Tourism Branding

Today’s travelers
want something different, expert says

Consultant Brooks offers tips
to Indiana tourism directors at state conference

"Branding is the process
of setting yourself apart from everyone else."
– Roger Brooks, CEO, Destination Development Inc.

By Don Ward

(April 2007) – Tourism comes in many forms. These days, the more unique the better to quench the undying thirst of today’s savvy travelers who want to find something different.

2007 April Indiana Edition Cover

2007 April Indiana
Edition Cover

They want to be wowed by an experience; they want to go home with a story to tell their neighbors; they want to be so enamored by their visit that they will want to return again and again. That’s according to today’s tourism experts and consultants.
“These days, it’s not good enough to have great hotels, unique restaurants and wonderful outdoor recreation. Everybody has that. You want to be different – to offer one thing that no one else has, and then market that thing like crazy, so that when people think of it, they think of your town,” says Roger Brooks, a Seattle-based tourism and marketing consultant.
Brooks travels the globe helping resorts, small towns and large cities transform themselves into the next “must-see” tourism destination. He spread his gospel March 13 as the keynote speaker at the annual Hoosier Hospitality Conference in Indianapolis. The event is sponsored by the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, the Restaurant and Hospitality Association of Indiana, the Association of Indiana Convention and Visitors Bureaus, the Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association, and several numerous corporate and media sponsors. Each year, the events attract several hundred tourism officials, restaurateurs, hoteliers and major attraction operators who gather to network and attend seminars on a variety of subjects, ranging from human resources to motivational techniques for staff members.
They also talk tourism.
Brooks was selected to provide the keynote address because of his company’s experience and recipe for helping small towns, resorts and businesses develop their own identity in today’s competitive market. His company, Destination Development Inc., offers a website and book, titled “The 25 Immutable Rules of Successful Tourism,” on the subject that provide numerous examples of transformations in cities – and businesses– around the country.
Although the size, needs and assets of each town may vary, Brooks message is focused on one central theme: Get a brand and stick with it. He calls this branding approach “The Power of One.”

Tourism Branding

Roger Brooks’ recipe for branding your community involves several do’s and don’t’s. He also provides some wisdom on pitfalls to avoid:

Roger Brooks


What makes a successful brand?
• Lure:
What sets you apart from everyone else.
• Diversions: What else you can do while you’re there.
• Amenities: Good parking, available restrooms, beautiful scenery, convenient visitors center, stores open late and on weekends.
• Icon: The photo opportunity that says who you are and what you’re about.

What is NOT a brand?
• Logos and slogans. They are just tools used to promote your brand.
• Landmarks. Things like the St. Louis arch. That’s not a brand, it’s just the ambiance.
• Offering “something for everyone” is not a brand.
• Geographic-based slogans.
• Scenic vistas and historic downtowns are not a brand. It’s what is in those buildings that makes people want to go there.

Tips for developing your brand:
• The narrower the focus, the stronger the brand.
• Decide what sets you apart from everyone else.
• Decide what you have that people cannot get closer to home.
• Decide what makes you worth a special trip.

Miscellaneous facts from Roger Brooks:
• Culinary tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the industry and ranks high among Baby Boomers’ desired experiences.
• Ethnic events are becoming increasingly popular.
• Home & Garden events, and historic and garden home tours are growing in popularity.
• Farm-related attractions and farmers’ markets are popular.
• The more of one thing you have collectively (antique shops, for example), the farther people will travel and the longer they will stay.
• If you keep them busy, people will stay four times longer than the time it takes them to get there.
• The 10-10-10 Rule is that within a given tourism district, there should be 10 percent retail shops, such as antiques, gifts, books, wine, etc.; 10 percent things to eat, such as restaurants and ice cream shops; and 10 percent things open after 6 p.m.
• Nighttime visitors spend three times more money than daytime visitors.
• You don’t want to be a gateway, you want to be a hub. A gateway is a stop on the way to someplace else; a hub is the destination.
• Narrow your focus. Don’t try to offer “something for everyone.” You want to be a place that has “something for us.”

• Read more about Roger Brooks and his company at: www.DestinationDevelopment.com.

