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Resources to Help us Brand Part 5
June 3, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
Why does branding seem to be the one issue that everyone agrees we should do and yet with the same fervent agreement – believe it can’t be done?
From community leaders to businesses, from developers to environmentalists, we all agree that the Adirondacks need branding.
Yet why do we often roll up our eyes and furl our brow with the remarks: • We will never agree on what it should be • It will become so diluted to make all the environmentalists happy it will mean nothing • The government will get their hands on it and it will be another way to regulate us • I am not a tourism business so I don’t need branding • We are so different as communities and businesses how can it possibly fit us all? • If it were such a hot idea, other businesses would be doing it
All Need to Brand
To some degree everyone needs to brand. Whether it is the local chamber trying to justify its mission to members, a local community seeking tourists or a small independent business trying to explain why you should come to them versus a more recognized big boy, we all need to brand.
As a small business we can’t compete with big name or franchise based businesses. As a community we can’t market ourselves like our bigger neighbors. There is this huge explosion of customers seeking brand names because they know what to expect. Can we band together to and grab some of these customers?
And as I mentioned last time, it isn’t that no one is thinking about it: Everything from the Governor’s Paddle Challenge, to the Saranac Lake 6’er, ANCA’s craft program, the Common Ground Alliance and many others are doing some form of this.
We Have a Name
We already have a key element to a brand – a recognizable name – Adirondack. It is a name that everyone wants to use, even those that are not in the Adirondacks. We simply may need it to mean something – a promise that customers can recognize and have faith in – a brand promise.
And we should not make the mistake that branding is only for businesses and the tourism industry specifically. Branding is vital to communities attracting jobs and key to that is creating an industry niche: Think Silicon Valley, “biotech clusters” artisan communities and wellness centers.
And there are many who can assist both communities and businesses to brand. We talked about some regional efforts last time.
There are also businesses that can help other businesses think about branding and working together. Some of these business groups include Business & Industry, chamber educational programs, marketing firms, and a host of public business assistance groups such as the SBA, Small Business Assistance Centers and Cornell Cooperative Extension. There are local, county and regional economic development groups as well.
There are even some that have programs for both business and community branding. Again, the good news is there are plenty of resources to assist with branding. The bad news is that there may be too many.
While there are too many to mention in this post, here are 2 examples:
Help is Out There
Audubon International has a certification program for communities and businesses that could be helpful with branding. For businesses this includes property specific programs such as their: • Classic program According to their web site this program assists properties including “ones being redeveloped or going through restoration for improvement...” • Green Lodging Program This program which customers recognize as a green brand “provides the assurance that audited lodging facilities have met environmental best practice standards.”
Audubon International has several programs for communities as well:
• The Sustainable Communities Program This assists “communities take steps to ensure that they are healthy and vibrant places in which to live, work, and play–both today and tomorrow.”
Each of these community and business programs has steps and criteria to assist in these certification programs. Businesses, for example, in the Green Lodging program can go through this process to “gain a marketing advantage.”
Audubon International, for a fee, can also provide assistance to communities. For example, in their Sustainable Communities Program they can “provide guidance, oversight, and technical assistance…”
Sustainable Travel International (STI) is another organization that can assist tourism-based communities and businesses with branding through a certification process.
Again, one has to take the attitude that these processes can help develop a set of branding criteria that delivers a consistent “brand promise.”
STI has a program for businesses, destinations and even provides information for “responsible travelers.” Their “STEP” program – Sustainable Tourism Education - is a “holistic approach to sustainability management and eco-certification.” Just like the United Nations program we spoke about earlier, STI recognizes that “sustainability means different things to different people.” “Your challenge” they state on their website is to “Determine how the principles of sustainability fit the unique attributes of your organization.” They also provide “the tools and expertise you need to assess your impacts, chart a course of action, and thoughtfully manage your business while protecting the natural, cultural, and economic assets you depend on.”
Their community “Destinations” programs “offers destinations a suite of next generation solutions which help make sustainability actionable.” Communities have accomplished this by “creating a diverse and value-laden tourism product that attracts a mix of domestic and international guests…”
Why Do This?
Remember the goal is to possibly attract a new customer to a brand that speaks to our independently operated businesses and unique communities.
By working together to create what I call an “Adirondack Quality Brand” can we get a slice of their brand pie? Can we attract new customers who really want our experience but are hesitant because they don’t know what to expect from us?
While your brain is probably gobbledygook by now over all this technical stuff, it simply means if there is an interest in developing an Adirondack brand that is uniquely our own, there are plenty of models to choose from. In addition there are a slew of private and public resources we can tap into that are both international as well as regional.
We do not have to re-invent the wheel or spend millions creating another wasted plan.
In our final post on this series on Adirondack branding, we will talk about one possible way to start.
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