suggestions for Oldham County
not enough to center
a marketing brand on, he says
(November 2010) What is your perception of
Oldham County? What do outsiders think? What about its residents?
Those questions were posed to an audience of nearly 70 people Oct. 20
when Seattle-based consultant Roger Brooks held a daylong workshop at
the John W. Black Community Center in Buckner, Ky.
train runs down the middle of
La Grange's Main Street but that
isn't enough to hang a brand
on, says Roger Brooks.
Brooks, who has helped develop branding concepts and marketing
materials for 900-plus towns across America, was hired by the Oldham
County Tourist Commission to assess the county, including each of its
six towns, and provide what he called recomendations for
marketing the county to tourists. The overriding goal of the cxercise
is to create a brand for attracting visitors and generating
tourism dollars for local merchants.
Brooks visited Oldham County last April to take assessment of such things
as signage (both pedestrian and motorist signage), beautification, store
hours, attractions and other factors that make visiting and touring
the county easy for visitors. Brooks showed dozens of examples of the
good, bad and ugly in other communities, then spent the last half of
the day presenting his findings in Oldham County.
With more than six business and restaurant closings in the past six
months, Oldham County, like other communities, is working to find its
niche in the travel market and take advantage of its close proximity
to metro Louisville. Tourism director Kim Buckler has read Brooks
book and heard him speak at other towns and convinced her commission
board to hire Brooks for $25,000 to conduct the April assessment and
another $7,500 for the October workshop. Brooks wants another $65,000
to return and develop branding and marketing materials.
The countywide brand is just that it says what we are collectively.
Its not a logo. Its not a slogan. Its all in the advertising
and how we tie ourselves together to create a feeling, Buckler
said. From here on out we will be selling our sizzle, not our
steak. This project will help us determine how loud our sizzle will
be and what that sizzle will look like.
Brooks preaches that branding is simply finding out what differentiates
your community that would entice someone to drive here because they
cant get it at home. He encourages the towns he counsels to create
a Branding Development Team of local people representating a cross-section
of local government, business owners and retailers. The team is responsible
for following up on and implementing the ideas and to help gain consensus
across the community. This is done through what he called an action
Brands are about ownership. You need an action plan for each organization
and town to do. You put deliverables into the plan to make sure they
are held accountable, he said.
While Brooks did not specifically identify a brand for Oldham County,
he identified its attractions, available activities and scenic beauty.
He left the group with a 95-page report on his assessment. As with other
such studies, he urges the community leaders develop a gathering place
in the heart of the downtown for holding events, a farmers market or
live music. He said the county needs to recruit an upscale hotel. He
emphasized the need for anchor tenants in the retail district.
He suggested improved signage throughout the county, both pedestrian
and roadway signs.
As for the train that runs down Main Street in La Grange,
he said, The train is cool but once you seen it, youve seen
it, he said. Its not your brand.
Brooks liked the ideas of Oldham County promoting gardening and using
Crestwoods Yew Dell Gardens as the centerpiece of that campaign.
Of course, there are many other things to do once visitors arrive. But
the branding campaign is designed to get them here, and then generate
income for downtown merchants to keep the town alive.
If you cant help your local merchants, your town will die
and your historic buildings will deteriorate because building owners
wont put money into them.
He says the downtowns are the lifeblood of a community, adding that
If your locals dont hang out there, then you cant
expect visitors to hang out there. Brooks is currently writing
a book about todays communities losing their downtowns. We
are creating more ghost towns today than ever before, he contends.
He cites the popular trend of developers creating fake downtowns, such
as Downtown Disney in Orlando and Newport on the Levee in Northern Kentucky.
Oldham County Tourist Commission board president Shane Best said he
was encouraged by the ideas in the workshop, adding, I think this
is a great starting point. Now we have to get to work to see it through.
David Voegele, the unopposed Republican candidate for Oldham County
Judge-Executive, attended the workshop and afterward stood and said
he appreciated all the work that is being put into assessing the countys
assets and tourism potential. I believe we can get people together
on the same page to do what we need to do to raise the bar higher.
He cited various examples, such as a group that wants to start a Railroad
Club that could lead to the creation of a museum. He said the county
needs to work toward establishing a conference center. And he agreed
with Brooks suggestion that the Courthouse Square needs to be upgraded
to give it a wow experience for people who go there. He
said that hopefully by creating and marketing a brand for the county
that it would act as recruiting tool to attract a top quality hotel
or other attractions.
Brooks concluded, saying, In the end, its about the tax
base getting locals to spend more time and money here and attracting
people from other nearby cities to visit here.
For more information or to inquire about
the branding process, call Tourism Director Kim Buckler at (502) 222-0056
or email: director@TourOldhamCounty.com.
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