DOVER -- Groups and businesses around the Deerfield Valley have embarked upon a mission to come up with a unified brand.
"We dilute our collective selves by not having a cohesive brand," said former Executive Director of Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Adam Grinold, who is still managing the grant that will provide assistance with marketing and branding. He has since taken over as the executive director of the downtown organization Wilmington Works.
A public meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 3, at 6 p.m. at the Dover Town Hall in East Dover. It will be facilitated by Arnett Muldrow and Associates, a planning and branding firm hired by the chamber to assist with developing a marketing and branding study.
Seven stakeholder roundtable discussions are scheduled to gather input for the project. The discussions will take place at the Town Hall before the public meeting and on the following day. Anyone is welcome to join other groups even if it’s not their industry.
Those meetings will include a marketing group from 1:30 to 3 p.m.; a food and beverage group from 3 to 4:30 p.m.; and a town government and schools group from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
On June 4 at the White House Inn in Wilmington, there will be an activities, tourism and retail group meeting from 8 to 9:30 a.m.; a lodging, real estate, associations and services group meeting from 9:30 to 11 a.m.; and an arts and culture group meeting from 12 to 1:30 p.m.
The funding for the project was provided by a matching grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The chamber raised money locally, said Grinold, by soliciting the towns of Wilmington and Dover as well as Mount Snow, the Hermitage Club and the state of Vermont.
Altogether, the groups raised $60,000 and the USDA will provide $49,000. With in-kind donations, there will be $117,000 for the project.
Those groups will all have an opportunity to have members on the steering committee as stakeholders.
"But, what we consider stakeholders is anyone in the valley who puts food on their table through tourism," said Grinold, while mentioning businesses not directly involved in tourism are also included.
A survey was posted online at surveymonkey.com/msrbrandingmarketing. It has provided some of the research that Arnett Muldrow and Associates will discuss and was a way to get direct input from parties that will benefit from this project. Other research included looking at marketing and advertising materials that apply to businesses around the valley.
"What we are already seeing in this survey is that respondents do not believe we have a strong brand identity," said Grinold. "For instance, when someone is leaving here, where do they tell people they were? Mount Snow Valley? Skiing at Mount Snow? The town of Dover? Or the town of Wilmington?"
Representatives from Arnett Muldrow and Associates are familiar with the valley. They had visited the area before when they were hired by the downtown organization Wilmington Works to assist in recovery efforts after Tropical Storm Irene. It was funded through a Vermont Downtown Association grant.
With a southern Vermont marketing strategy already developed and agreed upon, Grinold said the valley-wide project will be coordinated along with that.
"We waited for that one to solidify itself. Now that that has been released and been out there, this brand will work within that," he added. "Whatever we decide to call ourselves, we will be able to align with the southern Vermont brand as well."
Developed with assistance from Atlas Media, that strategy included a plan to create a regional website with a "So Vermont" tagline and have tourism advertisements that encourage visitors to "Become a Vermonter for a weekend."
Being recently hired as the executive director of Wilmington Works, Grinold told the Reformer that all these efforts in marketing will be broken down into layers.
"Wilmington Works has its own brand but that doesn’t mean it needs to compete against the valley brand or the southern Vermont brand," he said. "Instead, it uses those other brands to strengthen itself."
If all the communities and groups work together, Grinold says, a message can be delivered a lot further and it can be a lot louder than a message put out by one group alone.
Using the same language to describe the valley will be a big factor in the upcoming events. There will be three site visits on June 3 and 4. A brand identity workshop will be held from June 30 to July 2.
"What this does is take our messaging and our brand and redefine it for today’s traveler. People are used to a certain level of sophistication now," concluded Grinold.
There are future plans to "turn to microgrants" that will assist individual businesses with branding efforts as well as plans to ensure that members of the arts community are involved in this project.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.