Canadians may know how to find Costco and Trader Joe’s, but do they know about downtown Bellingham and Fairhaven?
To draw more Canadians into other parts of Bellingham, the Downtown Bellingham Partnership and the Historic Fairhaven Association teamed up earlier this year to market toward people in lower British Columbia.
The two organizations are buying full-page advertisements in four British Columbia newspapers—The Richmond News, Langley Advance, Surrey Now, and South Surrey Now. The top half of each ad features an article about downtown or Fairhaven, ranging from historical stories to business profiles.
The bottom of the page has advertisements for local businesses.
The ads started in May and run monthly. They plan to continue the program in 2015, and rent a billboard on the Canadian side of the border, said Patrick Hurley, executive director for the Downtown Bellingham Partnership.
Hurley said they don’t have any metric for tracking Canadian spending downtown. But anecdotal evidence from business owners suggest the campaign is working.
“The campaign is about creating awareness so it’s in the back of people’s minds,” said Patrick Hurley, Downtown Bellingham Partnership’s executive director. “It may not have a direct return that’s seen right away, but it’s just reminding and informing people about what Bellingham has to offer.”
The groups are calling the project the “Make the right turn campaign,” because they want Canadians to turn right toward downtown and Fairhaven after exiting Interstate 5 in Bellingham.
“It started with the premise that many Canadians are already traveling down to Bellingham to take advantage of the big-box stores as part of their regular shopping routine,” said Bill Miller, a volunteer with the Historic Fairhaven Association. “We meet so many Canadians in Fairhaven and downtown and their main reaction is ‘This is so cool. I didn’t know this existed.'”
The organizations are paying for the program with a $10,400 grant from the City of Bellingham’s Tourism Promotion Fund, and advertisements from local businesses.
Kyle Fuller, Downtown Bellingham Association’s marketing director, said they plan on tracking the program with more specific metrics next year.