Branson’s Ross Summers named to American Bus Association Board of Directors

The American Bus Association (ABA) announced the election of Ross Summers, President/CEO of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, to their Board of Directors at their annual convention in Virginia Beach, Va. He will serve on the Board of Directors for a term of three years. The board is instrumental in providing leadership and direction for the members of ABA and for the motorcoach, tour, and travel industry.

“I am honored to represent Branson. It is truly reflective of the great relationship that the Branson business community has with the motorcoach industry in my being asked to serve on the ABA board of directors,” said Summers.

Each board member is an active participant in ABA”s legislative and regulatory efforts, in particular, monitoring and attending local and state legislative sessions of concern to motorcoach and transportation issues. Board members regularly correspond with local, state and national lawmakers on transportation, travel and tourism policy issues.

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Branson busts gas prices again

The Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB is responding to increasing gas prices by offering visitors to Branson a Gas Buster discount card, accepted at dozens of live shows, area attractions, lodging properties, retail shops and restaurants, worth a total of $50 off purchases, as well as a chance to win a grand prize getaway to Branson.

Between May 1 and Oct. 31, 2007, The Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB will give a Gas Buster discount card to anyone who presents a valid drivers’ license and a minimum of $40 in gas receipts incurred within 48 hours of their arrival at one of the Chamber’s two Welcome Centers, located at the intersections of U.S. Highway 65 and Missouri Highway 248, and at Hwy. 65 and Missouri Highway 160 in Branson. Gas Buster card holders are automatically entered to win the grand prize 4-day/3-night vacation for four to Branson, which will be awarded on October 31, 2007.

“By offering the Gas Buster discount card to our visitors, we are letting them know that we value their business. And Branson businesses are willing to work together to defray the cost of gas so our visitors can afford to do all the things they would like to do while they are here,” according to Ross Summers, president and CEO of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB. “Most of the visitors that vacation in Branson drive into town. The Gas Buster program will help bring more people, especially more of our regional neighbors coming in for a weekend getaway. Branson’s location, within a day’s drive of roughly one-third of our country’s population, makes us very accessible to families looking for theme parks, outdoor and lakes recreation, along with shopping and world-class entertainment.”

Gas Buster discount cards and the list of participating sponsors will only be issued from the two Chamber/CVB Welcome Centers. Business hours are 8am to 5pm, Mondays through Saturdays, and 10am to 4pm on Sundays. The Gas Buster promotion runs from May 1 through Oct. 31, 2007.

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Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB announces 2004 Community Award recipients

The Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau announced today the recipients of the 2004 community awards. The awards were presented at the Chamber’s annual Black Tie dinner and gala held February 25, 2005 at the Chateau on the Lake in Branson, MO.

Corporate sponsors for the evening were Akers & Arney Insurance, Ozark Mountain Bank, and Ozarks Family Vision Centre/Missouri Eye Institute. In addition to dinner and entertainment provided by The Thundering Red Rockets, the evening served as an opportunity to recognize those who have made a significant contribution to the Branson/Lakes area. The awards presented at the 2005 event were:

The Mary Award, named in honor of Mary Herschend and Mary Trimble, the first recipients, was presented to Steve Weyher, operator of Golden Corral restaurant, for his outstanding service to the community and its residents. Steve has been a long-time supporter of the area’s events for veterans, and community marketing programs such as Hot Winter Fun. In 2004, Steve made a significant contribution to the “Branson’s Fun for Everyone” grassroots campaign by rallying local support for the program’s efforts to encourage visitors to Branson. Steve regularly donates his company’s services, and his personal time and energies when called upon by the community.

The Pioneer Award was presented to Jim Thomas, owner of the Lodge of the Ozarks complex, in appreciation for many years of service and dedication to the Branson community. A man of vision, Jim brought legendary entertainers such as Roy Clark to Branson for the first time, and later encouraged some of them to build their own theaters, prompting national recognition for the area. Jim was instrumental in developing Branson as a year round destination by being the first to extend his theater’s performance season. He encouraged the growth of the first convention and group tour business to Branson, and has continually upgraded his Lodge complex to provide visitors with a first-class entertainment, lodging, dining and meeting experience.

