Yeah, we’re THAT Greenville, but we could have just as easily become Grinville. Or a place that is outrageously normal.
Those were among the ideas tossed out when VisitGreenvilleSC began looking for a way to brand Greenville as a tourist attraction.
Of course, Greenville didn’t have many of the very things that help make a destination a destination. It wasn’t built for tourists, like Walt Disney World. It didn’t have a well-known, can’t-miss tourist magnet such as New York’s Empire State Building, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, or even Paris’ Eiffel Tower (although some may say the Liberty Bridge is a can’t miss for tourists once they get here).
To make matters worse, it was one of 36 Greenvilles scattered across the country, none of which were on the radar of travelers unless they had friends or family living there.
“There was a sea of sameness of Greenville,” said Jennifer Stilwell, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for VisitGreenvilleSC. “We could either run away from that or embrace it.”
So, what did distinguish Greenville, S.C., from Greenville, Ala.; Greenville, N.C.; Greenville, Fla.; Greenville, Mich.; Greenville, Calif.; Greenville, Texas; or the other Greenvilles scattered across the country? The people.
Stilwell said time and again, tourists said it was the people who kept them coming back. Greenville was their happy place, she said. So how about Grinville?
“Looking back, that probably wouldn’t have worked because it’s not all grins and smiles,” Stilwell said, mentioning the flak former Gov. Nikki Haley caught after she ordered state employees to answer the phone, “It’s a great day in South Carolina.”
With that out, they looked at slogans for other destinations that have resonated with visitors over time. I Love New York. Virginia Is for Lovers. What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.
On the city level, Austin, Texas’s slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” stood out. How about the antithesis of that? Outrageously normal?
The slogan had promise, Stilwell said, but the execution would have had to be done just right or it would have failed miserably. In the end, it just wasn’t right.
“That didn’t capture the essence of Greenville. It did not set us apart and ignite curiosity,” she said. “There’s so much of a surprise and delight factor when you come here.”
And so we come back to “Yeah, That Greenville” — a phrase itself that sounds like an unexpected delight, a shock that you found a hidden gem, one that’s treasured by the folks who call it home.
“When you look at our people, they are always willing to share their favorite that, whether it be a place to get a cup of coffee, a theater they like best or, hey, check out these restaurants. That was so authentic and unique to us,” she said. “It’s not just Southern hospitality. It’s pride.”