We talk about brands a lot here in this blog. We talk about how a brand is much more than a logo. We believe a brand is how people think and feel about a destination — in other words, its reputation. We also say that to be successful a brand must be built upon a foundation of truth. Today, I have a great story about how all of this is true and how all of these concepts are intertwined to build a solid brand.
This morning I saw this very cool video about one of our branding clients. It's a professionally produced video done by West Virginia Tourism. We had no input at all, yet the overall message reflects precisely what our brand strategy is for Hardy County.
• Part of our strategy is to recognize the importance of the Lost River Valley as one of the top tourism drivers for the region. In time we hope people will hear Hardy County and think of the Lost River Valley and vice versa. Interestingly, this film crew came to the county and chose to focus on the Lost River Valley and Wardensville.
• Initially, there was some tension between the Lost River Valley and the Town of Wardensville, which in a strictly geographic sense is not located in the valley. Our strategy pointed out that as a marketable product, the Lost River Valley and the town both benefit if Wardensville is considered the gateway to the Lost River Valley. I believe that hearing that from an outsider has helped build cooperation between all parties.
• Among the many great comments heard in the video are things like "two hours from Washington there is this hidden, secret valley that is serene and peaceful" and "people can get away from the city, just hang out and re-charge." Those sentiments — consistent with what we heard during our research phase — beautifully summarize our ad campaign "Experience the Hardy Effect." We are positioning the county as the most relaxing place in West Virginia. There are many ways for visitors to fill their days with fun activities — hiking, paddling, shopping, dining, visiting historic sites — but even with a full agenda the overall vibe is one of relaxation and escaping from stress.
The video crew from West Virginia Tourism didn't come to town to promote our campaign and use our words. They arrived to tell the story as they saw it. The fact that their story so closely aligns with the brand strategy demonstrates that destination brands (ie; reputations) matter and that they work best when they are authentic and truthful. This video also shows that Hardy County in general, Wardensville, the Lost River Valley and the folks who live and work there stand ready to deliver on the brand promise.
Read some background information in our Case Study.