The new countywide tourism board heard a two-hour presentation last week from branding consultants BCF, a Virginia based firm.
A branding message could help unify and cohesively market the county as a whole, according to Clifford Meads, chairman of the tourism authority and manager at High Hampton Inn in Cashiers.
Previously, the county had two tourism promotion arms, one representing the Cashiers area and the other representing the entire county. A tumultuous joining of the two entities has played out amid controversy during the past 16 months.
Now that the new tourism authority is finally formed, a countywide brand may be unifying gesture, Meads said.
“We have the opportunity to market the county as a county,” Meads said. “To come up with a brand, a theme, a message that echoes who we are collectively, as opposed to north and south.”
The tourism authority collects a 4 percent tax on overnight lodging to fund promotion campaigns to attract tourists to the county. Meads said having a brand could be the first step in understanding how to portray the county to outsiders. It could also serve as a guideline for businesses in the area to buy into and build off of with their own advertising campaigns and marketing.
“This is the foundation for the message throughout the county,” Meads said. “This is not a marketing plan; this is the benchmark to build a marketing plan off of.”
Meads pointed to other slogans such as “Virginia is For Lovers” and work that BCF has done for other locations such as Aspen, Colo., and Fredericksburg, Va.
The company is expected to submit a formal proposal to be engaged as a consulting firm at the authority’s upcoming meeting. If the board members vote to proceed, the branding process could last about four months. Meads was unsure as to how much the contract may cost.
Jackson County Commissioner Vickie Greene, who serves as a non-voting member on the authority board, said she sensed most of the members were very enthusiastic about the presentation made by BCF and would not be surprised if a decision were made at the board’s meeting this week. She said the contract with the group would include visitor surveys and visits around the county to aid in developing a theme or slogan.
“Everyone I heard speak was excited about the proposal laid out, concerning surveying efforts and to brand our area,” Greene said “This is moving pretty fast.”