Core of Discovery
The Gateway Arch is famous for a reason — it’s a stunning piece of architecture. And yet attendance to St. Louis’ biggest attraction, as well as other downtown destinations, was slipping in 2009. TOKY was hired to lead a comeback.
Following significant study and on-the-ground interviews, TOKY developed a colorful new “Core of Discovery” system that re-imagined the Arch brand and strengthened the connections between previously disparate-seeming landmarks throughout downtown St. Louis. It worked.
In spring 2009, Metro hired TOKY to help solve a set of pressing problems: Attendance for St. Louis’ biggest attraction, the Gateway Arch, was down, as was attendance for associated destinations, from the Old Courthouse to the Riverboats to bike rental facilities.
Locals knew the Arch was an iconic landmark, but they’d likely only visit once a decade. And lots of people — from St. Louisans to visitors — were confused by the multiple brands involved in operating the Arch and its connected sites.
TOKY was selected to solve these problems and lead a comeback. We started, as we always do, with research: deep-dive meetings with the National Park Service, followed by research on visitors and non-visitors, locals and tourists, initiating an online survey, “mystery shopping” focus groups of local residents, and a telephone survey of residents.
From the research, TOKY identified four core audiences (Urban Adventurer, Senior Tour, Out-of-Towner, Family Life), zeroing in on the fourth as the group most critical to reach. Having learned a great deal about the consumer perceptions of the Gateway Arch, TOKY was also able to identify which groups would most likely consider repeat visits, as well as what changes to the offerings at the Arch would increase visitation.
Discovering the Best Approach
Upon evaluation of the opportunity to encourage area families to rediscover the wealth of attractions, events, and activities at the Gateway Arch and the surrounding downtown area, TOKY determined that only redefining the destination would help visitors see it as a viable entertainment option. In addition, further direction in determining the best approach came from our research, which showed that visitors define the Riverfront, the Arch, and some of the surrounding downtown attractions, including Citygarden and Eads Bridge, simply as “downtown.”
By re-imagining the Arch brand in ways never considered, TOKY helped Metro break down the psychological barriers between the Arch and similar family destinations in downtown, creating stronger engagement with the local audience.
To connect the destinations and create a sense of a multi-faceted, downtown destination that attracts local families and creates excitement, TOKY created an overarching brand: the Core of Discovery. This brand connects the Arch grounds to the rest of downtown’s core. In addition, the Core of Discovery destination brand is a single, orchestrated marketing brand that helps overcome the challenge of the multiple partner brands (including National Parks Service and the Jefferson National Parks Association, a fundraising arm), each trying to communicate with but confusing the audience.
Introducing the Brand
The Core of Discovery represents a commitment by NPS, JNPA, and Metro to work in partnership with their downtown neighbors to make the visitor experience even better; employees are a critical part of that effort. To this point, TOKY suggested and developed an all-employee event to educate them about the new brand and create employee brand ambassadors. A public rollout of the Core of Discovery included several components:
- A dynamic, TOKY-designed website to tie the Core of Discovery attractions into a cohesive destination
- An integrated advertising campaign, featuring online, outdoor, radio, and print
- A press conference, featuring all partners and community stakeholders in the Core of Discovery, with an aggressive public relations campaign by our PR partner
TOKY has been thrilled to see that our work — completed with our strategic partners at The Standing Partnership — generated meaningful results, from attendance increases to national acclaim for the creative work.
“TOKY helped us clarify and study the central issue we were up against, which was the assumption by many St. Louisans that ‘There is nothing downtown but the Arch.’ The comprehensive Core of Discovery system they developed was not just practical and realistic — based as it was on extensive interviews and research — but it was visually striking and felt totally new. And it worked. Attendance increased, and our collective brand grew stronger.”
Tom Etling, Former Vice President for Marketing, Metro