By ZACH CRIST, SCOTT MONTGOMERY, JAKE PETERS, TIM SILVA and JANE RIZZO
This is an important time for the cities of Sun Valley and Ketchum, which have come together to fund a new marketing initiative using a cohesive brand message through the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance. The fact that Sun Valley has as much brand equity as it does is a testament to how special this place is. But sitting back, enjoying our lack of lift lines and relishing the fact that Sun Valley is our own "hidden gem" is having a deep and negative economic impact. We are hurting financially, and as documented in the Bob Youngman studies, we are hurting more than our competitors are.
Establishing the Sun Valley brand is strategic. We are working to identify core messages that will connect the greatest number of people with our most compelling experiences. A strong brand positioning makes other decisions easier. Effective positioning also ensures that all future media investments have the greatest impact possible. If we are clear about whom we are talking to and we are consistent with what we are saying, we will be a more effective organization.
Our goals will have even more impact if we harmonize our messages with the marketing activities of Sun Valley Co. The two parallel initiatives are working toward similar objectives and there will be beneficial "leakage" from each plan to the other. That makes the job slightly more complex, but the benefits far outweigh the added task of coordinating our efforts.
To that end, we have begun to consult with Eleven Inc., a world-class marketing and branding agency with clients such as Apple, Virgin America and Northstar. The firm has already done a great deal of work for Sun Valley Co. and understands the landscape well, thus saving us time and money. Both Sun Valley Co. and the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance will be operational with new initiatives soon.
In addition, 21st-century resources make it possible to get the word out in ways that are less expensive than traditional methods. Social and online media, public relations and strategic partnerships can be very effective. Therefore, we will also soon begin a trial engagement with a world-class public-relations and social-media firm.
Lastly, our resort economy is very small compared to several of the more obvious competitors. This actually works to our advantage, as relatively small increases in demand will result in proportionately better outcomes.
In short, we have the right kind of problem—we reside in the best place on Earth (according to us) and we are blessed with incredible existing assets: the resort, our trails, our rivers, arts and cultural events that rival large cities and you, the good people of the Wood River Valley. Our job is simply to make more people aware of all this "goodness." Sun Valley has been off the radar for too long, meaning that our efforts will not result in an immediate turnaround (nor will we be able to address all of the related problems). But we're grateful for this opportunity to develop a sensible plan and to execute on it. One brand, one message, one very special place.
Zach Crist, Scott Montgomery, Jake Peters, Tim Silva and Jane Rizzo are board members of the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance.