Roger Marolt: This is the way, uh huh uh huh, we like it
A new marketing campaign is in order for Aspen-Snowmass
We like the smoke in the air, it keeps it cooler. What do you think? It wouldn’t be the worst marketing campaign ever undertaken here. We can’t ignore the new annual summer haze. We have to say something positive.
Remember the dot-com bust and the pounding our local economy took? It wasn’t a complete disaster, but things were off. It was quiet. The winter months were more stagnant, to say the least. We should have enjoyed it while it lasted, but we didn’t know any better.
Aspen Skiing Co. wanted to put a positive spin on things and thought it best that not anyone should see us sweat. They came up with an advertising campaign that expressed to the world that our lack of tourism was exactly what we aimed for. They proclaimed Aspen was “Uncrowded by design”.
Sure nobody was visiting us, but that’s the way we wanted it. This was our plan all along. We jacked our prices so high that merely rich people stay away to create a semi-private experience for the super wealthy. It may still be one of the most snobbish branding campaigns in the history of advertising.
It wasn’t very logical, either, if you stopped to think about it. If it truly had been an intentional strategy to make Aspen-Snowmass a quiet place for a few billionaires only, why would you advertise that fact or any facts at all about this place? Any advertising, save for maybe “Private property — Keep out — Violators will wash dishes,” seems to contradict the intention of keeping a place uncrowded.
That said, you have to give them credit for trying. Truth be admitted, it probably worked, if not to originally create Aspen’s luxury brand then to at least solidify the puffed-up, glamorous portrayal of it that we are all still paying for, whether we live here or are just visiting.
I do not bring this up to ridicule the marketing department of Skico 20 years after the fact. I mention it because I think we currently need a marketing campaign to appropriately smooth over what is happening in this valley today. It is insane! If we are still trying to be uncrowded by design, we have miserably failed and need to go back to the drawing board. We would surely already have done this if there were any workers available to do it.
Maybe simply doing the opposite of what we did back then would be the ticket. “Overcrowded by design” does have a certain ring to it. The only problem is that one of us has to be first to stand up and say that the madness going on now is exactly what we hoped for. Who’s going to do that? Not even the money glutton developers of Base Village are going to come out and say this was what their vision was.
Besides, claiming we designed this outcome only implies we anticipated that you may have to wait an hour or two for your pizza to be delivered because we are so busy. We need an altogether different catch-all slogan that describes, “Sorry we can’t find anyone to drive the delivery vehicle.”
I don’t think raising prices is the answer, either. In fact, it is easy to see that putting higher prices on everything around here hasn’t worked at all. Two years ago the average house in the area sold for a cool $6 million. Today it’s $10 million, at least it was the last time I checked a few minutes ago. It may be north of $12 million by now. We have become one of those weird product phenomenons that become more demanded the more expensive they get, even if the quality goes down. We have become the Chanel handbag of mountain resorts! (My apologies to Chanel — I am not suggesting your handbags have declined in quality. All I’m trying to express is that they were never worth what you charged for them to begin with.)
It’s almost like there is no choice as to what happens next — we are going to become one big city with Basalt and Carbondale as indistinguishable suburbs. Aspen and Snowmass Village will become country club communities (possibly gated) inside the city. I think it’s time to try Hunter Thompson’s idea about changing the name of Aspen to “Fat City.” Out here, we could become Gristle Village. Nobody would want to go to either of those places.
Roger Marolt knows we will get through this summer. He is not as confident about the next. Email him at email@example.com.
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