Mountaineer Square North hearing to be continued in March
Before Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s vice president and chief marketing officer Ken Stone began a presentation on the resort’s finished branding study last Wednesday, he warned the Mt. Crested Butte Planning Commission that the presentation was a summary of six months of work. “There are a lot of slides,” he said.
On Wednesday, January 9 CBMR was scheduled to continue a public hearing on the latest plans for Mountaineer Square North for the sixth consecutive time.
At the start of the meeting, CBMR director of real estate and sales Michael Kraatz explained where the resort stood on its development plans.
“At the hearing on December 19, we told you we wanted to take a pause in the preliminary review process for Mountaineer Square North and reexamine our site plan. What prompted that was the completion of the branding study we started six months ago,” he said.
Ideas learned from the study, Kraatz said, will permeate all aspects of the resort, from architecture, to nametags, to one-on-one communication with customers.
Kraatz said the resort would not be presenting amended plans for the development that evening, and wanted to postpone the next public hearing until March 19 to spend more time incorporating elements of the branding study into the Mountaineer Square North plans. “We thought the best place for us to start is to review with you what our branding study is,” Kraatz said.
CBMR hired Scottsdale, Ariz.-based SHR Perceptual Management to assist in the study, and Stone began the presentation by explaining who the company is.
One of SHR’s crown achievements, Stone said, was the rebirth of the Volkswagen brand through the unique Beetle compact car. After two decades of plummeting sales, Volkswagen hired SHR in 1993 to come up with new ideas. Within the next seven years Volkswagen’s sales rose from 50,000 cars to 355,000.
In dealing with CBMR, like Volkswagen, Stone said SHR not only conducts the study, but they also consult on what the final design or product should be. “It’s not an ad agency,” Stone said. “They’re a boutique company that specializes in perceptual branding, and re-launching company brands.”
In addition to Volkswagen, and now CBMR, SHR Perceptual Management has also re-launched the brand images of Telluride Resort, Fairmont Hotels, PetSmart, Boeing, and Herman Miller furniture, among others.
Stone said SHR’s branding study process relies heavily on the visual perceptions of consumers. Out of SHR’s database of thousands of images of things like watches, furniture, and celebrities, study participants are asked to select the images they feel most accurately portray the company in question.
“If you take these perceptual images up to (a company’s) advertisements they always look very similar. They have the same colors, the same patterns and textures,” Stone said.
He said the effect is called sensory positioning, one of the tools used to define a company’s overall brand. There are many other elements of the study that are used to determine a brand, but Stone said the ultimate result is to come to a brand promise. “It’s not your tagline, and it’s not necessarily what you present verbally to people, but it’s your way of service, and how you look and feel and reach out to people,” Stone said. “We’re in the middle of rolling out the advertising that will have a signature feel to express this, but you should do that without a logo or a tag line.”
Other brand promises developed by SHR, often called mission statements or the corporate philosophy, include: “Extraordinary freedom from the ordinary,” for Telluride; “Turning moments into memories for our guests,” for Fairmont Hotels; and “On the road of life there are passengers and there are drivers. Drivers wanted,” for Volkswagen.
CBMR’s brand promise, as defined by SHR, is “Inspiring your passion for adventure.” However, there are many other brand elements that are used to determine the final brand promise. Elements identified for Crested Butte included a naturally exhilarating experience, a genuine connection with the area, and colorful expressive small town spirit.
“Does Beaver Creek have colorful, expressive, small town sprit? No, it’s a manufactured experience,” Stone said. Beaver Creek sells itself on rich lifestyles and glamour, Stone said, and what makes them successful is they deliver.
Stone said it is important for the resort to be able to live up to expectations in order to attract return customers. “Sixty-five percent of the people from Ski Free had never been here before. That’s similar to our regular customer (base). It means we’re getting a lot of new visitors, but may not be meeting their expectations,” Stone said.
He said within the month the resort would begin deploying a new advertising makeup to reflect the brand promise, and to more accurately reflect what people can expect when vacationing in Crested Butte.
After some quiet murmurs, Planning Commission chairman Dusty Demerson said it was agreed across the board that the study was well thought-out, but asked if a previous study by the Tourism Authority was considered.
Stone said the branding study started by considering the Tourism Authority’s study, and similar work on marketing the area in the past.
Mt. Crested Butte resident Jim Sharpe said he was impressed. “I’d like to say, ‘Wow—That’s probably one of the best presentations I’ve seen.’ It’s really refreshing to see this level of sophistication come to this area,” Sharpe said.
Planning Commission member Sara Morgan asked how different the resort’s plans would be when they come back. “Do we anticipate something dramatically different, considering all the public hearings we’ve had?” Morgan asked.
Mt. Crested Butte’s planning consultant Julie Anne Woods said most of the development’s details would remain as presented, such as building heights and densities.
“Those things are not intended to be changed—it’s more the character of the development they’re addressing. That’s really what sells you on the zoning in reality,” Woods said.
CBMR will be back before the Planning Commission with its amended Mountaineer Square North plans on Wednesday, March 19.