Tough times inspire new ads for Aspen Skiing Co.
August 28, 2009
ASPEN – The tough economic times spurred the Aspen Skiing Co. to try something different with its advertising campaign this year.
The Skico will use killer shots of skiers and riders marching up Highland Bowl rather than environmental messages to inspire people to take a ski trip. The new ads strive to get across the idea that people need to “reward” themselves during the recession, said Skico Vice President of Marketing Jeanne Mackowski.
The Skico hired an outside advertising agency for the first time in a few seasons to help plot a campaign. The new firm, Factory Design Labs of Denver, suggested a lifestyle-oriented approach earlier this summer, but it was initially dismissed by Skico officials, Mackowski said. But while returning from a vacation to the Midwest in July, the proposal struck a chord with Mackowski. She said it was such a relief to return to the Roaring Fork Valley that she realized that an ad campaign focusing on the special characteristics of a ski trip to Aspen would be effective, so she revived the idea.
The new ads “are an invitation to come to Aspen-Snowmass,” she said.
The ads feature a split photograph: the view on the left portrays some aspect of everyday life. In contrast, the shot on the right features some thrilling aspect on the slopes at the four ski areas of Aspen and Snowmass.
Perhaps the most eye-catching of the new ads is one that features a photo of a guy at his desk on the left, and a fabulous shot on the right of skiers and riders marching up the ridge to get to Highland Bowl.
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The ads will start running this fall in publications such as Ski, Powder, Freeskier, Transworld Snowboarder and Outside. Ads weren’t purchased in high-end travel magazines. “Where we advertise is where we get skiers and snowboarders,” Mackowski said.
The Skico didn’t drop the “Save Snow” campaign that it focused on the last few seasons. That campaign tried to build awareness about climate change and inspire customers to take action. The company will continue to run special ads on climate change in campaigns with environmental partners, Mackowski said.
In addition, the Skico’s commitment to the environment will still be featured on 400,000 direct mail pieces that will be sent this winter. “It’s still a major marketing component for us,” Mackowski said.
The advertising campaign is just a small part of Skico’s overall marketing effort. Mackowski told a couple of hundred members of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association at an annual luncheon Thursday that the Skico will spend more on marketing this season than last season.
“Companies who ramp up their marketing efforts in a downturned economy are successful in the long run,” Mackowski said, using the example of cereal makers Post and Kellogg’s during the Great Depression. Post cut products and advertising and paid the price. Kellogg’s introduced cereals, doubled advertising and reaped rewards despite the tough times.
Mackowski wouldn’t disclose how much more the Skico will spend this season for competitive reasons.
The company’s various marketing efforts will concentrate on two concepts – Aspen’s great attributes and discounts.
“We want to show that we have strength in the marketplace,” Mackowski said. “We are the most incredible winter ski destination in the world, and we have to go out there with confidence and brand strength. That’s the first thing we’re going to do.
“The second thing we’re going to do is we’re going to show empathy,” Mackowski said. “We get it. Hey, we’re in a downturned economy.” That means offering fresh products rather than relying solely on approaches that worked in the past.
One of the biggest promotions is a package where kids ski and stay for free during March when adults book a vacation by Jan. 15. That deal drew applause from the audience.