Singing its praises

Mark Kruse of Westland, Mich., right, and his brother, Dale, of Fruita recently look down into Wedding Canyon from the Canyon Rim Trail in Colorado National Monument, which some say suffers from a branding problem..

Kruse family members, some from Fruita and some from Westland, Mich., recently enjoy Independence Monument and the valley below from a viewpoint on Colorado National Monument.

Colorado is pretty much the Roy G Biv of marketing, a spectrum of colors — Colorful Colorado! — but lacking in bright-light illumination likely to attract tourists and new businesses.

Aaron Kennedy, the state’s new marketing officer, prefers a musical analogy to the problem he’s hoping to solve, if having the nation’s most prominent mountain range, an eponymous river and top-of-mind metropolis can be described as a problem.

“What I’ve discovered is that there is a myriad of entities all professing certain attributes or benefits of Colorado, but they’re not on the same sheet of music,” Kennedy said. “So what is the tune? What is the Colorado voice?”

Kennedy, the founder of Noodles and Co., signed up to serve as Colorado’s marketing officer, and is working on a way to unify the Colorado message to the rest of the United States and the world.

It’s a way of branding the state in the minds of consumers that takes into account the state’s many attributes without diminishing some while extolling others.

Making Colorado National Monument a national park would fit well with broadening the state’s overall appeal, said Al White, director of the Colorado Tourism Office.

“Of course there is a tangible benefit to having a national park in Mesa County,” White said.

“Having yet another national park to promote would certainly add to the state’s appeal to travelers. Having said that, the Colorado National Monument is majestic and iconic and a big part of not only western 
Colorado but to all of the state.”

Bragging on the Colorado Rocky Mountains goes only so far, Kennedy said.

It overlooks such important parts of the economic and tourism dynamics as the state’s burgeoning wine industry, natural and organic foods, broad variety of energy sources, and so on.

Neighboring Utah’s catchphrase, “Greatest Snow on Earth,” has exactly that shortcoming, Kennedy said.

Just like “Don’t mess with Texas” and “Pure Michigan,” it “creates a picture in your mind,” Kennedy said.

But one of the things he learned after studying face-to-face interviews with about 400 people and additional research with about 2,000 more is that “we are more than just our mountains,” Kennedy said.

That seems particularly true in the case of western Colorado in general and Colorado National Monument in particular, he said.

“Those valleys, those juts of stone eons old, it’s like no other place,” he said.

Much as is the case with Colorado, the monument suffers from a branding problem, Kennedy said.

The name “creates expectations that may not be fulfilled in a way,” Kennedy said.

An effort to upgrade Colorado National Monument to a national park is under way.

Kennedy, in the meantime, is putting the finishing touches on the marketing package he’s crafting, one he hopes to unveil in about three weeks.

The package might have a slogan, but Kennedy isn’t committing himself.

He does, however, pepper conversations about the state as being “powered by nature,” which he noted could amply describe the canyon country south of Grand Junction as much as it could refer to other state attributes.

“Colorado National Monument is one of the most energizing of our parks,” he said.

The state, however, needs to be summed up in ways that appeal to tourism and economic development, he said.

“If we all had our energies behind a common tone and personality and character,” Kennedy said, “it would be easier for the world to hear us.”


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