For the past year, the RSCVA has been conducting research to best understand their target drive and fly markets (mostly Bay Area/Sacramento/etc for the drive markets, and southern California for the fly markets). They identified a couple of segments of those markets that made the most sense to target with a campaign – those who hadn’t been to the Reno/Sparks/Tahoe area before, and those who had been here before, but not for a while. Through their research, they discovered what we all pretty much already knew – these markets view the area as offering gambling exclusively. Astutely, the RSCVA recognizes that people will gamble once they’re here, but gambling alone is no longer enough to get them here.
For the past seven years (or so), the RSCVA has worked to position the Reno/Sparks/Tahoe area as “America’s Adventure Place.” While the area does offer a remarkable number of outdoor and indoor adventures, it was apparently too much of a disconnect for people to rip them away from visions of blackjack and divorce. Ultimately, it didn’t help the decline in visitors to the area for the past 11 years now.
The new brand positioning was described as “refreshingly offbeat.” It’s referring to the idea that the Reno/Sparks/Tahoe area is a little quirky, fun, unique and proudly unapologetic for being so. I think this brand positioning can work. When a small group of us were given a sneak peak at the positioning last week, I told Michael Thomas (Executive Director of Marketing) and Ellie Oppenheim (President/CEO) that I thought the positioning would resonate – it would just come down to execution. The positioning of being “refreshingly offbeat” is not untrue. I think we can all accept that this position accurately describes Reno/Sparks/Tahoe. And that’s what a brand needs to give it a fighting chance. It can’t be overly ambitious. It can’t be such a wide disconnect from what exists in people’s minds currently. A brand only exists in people’s hearts and minds. A brand is not a logo. A brand is not a tag line. A brand is composed of the images/thoughts/feelings that are conjured up in the hearts and minds of people when they interact with you/your brand. So, I applaud the RSCVA for understanding and really embracing the reality of one of the brand positions this area can really own. There are certainly others, but this is an absolutely attainable brand position that our region can own. But, again, it comes down to execution.
That being said, the RSCVA and their marketing partner (Mortar) presented some of the creative execution to the Board today to help them position Reno/Sparks/Tahoe as “refreshingly offbeat. Among the creative was a new logo for the area. Noticeably different than the previous logo, in that it graphically separates Reno and Tahoe. This was borne from research that the drive markets don’t buy in to the idea that Reno and Tahoe are one area. They view them as distinctly different. One of the people interviewed in RSCVA’s research said, “It’s not Reno-Tahoe any more than it’s SanFrancisco-Monterey.” Interestingly, the further you get away from Reno and Tahoe, the more people were apt to accept it as one region. In other words, folks in LosAngeles are cool with thinking of the area as Reno-Tahoe. So, the RSCVA didn’t want to abandon reference to Tahoe altogether, but needed to separate the two for the drive markets.
The new logo feels a bit retro for me, but I think it can grow on me. I don’t really love the “USA” part of the logo, though. I’m not sure why they felt that needed to be a part of the logo, but I’m hoping they had a good reason based in research.
Among the other creative execution revealed, was a few sample ads, and then the tag line of, “A Little West of Center.” Again, the tag line is not the brand, but it’s meant to serve as a memorable phrase that encompasses the brand positioning. I don’t adore the tag line, and the Board was pretty split on it, as well. In fact, the brand positioning was accepted by the Board, but they rejected the tag line, asking Mortar and the RSCVA to try again. Bummer. I’ve been in that position, where we excitedly present creative work to a Board, and some love it and others hate it. I’ll be interested to see what they come up with and how well the next round is received.
As I mentioned earlier, the success of this campaign will not be attributed to the logo and the tag line (the two things people put the most focus on), but rather the full execution of the brand campaign, which includes a number of integrated marketing communications components such as public relations, communication channel selection, engagement of locals (we ARE the brand in many ways), copywriting, using social media and word-of-mouth, and of course the infrastructure to come through on our brand promises of offering quirkiness and unique events. Stay tuned, folks. Oh, and visit Reno, Tahoe, USA : )