Put simply, Brooks’ formula advises that towns assess what makes them different from everyone else and develop a marketing plan to promote it. All the town’s other amenities – hiking, swimming, shopping, dining – will provide activities for visitors when they are not doing or seeing the central activity or attraction.
For example, a family might travel to Madison, Ind., to visit its No. 1 tourist attraction, the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site. While in town, the family might also visit other historic homes, hike Clifty Falls State Park, dine at a local restaurant or shop the stores along Main Street. But it is their singular interest in touring the Lanier Mansion that brought them to Madison.
In fact, Brooks notes, “The No. 1 activities of visitors to a city is shopping and dining, but that’s not the reason they go there.”
Branding entails making tough choices about what a community wants to be known for, Brooks says. And he offers some advice in getting there: “A successful brand is specific and never generic. It’s what you have that will make people drive for miles to see it.”
He continues: “ A brand is a perception and a feeling about your business or produce or community. Branding is the process of setting yourself apart from everyone else.”
Ripley County Tourism Director Katherine Taul took Brooks’ message to heart, and in an interview after the session, she reflected on the what she decided was an obvious “brand” for Ripley County: the National Muzzle Loader Rifle Association and its many shooting and re-enactment events at Friendship, Ind.
“There is nothing else quite like it around here,” she said. “People come from all over the country to take part in those shooting competitions and weekends.”
Rising Sun-Ohio County Tourism Director Sherry Timms also attended Brooks’ session and came away with her own thoughts about a brand for her community: the arts. For several years now, Rising Sun has been developing a culture of artists and marketing the town as a great place for artists to locate and thrive. One result of that effort has been the Pendleton Arts Center.
“We are still working toward that goal but we have put a lot of effort and money into it,” Timms said. “The arts would definitely be our ‘brand.’ ”
In Switzerland County, newly hired tourism director David Attaway has been working feverishly to develop a new image for the town as a destination by involving various groups and city and county government to support a long-term strategic plan. Several new retail stores have opened along Main Street, and a monthly “First Friday” cultural events night was instituted in Vevay last year.
But the ultimate goal of the plan is to establish an arts center to house a commercial winery museum in the heart of Vevay. This goal stems from Switzerland County’s Swiss history as the site of the first commercial winery in the United States.
“I think Brooks’ message is a good one, but I can see how it may be hard for some communities to sum up their assets into one central thing,” Attaway said. “But with the long-running wine festival and the Swiss history of this county, it seems like a natural to brand ourselves based on wine-making.”
Attaway traveled to Paris, Ark., in March to visit commercial wine museums in the Hot Springs region to try and get ideas about creating a museum in Vevay. It’s more than a goal; it’s the heart of our long-range strategic plan,” he said.
Madison, although known in many circles for historic preservation, also has a widespread reputation for hydroplane boat racing. While the Lanier Mansion is cited as the town’s most visited “attraction,” many come to the southern Indiana town to hike Clifty Falls. Others come to camp or boat on the Ohio River, or to visit the antique malls. The town’s tourism office also now stages four major festivals in the summer and fall, each of which consumes much of the time and energy of the tourism office staff. And most recently, the town has been thrust into the limelight for its place on the Underground Railroad.
But with last year’s hard-earned and prestigious designation of the 133-block downtown as the nation’s largest National Historic Landmark Districts by the National Park Service, it would be hard to argue that historic preservation is its No. 1 brand.
“Historic preservation seems like the obvious choice, but it would be hard to choose just one thing because we have so much to offer the visitor,” said Linda Lytle, executive director of the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and one of many who helped plan the tourism conference in Indianapolis.
But in sticking with Brooks’ mandate, each of these tourism directors would select one brand for their county’s marketing efforts. “You must promote what differentiates you – all other activities are diversions,” he said. “You need to sell the experiences, not the geography.”

All photos by Don Ward, except the Muscatatuck Park wildlife
and the Swiss Wine Festival grape stomp, which were provided.

Southern Indiana counties each offer diverse activities and
attractions, as depicted in the graphic at left. For example,
Ripley County has the National Muzzle Loader Rifle Association’s
Museum and the Walter Cline Shooting Range. Jennings County
offers outdoor
activities at the Muscatatuck National Wildlife
Refuge. Ohio County has built a reputation for the arts, featuring
the Pendleton Arts Center. Switzerland County promotes its
Swiss wine-making heritage. And Jefferson County is the new
home to the nation’s largest National Historic Landmark District,
which encompasses a 133-block downtown area and the Lanier
Mansion State Historic Site, the town’s most visited attraction.

Jim Keith, the executive director of the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism Bureau, attended the conference but did not catch Brooks’ presentation. But he heard about it from fellow tourism officials.
“I think I know what he was talking about. Branding is when a community finds that one thing that distinguishes it from the rest and then sticks with it for logos and marketing. Being consistent is the key in branding,” Keith said. “Branding isn’t a simple thing for many communities because they have to figure out who they are and what it is that sets them apart.”
While branding has become the buzz word in the industry, some communities have been branding for years, Keith added.
He cited Madison’s successful effort to become known for its historic preservation district. And he said his own community has worked toward an image as “the Sunny Side of Louisville.”
“We began branding this message back in the early ‘70s. We have extremely successful with this slogan and will continue to do so,” Keith said. “As long as Coke sticks to red, Clark-Floyd will stick to the Sunnyside of Louisville.”
Not all conference attendees agree wholeheartedly with Brooks’ message, however. Melanie Maxwell, the director at Greensburg-Decatur County Tourism, said she heard many tourism officials discussing the limiting aspects of “going with just one thing.
“Most communities have more than one asset that they want to market, depending on the audience.
Each audience wants something different, so you have to play to that theme, whether it’s advertising or designing brochures or whatever activity you are using to reach people and certain groups.”
Maxwell cited as examples golf packages for golfers and car shows for people who collect and customize classic automobiles and participate in contests.
While events and festivals may attract large crowds for a certain week or weekend, Brooks’ message of branding pertains to year-round tourism draws – whether it be an actual place, activity or perception.
He acknowledged, however, that although the brand may get tourists to town, they spend little of their time actually doing it or visiting it. In fact, statistics show that while visitors may spend 14 hours a day in town, they spend on four to six hours with the primary brand. The rest of their time – as much as 80 percent – is spent dining, shopping and on other diversionary activities.
“Successful tourism towns promote their primary lure or brand, but they can’t survive without great diversions,” Brooks said.
One method of deciding on a brand, Brooks said, is that “you must either be different, be first in a category, or be the best in a category.”
“People will travel to see ‘the best’ or experience something completely different.”

Back to April 2007 Articles.



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