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Is There Really an Adirondack Park?

May 20, 2011 - Ernest Hohmeyer
I think I may have gotten it wrong.

Back in the fall, I blogged on Adk Biz Today concerning the need to enhance the Adirondack Park brand (Is it Time to Reconsider Community Marketing?). This was followed by a “business wish” to then elect-Governor Cuomo on ending the fragmentation of the overlapping community and business development organizations that cover the Park.

Recently, there was an excellent discussion on the topic at Senator Betty Little’s Tourism Conference followed by a piece this week by Brian Mann on NCPR.

In reflecting on all of this I was wondering if we had this wrong: Can you brand something that does not exist? Except from a regulatory perspective, is there such an overall entity as an “Adirondack Park?”

Branding is a tool. It is a form of marketing based on an organizational goal. Someone has determined that there is a market need for what we have to offer and certainly there is no denying the “Adirondack Park as a place folks want to come to relax, rejuvenate and in some cases to live. Yet, we do not have an Adirondack Park marketing and business development effort whose sole responsibility is the Park, the whole Park and nothing but the Park so help me…

In business if you want to achieve a goal, you put together a plan, determine its feasibility of success and put the appropriate resources behind it. Just as important, you hold someone accountable.

With the exception of the Adirondack Park Agency and the Association of Towns & Villages is there anyone accountable for only the Park in terms of community and business development? Over 100 years ago this place was deemed special enough to create a Preserve. Why hasn’t a similar mechanism been created that is held responsible for enhancing the natural and human eco-systems of the Park?

And everyone seems to like the use the word “Adirondack.” The folks along the Champlain Valley refer to themselves as the “Adirondack Coast” and a friend of mine recently did a presentation in Rochester and tells me they referred to themselves as the “foothills of the Adirondacks.” My understanding is even the Essex County Visitors Bureau in a study they undertook realized that the “Adirondacks” have more recognition than “Lake Placid.”

When someone from outside the area searches “Adirondacks” are they not really interested in the “Park” and not necessarily the “North Country” or the St. Lawrence River Valley or Lake Champlain? Is not our “micro market” and “customer persona” our mountains and lakes? Yet, business development and marketing organizations cover these areas along with the 1,000 Islands and the “Leatherstocking” regions.

Everyone seems to like to use the word “Adirondack” yet we seem to be reluctant to give it a definitive brand. Why? From an environmental perspective is there concern that a cohesive Adirondack Park marketing strategy that targets visitors and business development would spoil the Park? Is it that the sparsely developed areas in the Park do not hold the political clout of the more populous regions that border it?

Is our spirit of individualism, a hallmark trait that has been attracted to these rugged mountains been our worst enemy suspiciously defining collaboration as “your way to get more than me?”

In an article Branding in the Digital Age: You are Spending Your Money in All the Wrong Places,” they talk about the “need for a plan that will make the customer’s experience coherent.” When it is well executed their “perception of the brand will include everything from discussions in social media to the in-store shopping experience to continued interactions…” after the purchase.

In a follow-up article “Why You Need a New-media ‘Ringmaster” talks about “traditional brand management models are not up to the task” as they are being done by diverse groups within the organization. This “fragmented approach can’t begin to present a coherent voice for the brand or support the relationship building that customers have come to expect in a hyper connected world.”

The article goes on to conclude that “Brand marketers today need an updated model that features a new type of executive” someone who is “skilled at coordinating a variety of customer-facing activities –someone who functions like a circus ringmaster, expertly choreographing talent in real time to engage the audience in a seamless, interactive experience.

But alas, we don’t have an effort where you hold someone accountable for an Adirondack Park brand.

Do we need to create something new to do this? Not necessarily. There are already precedents set on the state level for regional promotion, and there are at least 3 that cover portions of the Adirondack Park. Could parts of these efforts be consolidated?

There are also numerous towns and villages in the Park that are struggling to market themselves. Could there be an Adirondack Park meeting of these local groups perhaps in conjunction with the state? Could an informal network be formed perhaps even on-line that shares experiences, provides assistance and offers collaborative marketing ideas?

On the business development front, again there are numerous local and regional groups that are involved throughout the Park. Can an Adirondack Park economic network be formed?

Can such a meeting be sponsored Senator Little with perhaps with other elected officials as part of their Adirondack consortium?

In an article “The One Thing You Must Get Right When Building a Brand” by Patrick Barwise and Sean Meehan, the caption is “Yes, new media gives us powerful tools and speed – but that’s not enough.” One of their key points is that “social media makes it more urgent than ever that companies get the basics right, developing and reliably delivering on a compelling brand promise.” They point to 4 branding basics:

• “offering and communicating a clear customer promise” • “Building trust by delivering on it” • “Continually improving the promise” • And, “innovating beyond the familiar.”

Our “promise” is the Adirondack Park.

Until we truly create a Blue Line marketing and business development effort that is held accountable only for this area, all the discussion on what type of brand is moot. It is only a tool that cannot be effectively used until a true effort is created that looks at a holistic view of this place as an integrated habitat of man and nature.

In the meantime, what should the individual communities do? Next time we look at the opportunities and challenges related to working within the constraints of this fragmented pie in light of the new digital age.

Ernest is an award winning national and state certified business and community professional for 25 yrs. and an Adirondack entrepreneur. E-mail MountainCommunityVisions@live.com

 
 

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