want something different, expert says
Brooks offers tips
to Indiana tourism directors at state conference
"Branding is the process
of setting yourself apart from everyone else."
Roger Brooks, CEO, Destination Development Inc.
(April 2007) Tourism comes in many forms. These days, the
more unique the better to quench the undying thirst of todays
savvy travelers who want to find something different.
They want to be wowed by an experience; they want to go
home with a story to tell their neighbors; they want to be so enamored
by their visit that they will want to return again and again. Thats
according to todays tourism experts and consultants.
These days, its not good enough to have great hotels, unique
restaurants and wonderful outdoor recreation. Everybody has that. You
want to be different to offer one thing that no one else
has, and then market that thing like crazy, so that when people think
of it, they think of your town, says Roger Brooks, a Seattle-based
tourism and marketing consultant.
Brooks travels the globe helping resorts, small towns and large cities
transform themselves into the next must-see tourism destination.
He spread his gospel March 13 as the keynote speaker at the annual Hoosier
Hospitality Conference in Indianapolis. The event is sponsored by the
Indiana Office of Tourism Development, the Restaurant and Hospitality
Association of Indiana, the Association of Indiana Convention and Visitors
Bureaus, the Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association, and several numerous
corporate and media sponsors. Each year, the events attract several
hundred tourism officials, restaurateurs, hoteliers and major attraction
operators who gather to network and attend seminars on a variety of
subjects, ranging from human resources to motivational techniques for
They also talk tourism.
Brooks was selected to provide the keynote address because of his companys
experience and recipe for helping small towns, resorts and businesses
develop their own identity in todays competitive market. His company,
Destination Development Inc., offers a website and book, titled The
25 Immutable Rules of Successful Tourism, on the subject that
provide numerous examples of transformations in cities and
businesses around the country.
Although the size, needs and assets of each town may vary, Brooks message
is focused on one central theme: Get a brand and stick with it. He calls
this branding approach The Power of One.
recipe for branding your community involves several dos
and donts. He also provides some wisdom on pitfalls
a successful brand?
Lure: What sets you apart from everyone else.
Diversions: What else you can do while youre
Amenities: Good parking, available restrooms,
beautiful scenery, convenient visitors center, stores open late
and on weekends.
Icon: The photo opportunity that says who you
are and what youre about.
NOT a brand?
Logos and slogans. They are just tools used
to promote your brand.
Landmarks. Things like the St. Louis arch.
Thats not a brand, its just the ambiance.
Offering something for everyone is
not a brand.
Scenic vistas and historic downtowns are not a
brand. Its what is in those buildings that makes people
want to go there.
developing your brand:
The narrower the focus, the stronger the brand.
Decide what sets you apart from everyone else.
Decide what you have that people cannot get closer to home.
Decide what makes you worth a special trip.
facts from Roger Brooks:
Culinary tourism is one of the fastest growing segments
of the industry and ranks high among Baby Boomers desired
Ethnic events are becoming increasingly popular.
Home & Garden events, and historic and garden
home tours are growing in popularity.
Farm-related attractions and farmers markets
The more of one thing you have collectively (antique
shops, for example), the farther people will travel and the longer
they will stay.
If you keep them busy, people will stay four times
longer than the time it takes them to get there.
The 10-10-10 Rule is that within a given tourism district,
there should be 10 percent retail shops, such as antiques, gifts,
books, wine, etc.; 10 percent things to eat, such as restaurants
and ice cream shops; and 10 percent things open after 6 p.m.
Nighttime visitors spend three times more money than
You dont want to be a gateway, you want to be
a hub. A gateway is a stop on the way to someplace else; a hub
is the destination.
Narrow your focus. Dont try to offer something
for everyone. You want to be a place that has something
more about Roger Brooks and his company at: www.DestinationDevelopment.com.
Put simply, Brooks formula advises that towns assess
what makes them different from everyone else and develop a marketing
plan to promote it. All the towns other amenities hiking,
swimming, shopping, dining will provide activities for visitors
when they are not doing or seeing the central activity or attraction.
For example, a family might travel to Madison, Ind., to visit its No.
1 tourist attraction, the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site. While
in town, the family might also visit other historic homes, hike Clifty
Falls State Park, dine at a local restaurant or shop the stores along
Main Street. But it is their singular interest in touring the Lanier
Mansion that brought them to Madison.
In fact, Brooks notes, The No. 1 activities of visitors to a city
is shopping and dining, but thats not the reason they go there.
Branding entails making tough choices about what a community wants to
be known for, Brooks says. And he offers some advice in getting there:
A successful brand is specific and never generic. Its what
you have that will make people drive for miles to see it.
He continues: A brand is a perception and a feeling about your
business or produce or community. Branding is the process of setting
yourself apart from everyone else.
Ripley County Tourism Director Katherine Taul took Brooks message
to heart, and in an interview after the session, she reflected on the
what she decided was an obvious brand for Ripley County:
the National Muzzle Loader Rifle Association and its many shooting and
re-enactment events at Friendship, Ind.
There is nothing else quite like it around here, she said.
People come from all over the country to take part in those shooting
competitions and weekends.
