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Front Page » September 20, 2005 » Local News » Travel officials discuss branding approach in promoting t...
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Travel officials discuss branding approach in promoting tourism

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Rex Sacco demonstrates how ranchers mark cattle with a traditional branding iron. Today, branding also refers to the act of putting a mark or impression in people's minds about a product or place. At a meeting last Friday in Price, a state committee discussed developing a brand to promote tourism at locations across Utah.

For the majority of Carbon County residents, branding probably means one thing. People tend to think branding is when a cowboy sticks a red hot poker with a symbol against a cow's hide to permanently mark the animal.

In today's market place, branding has come to mean something different, yet the main purpose is to leave an impression.

"What branding does when we use it in advertising is to make a permanent mark on the consumers psyche," explained Mark Hurst from W Communications. The advertising firm was hired by the Utah Travel Council to create a lasting impression on people's minds to prompt tourists to visit the state.

"In many ways, we in the advertising business have been using it for over 200 years to get people to buy products. But as a formal tool, it has only been called branding since about 1992," added Hurst.

People have called their favorite products "brands" for years. But there was little realization what the process did to consumers.

Hurst was in Price last Friday along with various state tourism officials to get local ideas about branding Utah. The group had already visited nine cities in the state to get ideas and had four more to go when they made the presentation to about 25 people who came to the meeting at Price City Hall.

Utah already has an image outside of the state, around the nation and across the world. And despite the success of sports teams like the Utah Jazz and the University of Utah as well as the 2002 Winter Olympics, some of the previously negative connotations associated with the state remain. There are many who still believe the state is dry, both of liquor and coffee, and think most men in Utah have more than one wife.

But the branding of a place, an inset into people's minds, includes more than displacing negative thoughts about a locale, noted Hurst.

"People are looking for longer relationships, they are looking for permanence," said Hurst. "Brands are a promise, a measurable value of trust."

The reason for the branding meetings came on the heels of the Utah Legislature's approval of more than $10 million to promote the state.

Tourism officials said they wanted the money to count toward making a definite difference in the marketplace, not just using a shotgun approach by showing television viewers pretty pictures of Utah and encouraging people to come the state.

"What we need to do is get our arms around everything we have to offer in the state and then present it in some succinct way so that people will remember it," stated Leigh von der Esch, director of the Utah Office of Tourism, Film and Sport Development. "In years past our entire promotion budget for the state has been $900,000. That is the same amount Aspen (Colorado) had just to promote their summer events .alone. We have had a slingshot while everyone else has had a bazooka. Now at least we have more of a fighting chance to get into travelers minds."

To picture the situation. Hurst pointed out a number of brands that people just ask for without thinking. Such products include things like Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Lays Potato chips and even drinking milk.

"Think about how effective the "Got Milk" advertisements have been," stated Hurst. "They use a variety of people, places and situations, yet the basic message is still there."

Hurst explained that there are three kinds of brands, the mind share brand (as stated above), emotional brands ( something that ties a mind to a product because of emotional attachment) and icon brands/..

"An icon is what we are looking for to promote Utah," said Hurst. "We need to make Utah an icon."

Hurst gave some examples of icon brand products such as Nike (the check mark), Michelin Tires (the man made from tires) and Mickey Mouse (represents Disneyland or Disney products).

"These icons are universal," he said. "When people see them they know what they represent."

But how does a state go about developing an icon or a slogan that fits them and yet attaches itself to others who hear the advertising?

"That's what we are here to ask you to do," he told the group. "We need you to come up with the essence of our state."

Hurst had a list of slogans every state presently uses. A few of the slogans people in the group had heard, others. no one had ever seen before. Two of the most recognizable were "Virginia is for lovers" and "I love New York." Some in the audience also pointed out that Wyoming's "Camp Yagottago" advertisements were leaning toward the same kind of catchiness.

"Brand icons must be clear, they must be consistent and they must have a sustain ability so they will stick in peoples minds," said Hurst. "Th� fact is that we must get there first and then own that brand."

He pointed out that those who come second are seldom remembered. He used examples like the fact that almost everyone could say Neil Armstrong was the first to walk on the moon, but no one remembers who was second.

The group then worked with him on some slogans and brand ideas. Some of the slogan ideas included such sayings as diverse excitement, a raw experience, and Utah, there's more than one. While there were many thoughts voiced, Steve Christensen of Carbon County recreation gave everyone a laugh when he stated that those who come off white water rafting trips from the Green River, despite how dirty or tired they are, always have what he calls a permagrin on their faces.

"I think Utah's outdoors causes people to be emersed in the place and that creates 'permagrin," said Christensen.

While there were only a few people from the community in the audience, the input was good. But Hurst says if others in the area have ideas for branding the state he would be happy to hear from them.

He can be contacted at

The branding process will be wrapping up in a few weeks so he encouraged those with ideas to get in touch with him as soon as possible.

"We hope to be using the brand badge we come up with in advertising very soon," he concluded.

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