The “Why I Love Reno” Campaign

I originally moved to Reno-Tahoe in 2003 because I was so impressed with the area, as did countless of other Californians (dozens of whom I’ve since met) who were looking to escape the traffic, smog, and urban sprawl for an area that had all the amenities of your average California “suburb,” but offered a much more scenic, refreshing, affordable, and manageable pace of life rife with countless opportunities for world-class recreation and outdoor adventure.

While most people outside of the area still associate Reno with the slogan, “The Biggest Little City,” there have been a variety of other re-branding attempts (as outlined in this post by local Reno branding expert Larry DeVincenzi) including “America’s Adventure Place,” “Far From Expected,” the ill-fated “A Little West of Center,” and the most recently unveiled, “What’s Your Passion?

In an article published today in the Reno News and Review entitled “Downtown, Midtown, All Around the Town,” the author writes:

Reno is a city with a bit of an image problem. For too many years we have suffered from poor marketing, bad communication and too much of a focus on trying to be something we are not. When the economic crisis hit, Reno was devastated. Parts of our community quickly fell into disrepair and neglect, and as businesses shuttered their doors and left town, we saw our economy, our morale and our once proud city sink into the doldrums.

So how does one successfully brand or re-brand a city? This will be just one of several questions being addressed at next Tuesday’s Reno-Tahoe American Marketing Association luncheon that will feature the new CEO’s of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA), the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, and North Lake Tahoe Resort Association (NLTRA).

The “Why I Love Reno” Campaign

In 2011, a local commercial real estate broker decided to take matters into his own hands and turned to some friends (a local news station anchor, a member of the university’s journalism faculty, the owner of a local marketing agency, the general manager of the Triple A baseball team) to create a video showcasing what locals like most about Reno. Below was the resulting footage:

From the moment I first saw this video, I was excited about it because I felt like the region had finally turned a corner. This was a different type of marketing … and it seemed to be working.

Crowd-Sourcing as a Destination Marketing Tactic

According to a company called About Tourism Destination Consultants based in Athens, Greece (this is what I love about the web!), in a blog post published today entitled “Crowd Sourcing for Destination Marketing,” the author writes:

Tourism boards around the world, such as in Canada, Australia, Iceland amongst many others, have been embracing crowd-sourcing for the last few years. Engaging the local community, giving them the power to showcase their knowledge of their own destination while at the same time enhancing the authenticity and ‘personal experience’ factor in the marketing messages is a path widely chosen in many campaigns … We especially like it when the local community is also involved in even earlier stages, when the responsible tourism marketing organizations decide on the brand identity as the base of all future actions.

While traditional marketing tactics are no doubt still useful, it’s impossible to ignore the variety of options now available to marketers and how to best transform those opportunities into something both meaningful and actionable. Whether it be running a Facebook campaign entitled “29 Dates in Philadelphia” that resulted in 53,000 entries and 12,000 fans (as Philadelphia did), challenging citizens to “create a tourism video that highlights Savannah’s sassy spirit and Southern charm” (as Savannah did), handing over your country’s Twitter account to its citizens for a day as the country of Sweden did with its “Curators of Sweden” campaign, or hiring people to talk up local festivals on social media and to document their experiences through photography and video (as the state of Louisiana is did), one fact remains: the traditional approach to tourism marketing has changed.

Now it’s your turn! What are some of the creative ways you’ve noticed your local city being marketed over time? How do you find information about a location you might want to visit or travel to someday? What is it about the places you choose to travel to that makes you most want to visit them? And if you live in Reno, what do you think Reno has done well in marketing the region? What do you think could be done better, and why?


  1. Terrific research and insights in this post, Tiffany. You always do a great job positioning your blog posts with relevant information and data.

    You are absolutely right – we have yet to deliver a message to the public that truly resonates with what they perceive Reno as offering today.

    This latest campaign for the RSCVA is testing waters with this message on a smaller scale – for both research and financial constraint reason. Tourism is just one element of our message. Given it’s spread into key target markets – it carries the weight of our brand’s perception, although it’s not the only factor that helps to create it.

    The “why I love Reno” campaign resonates with many because it expresses some of the grass roots values we all feel differentiate us from other destinations. While it is an excellent message, I felt the production value lacking, which in turn does not help our perception as “unsophisticated”.

    With smart individuals like you asking important questions like these – we’ll certainly find our way to a key brand message that serves all of our community’s competing factions together sooner!

    • Larry – Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Developing a brand, and developing a brand properly, is certainly a complex undertaking. Do you think part of the issue with Reno is that the city has just changed so much in the past 10 years, both demographically and structurally, that it’s simply been too hard to pin down what Reno “is all about?”

      I agree with you that the “Why I Love Reno” campaign didn’t 100% hit the nail on the head (i.e. production value), but I think it is a move in the right direction and was happy to see it circulate.

