For the last decade, the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau has had a problem: Its old images — if they could be called that — never really stuck. Remember the bland “Columbia, Missouri” campaign? Or the “For all the things you are” slogan with its confusing kaleidoscope logo?
Probably not, bureau Executive Director Lorah Steiner said.
That’s why on Tuesday night, after 18 months and more than $45,000 spent, Steiner unveiled a new, more cosmopolitan image for Columbia tourism. It’s one of the largest investments in tourism ads in the bureau’s history, she said, and a testament to Columbians’ growing realization that they, too, live in a trendy cultural hub.
“I think it occurred to them to start marketing what Columbia is now, not what it was 20 years ago,” said Carrie Gartner, director of the Columbia Special Business District.
Whereas the bureau’s old logo was rustic with a warm autumn theme of corn-cob yellows and pumpkin oranges, its new design seems splashed with a tropical palette straight out of South Florida. The related slogan, which has been submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for its length (yes, really), pops along like a NyQuil commercial: “The smart, innovative, artsy, eclectic, clever, savvy, vibrant, too-dynamic-to-fit-into-a-short-tagline city.”
Steiner said the spruced-up branding is designed to complement mid-Missouri’s pastoral image with Columbia’s cosmopolitan appeal. One sample ad, which was printed last year, even half-seriously compares Columbia’s Ninth Street to New York’s Fifth Avenue.
“(A trip to Columbia) has become akin to a trip to St. Louis,” Gartner said. “It’s got all the stuff an urban area has.”
The Convention and Visitors Bureau chose local agency Woodruff Communications Inc. in 2002 to steer the image change, paying for the project entirely with money from the city’s 1999 hotel-bed tax hike. Steiner said Tuesday’s logo unveiling begins an extensive branding campaign that pulls out plenty of stops in tourist-friendly image development. There’s also an interactive Web site, a trendy ad campaign and even a jingle that sounds like the “Can Can.”
“It gets stuck in your head,” Steiner said. “Believe me.”
The bureau’s image shift comes shortly after the Special Business District launched its “The District” campaign — a separate effort to market downtown Columbia’s chic urban side to tourists and potential residents.
“I think that’s definitely how we’ve come to see ourselves,” Steiner said. “And I think that’s how our visitors see us too.”
About 30 people attended Tuesday’s catered unveiling ceremony, which was paid for without taxpayer money. Mayor Darwin Hindman helped unveil the bureau’s new logo, and candidly raised a rhetorical question about the bureau’s new mammoth slogan being too hard to digest.
“Will people make fun of it? I hope they do,” he said. “If people are talking about it, that’s good.”