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VOL. 133 | NO. 125 | Friday, June 22, 2018

Memphis Tourism: Organization's Rebrand Adds Soul

By Bill Dries

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Even the simplest rebranding can come with a lot of study. So the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau's rebranding to Memphis Tourism, announced Friday, June 22, may not seem like a big change.

The Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau is now the Memphis Tourism Corp., part of a larger rebranding that emphasizes the city’s musical heritage and the concept of home. Memphis Tourism president Kevin Kane unveiled the new signage Friday, June 22,  outside the Downtown headquarters of the tourism entity. (Daily News/Bill Dries)

And the change of the accompanying tagline from “home of the blues and birthplace of rock 'n' roll” to “home of the blues, soul and rock 'n' roll” may also seem like a tweak.

But Memphis Tourism president Kevin Kane said the change in identity is significant while the idea is to put more focus on the identity than the change.

“There’s a narrative that’s been formed and obviously all of the research has taken us to the fact that there is a soulfulness to Memphis that resonates with everything, from our people to the great work that’s done at St. Jude to the great soul music that has resonated out of Memphis,” Kane said.

“There’s a real strong connection there,” he said the day after the change was announced at the Memphis Tourism annual meeting Thursday. “We’ve been wanting to put soul in our name for a long time.”

The new logo was developed with feedback and audience research that included competitive set analysis. A brand or logo is evaluated against those of competitors to find strengths and weaknesses of the new concept.

The previous logo and tag line were unveiled in 1995, after the city’s previous marketing effort of “America’s Distribution Center” had run its course.

Tourism and hospitality by then had hit the key dollar figure of an estimated $1 billion annual economic impact from the mid-1980s when tourism efforts were bolstered by a super fund of city and county dollars and the slogan “Start Something Great In Memphis.”

In the mid-1990s, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music was still about a decade from being built on the site of the original Stax Record Co., the physical embodiment of the concept of soul in Memphis, that had been demolished at the end of the 1980s.

At Memphis Tourism’s annual meeting, Kane put the economic impact of tourism in Memphis at $3.3 billion. And the city saw an increase of more than 500,000 more visitors in 2017 than it did in 2016, for a total of 11.7 million visitors.

“We did our research. Home was very important. There was a strong connection to home and obviously a strong connection to soul,” Kane said. “We don’t think we have strayed away from our music heritage because we know through research that music and our musical heritage and the music of today is the number one reason that drives visitors to our destination. It’s not the only reason. But it’s the strongest reason.”

Changing the name of the organization has been happening informally for at least a year. Some know it as the manager of the convention center. Those in the industry know it as Memphis Travel.

“It’s just cleaner. We’ve been around for almost 100 years. We’re 95 years old,” Kane said. “The word bureau takes people down a road that really doesn’t reflect who we are and what we do. Convention at the beginning of our name makes people think we are just the convention center or just about conventions. We’re really the tourism industry, the tourism agency for the community.

“It’s important that we get this right. The narrative of this city – there’s a lot of momentum going on in our community right now,” he said. “ Look at all of the hotel development. We are about to improve our airport. We’re about to renovate and really transform our convention center. … All of these building blocks are further enhancing the visitor offerings and the tourism offerings that we have for visitors who come here from literally around the world.”

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