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ROOST preaches value of one brand for Adirondacks at marketing summit

LAKE PLACID – Speaking to more than 200 business officials from the Adirondack region at the Conference Center Thursday, market research consultant Bill Siegel asked the crowd to yell out whom they work for, all at the same time.

Following the cacophany, Siegel presented a slide asking the crowd “What village is this?” Then, “What region is Lake Placid in?”

After the assembled crowd in the room said “Lake Placid” and “Adirondacks” in unison, the founder of Longwoods International made one last remark.

“I rest my case,” he said.

On a day where the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism convened more than 200 business officials from across the Adirondacks at the 2016 Adirondack Destination Marketing Summit, Siegel presented those last two slides to hammer home the main theme of the day he and ROOST were trying to convey: branding and marketing the Adirondacks as one destination.

Siegel’s keynote speech was entitled “The power of one voice,” and the presentation highlighted how tourism branding and advertising provides a “halo effect” for potential visitors and economic stimulus. Pointing to successful marketing campaigns like “Pure Michigan” and “New Mexico True,” Siegel showed data that claimed visitors are much more likely to visit, start businesses or move to destinations thanks to branded marketing campaigns.

Following the presentation, ROOST CEO Jim McKenna said the concept of conveying the Adirondacks as one marketing destination with one message is one of ROOST’s primary goals. He said it’s still a struggle to get the entire region on the same page with the same message after decades of fragmented marketing efforts and town vs. town rivalries. He said he still sees pushback from some in the region, but he’s hopeful Thursday’s Summit will get the region’s businesses thinking more.

“I’m not sure yet how people are taking it, but what I thought was important that I hope people took away was that we have to get ourselves under one message, because if we don’t, it becomes a lot harder to increase our overall business,” McKenna said.

“That’s why we’ve seen ROOST starting to get as much as possible into Adirondacks USA, to give it a little bit of an identity,” ROOST’s CEO added. “And also to give it a geographic location. So that’s one thing we are doing, but we also recognize that we have more than just the Adirondacks. We’ve got certainly Lake Placid, but we also have some key destinations that the trick is going to be, how do we come up under a single brand while still having an identity for the key components? That’s what we are really trying to focus on now.”

That focus was touched on in Siegel’s other session, a presentation to a smaller group of assembled locals showcasing data Longwoods International had collected specific to the region. Bar graph after bar graph showed data broken down as “Lake Placid” or “Other Adirondacks.”

Siegel, originally from Toronto, proclaimed to the crowd that his research had shown in recent years Lake Placid was focused too much on selling itself as the location of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, and that “The Olympics won’t take you to the future.”

Siegel then asked the assembled crowd to raise their hands if they were from Lake Placid or the Adirondacks, with many more raising their hands for the entire region. After that introduction, Siegel presented dozens of slides presenting nuanced statistical information about visitors, why they come to the region and what they did in the region.

“You’re going to be shocked,” Siegel said of the differences in data between Lake Placid respondents and Adirondack respondents.

Longwoods International’s data analyzed 1,422 trips that included the Adirondacks from a 285,000-trip sample across the country. More than 1,000 of the trips were classified as overnight versus more than 300 day trips.

The most stark difference in data between Lake Placid and the Adirondacks was in gender, as nearly 70 percent of Lake Placid visitors were males, versus a majority of nearly 60 percent of female respondents to the rest of the Adirondacks.

“I’ve never seen it quite that big,” Siegel said of the difference.

The data also highlighted the lack of diversity in the region’s visitors, with fewer than a dozen percent of both Hispanic and African-American visitors to both Lake Placid and the rest of the Adirondacks.

One of the other main takeaways for the crowd was that many visitors were classified as “touring,” or visitors stopping in the Adirondacks while visiting other places. Nearly 20 percent of Lake Placid visitors were touring, as 10 percent of Lake Placid visitors came from California.

Despite the data, McKenna said businesses in the region have improved their cohesive efforts in the last few years.

“We see even communities like Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, that have historically been a little more competitive with each other, working together with one thing,” McKenna said. “We see northern and southern Franklin County; we’ve heard they’ve always been two different areas of the county, geographically far apart. By getting people to understand tourism as a region, we feel we are getting through (to) some of those.

“I feel it’s still a challenge,” he continued, “but that’s the first part of the area we are getting somewhat successful with. We’ve got to further that.”

As Siegel highlighted “Pure Michigan,” several audience members pointed out that Siegel’s examples were on the state level. He retorted by pointing to regional marketing campaigns conceived by Longwoods International, including “Finger Lakes Wine Country” and “Michigan’s West Coast” with a capital of Grand Rapids, resembling the Adirondacks region with Lake Placid as a hub.

“That is not a slogan; that’s a strategy,” Siegel said.

“How you put them together, that’s a creative challenge,” he added.

McKenna said turnout for the first-of its-kind event, focused on gathering businesses from the entire Adirondacks, was much more successful than he anticipated.

Other presenters included ROOST Director of Marketing Jasen Lawrence speaking about travel planning, and tourism and hospitality social media expert Sheila Scarborough presenting on improving websites, reputation management and search engine optimization with algorithims, among other presenters.

[Full article here.]