As you probably know if youâ€™ve been here before, Iâ€™m a member of the BrandingWire posse, one of twelve branding bloggers who monthly tackle a common branding subject.
This month that subject is branding a resort destination, specifically, Estes Park Colorado. Youâ€™ll find a branding brief we all worked from at http://www.brandingwire.com/.
Estes Park has an inferiority complex.
Situated at the east entrances of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), Estes Park appears to want to be known for that and nothing more. Itâ€™s image is subservient to RMNP and it accepts that role. On the official website, there are great photos of RMNP, but not one good photo of the town itself.
Residents of the area apologize for the townâ€™s gift and souvenir shops and the congestion of its main street. And although everyone knows taxes are reasonable only because of the tourist traffic, most of the better educated, retired segment of the community would rather there be no expansion or the hurly burly of a summer tourist season.
Even the long-standing tagline is deflective: “Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park”. (You go through a gateway, you donâ€™t spend a week there.)
As stated in the branding brief, Estes Park requires a larger tax base and cash flow to maintain traditional town services and to promote Estes Park as a desirable place to vacation.
The Town of Estes Park itself is responsible for funding and managing promotional activities, and they certainly are doing a great job in distributing literature to anyone who asks.Â They also run several modest ad campaigns as well.Â The town just completed a new convention and visitors center, a concert venue and a new website â€“ http://www.estesparkcvb.com/. They are instigating shuttle buses to get visitors from the motel areas into downtown this summer.
In order to achieve their financial goals, I suggest FOCUS.
An unfocused Brand Is Confusing
And Confused Prospects Donâ€™t Become Customers.
I believe the solution is market segmentation.
There are several market segments to choose from, and several that need minimum â€œmaintenanceâ€. The day-trippers and RV nomads will come through as they have ever since the automobile became common. The small group of summer residents with second homes in the Estes valley, and families who habitually rent cabins by the week, will continue to come.
I suggest focusing on two specialized groups: conference and meeting organizers and tour organizers. Though both segments are very competitive, Estes Park can be differentiated to appeal to these organizers and their clientele. There are two advantages for Estes Park: 1) extending the season into the fall and spring, and 2) welcoming people predisposed to spending money â€“ some expense account derived â€“ over a three-five day period.
It Takes a VillageÂ
Iâ€™d work with facilities â€“ the YMCA of the Rockies, The Stanley Hotel, the more up-scale restaurants and motels â€“ to provide the infrastructure for such groups. Iâ€™d make sure there was entertainment and activities available for non-meeting times, even during off-season. Iâ€™d encourage attendees to spend by offering coupons and discounts for attractions.
But most of all, Iâ€™d want the stakeholders of the town, residents and merchants alike, to buy in. In other words, do an internal branding program. Help make each stakeholder an ambassador and evangelist to visitors.
The Brand, Estes Park, starts with the scenery and wildlife, and continues through the activities and events people experience. But the thing that will encourage folks to return to Estes with their families, and to talk up their Estes Park experience to others back home, is the overall feeling that they were welcome and that the people of Estes Park wanted them to return. That emanates from gracious and hospitable people whose honest desire is to help visitors enjoy their experience.
Also, for all market segments, Iâ€™d attempt to change the way Estes is thought of as a place to stop for a night or two and then venture on. Iâ€™d want to implant the idea that Estes Park is the only place you need to go to enjoy a vacation of a lifetime. That Estes provides all the activities and events that any and all family members will find enjoyable and memorable.
Think of Estes Park as a Destination Instead of a Gateway
So instead of branding Estes Park as â€œThe Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Parkâ€, Iâ€™d go with the idea of â€œAwesome in So Many Waysâ€, or â€œEstes Park: Itâ€™s a Happeningâ€. Then Iâ€™d make sure the Estes Park website and promotional literature reflected the variety of an Estes Park experience.
As it now stands, the website is static. Iâ€™d place plenty of videos on it. Panorama sweeps, wildlife sequences, downtown walk-abouts, concert and horse show performances. Iâ€™d show people enjoying Indian crafts, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, snow-shoeing, golfing. Iâ€™d do views from the aerial tramway.
Iâ€™d video kids splashing in a pool, riding a train, playing miniature golf, etc., etc.. Also, Iâ€™d set aside a section of the website for travel agents and tour organizers, together with programs to get them to do tours TO Estes. Iâ€™d have another web section for meeting and conference planners.
Then Iâ€™d hire a staff to coordinate these activities.
These suggestions do mean synchronizing and focusing the townâ€™s thinking. Instead of attempting to be everything for everyone, in means singling out certain lucrative market segments and concentrating efforts there. And those efforts mean not only promotional materials and tactics. It starts with the mindset of the townâ€™s influentials, then spreading that evangelistic message to every resident, every merchant, every tour and meeting organizer, every travel agent. And finally, by demonstrating the message to visitors, you allow them to carry the message back home: â€œEstes Park is the only place you need to go to experience a vacation youâ€™ll remember foreverâ€.
Estes Park: Focus and follow through. Focus and fulfill your promise to visitors. Focus and thrive.
Now that youâ€™ve read my blog, you can read what the other posse members have to say about branding Estes Park. Just go to BrandingWire.com, or look up individual blogs from the BrandingWire listing in the right column.