Friday, June 24, 2011

Idaho as punchline

Why do Idaho and Sun Valley need more marketing to raise awareness about what they have to offer vacationers?

Comedian Jay Leno, whose late-night television show has millions of fans, this week told the story of Idaho state Sen. John McGee, who allegedly stole a truck and travel trailer, drove the outfit a couple of blocks and jackknifed it in the yard of a home. Police charged him with misdemeanor drunk driving and felony truck theft. They reported that McGee told them he was going to Jackpot, Nev.

Leno's punch line: "In his defense, there's not a lot to do in Idaho. Ever been to Idaho? There's not a lot going on."

That's funny only to those who've seen the state by blazing up the Interstate seeing only seas of sagebrush and stopping only to fill 'er up. Or to those who persist in confusing Idaho with Iowa.


Sure, comedians work for laughs, not for accuracy, but it's ridiculous that Leno's California writers didn't have to think twice about whether that line would be funny to most people.

And why would they?

Survey after survey has found that few people in California, the nation's most populous state, recognize Sun Valley as a destination resort in Idaho or as the nation's first (and for our money, the best) ski resort.

That's no accident. It's the result of decades of killer marketing from everything from beach resorts, cruise ships and aggressive ski areas in other states.

The goal for the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance and the Idaho Division of Tourism should be to ensure that Leno's line isn't funny to anyone with eyes or ears in the state of California ever again.

No one who's visited the Sun Valley area could ever say with a straight face that there's nothing to do. Or, that the caliber of arts and events aren't topnotch.

Marketing is a contact sport. It takes planning, money and spirit. Idaho and Sun Valley must make contact or continue to risk being the next punch line.

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