In 2015, Discover Saint John (DSJ), and agency partner Hawk, introduced the “Saint Awesome” campaign, promoting the incredible urban waterfront experience offered by the city of Saint John, New Brunswick.
Jillian MacKinnon, DSJ’s Marketing & Communications Director, says “Saint John is Canada’s oldest incorporated city with a lot of heritage. We’re on the shore of the beautiful Bay of Fundy, and offer incredible attractions like the Irving Nature Park, and Rockwood Park, one of the largest urban parks in North America. We also have a wonderful culinary scene. This formed the basis of the Saint Awesome campaign.”
MacKinnon and Victoria Clarke, DSJ Executive Director, spoke to Opportunities NB (ONB) about the campaign’s awards recognition, and about the advantages of life and work in New Brunswick.
ONB: Tell us more about Saint Awesome and its recent success.
MacKinnon: Knowing what our city’s value proposition is we developed an awesome creative campaign. Since our culinary scene has become so vibrant, we wrapped a bus to look like a Saint John restaurant. The bus doors aligned with those of a restaurant and it looked like one was walking into a beautiful dining room. We added the tagline of “Saint Romantic”, and there was a couple sitting in the window of the bus enjoying a great meal.
This helped us win gold at the Summit International Awards. As far as we know, it’s the first gold ever for a New Brunswick organization. We also won a bronze medal for our consumer digital campaign. Using a variety of headlines playing off Saint Awesome, we used taglines like “Saint Lively” and “Saint Spectacular”, all with nice graphics like shots of the gorgeous Fundy Trail. We used “Saint Fascinating” coupled with the city waterfront, noting that the city grows 30 feet with every low tide. That focus on beautiful images paired with clever headlines helped us win that second award.
ONB: Were you targeting anyone in particular with the campaign?
MacKinnon: We focused on both the rest of New Brunswick as well the New England states, with a focus on our next door neighbors in Maine. We would love to go even wider with this type of campaign in the future. We want the world to know how awesome Saint John really is.
ONB: One of our top ten benefits of New Brunswick is our incredible quality of life. DSJ seems well-positioned to comment on that.
Clarke: Saint John is the only urban experience on the gorgeous Bay of Fundy. There’s approximately 65 bars and restaurants within about a 10-block radius offering truly world-class dining. Saint John brings you two distinct shopping experiences as well. The retail experience uptown is unique; it’s one of small boutiques and galleries. Then you move to the East or West side of town and you have that big box store experience. You can get that oceanfront lifestyle with the River Valley, and commutes are relatively short. We believe Saint John offers a lifestyle that other major cities simply can’t deliver.
We have a meetings and conventions sales component to our business, as well as a focus on sports tourism, festivals, and events. We absolutely sell the lifestyle of New Brunswick. Even if people we’re marketing to are here only for a few days, we think of it as enticing business people to move here. We give them a taste of our great quality of life while they’re here on business, and get them thinking about establishing or expanding their business here.
Costs are lower here for hosting a meeting or convention. Some of the logistical challenges of a convention in a big city simply aren’t issues in Saint John. You’re are able to walk between venues and hotels very easily, and transportation is much simpler compared to larger cities. That compactness is something we think big cities can’t compete with us on.
ONB: You’ve gotten creative in your marketing before. We spoke to comedian James Mullinger earlier this year about his work with DSJ. Tell us about that.
Victoria: Our sales team travels to so many events where decision makers discuss where to hold industry conferences. Ottawa for example is a Canadian epicentre for national associations and corporate headquarters. We had an opportunity to be onstage there at the 2016 Meeting Professionals International (MPI) gala dinner. It’s a bustling event with lots of speakers, so we thought about how to stand out from the crowd. We have this great UK-born comic here in James, so we approached him to deliver our presentation. I’m so glad we did. We got to hear our marketing message delivered with his style of humor; it really set us apart from the pack. Our genuine message about Saint John and how great it is to do business here combined with James’ hilarious delivery helped us make a mark in Ottawa. It put us on the map with a lot of folks there. As a UK transplant, James is a wonderful ambassador for the province.
ONB: Victoria, you’ve been involved in the entrepreneurial scene here. ONB sees that as another New Brunswick advantage. Tell us about that experience.
Victoria: I’ve served as an entrepreneur’s forum advisor for the Wallace McCain Institute for a few years now. The entrepreneurial scene here really is another selling point of New Brunswick. The Institute gives local entrepreneurs a 360 degree view of what’s happening in the province and in their sector. You have incredible minds to tap into to help tackle sales hurdles, growth plans, commercializing products, etc. It brings people of varied expertise to the table to have frank conversations. People make suggestions and critique, all in the spirit of strengthening and growing our entrepreneur network. It’s been a real privilege to participate and fascinating to see some of the ideas coming out of this small region. And again, I think our size allows this type of closely-knit ecosystem to form.
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