The Ambassador Award was presented to The Vacation Channel for its exemplary ambassadorship for the Branson/Lakes area. The company’s commitment to providing first-rate programming and high-quality production services has made an outstanding impression on millions of visitors to the area. The owners and staff provide professional, thoughtful customer service to their clients, and they have been recognized numerous times within their industry for their award-winning work.

The Beautification Award was given to the Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks for its enhancement of the Branson/Lakes area. The state-of-the art, beautifully crafted facility and grounds provide a truly memorable sensory experience for visitors, residents and students. The new facility will provide C of O students with many wonderful learning experiences for generations to come.

The Community Spirit Award, created and sponsored by Myer Hotels, was presented to Bert Leman, owner of Artilla Cove Resort, for his outstanding efforts to promote the Indian Point and Branson/Lakes areas. He has served as the Indian Point Chamber president, as a Village Trustee, and member of the Indian Point Village Board of Public Works. His efforts to produce the Enchanted Forest Light Display at Indian Point have helped attract over 80,000 visitors to the area. Bert has been a hands-on participant on many Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce committees.

The event also included a special achievement award for Michael London, publisher of Branson’s Update Magazine, for his volunteer efforts to organize the grassroots “Branson’s Fun for Everyone” public relations campaign. Michael donated his time and resources to rally the community behind his comprehensive plan to tell visitors that Branson is a ‘fun’ place for all. Among other features, the campaign included community-wide special events and rallies, promotional materials for sponsors, a website, a trip give-away, a movie short, a theme song and the services of a PR firm that helped bring national media exposure to the Branson/Lakes Area.

Two special recognition awards were given to Branson/Lakes Area Chamber volunteers for their above and beyond service to their community and to the Chamber.

Greg Maycock, owner of Indian Point Resort, has demonstrated a tireless commitment to the area and the Chamber through his hands-on service. He has been instrumental in the development of the Chamber’s new website, the Vacation Guide and other publications, and even volunteered to help manage the marketing programs of the Chamber when the Marketing Vice President’s position was vacant. He also serves on the Chamber Board of Directors.

Lucy Epperson has a long-standing record of exemplary volunteer service as an ambassador for the Chamber. She regularly works as a welcome center volunteer and rarely misses a ribbon cutting. Lucy is a delightful role model for other community servants and a gracious and welcoming host to visitors.

The evening also included a video presentation of the “Branson Promise,” produced by The Vacation Channel and featuring dozens of area residents who donated their time in bringing to life the written statement describing the spirit of the area.

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Nationally-recognized creative agency hired for brand advertising campaign

With several qualified agencies vying for the opportunity to create a new advertising approach for the Branson/Lakes Area, leadership of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & CVB is announcing their choice for the 2005 branding and advertising campaign. The nationally-respected Kuhn & Wittenborn of Kansas City was selected based on their experience, their proven commitment to research-based campaigns and their overall industry track record.

“They understand where we’re going and what we’re trying to achieve,” said Ross Summers, president and CEO of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber & CVB. “That was clear during the selection process when they showed genuine interest in our branding campaign and expressed strong support for the branding study, saying it was a great foundation upon which to build a creative campaign. They also conducted their own focus groups and preliminary research to enhance their knowledge of our product.”

Selected by Chamber members and staff, Kuhn & Wittenborn (K & W) will now lead the second phase of the branding campaign initiative.* K & W’s client log includes work with Sprint, Microsoft and Crown Center Corporation, which owns Hallmark. Destination and tourism marketing is also key to their resume having headed up work with the Convention & Visitors Bureau of Greater Kansas City, the Kansas Speedway, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun, and the Kansas City Zoo.

“With the support from our community, our members and our city, we are confident that K & W will help us achieve our long-term goal of seeing first time visitation numbers increase,” said Summers.

K & W is the 2003 recipient of the American Business Ethics Award, recognizing the agency’s commitment to ethical practices in their everyday operation and philosophies.

Branding Workshops Offered
Chamber officials say while K & W works on creative concepts for 2005, area businesses can learn about incorporating branding strategies into their own marketing and advertising campaigns during community branding sessions presented by the Chamber’s vice president of marketing and public relations, Dan Lennon and brand marketing consultant, Linda Antus.

The free public sessions will help area businesses understand the Chamber’s recent branding research findings, interpret the branding study’s recommendations for targeting new visitors, and be updated on the Chamber’s brand advertising campaign.

