EcDev Journal

Creative Economy Marketing Programs and Events

Posted on Thursday August 09, 2012

Here’s a question you might like to toss around the table the next time your economic development department is planning a creative economy marketing program or event: What makes creative people in your community happy?

It’s a simple question but the answers can be quite complex and far-reaching. Economists have begun to use research into happiness to explore questions in economics, policy and management.

The Martin Prosperity Institute, in a research paper published in March 2010 written by Richard Florida, Charlotta Mellander and Kevin Stolarik, found that satisfaction with individuals’ current location has a big impact on the decision to stay or move.

“Our findings indicate that place-based factors, in particular the beauty and physical appeal of the current location and the ability to meet people and make friends, explain more of the desire to stay than do community economic conditions or individual demographic characteristics,” the authors reported in the study, called The Effects of Community Satisfaction on the Decision to Stay or Move.

What they’re talking about is what makes people happy. This is an important part of a creative economy marketing strategy, as opposed to a traditional strategy, because a creative strategy focuses on attracting people rather than businesses.

It follows, then, that your marketing programs and events will be most effective if they address the happiness factor, if they offer physical appeal that people enjoy, and encourage social activities with like minded people that can lead to friendships.

Do you know what kinds of events the creative people in your community enjoy attending? Do you know what kinds of programs might prompt them to invite out-of-town friends for a visit? Do you know what makes them happy? Have you asked them?

Programs in Tune

It’s easy to tell when an economic development department is in tune with its community by looking at the uniqueness of the programs and events the department creates. A good example can be seen at With one glance you can tell that Champaign County, Illinois, is building its future in the creative economy.

Look a little deeper and you will see that the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation designs and/or promotes programs and events based on what creative people in the region like to take part in – in other words, what makes them happy. The widely varied events package focuses on international marketing, broadband networking, social media, innovation awards and pole vaulting!

Yep, there’s an annual pole vault competition every July held at the factory of Gill Athletics, a local company that is the largest producer of track and field equipment in the world. The event features current and former Olympic level pole vaulters from Champaign County. What fun that event must be! Maybe your economic development organization can create unique community enhancing events like that, based on the unique characteristics of your creative businesses and people.

Integration and Engagement

Your marketing programs and events should be integrated with community assets with the aim of building a competitive advantage in a local creative economy. Events, tours and festivals draw people into the community and have the potential of engaging them to consider moving or starting a business in the community.

Two types of creative economy marketing programs that are growing in popularity are culinary tourism and alumni attraction.

Culinary tourism is a growing tourism sector but is also important to the growth of creative industries. Culinary tourism helps shape a region’s self-identity. The social nature of culinary tourism promotes the creation of new connections and the strengthening of old ones. Greater pride in one’s community is a common benefit of a strong culinary tourism program.

An alumni attraction program uses targeted messaging intended to attract school alumni back to their home community to live and work. These alumni understand the quality of life possible in their communities and are more receptive to messaging that highlights the opportunities available to live and work there.

Arts Trails

An arts trail should be one of your first considerations for a creative economy product development program. An arts trail connects artists, artisans, art galleries, and other art attractions in a cohesive series of destinations.

More and more arts trails are being developed and, like culinary and alumni programs, the benefits of such programs extend beyond tourism. Tourists make emotional connections to the stories told along the trail about the artists and their works. They evoke a sense of pride within the community that is very attractive to creative people.

To see how an arts trail can make an effective connection between tourism and creative economy marketing you can examine what Elgin County has done. This rural community in southwestern Ontario launched the Elgin Arts Trail in 2010 as part of its strategy to attract and retain talented and innovative people and businesses.

The website, invites tourists as well as local residents to visit all of the growing number of attractions. It also incorporates a tourism tool, which makes it easy for website visitors to find out about events, restaurants or hotels and to quickly create individual itineraries for their upcoming visit to Elgin County. Interactive maps make locating the destinations effortless for prospective tourists.

The Elgin Arts Trail won an award of excellence in early 2012 from the Economic Developers Council of Ontario. The trail’s brand and website are efficiently and effectively marketing Elgin County’s art attractions in keeping with the County’s motto of “Progressive By Nature” and its appeal to the rural creative class.

Make People Happy

In summary, creative economy marketing programs and events come in a great variety of forms, but they all have in common the ability to make creative people happy about the community they live in or plan to move to.

The last word goes to Richard Florida, who commented in a blog describing the Community Satisfaction study from the Martin Prosperity Institute:

“There’s a straightforward message here for all those places that want to retain more of the talented people. In addition to doing all the useful and important things they are doing to bolster their business climate and create and protect jobs, it’s critically important they improve their overall quality of place and build a people climate where residents can forge and maintain meaningful social ties. This is not a case of either-or, but rather a case of and-both.”


Anya Codack
Yfactor Inc.
phone: 416-977-9724 x 509