  2. Reno’s perception problem is huge. Some of it is deserved, and some isn’t.

    However, the problem isn’t that our image is detering tourists. Tourism is not, and shouldn’t be, our cities future. Vegas is a tourist economy. Reno is going to be something very different. We need to become a city where young and innovative people flock to because it is a place they can excel in an incredible location. Similar to places like Austin Tx., Boulder Co., Bellingham Wa, and Bozeman Mt.
    Reno should be next on that list of cities. Our image problem is holding back that evolution rather than keeping tourists away. Is there a place for tourism? Sure. But it isn’t our future and any efforts to re-shape our image should be thinking Boulder rather than Vegas.

    Regardless, Reno will get there. It’s such an amazing place. At some point Reno will be considered one of the most desirable cities in America and with all the great things happening everywhere south of First Street, that day may be sooner than most think.

    • Steve – I agree with you completely on the point that tourism should not be the focus on our city’s future, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that Tahoe is right next door, and most commonly accessed through Reno. I do think that Reno could be better marketed as a “city where young and innovative people flock to because it is a place they can excel in an incredible location,” but time and time again I hear of young graduates leaving the area due to a lack of job opportunities post-graduation. In fact, I’ve recently had a couple of very bright friends leave the area for either a) better job opportunities or b) better educational opportunities for their children. Despite all of the benefits of living in Reno, developing and diversifying our infrastructure remains a key challenge for our area, which can only be helped by branding … and economic development!

  3. How does Reno rock you?

    Interestingly enough, we are facing an issue on the micro level in regards to promoting energy conservation and efficiency. I was talking to an individual in New York and he said they did a study and found that people were more willing to invest in conservation and efficiency when they found out their neighbor did. It plays into the “keeping up with the Jones’s” theme. They created a website wherein people could “brag” essentially about what they had done in their home, which contractor they used, how much they saved, etc. It would be interesting if we could rebrand by using this same theory. Such as…hmmm…a website wherein people could brag about something they did or achieved that was specific to Reno. Like “I came in 3rd at the Run Amuck” and if they use some sort of tagline like “Reno rocks the outdoors!” or something, they can win some prizes (local gift cards or something). This would also help out local businesses. A series of videos could be made (and uploaded [moderated, of course]) and used in commercials. I know we have all seen the commercials for the state of California. The commercials could follow the same theme, “how does Reno rock you?” It would show folks from all walks of life, experiencing the very things Reno has to offer. Rather than hire some marketing company to decide why Reno is great, let the people that live here tell everyone else. You don’t know how many of my friends have come up for Riverfest or something and said “I had no idea you had stuff like this!”

    We need to actually rebrand and not play off of something thought of previously. Everybody knows we are an adventure place…they know we have lakes, snow, and trails. They know we have casinos. We need to be a place where you can have a good job during the day and a place to relax at night. I’m not sure we’ll ever draw a young and hip downtown crowd like Seattle does. However, I was downtown one summer night last year and do you know what I saw? I saw lots of people with dogs and kids…I saw teenagers talking on cell phones…I saw people in the river. I saw elderly folks sitting by the river. Nobody cared what anybody else was doing, but everyone was having a good time and it was PACKED. We are the “do everything and anything place and make friends while you do it.”

    • Suzanne – Thanks for stopping by! After reading your comment, I immediately thought of EDAWN’s “Can Do” campaign. Do you remember when they instituted that? At one point, they even had a web site running where they encouraged everyone in Reno to visit the web site and type in a statement about why they loved Reno, or what they thought Reno uniquely offered in terms of business or pleasure. It was essentially a platform like you are suggesting whereby local’s responses were aggregated onto a site, which anyone from outside the area could visit to learn more about Reno. I think that was 5 or 6 years ago now … not sure what ever happened to that web site.

      That’s nice to hear about your experience last summer. Your statement definitely holds true from my own experience. I think Reno is doing a good job with bringing people downtown in the warmer weather months with things like the River Festival and Wine Walk. UNR has a robust population of students less than a mile from Downtown, and since the Aces Ball Park and Reno Events Center were built, there are a lot more “family friendly” events downtown.

      I like what you said about having people visit and being surprised by what there is available to do here. Most people that I know who have visited never realize how close we are to Tahoe, they think Reno is somewhere near Las Vegas. I am always surprised by that perception but it’s an extremely common one.

  4. This is my honest opinion — we continually let the same local agencies market Reno and they all seem to do it the same way or we hire SF based companies that really don’t have a true passion or understanding for what Reno CAN BE. I love the idea of handing over the Twitter account like they did in Sweden — but that will never happen here. We have to start taking some chances with our identify and the way we engage in conversation both online and offline. We need to harness the power of the next generation and not listen to the same old dogs just re-positioning the same old tricks. If we want to be even a little bit like Silicon Valley (as referenced in a recent KRNV story) we have to start acting like.

