Tokyo).