The community branding effort is funded by a $49,000 federal grant written by former Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Adam Grinold, $52,000 in local matching funds, and a local in-kind match, for a total budget of $117,000 . With a portion of the funding, the chamber has hired Arnett Muldrow and Associates, a North Carolina-based firm that has also worked throughout Vermont. On Tuesday, Tripp Muldrow and Tee Coker met with valley business owners in a series of meetings, including an evening public meeting.
Muldrow said the effort would do more than pick a marketing name for the valley, it would also create tag lines and other “tools in the toolbox” that might be used in marketing. But he said finding a name that encompasses the region is a key element. “Take Stowe, for example. Stowe is Stowe is Stowe. There’s no debate about it. In Waitsfield and Warren, it’s more fluid – is it Sugarbush or Mad River Valley?”
Dover resident Judy LaFiura said a name should help to create a sense of unity in the valley. “I feel there’s too much division between the population here, there’s Mount Snow, and on the other side, West Dover. And East Dover, and Wilmington. I think we should be thought of as a valley rather than a division. When that happens, there’s going to be cohesiveness and progress.”
Meeting attendees discussed previous efforts to find a name suitable for marketing outside the region. Several people noted that the choice of “Mount Snow Valley” as a marketing tool has continued to be controversial. At the time, proponents of the name argued that Mount Snow was the most recognizable name associated with the area, and the name “Deerfield Valley” made most potential visitors think of Deerfield, MA. Some local residents, including some with Deerfield Valley roots that go back more than 200 years, objected to renaming the area after a business.
Deerhill Inn owner Ariane Burgess acknowledged that there’s still tension over the name. “It’s a subject that, even as a newcomer, I know has been a controversial subject for a long time. What’s tricky is the people this place belongs to and has belonged to for a long time. Personally, I call it the the valley.”
But Burgess said an umbrella name that sums up the valley was important to draw visitors. “We’re talking about people who don’t already come here,” she said. “We have to give them something to think about, there has to be a focus where we intersect with them. If we have a divided name, a multiplicity of names, it fractures the effort.”
Dover resident Charles Lafiura agreed, noting that before he moved to the valley, the whole area was “Mount Snow” to him. But he said that the valley was changing, and the marketing focus should change with it. “We now have an interesting challenge, and I think we probably have to come up with a different brand. I’m thinking of the economic impact of what’s happening at Haystack and The Hermitage. (Mount Snow and The Hermitage Club at Haystack) are basically in competition, and I think it would be a mistake to brand something ‘Mount Snow.’ We need to come up with an attractive name, but one that doesn’t promote one major economic development engine.”
“Absolutely, when I came here two years ago, ‘Mount Snow’ was how I described the area to other people,” said Laura Dobbin, of People’s Bank. But she said the name of the Hermitage Club at Haystack was earning recognition around the country. “You hear about it in the Keys, in Colorado, and it’s bringing in a lot more money.”
Muldrow suggested focusing on elements that are common to valley communities. “What is it that we have in common? What do we have to present to our various audiences?”
Burgess said it was easier for her to think about the things the valley doesn’t have. “We don’t have pollution, we don’t have stress, we don’t have ugliness, we don’t have traffic, we don’t have fast food joints. People who come here live with those things every day.”
Lafiura, noting that the valley was full of businesses and organizations with the words “Deerfield Valley” in their name, asked if it’s practical to create a new name “out of whole cloth.”
“Maybe it’s not in the name, but in other tools we might employ.” Muldrow recalled that Las Vegas committed a huge marketing blunder with a campaign presenting the gambling mecca as family friendly. “Their next campaign was ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.’ It killed the mistake and reinforced the image they knew was their strong suit.
“Vermont already has such a positive brand – you can go anywhere in the nation and say ‘Vermont’ and get a visceral positive reaction.”
But Muldrow said it was important not to place too much emphasis on one aspect of the valley in any marketing effort. “You don’t want to create a disconnect between the dynamism here and the bucolic image. You don’t want people to think they can’t start a business here.”
Muldrow and Coker also held brainstorming sessions on Wednesday, and will return to conduct brand identity workshops from Monday, June 30, to Wednesday, July 2, and brand implementation workshops on Wednesday, August 6, and Thursday, August 7.