The company, BCF, which carries the company tagline Boom your Brand, will develop a tourism marketing brand for the county. It will start the process in mid-February and hopefully finish in time to use the results for the upcoming tourist season.
“The wheels are beginning to turn right now,” said Clifford Meads, chair of the tourism authority and manager of High Hampton Inn in Cashiers. “One of the goals is to get them here, get the research done and to get the message out as quickly as possible without making any huge errors.”
Meads said he met a representative for the company at a regional tourism summit, and that’s what led Meads to invite the company to give a presentation before the board two weeks ago.
The contract states BCF will provide services such as consumer research, a “brand essence definition” and the development of a short video, print and online model the TDA should base its marketing on. The company will also do research on the county’s competitors.
Although the final vote on the contract was unanimous, some board members were hesitant to enter into a contract without hearing other proposals from other marketing consulting firms.
Debby Hattler, the chairwoman of the marketing sub-committee, asked whether it was right to pursue the contract without considering other proposals. The county’s finance director reassured her that contracts for professional services are not required to go through a competitive bidding process.
“It’s not that I was against it,” Hattler said. “I think that it’s a good company. I’ve done a lot of research and feel that we’ll all be working in the right direction.”
BCF specializes in branding for travel destinations and has done work for tourism hotspots like Aspen, Colo., and Naples, Fla. Although it didn’t invent it, in recent years the firm has been charged with managing Virginia’s “Virginia is for Lovers” campaign.
Despite the BCF’s impressive resume, the practice of taking the first proposal presented surprised Highlands Town Planner David Clabo. Clabo recently oversaw a branding campaign for the Macon County resort town, for which three proposals were solicited.
“I’m a little surprised they didn’t want to search a little more,” Clabo said. “But maybe they had a good recommendation or were familiar with their work.”
Highlands eventually settled on a company based out of Virginia as well for the price of just under $50,000. Highlands got a new town logo as well as a strategic plan for visitor signs around the town. The branding portion of the process was subcontracted out to another company from South Carolina for about $8,000, Clabo said.