The June issue of Boston Magazine has an interesting article on how local historical sites in Mass. are "ripping a page out of the corporate sales manual, the one that reads, 'Repackage. Rebrand. Give it a kick. Make it sell.'" to boost tourism.
Take the Freedom Trail Foundation, which oversees the red-brick line (painted with the blood of Yankee fans) that leads three million tourists a year past 16 shrines from the American Revolution, including the Old South Meeting House, the site of the Boston Massacre and the Bunker Hill Monument.
The marketing campaign the FTF launched this year mentions six popular TV shows, including American Idol and CSI. It also runs a popular pub crawl of historical taverns. And to keep up with techno-savvy kids and their Blackberry-toting parents, visitors can download a Freedom Trail audio tour to their MP3 players.
The tourism industry calls this "edu-tainment", but I'm wondering where's the philanthro-tainment. The Freedom Trail Foundation would make a great cause marketing partner. The 16 stops on the trail attract lots of families--a key demo for many companies--and are in or near shopping districts. The FTF should leverage these two key assets.
Here are a few ideas:
- Give tourists a map of the Freedom Trail that highlights the different shops and eateries along the route. The FTF could sell advertising on the map, but giving it away to retailers would be even smarter. Let me explain.
- In exchange for promotion on the map, ask shops and restaurants along the route to sell a coupon book to customers for between $1 to $3 that offers savings on everything from admission to Paul Revere's House to a sandwich at Cosi. Make sure shoppers know that the money will go to the FTF to support the upkeep of the trail.
- Give away a tourist pack with sample-size sunscreen, band-aids, hand-sanitizer, musket powder, snuff, etc. Sell Valpak like inserts for the pack (if Valpak can make $3,200 per ad, why shouldn't you?). Repeat quarterly.
- Let tourists swap their gold fillings for wooden teeth, implanted by a "living historian" with period dental instruments (i.e. an anvil and a dirty rag). Potential sponsor: Gentle Dental.
- Get the latest and coolest electronic products (like the new Zune or GPS system) for tourists to try--in an historically-apporpriate way, of course--at different stops along the route. Aggressively market the Freedom Trail to manufacturers and retailers that want to test market and promote new products to the four-eyed, four-legged monster (a.k.a. Mothers with kids).
- Capture the spirit of the Revolution with a tax-free shopping day during the holiday season that includes a raffle to win a trip to the "Old World" (I was thinking England, but Quincy would be fine too). The FTF gets five percent of sales from the shopping day. The raffle winner is announced at the December 17th reenactment of the Boston Tea Party. The losing raffle tickets--with their owners--go overboard with the tea.
- Do a spin-off of the hit TV show The Amazing Race called "Amazing History" that challenges teams to perform "revolutionary" feats of strength, endurance and intelligence (like loading and firing three musket shots in less than a minute, or extinguishing a burning dress (the leading cause of death for colonial women after childbirth). Encourage businesses to compete against each other for bragging rights and to raise money for the Foundation (and for burn victims).
- Recruit a local funeral home to sponsor a "dig" at the Granary Burying Ground. Outfit the bones you find in period dress and have puppet shows for terror-stricken school groups.
Okay, some of these ideas are better than others. But the point is that the FTF and others need to approach cause marketing the Revolution with the same ingenuity, courage, tenacity and, yes, self-interest that the founders did in starting it. In cause marketing the Revolution, "The shot heard 'round the world" has yet to be fired.