The Best Place to Alaska
A Town With Potential
Scope of Work
An Undiscovered Gem
When you think of Alaska you conjure up images of vast tundras, large black spruce trees dotted with eagles, glaciers calving into the water, and of course, adventure. Amongst the bears and moose, approximately sixty miles south of Anchorage is a small town that encapsulates the everyman daydream of what Alaska should be. A town with a problem. Although on the road system, and with a major airport, only those in the know have even heard of it.
My first time arriving in the City of Kenai I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the place. I love the snow, and I happened to time my first visit in the heart of winter. Subsequently I visited in the summer, and in the fall. This place had it all, and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why none of my adventuring friends had heard of it. This is why the city came to us.
Rediscovering the heart of the kenai
As a city, Kenai has quite the history. As the economic and cultural capital of the epinonymous peninsula it sits on. With the infrastructure to support growth, and plenty of access to the reasons why people come to Alaska in the first place, supporting growth was a challenge that we were more than willing to take on.
Learning from the work of great city marketing that came before we went all in. Interviewing and understanding the city was the first step. We discovered the animal that really defined the city was the resilient salmon. Pushing its way upstream and overcoming challenges. The life of the salmon was a struggle that many in Kenai could identify with, not to mention it being a backbone of the Kenai’s economy.
In 2016, total tourism spending for the City of Kenai was down by -10.18%. That same year, neighboring cities saw increases. Soldotna, saw an increase of +1.29%, Seward +5.65%, Homer +4.71%, and Seldovia +1.05%. The City of Kenai had a dilemma. In 2016, total tourism spending for the City of Kenai was down by -10.18%. That same year, neighboring cities saw increases. Soldotna, saw an increase of +1.29%, Seward +5.65%, Homer +4.71%, and Seldovia +1.05%. This occurred at a time when total tourism spending for the state of Alaska climbed by approximately 4% and when tourism sales for the Kenai Peninsula grew by a combined 1.75%. The numbers for 2017 were not much better. The City of Kenai put out an RFP for marketing services, and Divining Point LLC was awarded the opportunity to boost the identity and marketing of the City to both travelers and residents.
This is when we began our work.
A Creative Solution
Divining Point LLC started the engagement with a thorough understanding of the culture and heritage of the City of Kenai. Additionally, we surveyed the tourism and branding of every community on the Peninsula to define the unique characteristics of the City of Kenai. A deep dive into marketing performance for each city on the Peninsula – along with other similarly sized destinations in the Lower 48 – informed us as to how to make the City of Kenai stand out not only as world class destination for vacation, but also as a community for relocation.
We started our engagement by first rebranding the City of Kenai. Their city logo and slogan reflected the cultural values of an older era when the community’s economy primarily revolved around the Oil & Gas and Commercial Fishing industries. We dedicated two weeks to interviewing stakeholders, community leaders, businesses and residents about their feelings and experiences with the City of Kenai. From this in-depth discover process, we distilled the qualities that made the City of Kenai unique from any other city in Alaska and the United States.
Kenai is a small town with all the benefits and features one might expect in a larger city. With the largest municipal airport on the Kenai Peninsula, service to Anchorage (on a 20-minute flight), major retailers like Home Depot and Walmart, and all the services one might expect from a larger community, Kenai offers residents and visitors multiple benefits that were impossible to find in any other city on the Kenai Peninsula. Additionally, Kenai is ideally located to allow travelers the opportunity to conveniently launch their vacation plans from Kenai and see all the Kenai Peninsula within a 1 to 2 hour drive.
Kenai also has the largest all sand beach in the Cook Inlet, a combination of spruce trees and wide-open views of volcanoes and mountains, plus the mouth of the turquoise Kenai River which pours into the Cook Inlet. It is a family-friendly community with a thriving economy and plenty of recreational opportunities just minutes away from the central core of the city.
Kenai is the best place to raise a family. It is the best place to start a business or find employment. It is the best place to achieve the Alaskan Lifestyle. We took the word “Alaska” and turned it into a verb, because when you “Alaska” you are living the highest ideal of the Alaskan lifestyle.
