Branding is so much more than a tagline

Branding is so much more than a tagline

These are my thoughts on the numerous postings and articles about the RSCVA’s new campaign. It was written before the presentation to the RSCVA Board on Sept. 24.

In the course of full disclosure, I personally have not been involved in the new branding initiative.  However, I did work with the RSCVA for close to eight years as part of promoting the area as America’s Adventure Place. Over the last few weeks, I’ve attended two presentations from the RSCVA team about the effort.  Here’s my two cents…take it for what it’s worth.

First the research is solid. 11,000 surveys say loud and clear that Reno is misunderstood. More research showed why people actually come here.  Surprise, they come here because we aren’t afraid to be who we are and for the same reasons we call it home.  Eleven years of declining visitation means our challenges started way before America’s Adventure Place campaign. But that’s not the issue here and the merits for or against that could be debated as well but as of today, that would be living in the past. 

The RSCVA started this process with an RFP–3 local firms and 3 out-of-market firms were selected to present. Mortar, the winning agency based in San Francisco, told our tourism decision makers things they didn’t want to hear but needed to. We needed someone from our primary visitor market to be straight with us. Even more importantly, they “are” our visitors residing in our primary drive market. As the owner of a PR firm, I’m saddened to hear so many people say that the RSCVA shouldn’t have gone out of market because of the talent here. True, we have exceptionally, talented individuals right in our backyard that are noted experts in their respective fields. But I’m also hazarding a guess that they have clients outside the Reno Tahoe area…I know we do.  And if they don’t, what’s stopping them? 

Basic RGBThe tagline hasn’t been announced by the RSCVA, but was instead leaked to the media and since then there’s been speculation on the merits of the entire campaign. To judge the success of the entire campaign by a tagline doesn’t even make sense.  RSCVA said they entered the process without ever thinking the tagline would change. But the results and feedback were pointing in a new direction. Seeing the interviews of individual’s perceptions of our area is at times funny but more so eye-opening and at the same time unbelievable. Where we went wrong doesn’t matter.  What does is how to get back on track. Comparing Reno against Vegas isn’t even a fair way to begin. Comparisons are always difficult. You end up comparing your greatest weakness with someone else’s strength. We needed to own our uniqueness, be honest with ourselves and, as I’ve heard the RSCVA say, quit apologizing for who we are.

With the current economic situation, there’s no better time than now to take an inward look at ourselves, and critically, so that we can be up and running when times are good.  Sitting on the sidelines, whining and waiting for the good times is too late.  RSCVA is funded by hotel room taxes and the dollars spent to date needs to be looked at as an investment. It’s a small price that could be easily recouped after 30 sold out lodging nights…give or take. Those sold out nights translate to more than just room tax dollars. It means food, drink, entertainment, gaming, gas, etc.  Talk about a positive impact. 

As far as all this speculation on if the tagline is good or bad and what the ads look like, it’s all premature. Branding is not a tagline, new logo or advertisement.  It’s so much more.  From the responses I’ve been reading to the articles and editorials, it’s all being done without the benefit of seeing the complete picture. It’s shiny object syndrome at its finest.    

Is this campaign it?  I don’t know and we won’t know for some time. But I’m willing to give it time and see where it leads. Personally, I’m ecstatic that the RSCVA is doing something instead of sitting around and waiting.  If they were, I’m sure they’d be criticized for playing it safe and not reacting.

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