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Monday December 18, 2017
Posted: Apr 13, 2015

Making the Moosehead Lake Region known as ‘America’s Crown Jewel’

Travel Talk

Surprise! Moosehead is more than a lake. It’s a brand!

“What do we want to be known for?” That’s the excellent question that a Greenville group has been working to answer, with the help of Roger Brooks, an internationally-known community branding expert. Brooks presented the Moosehead Lake Region Branding Initiative in an exciting speech to a packed auditorium at the Greenville Consolidated School on Friday.

I was there and can tell you firsthan, that Roger Brooks gives a great speech. And some of the plan is just common sense: recognizing that Moosehead Lake is an extraordinary place. But I was astonished to discover that Greenville’s new brand will be “America’s Crown Jewel.” Astonished, that is, until Roger put up a series of stunning photographs and posters that will be used to market this remarkable place.

I thought to myself, “Put those posters up all over Bar Harbor, and you’ll get a flood of tourists headed to America’s Crown Jewel. I want to go there myself!”

When I was a kid, we journeyed every summer to the north end of Moosehead to stay at my aunt and uncle’s camp in Seboomook. I remember catching some remarkable landlocked salmon. There was also the May fishing trip when I woke to find the tent on top of my face. A blizzard had blown our tent down! Fortunately, we were able to move into the camp. Dad also hunted in nearby Shirley every fall, almost always returning with a deer, and one time, with a bear. Sixty five years later, I still have a jar of that bear oil.

While Greenville’s economy has declined, along with its population, and its prospects seemed dim, I have a feeling the good people that are still hanging on there are going to embrace their new brand and swiftly move down this new trail to economic prosperity. If you’d been there, I guarantee you’d have left that auditorium confident that Greenville’s future is more than bright.

And the plan isn’t just about attracting tourists. It’s about bringing young families here, building businesses and lives, and sustaining the community long into the future.

I encourage you to listen to Roger’s speech. You can watch a short highlights video here. But you should really watch the full video here.

Plan highlights

I took 10 pages of notes as Roger presented the plan and I’ll be writing more about this sometime soon. Here are a few things that stood out for me.

Roger said a brand is not about a logo or slogan. It’s the art of differentiation. “Everyone has snowmobiling and fishing. You must be clearly or significantly different… Brand is a perception and a promise to deliver it.” I thought, yes, that’s something Linda and I have learned over the last four years of writing our “Travelin Maine(rs)” column, published every Thursday in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. It’s all about expectations, and if you are in the tourism business, you better be able to meet the expectations of your guests.

Roger listed four important things for tourists: 1) Visual clues – what does your town look like as tourists drive into town? 2) Local people’s attitudes. Better be welcoming! 3) Word of mouth – very important in helping people make their vacation choices. 4) Publicity and social media.

I loved it when Roger reported the following facts. You can’t do branding by public consent. You can’t let local politics kill your brand. You build a brand on feasibility, not local sentiment, and public relations and advertising. The killers of any branding initiative, he said, are local politics, lack of champions, and lack of money both private and public. He warned us to avoid CAVERS: Citizens Against Virtually Everything. Boy, do I know some of them!

“We are going to put Moosehead Lake on the map as a terrific place to live, raise a family, own a business, and visit,” he said.

Some of his numbers were surprising. For example, the goal is to attract just 300 people a day to the Moosehead Lake region. Roger noted that 5,400 residents live within 25 miles of Greenville. “Get them to hang out here,” he exclaimed. And he pointed out that 80,600 year-round and seasonal people live within 50 miles. “Day trippers,” he called them. Better yet, there are 650,000 residents with 100 miles. Suddenly, getting 300 people a day to visit Moosehead Lake seems doable.

And the fact that the people of the region are enthusiastic and united about this plan tells us a lot: 1,428 people responded to a survey by the Branding Initiative Committee. Roger said that was the highest per capita response to any of his surveys over his 28 years in the business. Impressive!

Greenville Today

Roger didn’t ignore the sad state of affairs in America’s Crown Jewel.

For example, he noted that class sizes in the local school have declined from 57 to just seven, during the years the people on the Branding Initiative Committee have lived in Greenville. And he didn’t hesitate to point out the obvious: “You need to differentiate Moosehead Lake from the other 502 Maine communities – and others in New England… You need a year-round sustainable economy,” he said. “Mills aren’t coming back.” And that’s the harsh truth that has yet to be recognized in some rural Maine towns, especially Millinocket, just north of Greenville.

And he didn’t hide the fact that Greenville could take another path. “There are more ghost towns in America than ever before,” he said. Something to think about. A good motivator, for sure.

The Future

A brand evokes emotion, “Wow! I want to go there!” A successful brand is built on product, not on marketing.

“Never roll out the brand without the product to deliver it,” said Roger, very good advice indeed. So how is Greenville going to create that product? I’ll tell you that in my next Travel Talk column.

Mount Kineo in Moosehead Lake, which has steep cliffs rising 800-feet above the lake.
Mount Kineo in Moosehead Lake, which has steep cliffs rising 800-feet above the lake.

 

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