Kenai is the best place to Alaska
The annual salmon migration is the unique qualifying character of Kenai. It is when anglers come to Kenai for sport and subsistence fishing of king salmon, red salmon, and silver salmon. It represents the history and substance of Kenai. We took this symbol, the salmon, and turned it into a modern representation that is also shaped like a “K” for Kenai. Using a unique font (Neutra), we also captured the modern and bold elements of the City of Kenai.
From this new brand direction, we expounded The Best Place To ALASKA we created a sub-brand called I Love Kenai and executed a series of campaigns, both for relocation and travelers. We used the old 1960-1980 Madlib concept to create a series of creative taglines for ad design to highlight the unique values of Kenai that would be attractive to families seeking the Alaskan Lifestyle, as well as travelers seeking Alaskan adventure.
These advertisements were flighted online using Google, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, programmatic display, print magazines, and physical banners. To date, the advertisements have reached multiple millions of people across Alaska and the contiguous Lower 48.
The Fishing Tournament
Another top priority of the City of Kenai was to help bring attention to the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby, an annual fishing tournament with a truly unique set of rules.
Due to requirements from Alaska Fish & Game, the tournament needed to reduce potential harm to the wild silver salmon population associated with catch-and-release activity. By using a “Magic Weight”, the City of Kenai awards the total and daily prizes to the person whose fish weighs closest to the weight drawn at the end of each day. This offers a method to award prizes in an equitable manner while also reducing the need to catch the biggest fish. These rules, although truly original, are also difficult to convey in messaging. This led to public confusion and lackluster enthusiasm.
Additionally, the proceeds to the event go to the Kenai Community Foundation whose intent is to direct those funds to conservation and management efforts on the banks and riparian zones along the City of Kenai.
With these two things in mind, Divining Point LLC reviewed traditional fishing derbies throughout the United States. In each case, no other derby matched the unique qualities of the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby.
We decided to brand the derby as “The World’s Most Responsible Fishing Tournament”. This audacious claim achieves multiple objectives:
1. It corners the market on the title of “responsible sport fishing”
2. It forces attention to itself
3. It adds a subtle humorous tone the event to elevate the fun of the event
4. It inspires a public conversation about sport fishing and conservation that brings more attention to the event and attracts a broader diversity of participants.
We launched a dedicated Facebook page and website for the event with an online portal for efficiently processing sponsorship contributions. This reduced the reliance on analog methods of printed materials, checks by mail, and the risk of non-payment.
For three years our messaging strategy has been supported by a public relations campaign by which we sent out press releases to:
· 10 Alaskan newspapers & magazines
· 4 Alaskan news services
· 33 Alaskan radio stations & 8 Alaskan TV stations
· 120 National Outdoor sports websites and magazines
· 210 National boating and maritime websites and magazines (includes fishing)
· 615 National leisure and recreation websites and magazines
The result of this campaign has shown remarkable improvement in sponsor participation, fishing participation, and nationwide exposure. As of this writing, we have quadrupled sponsor participation, and we have set up the derby for even greater sponsor participation with national, state and local businesses.
Our public relations effort successfully positioned the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby as a new and unique derby that gives back to the habitat in which it is conducted. The news appeared on Yahoo! News, MarketWatch, Peninsula Clarion, KSRM, and a wide variety of news affiliates across the Lower 48.
Telling The Story
Additionally, we’ve sought every opportunity to showcase the City of Kenai’s unique qualities so that more people can discover The Best Place To ALASKA. We use public relations and guest posting opportunities to tell the story of Kenai in ways that bring attention to its natural features and quality of life.
The best marketing for any destination will always be the residents. People who absolutely love living there and recognize the value. To better empower citizens to become ambassadors to the town’s brand, we felt the need to remind them that they really do love Kenai. So we launched ILoveKenai.com as an online portal to interact with the city through contests and branded merchandise.
The Story Goes On
Our work continues to this day, including focusing on supporting the business community before, during and after the Covid-19 crisis. We’ve engaged to enhance messaging from the city administration to highlight what the city is doing to support business growth within the community.
As part of our success, in 2020 the City of Kenai reported a 5.71% increase in city revenue, whereas neighboring cities saw modest growth or declines in city revenue.
We’ve also focused on physical elements within the city to show the changes happening within the community, including street banners.