The most recent iteration of such an effort kicked off with a two-county tour by the new advertising agency hired to build and market, in the words of the local chamber of commerce, a “world-class economic development brand” and to “create a sustainable mechanism for collaborative marketing to tourists and recruitment efforts for specialized employees in Southern Vermont.”
All of that is quite ambitious, and if those goals are attained, the result could be exactly the economic shot in the arm southern Vermont is in need of. One thing we find refreshing about the stated goals is that they don’t just include increasing tourism, as so many other plans over the years have done. They include recruitment efforts, something previous development efforts have failed to pursue in a meaningful way.
We are hopeful that the programs will be sustainable and useful for developing not just the tourist-based economy, but the overall economies of Bennington and Windham counties. It’s not enough to just “lure” tourists here. Those of us who live and work here need to feel proud of where we are, and be invested not just in the marketing program but the efforts to improve the overall economy. We like being here, and tapping into that will bring others here as well.
By the way, we hear there has been some grumbling and carping over the choice of a Denver-based agency, Atlas Advertising. Some have said local marketing specialists should have been used, keeping the work and money in southern Vermont. While there is merit to that, we’re not sure that is the best solution this time around. Sometimes locals are too close to the work. Sometimes a fresh perspective is needed. Also, we haven’t seen the request for proposal to know exactly what was asked for, but we assume the folks who made the final decision were mindful of the impacts of choosing an out-of-state agency. We assume they went for the proposal that best fit the requirements. It appears Atlas has a strong track record working on exactly the sort of projects we need.
What will it take to make the program successful? Right now, input is needed. Those developing the plan need to know what’s important, what’s working, and what needs to be fixed.
What makes a brand unique and recognizable is a concentrated use of that brand identity, one that makes for instant recognition of that brand name.
Down the road, participation will be the key. It’s one thing to develop a brand. That’s easy. The hard part is getting buy-in from those who will benefit most from it: businesses around the region. That buy-in needs to have as broad a reach as possible.
Without participation, any effort to develop brand identity and improve the economy will end up like so many past efforts: discarded idea that came and went.