Aspen Skiing’s Perry to politicians: Leave marketing to the pros |

Aspen Skiing’s Perry to politicians: Leave marketing to the pros

ASPEN ” Aspen Skiing Co. Senior Vice President David Perry has some simple advice for political candidates looking for the best way to spur Aspen’s economy ” hand marketing dollars over to the professionals “and get out of the way.”

Perry said he has been both amused and perturbed by the marketing debate that has unfolded as part of Aspen’s mayoral campaign. Incumbent Mick Ireland held a press conference Wednesday urging Aspen’s tourism industry to focus on affordability as its central marketing theme. Ireland wants to shed Aspen’s international image as a playground for the rich and famous.

Perry attended Ireland’s press conference and later said the mayor’s proposed approach to focus on “affordable Aspen” threatens to do more harm than good.

“It would be a big mistake to make that our main message,” Perry said. “That is a very slippery slope.”

That could be construed that Aspen is “going cheap” and trying to reinvent itself, he said. Aspen has strong return business, so that new type of message could alienate the affluent travelers already visiting.

In addition, nearly every other resort is adopting the “affordable” theme as a reaction to the recession. Perry doesn’t want to see Aspen fall in line.

“It’s following the pack, it’s following the herd,” he said.

Perry wields much influence over Aspen’s marketing programs. As the overseer of the Skico’s multimillion-dollar marketing campaign, he helps shape strategy on how marketing cooperatives that include the Skico, town of Snowmass Village and the lodging community spend their winter dollars. He has guided the Skico through regular growth during seven seasons with the company.

Marketing the affordable aspects of Aspen does have its place ” with smaller, target audiences, he said. Parts of the Skico’s campaign each ski season stress the lodging and activities available for travelers on a budget. The company expanded its package deals this season and will continue next winter. Aspen lets travelers know there are rooms available for $99 to $1,000 per night and lets them make choices.

Perry insisted that the Skico isn’t feeding the image that Aspen is for the rich and famous.

“We don’t market to rich people. We just don’t,” he said, noting Skico ads don’t use images of people in furs and diamonds or indulging themselves in hot tubs or using private jets.

The company’s marketing themes include family gatherings, an authentic ski town and the “Power of Four” with the four ski mountains. Nevertheless, Perry didn’t deny that Aspen’s image is one of wealth and exclusivity.

“That’s driven by factors that are bigger than a single marketer can control,” he said.

Arguing marketing directions is nothing new. Critics regularly contend that Aspen prices itself for the rich even if it doesn’t market directly to them. A good portion of the community raised hell, for example, when the Skico raised its single-day lift ticket price to $35 for the 1987-88 ski season and long-gone executives crowed that the resort was the best and might as well price itself accordingly.

Perry said he doesn’t mind scrutiny of marketing strategies, but he is also wary of strategies getting set in the “silly season” of political campaigns. Marketing and politics don’t mix, he said.

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