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Play On, Jackson County

fr boombrandAfter weeks of back-and-forth debate, deliberation and nail-biting, members of the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority have zeroed in on a slogan to help sell the area to potential visitors.


“Play On” beat out other top finalists “Base Camp for Life” and “Up to Good” last week to be crowned as Jackson County’s official tourism tagline.

The decision was reached by a consensus of board members. Even those who at first had  reservations came around in the end.

George Ware, owner of the Chalet Inn near Dillsboro, admitted he hated the slogan “Play On” at the onset of the selection process. But the momentum the phrase carried on the home stretch and the resounding logic in those two, simple, authoritative words swayed him in the end.

“Our point is to get tourists to come here on vacation, and what’s the opposite of work?” Ware said.

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He was also hopeful that the brand could be wielded to attract youth into the county. One of the popular aspects of the chosen phrase is its potential to speak to a wide range of vacationers and the full age spectrum — from little old ladies playing bridge at the High Hampton Inn to tweenie tubers on the Tuckasegee River.

Alex Bell, a fly fishing guide on the tourism board, said the versatility of the phrase was what spoke to him.

“It would be the easiest to tag onto whatever activity,” Bell said. “You could do it seasonally as well.”

The two-word line also passed the rigorous marketing litmus test of “Would it live well as a bumper sticker, and would people put it on their car?” said Art Webb, president of BCF, the Virginia-based company that developed the brand.

Webb and his staff came up with several slogans during a multi-month process, which were whittled down to the winner last week. This week, Webb will present several mock-advertisements and a short video clip demonstrating how the brand could be employed in an actual marketing scheme.

Because BCF’s $50,000 contract only covers the development of the brand, the board members will have to decide soon if they wish to enter into another contract with the company. The second phase would cover strategic deployment of an ad campaign using the brand.

“Base Camp for Life” was another brand highly regarded by authority board members entering into the final round of selections. It was also Webb’s preference. However public sentiment turned on the idea when it came to light that Bryson City had already declared itself “Base Camp for the Great Smokies.”

Webb said if that one were chosen it could cause a stir, although his concept of life’s base camp was a much different concept than an actual base camp for the Smokies.

“There are people that are going to chatter about using ‘Base Camp for Life,’” Webb said, as he prefaced the brand to board members.

But County Commissioner Doug Cody had a much more solid platform on which to plant his opposition to the notion of Jackson County being a base camp. It harkened back to a time when the county’s slogan was “In the middle of the most.” Both phrases, he contended, send the message that the county is a stopover destination on the way to somewhere else that’s better.

“The motto here in Jackson County at one time was ‘in the middle of the most,’” Cody said. “That’s sounds good on the surface, but a donut hole is in the middle of the most, too.”

The three semi-finalists that were cut from the list during previous elimination rounds were: “Eastern Mountain Time,” “Be Your Mountain Self,” and “Calm. Cool. Connected.”

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