  5. Have you considered a hash tag campaign that resembles #knowthecode that can blend demographics with innovative work that many entrepreneurs are working on in Reno? Perhaps leveraging the power of social media with traditional media and other blending approaches could help with positive brand sentiment. Regards, Lauren Klein

    • Lauren – I am not personally involved in marketing Reno and I’m not familiar with the #knowthecode campaign you are referring to … but it sounds like a good idea. You should join us at the AMA luncheon on Tuesday and ask some of these questions first hand! 🙂 Thanks for your insights.

  6. Tiffany,
    Loved the blog thank you for sending it to me! I’m recently new to Reno myself (3.5 years) and I agree with several of the responses. It’s hard to put your finger on it, it is a very strange dynamic. I attended the luncheon on Tuesday and never really heard exactly “What the plan is?” yes the RSCVA has launched a campaign but you or I or almost anyone could launch a campaign and throw some money around to advertise our region! I was anxious to hear more of the details…how are we involving the local community and getting buy in? Is there going to be branding throughout the region or just outside? How are we going to measure ROI? What is the next step? These questions and many more was what I was hoping to get answers to. It is very close to the definition of insanity we keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, just because we change the slogan DOES NOT mean people are going to come. The marketing strategies we are utilizing are 19th century, which quite frankly at times is where I think some want this town to stay. I could go on….

    Thanks for the opportunity to vent!

    • Dave – I’m glad you liked the blog. I agree with you that it is hard to put your finger on this strange dynamic! I believe I heard that AAF is having Chris Baum speak at their next luncheon specifically about the “What’s Your Passion?” campaign. That may be a good one to attend if you want more specifics on the advertising strategy of the RSCVA. I also saw that there is a WIN breakfast on March 30th entitled “Strategic Priorities for Northern Nevada” that will feature the CEOs of RSCVA, EDAWN, Renown, the RTC and the president of UNR. That one might give you some more insight as well.

      I know there are several different entities working to promote the region, all with slightly different focuses. Perhaps that’s part of the issue. For example, RSCVA’s goal is to fill hotel rooms and EDAWNs purpose is to create jobs. I agree that changing the slogan won’t fix the problem … which is why EDAWN’s role in developing our economy is so important. I was happy to hear that the agencies are working together.

      Feel free to vent anytime!

  7. Tiffany: Thank you for your efforts! – I am a Reno-native (born & raised) and want nothing more than to see northern Nevada flourishing again. Anyone involved in marketing already know full well that traditional marketing is a thing of the past. Consumer trust in traditional advertising is at an all time low and dropping. And although the newly announced $1.6 million “What’s Your Passion” campaign is a noteworthy concept, its execution still involves dumping huge amounts of money into billboards, radio an print (according the the RGJ article)…which combined have only about 25% consumer effectiveness.

    We are where we are economically because – as many have also stated – we have a serious image problem! Things like the “Why I Love Reno” campaign is definitely heading in the right direction because it is a divergence from traditional media which people attempt to avoid at every turn. Almost 80% of people trust the opinion of someone they know over any type of advertisement. Hence the massive popularity of sites like Facebook and the new darling child Pinterest. How many of us would trust a inpersonal advertisement over the recommendation of a friend?

    The essential need here is to re-brand the area in the minds of those outside our region. Reno needs an “extreme image makeover”! And this will not be accomplished through print and radio campaigns, no matter what the message is. What we need is not more of the same. We need a paradigm shift, a radial new approach.

    My highly-experienced movie production team recently met with the new leadership at the RSCVA to present a Hollywood-style branded entertainment solution with extensive trans-media distribution package ( As residents, we just wanted to do all we could to help begin the turnaround by offering to do what we do best, yet for a fraction of normal cost. We were all stunned to be summarily dismissed in a highly disrespectful manner. That’s the last thing we need more of around here. Instead, we need to pull together and build bridges of cooperation. Our community is our strength.

    I pray other individuals, associations and organizations in positions to make an economic difference in our region will openly and humbly look at what really needs to be done and enlist all of us to pull together, utilize our talents and experience to help return northern Nevada to a strongly positive image for all, so we can all once again proudly say…Reno rocks!

    • Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your story! This topic has been a very popular one. I agree with all of your points, however, I don’t think that print or radio are completely dead. There is certainly a demographic that these mediums still appeal to, however, I am not sure that this demographic would be our target audience? The consensus here has been that there should and there needs to be a different approach. On top of that, as I referenced in the blog, there are a variety of other tourism campaigns taking hold across the globe that are utilizing social media and crowd-sourced content … the “Why I Love Reno” campaign is just one very small example (albeit, it was not sponsored by a local economic development or tourism agency, which was interesting.)

      • Tiffany, thank you for your follow-up. No, print and radio are not “dead”. I take no pleasure in saying that are as I have worked for years with both. But looking into the future, if they want to retain any relevance, they will have to find new implementations. But the stark reality is that video is rapidly taking over on a plethora of front. Crowd-sourced can always be a lot of fun and be effective, especially as the inherent involvement translates into “ownership” and that ownership spread like wild fire on social media. My favorite playground is high-quality produced media content, that which entertains, inspires and creates caché. — Live Free FIlm Hard —

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