By Mindy Risenberg; Center for the Future of Arizona
Kingman, Arizona evokes thoughts of Route 66 – the road and the song. But many travelers drive right past it on I-40 or just stop right off the Interstate only to grab a burger and keep on going. What they may not realize is that Kingman has become a hotbed of activity, with vineyards, restaurants and events all near other well-known attractions, like Las Vegas, Lake Mead and of course, Route 66.
“There were always conversations about how Kingman could be so much more,” said Liza Noland, president of ad agency Ignite Brand Marketing. “But we recognized that as a small, rural community of 28,000 people, our businesses didn’t have enough money to develop successful individual ad campaigns.”
So Noland called together about 25 local business owners and asked them if they’d be willing to pool their small budgets into one large marketing fund to market the city and its businesses on a larger scale.
“Not a single one of our local businesses could afford a marketing initiative that would bring enough people to or through Kingman, but if they banded together, we knew we could really do something,” said Noland.
Working with the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce, Noland and her team developed a marketing consortium called Kingman Circle. The idea was to raise awareness of Kingman on a larger scale through digital advertising, online web strategies, collaborative materials, billboards and other marketing initiatives. The website launched in January 2016, and has reached hundreds of thousands of potential visitors.
“We want to be the main information outlet for all things Kingman – food and drink, upcoming events, special offers, things to do and people to see,” said Noland.
Kingman Circle’s initial business partners chipped in a small amount of money each month to create a $60,000 yearly budget. Desert de Oro Foods, which runs four Kingman restaurants, was one of the first businesses to jump on board.
“Kingman Circle has been very effective for us,” said J.D. Marshall, Desert de Oro’s Director of Restaurant Concepts. “We get a lot of play on social media, and the low cost of participating is very worthwhile – since we joined, it’s paid for itself.”
Marshall credits Ignite Brand Marketing with keeping on top of promotions.
“If we need anything, they’ll post it, and they’re quicker at getting things up on social media than I am,” he said. “They stay in tune about what is going on in our restaurants and businesses, and we’ve had an uptick in out of town guests.”
The Kingman Circle consortium meets quarterly to review the project as a whole as well as the individual impact for each business partner.
“The challenge is staying motivated while waiting for results, so by meeting regularly we keep everyone motivated and remind them that branding is sometimes intangible,” said Noland.
But all signs point to a successful first year. In one week, over 95,000 people were reached with messages about Kingman, with people downloading the app in countries as far away as Germany and Australia. The group works with the local tourism center and recently secured additional funding from the City of Kingman.
And Desert de Oro Foods’ restaurants have seen an uptick in out of town guests.
“I think it’s helping Kingman overall, not just those who are part of the consortium,” said Marshall. “More people spend time here now and check out what the city has to offer.”