Marketing expert explains state’s new brand

In 2013, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership helped a local aviation company expand operations and cemented a new relationship with Site Selection Magazine, achievements that could bring hundreds of new jobs to the area, the economic partnership’s chairman said Thursday.

Calling Grand Junction “the next great city of the Rocky Mountain West,” Jay Seaton, partnership chairman and publisher of The Daily Sentinel, told a crowd of about 300 business and political leaders at Two Rivers Convention Center that the $8 million expansion of West Star Aviation earlier this year was the result of many public and private interests pulling together.

“Economic development is a team sport. West Star’s expansion is a perfect example. It took a coalition of interests all pulling in the same direction to get it done,” Seaton told diners at the partnership’s annual luncheon.

West Star, an aircraft maintenance business, pays about $100 million a year to 300 employees who have a $76 million impact on the local economy.

The partnership helped guide an expansion that could add another 150 jobs, said Kelly Flenniken, the group’s executive director, after the event.

As helpful as West Star’s expansion was to the economy, so to was the relationship Flenniken established with Adam Burns, managing editor of Site Selection Magazine.

Responding to a cold call letter from Flenniken, Burns brought his family to Grand Junction for a three-day vacation during the Grand Junction Off-Road mountain bike race over Labor Day weekend. Shortly after his return home, an article about the race featuring Grand Junction appeared in the influential magazine.

Site Selection provides expansion planning information to more than 44,000 readers, including corporate executives, site selection consultants and real estate professionals, the magazine’s website said.

“Now, not only do we have the initial impact of a very significant and lengthy article about the Grand Junction Off-Road – and there’s more stuff to come — we’ve got this great new relationship with a magazine that targets the exact demographic that we’ve been trying so hard to reach,” Flenniken said after the luncheon.

After Seaton and Flenniken reviewed the partnership’s 2013 accomplishments, Aaron Kennedy, Colorado’s first chief marketing officer, explained the process he launched in 2012 that resulted in the state’s selection of a new brand.

The brand features a green and white triangle known as the Peak and the phrase, “Colorado — It’s in our nature.”

The new trademark and slogan combine to form one of the foundations upon which Gov. John Hickenlooper plans to build a stronger state economy, Kennedy said.

Thousands of people took part in the process through social media and in interviews and surveys. Hundreds of companies, universities and community groups, many on the Western Slope, also participated. Youth ambassadors from every county in the state also took part, he said.

Kennedy said some people pointed to the Colorado state flag as a better, ready-made brand, but surveys conducted around the nation that compared the flag to the Peak proved otherwise.

More than 70 percent of those surveyed outside Colorado said the state’s license plate, from which the Peak borrows its design, best represents Colorado, he said.

The flag as a symbol of Colorado fell flat with hundreds of people who live outside the state, about 33 percent of whom said the bold, red C in the banner made them think of Chicago.

In comparison after comparison, the state flag was also considered significantly less appealing to Coloradans than the Peak — by a margin of more than 20 percent in every case, the brand council’s data showed.

While most of those interviewed or surveyed by Kennedy’s office preferred the Peak, others did not.

Kennedy said a group of destination marketing professionals in Telluride, for example, expressed concern Wednesday that their branding campaign would be supplanted by the state’s, but he reassured them it would not.

Kennedy addressed a similar concern expressed by Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca Thursday, but in a different way.

“It’s interesting. I don’t have a marketing background, so I rely on those who do,” said Acquafresca, a peach grower. “I’m from agriculture and, of course, we’ve had a state brand for agriculture for many years, ‘Colorado Proud.’ You’ve probably seen that. And I think for a lot of shippers, that’s important.”

Kennedy said the “Colorado Proud” brand would be retired by the end of 2014 in favor of the Peak and the phrase “Colorado grown” or “Colorado raised.”

Colorado Proud tested well within the state of Colorado, but not outside the state, he said.

“Nebraskans, Cornhuskers, you know, are not Colorado proud and they will never be,” Kennedy said.


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