Rising Sun-Ohio County Tourism Director Sherry Timms also attended Brooks
session and came away with her own thoughts about a brand for her community:
the arts. For several years now, Rising Sun has been developing a culture
of artists and marketing the town as a great place for artists to locate
and thrive. One result of that effort has been the Pendleton Arts Center.
We are still working toward that goal but we have put a lot of
effort and money into it, Timms said. The arts would definitely
be our brand.
In Switzerland County, newly hired tourism director David Attaway has
been working feverishly to develop a new image for the town as a destination
by involving various groups and city and county government to support
a long-term strategic plan. Several new retail stores have opened along
Main Street, and a monthly First Friday cultural events
night was instituted in Vevay last year.
But the ultimate goal of the plan is to establish an arts center to
house a commercial winery museum in the heart of Vevay. This goal stems
from Switzerland Countys Swiss history as the site of the first
commercial winery in the United States.
I think Brooks message is a good one, but I can see how
it may be hard for some communities to sum up their assets into one
central thing, Attaway said. But with the long-running wine
festival and the Swiss history of this county, it seems like a natural
to brand ourselves based on wine-making.
Attaway traveled to Paris, Ark., in March to visit commercial wine museums
in the Hot Springs region to try and get ideas about creating a museum
in Vevay. Its more than a goal; its the heart of our long-range
strategic plan, he said.
Madison, although known in many circles for historic preservation, also
has a widespread reputation for hydroplane boat racing. While the Lanier
Mansion is cited as the towns most visited attraction,
many come to the southern Indiana town to hike Clifty Falls. Others
come to camp or boat on the Ohio River, or to visit the antique malls.
The towns tourism office also now stages four major festivals
in the summer and fall, each of which consumes much of the time and
energy of the tourism office staff. And most recently, the town has
been thrust into the limelight for its place on the Underground Railroad.
But with last years hard-earned and prestigious designation of
the 133-block downtown as the nations largest National Historic
Landmark Districts by the National Park Service, it would be hard to
argue that historic preservation is its No. 1 brand.
Historic preservation seems like the obvious choice, but it would
be hard to choose just one thing because we have so much to offer the
visitor, said Linda Lytle, executive director of the Madison Area
Convention and Visitors Bureau and one of many who helped plan the tourism
conference in Indianapolis.
But in sticking with Brooks mandate, each of these tourism directors
would select one brand for their countys marketing efforts. You
must promote what differentiates you all other activities
are diversions, he said. You need to sell the experiences,
not the geography.
photos by Don Ward, except the Muscatatuck Park wildlife
and the Swiss Wine Festival grape stomp, which were provided.
Indiana counties each offer diverse activities and
attractions, as depicted in the graphic at left. For example,
Ripley County has the National Muzzle Loader Rifle Associations
Museum and the Walter Cline Shooting Range. Jennings County
offers outdoor activities
at the Muscatatuck National Wildlife
Refuge. Ohio County has built a reputation for the arts, featuring
the Pendleton Arts Center. Switzerland County promotes its
Swiss wine-making heritage. And Jefferson County is the new
home to the nations largest National Historic Landmark District,
which encompasses a 133-block downtown area and the Lanier
Mansion State Historic Site, the towns most visited attraction.
Jim Keith, the executive director of the Clark-Floyd Counties
Convention and Tourism Bureau, attended the conference but did not catch
Brooks presentation. But he heard about it from fellow tourism
I think I know what he was talking about. Branding is when a community
finds that one thing that distinguishes it from the rest and then sticks
with it for logos and marketing. Being consistent is the key in branding,
Keith said. Branding isnt a simple thing for many communities
because they have to figure out who they are and what it is that sets
While branding has become the buzz word in the industry, some communities
have been branding for years, Keith added.
He cited Madisons successful effort to become known for its historic
preservation district. And he said his own community has worked toward
an image as the Sunny Side of Louisville.
We began branding this message back in the early 70s. We
have extremely successful with this slogan and will continue to do so,
Keith said. As long as Coke sticks to red, Clark-Floyd will stick
to the Sunnyside of Louisville.
Not all conference attendees agree wholeheartedly with Brooks
message, however. Melanie Maxwell, the director at Greensburg-Decatur
County Tourism, said she heard many tourism officials discussing the
limiting aspects of going with just one thing.
Most communities have more than one asset that they want to market,
depending on the audience.
Each audience wants something different, so you have to play to that
theme, whether its advertising or designing brochures or whatever
activity you are using to reach people and certain groups.
Maxwell cited as examples golf packages for golfers and car shows for
people who collect and customize classic automobiles and participate
While events and festivals may attract large crowds for a certain week
or weekend, Brooks message of branding pertains to year-round
tourism draws whether it be an actual place, activity or perception.
He acknowledged, however, that although the brand may get tourists to
town, they spend little of their time actually doing it or visiting
it. In fact, statistics show that while visitors may spend 14 hours
a day in town, they spend on four to six hours with the primary brand.
The rest of their time as much as 80 percent is spent
dining, shopping and on other diversionary activities.
Successful tourism towns promote their primary lure or brand,
but they cant survive without great diversions, Brooks said.
One method of deciding on a brand, Brooks said, is that you must
either be different, be first in a category, or be the best in a category.
People will travel to see the best or experience something
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