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Branding agency to community: Changing perceptions key to growth

In their presentation to the Board of Aldermen Tuesday, October 26, 2004, the firm hired to conduct a branding study for the Branson/Tri-Lakes Area recommended the creation of a marketing campaign designed to change the perceptions of a targeted segment of non-visitors while reinforcing the attitudes of current visitors.

The Sterling Group, a successful national brand consulting firm, was selected to conduct the study by a branding task force established by the Marketing Advisory Council of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & CVB. The goal of the study was to determine ways to attract more first time visitors and increase visitation by Baby Boomers and their families. Sterling Group’s client list includes companies such as Nike, Pepsi, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Levi Strauss, Yahoo, Sony, Johnson & Johnson, the NBA, and Time Warner.

Austin McGhie, the president of the Sterling Group’s San Francisco office and head of the company’s strategy groups in San Francisco, New York, and London, in his presentation to the Board, focused on three major aspects of the branding research that led to his firm’s recommendation to develop marketing tactics that address what he called the ‘perception gap’ between Loyal Branson visitors and non-visitors.

Identifying the ‘Resistors’
“Our research discovered that there is a Resistor group of people, who look like Branson’s current Loyal customers in ways such as lifestyle and demographics, but they are under the misguided perception that they know what Branson offers and that it’s just NOT for them. The reality is that when test groups of Resistors actually experienced Branson, not only were they pleasantly surprised by their experience, they become self-professed ambassadors who become enthusiastic advocates for Branson.”

Establishing the Branson Brand
The new marketing approach, according to McGhie, should shake the foundation of the Resistors’ perceptions with surprising and unexpected aspects of the Branson brand.

McGhie described the Branson brand position as the sum total of the qualities that differentiate Branson from its competitors.

Branson is up close and personal. Branson brings together a broad and unexpected mix of world-class entertainment and recreation to create an exhilarating family experience.

“In other words,” McGhie said, “… entertainment you can touch, entertainment that touches you. That is the essence of what Branson’s true brand position is in the vacation destination market today.”

McGhie said that in order to establish accurate perceptions about the Branson brand in the minds of Resistors, marketing must focus on the unexpected elements of Branson, and must be delivered in a way that will pleasantly surprise Resistors and Loyal customers alike.

The Brand Promise
The Branson Brand promise is the character, personality and values of the Branson community, key elements that satisfy and endear Loyal visitors, according to McGhie.

“If you can overcome Resistors’ perceptions with a marketing strategy that entices them with surprising facts and begin to reposition the brand in their minds, the Branson Brand promise will keep them coming back,” McGhie said.

He went on to describe the branding study process that formed the basis for his group’s recommendations. The 5-month study consisted of group and individual focus sessions with Branson area business and community leaders; interviews with tourism and media industry experts; interviews with visitors in Branson; focus group sessions with non-visitors in Dallas, Little Rock and St. Louis; a first-time visitor trip to Branson for residents (‘Resistors’) in key markets; and a review of existing statistical visitor information.

Branson Alderman Dick Gass participated in two local focus groups that provided Sterling with insight and feedback during the study.

“I think Sterling has defined the Branson brand and given us well thought-out recommendations for how to proceed from here. One of the keys will be for everyone in the community to get on board so we can put our full force behind making this branding campaign a success,” Gass said.

The next step in the process, according to BLACC brand consultant Linda Antus is to issue a request for proposals from creative agencies to develop a campaign expression of the brand strategy, including a slogan and other deliverables, as well as research to test our proposition and creative positioning.

Then, Camelot Communications, our strategic media company, will assess our market opportunity and recommend the targeting of our 2005 marketing strategies to maximize the contact with the Resistors, by Season, according to Antus.

Dan Lennon, vice-president of marketing and public relations for the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB, said that once the Chamber has creative direction, it will be able to offer local businesses workshops on how to apply the marketing strategies to their individual businesses.

“The goal is to increase business for everyone associated with tourism in the Branson/Tri-Lakes Area,” Lennon said.

Branson Chamber president and CEO Ross Summers said he looks forward to implementing Sterling’s recommendations during the 2005 season and beyond.

“This is a long-term process for the Chamber and the community. We have a big job ahead of us, as does any destination or company that undergoes a branding campaign, but now we have the research-based evidence and soon we’ll have the creative direction we need to proceed with confidence and enthusiasm. The sky’s the limit for Branson,” he said.

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