by Scott Neuffer

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August 3, 2012
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Visitors authority offers first peek of Valley's new brand

A year's worth of creative effort, funded by $75,000 in room tax revenue, has produced three alliterative adjectives - rugged, relaxed and reachable - presented over the soaring wing-tips of a new eagle logo.

It's the rough draft of Carson Valley's new brand, what visitors authority officials hope will sell the area as a premier destination in the minds of prospective visitors.

"Keep in mind this is preliminary, not our official roll-out," A.J. Frels, CVVA executive director, told county commissioners on Thursday. "The entire study is a 145-page book, with three discs. It's very thorough."

Last year, before the visitors authority became a separate entity, the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Authority budgeted $75,000 to hire North Star Destination Strategies of Nashville, Tenn., to create a "strong, identifiable" brand for the community.

The company researched the area's natural features, cultural assets and accommodations, and also perceptions from both local stakeholders and outsiders. In its research, North Star reported that Carson Valley culture was generally described as "friendly, open, laid-back, raw, natural, a little rough, adventurous and rugged."

"Many stakeholders and outsiders commented that the area's lack of polish in terms of ready-to-market assets and organization of those assets holds the destination back," the company stated in their "BrandPrint" report. "Perception problems persist with outsiders either thinking of Carson Valley as being 'backwoods,' or not thinking of Carson Valley at all. Lack of awareness in the marketplace creates an opportunity for Carson Valley to reintroduce itself to the world with the voice it wants to have."

Of course, the report found several positive perceptions, too.

"The viewscapes and open space can be breathtaking," read one survey response.

"Central location close enough to visit but away from the crowds," read another.

When asked about the area's greatest challenge, one interviewee said, "Getting the word out that there is 'something for everybody' - hiking, bicycling, fishing, museums, history, gambling, restaurants, shopping... and getting them to think of Carson Valley as a 'destination,' not just passing through."

Commissioner Greg Lynn addressed the Valley's "lack of polish" in another way.

"It turns out our strong point is our weak point," he said. "Can we have it both ways?"

Frels answered that the Valley offers authenticity.

"Its rugged persona gives it credibility that can be trusted," he said.

North Star also obtained more than 47,000 overnight visitation records from the Carson Valley Inn and Holiday Inn Express and Suites. A random sample of 5,000 records revealed common geographical markets. Not surprisingly, 62.7 percent of sampled visitors hailed from California. Approximately 12.5 percent came from within Nevada. The top five "Core Based Statistical Areas," or specific regions from which visitors traveled, were the Bay Area, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Reno-Sparks, and Silicon Valley. Interestingly, the Gardnerville Ranchos was number eight on the list.

North Star used the information to develop a brand platform, which, ideally, should guide future marketing efforts. The platform is comprised of the following four elements. The target audience is, "For those who desire to explore." The frame-of-reference is, "The Carson Valley, nestled between the mountain ranges in the Reno-Tahoe area." The point-of-difference (in contrast to competitors) is, "The region's outfitter for authentic Nevada adventure." And the benefit is, "Offering you unprocessed, unparalleled options (in any direction)."

The company additionally developed some graphic advertisements to reinforce the brand, such as a panorama of the Carson Range with the ironic heading, "High Rises," or a shot of a hiker with the heading, "Social Climber."

Frels said the brand will gradually be transformed into stationery, business cards, and letterhead, and later will be incorporated into the visitors authority's website. He hopes to collaborate with local merchants on backpacks, water bottles, T-shirts, hats, camping tools, trail mix and golf balls, among other items.

"We foresee many different levels of promotion," he said. "We want people to be part of the marketing partnership."

On Friday, Frels stressed that official roll-out of the brand won't occur until January.

"Rolling this brand out is a minimum three-year process," he said. "Branding is much more than a logo or a tagline. It should tie into economic development. It goes beyond just promotion. We're hoping everyone embraces this."

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The Record Courier Updated Aug 3, 2012 04:57PM Published Aug 3, 2012 04:54PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.