Originally a massive underdeveloped tract of land near Washington DC with miles of Potomac waterfront, today National Harbor is one of the DC region’s premier entertainment destinations. Located on 300 acres, National Harbor is comprised of 3,000 hotel rooms (including MGM National Harbor), 250 timeshare units, 423 residential units, 250,000 SF of Class A office, 250,000 SF of retail, dining and entertainment, as well as 340,000 SF for the Tanger Outlets.
It also boasts The Capital Wheel (a 180-foot observation wheel), 3 piers, a marina, the Gaylord National Hotel, the Plateau Performance Space, and a best-in-class convention center. Unsurprisingly, National Harbor receives 11 million visitors a year.
Streetsense hosted a series of design charettes resulting in the creation of an innovative, flexible block system suitable for all real estate uses that set the stage for the dynamic waterfront destination National Harbor is today. Once fully delivered, Streetsense was retained as agency of record to manage an integrated communications strategy and new national destination strategy to help establish National Harbor’s unique presence to target audiences.
Extensive market research and online sentiment analysis revealed that prior to engaging Streetsense, the destination was marketing itself as an area—like Georgetown or Annapolis. However, most visitors viewed National Harbor as a place, more akin to a resort destination, holding the entire establishment accountable for experiences good and bad.
We knew that National Harbor couldn’t compete on the waterfront experience alone, nor should it place its bet on attracting locals away from their neighborhood waterfront destinations. We needed to define new value propositions, new target markets, and a new marketing strategy.
We developed new creative that positioned National Harbor as an iconic, all-American, must-see waterfront destination for shopping, dining, events, and attractions in the nation’s capital, tailored to unique audiences. Accordingly, we repositioned the online marketing campaigns, shifted the public relations strategy, increased seasonal event support, and implemented strategic social media campaigns for both National Harbor and its newest attraction, The Capital Wheel.
To improve retail and facilitate tourism business, we reimagined National Harbor’s leasing center, telling a more accurate destination story through on-site touchscreen videos also accessible online, allowing the sales team to immerse prospective tenants in the National Harbor vision both onsite and off. To make National Harbor’s other content more portable and accessible, we packaged it into targeted guides—including a corporate leasing brochure, a summer guide, and a holiday guide—that could be accessed across viewing devices.
We also re-launched nationalharbor.com to align the site with the brand’s new positioning and improve its mobile design.
site traffic YoY
traffic from social media
National Harbor has evolved into a world-class national destination. As a result of better site optimization, earned media coverage, and overall increased awareness of the destination, National Harbor’s organic site traffic increased 436.43% year-over-year, and direct website traffic nearly doubled. Indicating better engagement strategies, traffic from social media sites also increased by 575.90%. Over the course of the same year, our geo-targeted display campaigns reached 22,284 more users, and at the same time we were able to reduce the amount of paid search campaigns with more efficient placements—investing dollars on audiences who already loved National Harbor, rather than competing with the tourism market at large. Altogether, we’ve increased website traffic by 38%, unique users by 35%, and page views by 27%, serving 2.7 million site visitors and nearly 10 million page views.
In addition to being covered by Good Morning America, ESPN, and the Washington Post, the Capital Wheel at National Harbor was featured in a joke on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update—the crowning moment of The Wheel’s opening weekend.
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