Friday, June 4, 2010

No silver bullet

It doesn't have to be this way.

The city of Sun Valley doesn't have to put itself at odds with the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau.

It doesn't have to put the chamber budget on life support to get a new, more expensive and expansive marketing program in place.

But it's headed down that road.

Once the city got the recommendation of an independent marketing review committee, it could have articulated the changes it wants—a small oversight committee independent of the chamber's membership to devise and execute a new marketing initiative.

The city could get that by specifying the structure and outcomes it wants in a contract with the chamber.

Instead, the votes seem to be lining up in favor of nearly erasing its relationship with the chamber and opting for a blank slate: creation of a separate and independent marketing organization with a new staff and bigger financial participation from the city than the chamber has ever received.

The hue and cry for change is understandable—and welcome. The local economy needs to catch a break somewhere or face a long, painful decline.

Intentions are good. But while the blank slate may sound good, it's not going to be a panacea.

There's no silver bullet in marketing, no single shot, no single advertising campaign that will bring money pouring into the area, make every business prosperous again and give every laid-off worker a job.

What the blank slate will do is to relegate lessons learned to the dustbin.

The Wood River Valley learned painfully over many, many years that none of the cities in the Wood River Valley are islands unto themselves.

Businesses big and small learned that succeeding together is more profitable for all than succeeding alone because each occupies a special place in the experience of visitors to the Sun Valley area. (Yes, businesses used to fight about this.)

The problem with any debate about marketing is that everyone, from janitors to CEOs—is an expert. Anyone can do it. After all, everyone learned to color, paste and use blunt scissors in kindergarten.

Putting a new marketing program in place will take more time than anyone expects. In the meantime, the city of Sun Valley should beware of doing more damage than good in its search for the elusive, magical silver bullet that it seems certain will pierce the heart of the monstrous recession and restore prosperity.

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