Marketing Aspen in a down market |

Marketing Aspen in a down market

It’s hard to know how to market Aspen to potential visitors around the world. Over the years, the Aspen Skiing Co. and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association have tried myriad strategies, and none have either elevated Aspen far above its competitors or dragged it down from its lofty perch among the finest mountain towns on the continent.

Still, especially at a time when skier visits are down and consumers are hanging on to every penny, we think it’s appropriate to consider all options and reach out to as many potential customers as possible.

Last week, on the heels of a City Council decision to spend an additional $200,000 marketing Aspen, Mayor Mick Ireland proposed a new “affordable Aspen” message to attract more middle-income people. To counter Aspen’s glitzy image, Ireland ” who is currently running for reelection ” wants to spread the word that, in fact, our town is “inclusive, welcoming and affordable.”

There were mixed reactions to Ireland’s idea, and the Skico’s David Perry rightly pointed out that a political campaign is not the best environment in which to craft a sound marketing strategy.

However, we welcome a fresh discussion about Aspen’s image, and how our resort community presents itself to the world. As a major contributor to Aspen’s marketing efforts, the city certainly deserves a say in the way all those marketing dollars are spent. And now is an ideal time to reconsider exactly what Aspen wants to say to all those potential guests out there.

Certainly it would be unwise to cheapen the Aspen brand with too much discounting, but we also believe there are packages and incentives that can be used to reach cost-conscious customers, and Aspen/Snowmass demonstrated this winter an ability to put attractive deals together. Even the super-wealthy are looking for good deals in this economy.

We don’t think Ireland was suggesting a 180-degree turn in Aspen’s marketing plans; rather, he seemed to propose a quasi-political strategy of broadening Aspen’s base and appealing to new people. This doesn’t mean abandoning longtime, loyal and well-heeled customers; it means trying to attract some newbies as well.

It’s not either-or, it’s both-and.

And that’s all right with us, especially as Aspen reaches out for summertime visitors who tend to arrive in cars and spend their time and money differently than winter skiers and snowboarders.

If ever there was a time to consider a few new ideas, even from some who are not marketing professionals, then now is that time.

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