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Branding: Who Is Doing What? Part 4
May 26, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
The lack of an “Adirondack brand” has often been targeted as one of the key culprits to our economic malaise. We lament loudly about being “undiscovered” and “Adirondack” being recognized as a chair and not an experience. What we stand for is as divided as our economic and tourism regions that cut across the Park. This becomes a further Dr. Jekyll and Hyde by including areas outside of the Blue Line.
What does “Adirondack” Mean?
What does the term “Adirondack Park” conjure up in our minds and our customer’s? Is it about trees or a national park with a gate? Is there a rallying symbol like Old Faithful?
What is our identity?
Are we known for a brand of food like what you think of when you hear the name New Orleans? Doesn’t the words Cajun and jazz come to mind? Does not that create an image? Don’t you think that New Orleans works very hard in being “consistent” with that image critical to what the experts say is necessary for a successful brand? Does not Costa Rica conjure the term “sustainable tourism,” Tibet with healing and contemplation, Tanglewood with music?
What is our brand?
Or better yet what is the image we wish to “consistently” re-enforce – over and over again? When I went on a Disney cruise with my family several years ago, I was amazed at the brand re-enforcement right down to the bathrooms with folded towels shaped like Disney characters and vacuum cleaners with Mickey Mouse ears!
How are we going to do that?
We are filled with independent communities who only 20 miles apart are thinking they are not alike at all. They are further divided by municipal lines like the Berlin wall.
Perhaps this misses the even bigger point that the real iron curtain is the lack of amenities that today’s tourist is expecting - no demanding - of their experience. They want things to do, choices in restaurants, lodgings, activities and events. How do our 105 towns and villages that make up the Park provide the key amenities that today’s traveler is looking for?
And it extends way beyond tourism. Our small communities are losing school populations and key facilities are in peril from hospitals to places to stop for gas, never mind lodging and eating choices. If these communities are going to attract new industries – new jobs - can they do that if their school is closing? What is the Attraction?
Our individual communities think they are unique –and they are. We have independent businesses who think they are also different from town to town – and they are.
But when it comes to marketing a message – a theme or that “consistent experience” that makes up a viable brand, aren’t we all the same?
Is it our individual businesses that will flock in the tourists or attract those new biotechnology jobs? Or is it the mountains we all live in? Is it the rivers, lakes, a way of life, our architecture, history – are these the elements that make up our “Adirondack band”?
It is also the one thing we share; it is the ties that bind us together. Even Lake Placid found out they were not as popular as “Adirondack.”
A Brand Already?
So we already have a “brand.” We don’t have to spend millions of dollars trying to figure out what that is – we are all already doing it - everyday. But it needs to be more than a name; it needs to stand for something.
Sure, Disney is all about their characters. But isn’t it also about fun, family and being in a safe environment? Don’t you have a clear idea what to expect –and what not to expect when you go to Orlando or on a Disney cruise? Do you think they work hard at that every day to maintain that consistent message so important to branding?
So what is our message or “brand promise”? And how can we do that with a 6 million acre Park filled with diverse businesses ranging from motels to chains, from novelty shops to service businesses?
Can we create what Jim Anhut of the International Hotels Group called a “brand promise”- to the world renowned name “Adirondack”?
Within the Adirondacks, several efforts are already underway and our past is filled with branding initiatives.
“Green Side of the Red Apple”
Does anyone remember the “Green side of the Red Apple” put forth by the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce in the 1980’s? We were all so proud to put that in our windows! I am not sure many of us knew what that meant though. Mostly it was about proudly displaying we were part of a community that was about “green” fresh air, fun and adventure. We were the field and forest to the “big city” and a reminder to them we were part of the same state and not that far away for a healing, outdoors and natural experience.
Is not I Love NY a branding effort? This has been supported by a partnership with regional tourism councils of which there are several that cover parts of the Park. The Adirondack Regional Tourism Council is the largest covering 8 of the12 Park counties.
There is also the Regional Economic Development Council with sub-groups in industry, tourism, agriculture and the arts. A prime objective of these councils has been for areas to think, work and promote regionally.
Common Ground Alliance
This 6 year old consortium attempting to find “common ground” has come up with a “strong agreement on a vision and strategy for the Adirondack Park” according to their website ADKfutures.org. Part of their objective is to “focus on attracting visitors that are interested in our protected environment and cultural heritage.” Here is what is interesting for our branding conversation; they are going to do this “By introducing the Park through our promotions to new and more diverse types of visitors…” They too are interested in reaching out to a new set of customers.
The Adirondack North Country Association, a 14 county organization that covers areas inside and outside of the Blue Line states as one of their 2013 objectives to “Launch a region-wide product branding initiative, to help a larger number of artisans and food producers get access to broader markets.
“Cleaner, Greener Communities”
This 7 county consortium has developed a “Homegrown Sustainability Plan” whose project elements include waste and water management, transportation and for this discussion “working landscapes” and “livable communities.”
So there has been and continues to be, interest in Adirondack branding.
We may not have to re-invent the wheel. We may only need to pull the pieces together. And this is only the beginning...
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