Pick a brand and stick with it, coun­cil­lors told

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE - OLIVER LEWIS

Too many brands ruin the mes­sage, and Marl­bor­ough needs to re­sist the urge to add more if it wants to stay on point and at­tract vis­i­tors, a new re­port has found.

The coun­cil com­mis­sioned the ‘Des­ti­na­tion Mar­ket­ing Re­view Marl­bor­ough’ to make sure the re­gion was get­ting bang for its buck when it came to pro­mo­tion.

In­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant Richard Jef­fery found plenty to like about the re­gion and its po­ten­tial to at­tract vis­i­tors, how­ever he was crit­i­cal about the way it was be­ing branded.

The Marl­bor­ough District Coun­cil launched the ‘Marl­bor­ough Story’ mar­ket­ing plat­form in 2014, which pro­duced the ‘Only Marl­bor­ough’ slo­gan to re­place ‘Love Marl­bor­ough’.

At the same time, the re­gional tourism or­gan­i­sa­tion Des­ti­na­tion Marl­bor­ough pitched in with its own tagline ‘Marl­bor­ough – bril­liant ev­ery day’.

Jef­frey said mul­ti­ple brand mes­sages needed to be re­sisted in the fu­ture, and that ‘‘des­ti­na­tion brand­ing is cur­rently di­luted and when the tim­ing is right, brand con­sol­i­da­tion should be con­sid­ered’’.

Brand­ing and iden­tity is­sues have long plagued Marl­bor­ough, from calls to change town names, to the suc­ces­sion of slo­gans used to mar­ket the re­gion to vis­i­tors.

Last year a group of wine­mak­ers pro­posed chang­ing the name of Blenheim to ‘Marl­bor­ough City’, re­gard­less of the fact the pop­u­la­tion of the town fell short of the claim.

Pic­ton, fed up with be­ing known as the ‘gateway to the South’, sought to ditch the driv­ethrough con­no­ta­tions with a new des­ti­na­tion-ori­en­tated slo­gan ‘heart of the Sounds’. And just last month, plans were re­vealed to try and change the name of the south Marl­bor­ough town of Ward to ‘Flaxbourne’, as a homage to the his­tory of the area.

The re­view iden­ti­fied some of the bar­ri­ers pre­vent­ing growth in Marl­bor­ough, where vis­i­tor spend was grow­ing at a slower rate than the na­tional av­er­age. These in­cluded flight costs and ca­pac­ity, Cook Strait ferry cross­ings, a lack of ac­com­mo­da­tion close to ma­jor venues, the clo­sure of State High­way 1, and the con­cept of Marl­bor­ough as a gateway.

‘‘Ev­ery­one agrees we have two clear vis­i­tor brand of­fer­ings: ‘Wine Re­gion’ and ‘Marl­bor­ough Sounds’, which both pro­vide a great ‘play­ground’ for com­mer­cial providers and our vis­i­tors,’’ he said.

The re­port found that, gen­er­ally, feed­back about Des­ti­na­tion Marl­bor­ough was pos­i­tive. How­ever, it noted day-to-day re­la­tion­ships with small tourism op­er­a­tors in Pic­ton and the Marl­bor­ough Sounds had not al­way been easy.

‘‘If this area is to be ad­dressed, the ap­point­ment of a ‘Small Op­er­a­tors Trade Part­ner’ co­or­di­na­tor could be in­ves­ti­gated and might re­quire ad­di­tional fi­nan­cial re­source,’’ it said.

Jef­frey sug­gested there should be a col­lec­tive key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tor (KPI) for the the­atre, con­ven­tion cen­tre and Des­ti­na­tion Marl­bor­ough to win 10 bids a year for multi-day con­fer­ences of more than 100 del­e­gates.

Marl­bor­ough Mayor John Leggett said ‘‘we need to work through the de­tail of what such a ‘venues re­view’ might look like, but there is def­i­nitely a sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­nity there’’. ‘‘We do have an ex­cel­lent plat­form on which to build our fu­ture suc­cess as a vis­i­tor des­ti­na­tion,’’ Leggett said. Swimming deer stuns mus­sel farmer in the Sounds.

PHOTO: RICKY WIL­SON/FAIR­FAX NZ

The ‘Des­ti­na­tion Mar­ket­ing Re­view Marl­bor­ough’ re­port found the re­gion’s two clear­est brand of­fer­ings were be­ing a wine re­gion, and hav­ing the Marl­bor­ough Sounds.

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