Entertainment Marketing: Grapevine Shows How It’s Done with Their April Fools’ Podcast Episode
29 Mar 2023
Grapevine Economic Development launched a podcast in 2022 to authentically and organically tell the story of Grapevine, TX. By doing so, the department hoped stand out amongst their peers in the blockbuster economy of the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Metroplex.Growing Grapevine Season One explored the 50-year history of Grapevine’s evolution, delving into the genesis and success of major projects that shaped the city into a high-tech — yet, high-touch — place to work and live.
Season Two, (r)Evolutionary, explores the monumental success of Grapevine Mills, and the ways in which that development reflects the broader culture of the community. So, why on April Fools’ Day would they follow a lark in “Lost in the Amazon” to tell what might have been, had Amazon chosen Grapevine for their HQ2? The revisionist history told in “Lost in the Amazon” actually seems more like “Amazon Lost.”
Welcome entertainment marketing to the chat! Entertainment marketing is just what it sounds like: the promotion of a brand or entity, with entertainment as the primary vehicle for delivering the message. It leverages organic content to grow an audience by entertaining them. Content is engaging, compelling, and exceptionally shareable. Grapevine’s podcast as a whole exemplifies this niche, but its Special Episodes push the envelope.
Growing Grapevine was five episodes into Season One when Steven Jones, Market Research Manager of Grapevine Economic Development, dipped his toe from the edge of entertainment marketing into the deep end of entertainment. “Ghost Town,” the podcast’s first Special Episode, launched on April Fools’ Day, 2022.
“I think we tried to be very professional and straight-laced, and I just couldn’t do it,” said Jones. “It’s not my personality. And, honestly, it shortchanged Grapevine. Our City is a fun place to live, work, and play. Our media should be fun, too. Lots of Economic Development Departments talk about being innovative or unique. I figured we should set out to prove it. An endless wall of impressive data points isn’t going to cut through the noise in the modern media environment. But something approachable and entertaining has a chance.”
As it turns out, the data points support the thought leadership. The Special Episodes of Growing Grapevine, “Elves on Main,” and “Ghost Town” were the most popular. While representing 18 percent of the total audio runtime, they made up 29 percent of the downloads.
From its inception, then Grapevine Economic Development Director, Larry Holt, supported the marketing. In the final episode of Season One, “Grapevine 2030,” Jones asked Holt, “What bout of insanity led you to believe an economic development department in a city should have a podcast?”
“That’s an interesting way of putting that, “ Holt told podcast listeners. “I am a believer in authentic, organic marketing, really taking the time to communicate what you’re about. Given all of the competition out there, I think it’s important to be as creative as possible, and in doing so, I don’t think I thought about it too much. I was just like, go out and do it. Let’s be a little hungry and try to stand out.”
Jones drilled down from the concept of the podcast as a whole to the thought leadership behind the Special Episodes. “We chose a streamlined narrative format for two reasons. The first is that Grapevine is a storied community; our history is essential to our identity. Residents resonate with that, and the businesses that thrive here tend to recognize it and lean in, so we wanted to give them an easy on-ramp.”
“The second is that I’m a fan of more popular podcasts than ours: This American Life, Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, and other serialized formats that really try to tell a story while imparting information. I wanted to build something like that; something people in and around Grapevine could listen to and feel both seen and informed.”
The latest special episode continues the trend. By exploring what might have happened if Amazon had chosen Grapevine for HQ2, “Lost in the Amazon” ends up telling the story of why companies should headquarter in Grapevine. Grapevine has the location and infrastructure assets to compete, and the 100 acres at the northern edge of DFW airport that could have housed HQ2 is still there, waiting for the right project or projects. The Transit District in the heart of Grapevine will soon be connected to North Dallas by the DART Silver Line, a commuter rail that will extend service from Fort Worth through Grapevine and into Plano. Dallas Road continues to develop eastward toward the available site.
“History is one of our most effective educators,” said Garin Giacomarro, Director of Grapevine Economic Development. “The HQ2 project was a generational opportunity that would have had a massive impact on our community. Exploring the implications of ‘what could have been?’ will help inform us on ‘what should be’ as we continue building toward an even greater version of Grapevine. After all, isn't that what economic development is all about? Creating an alternate history is a fun and entertaining mental exercise, but it's a helpful one, too, if you look close enough.”
For more on Grapevine’s unique economy and innovative approach to community building, check out the other episodes of the Growing Grapevine podcast or register to receive their monthly e-newsletter. Contact Grapevine Economic Development today to see why companies like Kubota and Solo Brands chose to relocate to Grapevine over the last few years. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.