Aside from the hit movie and T.V. show that bears its name, Fargo, North Dakota isn’t known for much, other than its brutal winters.
In recent years, however, the city has experienced somewhat of a renaissance, with a downtown revitalization project amplifying its growing reputation as a trendy destination for road trippers, artists, and foodies.
The challenge: attracting visitors in the low season
According to David Hanson, the Multimedia Content Manager at Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, the organization’s main challenge is encouraging more visits in those colder months, and one of the primary avenues for promoting the city’s winter and year-round attractions is through its visitor guides.
“Outside of our website, it’s one of the showpieces for the area. It’s how we show everyone what there is to do, and the vibe we present, which we try to make really fun and hip,” explains Hanson.
As a cornerstone of the destination’s brand, the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau recently decided to overhaul the guide to better represent the city’s evolving identity.
The solution: redesigning their 2019 visitor guide with fresh imagery that showcases the best of Fargo
“Our 2019 guide was a pretty big change from what we’ve normally done,” says Hanson. “We wanted to showcase Fargo as this cool, fun, hip place with bright colors and fun imagery, and I think it turned out really well.”
Unlike in years past, the 2019 iteration of the annual guide was created in the style of a glossy magazine, in an attempt to replicate the city’s youthful, energetic, and artistic feel.
The cover and attractions spread in Fargo-Moorhead CVB's 2019 visitor guide.
“We wanted the design of the guide to feel like one photo of Fargo, where it's all telling this really cool story of how vibrant the community is,” says Hanson. “That's why we wanted to have a really bold, bright visitor guide to represent that.”
Incorporating user-generated content throughout the guide, sourced with CrowdRiff
The 2019 iteration also incorporated a lot more user-generated content than in years past, all of which were sourced through CrowdRiff.
“A lot of visitor guides will have a ton of really well done professional photos, and those are great, but [with UGC], there’s that aspect of almost a user review of your destination,” says Hanson. “It’s cool that we can showcase how much fun people are having and what they’re experiencing on their own.”
Hanson adds that it was important not to lose that sense of authenticity when translating digitally native content from social media to the analogue format of a printed visitor’s guide.
The Arts section of the 2019 guide features UGC sourced through CrowdRiff.
"I always include people’s handles on the photos in the guide, because it shows that these are real people that came here and experienced what you're seeing," he says. "That's really important to show."
UGC helps to showcase the beauty of Fargo in the winter, in a unique way that stock or professional photography can’t
It also helps demonstrate how the city is still alive and bustling in the dead of winter, a message Hanson believes would be hard to communicate using professional or staged photography.
“When downtown Fargo has a fresh snowfall with all the lights lit up, it has got that nice holiday feel to it, and it’s fun to use imagery like that,” says Hanson.
“We use a lot of UGC of people enjoying winter time; we actually have a big spread in the 2019 guide of a winter downtown shot that we saw on CrowdRiff. We're able to use that to show off how beautiful the city is when it’s winter.”
Though it’s hard to quantify the direct impact of the guide, Hanson can confirm that requests for guides are up this year compared to 2018; as are total visits to the visitor center.
“We give out a ton of visitor guides, so we know that it’s popular,” he says. “Almost like a souvenir, we want it to be unique enough that people are going to want to keep it and read it, so it has to be something they really enjoy looking at.”