What is your inspiration for adventure?
In the November 16, 2007 New York Times, author Shyama Patel describes six different destination ski areas in terms of visual icons and unique anecdotes. The list included Crested Butte; Aspen; Zurs, Austria; Park City, Utah; Whistler, British Columbia and Verbier, Switzerland.
Patel describes Crested Butte as, “Telluride for die-hard powderheads—just as steep and picturesque, but without the fur coats and five-star spas.”
Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s vice president and chief marketing officer Ken Stone says Patel’s perception is surprisingly similar to that of many locals and business owners, surveyed as part of a branding study the resort recently finished.
Not only that—Patel’s way of describing the different mountains using pictures, celebrity figures, and trendy accessories is similar to the way the branding study was conducted.
Stone was hired three months ago, about three months into the branding study that was already under way. CBMR’s director of real estate and sales Michael Kraatz says Stone was ready to go right off the bat, having completed a nearly identical study for Telluride Mountain Resort four years ago.
Both studies placed a lot of emphasis on visual perceptions, Stone says. One of the tools used was to have interviewees select a wrist watch from a set of 50 that represented their perception of Crested Butte currently, as well as what wrist watch would best describe other mountains in the ski industry that are direct competitors of the resort.
The people interviewed in Crested Butte (which Stone says included more than a hundred local residents, business owners and visitors) selected a digital Casio watch with a leather/spandex band that screams 1980s, MacGyver ruggedness.
Four years ago, the people interviewed in Telluride picked the same watch to represent their home mountain, Stone says.
Stone says he doesn’t know what the people of Telluride would choose today, but the people of Crested Butte gave Telluride another Casio—one with a full leather band and an analog face, but still one you could find on the discount rack at Wal-Mart.
When asked to select a watch they want Crested Butte to become, the people voted on a mid-grade analog watch: rugged, not too expensive, with a unique design and some stainless steel for class.
They gave Beaver Creek an expensive whopper ringed with diamonds and with gold inlays that resemble a Mayan artifact more than a timepiece.
Interestingly enough, when asked to select a piece of furniture that best represented the resort, the people of Crested Butte voted on a hardwood and iron bench for both Crested Butte and Telluride. Aspen got a fancy, futuristic, over-the-top chair. Steamboat, your average sofa.
Other visual stimuli were used, like the celebrity that best defines the resort, the family portrait that best represents the resort, and the skier on the hill who looks like they are at home. Coupled with the pictures were groups of words and catch phrases that gave a verbal dimension to the images.
What does all this data translate into?
Stone says all the pictures and words help resort officials define what Crested Butte is about, in terms of truth, meaning, and distinctiveness—for both residents and people from outside.
The company that worked alongside CBMR to conduct the brand study is SHR Perceptual Management, the company that inspired Volkswagen to bring back the Beetle in 1994, with tremendous success.
According to the study, Crested Butte represents a naturally exhilarating challenge. It is dedicated to preservation. Crested Butte has a colorful, expressive, small town spirit. And visiting or living in Crested Butte means making genuine, life-fulfilling connections.
Put those together and you get the company’s final brand promise. Crested Butte “inspires your passion for adventure.”
Stone says “inspiring your passion for adventure” isn’t the new catchphrase designed to replace “It’s time to shine,” but he admits, “It’s definitely a good candidate.”
Branding, Stone says, isn’t just about the catch phrase or a new logo. “We don’t want to set expectations that this is just a tagline. Really branding is the core of what everything else radiates out from… It’s not as much about the ski area as it is the destination—Crested Butte as a place.”
Crested Butte is a special place, and people must come here for a reason Stone says. “Our arms are wide open—we don’t want to exclude anyone. But as far as a destination visitor, we really haven’t known who we want to talk to, so we talked to everyone. What we’re really finding is the people who are attracted here as visiting skiers are the same type of people who live and breath here. They are work hard, play hard people.”