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Trends & the Great Outdoors

March 13, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
A group of businesses and tourism leaders have been meeting informally since last fall.

Our primary purpose was to better understand the marketing resources available to us. The other reason was to hear from the experts concerning the latest trends in marketing. These meetings are open to the public and you are welcome.

The first thing we learned is that today’s trends change rapidly.

In October, in a meeting facilitated by Adworkshop and hosted by a group of tourism organizations including ROOST, Franklin County Tourism and the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council, we learned of several key trends.

In December, these same folks wanted to be placed on the agenda again to talk about…new trends.

Enough had changed in just those two months that they felt it was important to keep us up to date…with the trends.

Keeping Up

For many small businesses whose marketing director also happens to be the cook and the bottle washer—never mind a dad or a wife—keeping up with the new marketing world can be an intimidating thing.

On a daily basis you may feel overwhelmed. Just as you get a handle on a new social tool, it changes or is “upgraded.” Now many are saying forget a web site, do a blog or a Facebook page instead.

You spent thousands on updating your website to make it more interactive only to learn that you may need to put it on a new platform so that mobile devices can read it.

The February Restaurant Start up and Growth magazine article “Why Your Restaurant Needs to Be On Google Places and How to Get Started” reports that “Last year Google made more than 500 changes to its search algorithm, or almost 2 per day.”

Say what? What is important here to know is that these changes may have “affected your listings positively or negatively.”

Why Us?

But think about this other issue for a minute: Why does our local restaurant “need to be on Google Places?” Does that mean our local bookstores, music stores and—hold on for a minute—even our engineers and chiropractors need to think about these new trends in social media as well?

Absolutely.

All of these folks however, may need to think about this in very different ways depending on their business and who their customers are.

It’s crazy to think that most, if not all, of our small businesses now need to think this way. The last time you went on vacation or took a trip, were your prime motivations the local restaurant or bookstore? Probably not. So why is it important?

While they may not be thinking of your bookstore while they are planning their trip, once they are at their destination it is a different story. Even if they find you through traditional media such as a local newspaper, being involved in social media may enhance your ability for them to visit you; if for example, you include a QR code.

With the increasing capability of mobile devices, there is no question that even once they are here, they still may use social media or the Internet to find out about you. Now, you need a listing, a good editorial, and comments.

We also need to remember that one of the “trends” is social media reviews and commentary. Even if your store, restaurant or service sounds intriguing, they may take the additional step of seeing what everyone else has to say. More and more “listings” are also including reviews.

Our Outdoors – Still Great?

Gracious, even what we may consider a basic business like camping is changing.

In an Entrepreneur magazine article “Camping’s Extreme Makeover” by Geoff Carter talks about how new trends are providing new business opportunities “of not really roughing it.” There are campgrounds now that are providing “luxury tents, king-size beds, gourmet chefs” and “Wi-Fi.” These “glampgrounds” charge “$820 to “1,620” a night.

The new camping is called “Glamping.” Wow, okay…

As more of the younger generations have not been exposed to “roughing it” outdoors, traditional nature-based businesses are being forced to reinvent themselves. An Adirondack guide, for example, prepared for a hard-core week-long trip into the backwoods may also need to consider a soft adventure package of paddling around the public beach for an afternoon.

Okay, I’m overstating here. Or am I?

According to the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), while “some 44.7 million Americans went camping last year,” there is a decline in certain sectors. In particular “Youngsters ages 18 to 24 don’t seem much interested, and adults ages 55 and up prefer to camp in their Barcaloungers.” (Entrepreneur magazine)

A new disturbing trend for me is that our youth do not seem to be as interested as we were. The mighty world of technology is wreaking havoc with our traditional outdoor activities and memberships in Boys and Girl Scouts and other nature-based organizations.

The New Outdoor Package?

It seems you have to market harder to get the folks who used to come naturally. A new trend may be for all of us to work together to give a new look to the outdoors.

The “New Adirondack Outdoor Experience” may be where we package a guiding service with a local restaurant that serves gourmet local food as a “roughing it” back-pack lunch.

We may then need to have someone from the Adirondack Wellness Guild available at the landing to administer CPR—in this case known as a massage.

We may need to include an “Adirondack Arts passport” that offers discounts so they can bring back home all the nature they missed because they were texting in their hour long canoe ride.

Guides may have to take more baby-sitting courses as most of the instruction was taken up explaining to the teenage kids which part was the front of the kayak and how to get in.

Even the simple camping experience appears not that simple anymore. Some have recognized changes in trends: “By removing the discomforts and inconveniences of tent camping, Glamping can bring some of those lost souls back to nature.” (Entrepreneur magazine)

New Partners?

The region may need to rethink how we are approaching the outdoors. We need to be careful of our assumptions: there is still a huge market for that traditional outdoor experience. However, it may also be clear that there are new trends out there, and we cannot necessarily take for granted that they will come like they used to or—more importantly—want the same thing.

We may need to consider outdoor partnerships with non-traditional partners where it is a total Adirondack Outdoor Experience of nature, food, music, wellness, and shopping choreographed into a simple and inclusive package.

We need to be wary of our perceptions as trends change rapidly in this information age.

What people are looking for in an adventure today may be quite different from what it was yesterday. In order to provide this experience, we may need to form new outdoor partnerships.

 
 

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