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RSCVA CEO discusses Reno’s new slogan and the state of tourism in Northern Nevada.
Photo: Rachid Dahnoun/Aurora Photos
The Biggest Little City in the World, America’s Adventure Place, A Little West of Center, Far From Expected…Reno has seen its fair share of nicknames and slogans—especially so in the last decade—and few of them have stuck.
As the years-long game of musical mottos shows, the region was facing a bit of an identity crisis when President and CEO Chris Baum took the helm of the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority at the start of 2012.
Since, Baum and his team have set out to create new marketing campaigns and a corresponding slogan that work for the Reno/Lake Tahoe area. We had a chance to sit down with Baum in January to talk about the RSCVA’s new direction, marketing campaigns, and slogan “All Seasons—1,000 Reasons.”
Q: Obviously you weren’t sold on Reno’s former slogan, “Far From Expected.” Where do you think it went wrong?
A: I was told about how things apparently were done in the past; I guess they went out into the community and had public forums and asked everybody’s opinion. Marketing is not a group activity. Marketing should be handled by a small group of experts. You will never get a good result if everybody gets to vote and put in their two cents.
Q: In December, the RSCVA unveiled the new campaign and slogan, “All Seasons—1,000 Reasons.” Has it been better received than its predecessors?
A: I’ve had strangers come up to me and say, “I really like the new slogan.” I’ve gone to church and had people say, “The new slogan is great.” My wife told me the other day, “I saw [so and so]today at the PTA meeting, and they wanted me to tell you that they think the new slogan is terrific.” Yes, we’ve gotten an awful lot of positive feedback.
What’s amazing is the way we came up with it and the fact that we didn’t spend $50,000 on focus groups. We just painted it on the side of our 1951 Willy’s four-wheel-drive [promotional] station wagon before a press conference and said nothing about the words on the side of that car.
That same day I started getting e-mails and calls from people saying they loved the new slogan. It was really the purest form of market research you can do: put something out in the world, don’t mention it, and see if anyone notices. Pictured: Chris Baum
Q: Ray Hagar posed the question “too generic or cool?” in regards to the new slogan in a Reno Gazette-Journal story earlier this year. Roger Brooks of Seattle’s Destination Development International is quoted in that story as calling the slogan generic. What do you say to such skepticism?
A: If people didn’t think the slogan was on target, I would have heard about it. If you have to go to Seattle to find a self-proclaimed consultant who says that he disagrees…I think he’s just criticizing other people’s work.
Q: In your view, what does “All Seasons—1,000 Reasons” say about the region? Are there, in fact, 1,000 reasons?
A: Even without gaming, we still have 1,000 reasons to come here. And it’s a legitimate claim. Most resort destinations just have a couple of things to offer. We offer a very long, diverse list of things you can’t do just anywhere. Dad can go to the National Automobile Museum; mom can go to the spa; sis can go hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, or kayaking; and her brother can go and hang out in clubs and play blackjack and poker. Everybody’s got something to do here, and that’s not true of a lot of resort destinations.
Q: In that RGJ story you say, “We don’t hang our hat on a slogan.” Tell us a little about the campaign itself and what you see it doing for Reno and the region.
A: In the context of marketing, the slogan is not the most important thing. The most important things are the messages we’re putting across and the misconceptions about this region we’re overcoming. We have a destination a lot of people know nothing about, but there are a lot of people in America that would enjoy what we have to offer, so long as we can get that message across. “All Seasons—1,000 Reasons” is about showing people that we’re a true all-seasons resort. Our marketing team is literally putting together a list of 1,000 things that you can do here, in all seasons and from all ends of the spectrum. The point is that this is a place where, as our marketing campaign states, you can “find your passion,” no matter what it is.
Q: Gaming hasn’t been mentioned as far as the new campaign and slogan go. What is the state of gaming in Reno-Sparks? How does that affect the region as it concerns attracting visitors?
A: We have all of these hotels that were built for a gaming model, and when gaming was at its peak, you didn’t have to worry about any other kind of business. People came because you couldn’t gamble in many other places, but you could gamble here in Reno. Now you can gamble almost everyplace in America, so you have to take all the other assets here and put those front and center.
Gaming still brings a lot of money, but it will never be as big [for Reno] as it used to be. But where else do you have access to skiing on these terrific mountains, or our incredible entertainment, spas, special events, museums, and outdoor recreation? Where else can you drive a dune buggy at 100 mph in the desert or attend Hot August Nights, Street Vibrations, the Nugget Rib Cook-Off, the National Championship Air Races, and The Great Reno Balloon Race? We have such incredible variety here.
Q: You’ve made attracting meetings and conventions to the region a top priority at the RSCVA. Why?
A: We’re not going to fill nine hotels with 800 to 2,000 rooms every night with just tourists. We have a market with a population of about 420,000 and more hotel rooms than cities 10 times that big. The entire state of Michigan has just one hotel with more than 1,000 rooms. About half of [the Reno area’s] business in the future has got to come from meetings and conventions. They tend to come during the week; tourists tend to come on the weekends. Put them together, and we can start getting an occupancy level that fills up this incredible capacity we have.
We’re focusing heavily on bringing conventions from companies in the West because there are direct flights to Reno from many western cities, and others are just a short drive. Washington D.C. is the headquarters for most American associations and our number-one market for conventions, so we’re putting a lot of emphasis there as well.
Q: Anything new and exciting in store for the Reno area for 2013?
A: Barrett-Jackson just announced that Reno Tahoe is going to be the newest destination for one of their big custom car and collector auctions during Hot August Nights. This is a big, big thing; we’re talking about 20-plus hours of live coverage on the Speed channel with Reno Tahoe logos everywhere, and filmed excursions to local attractions such as the National Automobile Museum. It’s an incredible development. It’s right for this destination.
Q: Between hunting down and experiencing all of those “1,000 Reasons” in and around Reno, have you had a chance to travel Nevada much outside of the city? If so, where?
A: I’ve done a little bit of travel [in the state] and have spent a lot of time around Lake Tahoe, the greater-Reno/Sparks area, Virginia City, and Carson City. I’ve traveled to Vegas for years.
But there are a lot of parts of the state that I’m looking forward to getting to. I’d like to get out [to Elko] and see the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Frankly, I’ve been working too hard in my first year. Hopefully in my second year I can take an occasional breather and get out and visit more of the state. I can’t wait!
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority
4001 S. Virginia St., Reno, NV 89502