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The long road

John Seelmeyer

Economic development agencies have invested about $200,000 so far in the creation of a new business brand for northern Nevada.

But they caution that no one should expect quick results. Two or three years of methodical work may be required before researchers begin to see response across the country to “Greater Reno-Tahoe: Welcome to Can Do.”

The campaign will be rolled out in two phases this year.

The first phase focuses on residents and businesspeople in the eight-county region that stretches from Reno and Carson City to Fallon, Lovelock and Hawthorne.

Its goal: Get them thinking positively about the region’s benefits for businesses and newcomers and enlisting them to spread the word.

The second piece of the campaign will target businesses and professionals in specific but as-yet-unidentified markets across the country.

The $200,000 spent on the effort so far includes research, development of a brand identity and supporting materials by the advertising agency R&R Partners and the launch of the local campaign. It doesn’t include the costs of advertising outside the region.

Lorna Shepard of Red Dog Consulting, the Truckee firm that coordinated much of the brand-development initiative, says surveys that currently are under way will help establish a baseline for outsiders’ perceptions of northern Nevada.

She says those studies will be updated annually to track the effectiveness of the campaign, and she says patience is needed to see the effectiveness of a branding campaign.

“We may not see the needle move in the first two or three years,” Shepard says.

Tracking the effectiveness on local perceptions should be easier.

Shepard says that work will include traffic counts on a Web site, greaterrenotahoe.com, that supports the campaign. Researchers also will be interested in how widely the branding campaign materials are used.

The effort is spearheaded by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada and the Northern Nevada Development Authority. The 1,000 people at EDAWN’s annual luncheon last week were sent back to their offices with brand-building toolkits that include computer disks containing brand-related graphics as well as pre-stamped postcards to be sent to friends and business acquaintances to tell them of the joys of the region.

The need to develop a business-related brand identity for northern Nevada was spotlighted by AngelouEconomics, the Texas consulting firm that completed economic plans for both EDAWN and NNDA last year.

Folks outside the region don’t have a mental picture of “northern Nevada,” the consulting firm said.

That’s no small issue, says researcher Rebecca Eastland, a senior planner with LIFT Marketing, a firm that conducted some of the research underlying the new campaign.

Companies or professionals considering a relocation begin with rational fact-gathering cost of living, taxes and the like but their impressions of an area play a major role in their final decisions.

In the case of the Reno area, Eastland says, images reflect the popularity of TV shows such as “Reno 911” or visits to the downtown casino core.

On the other hand, the new campaign plays to the hunger of executives and young professionals alike for places with a strong sense of community and a balance of work and life, says Tim O’Brien, the creative director of R&R Partners.

And the campaign’s work among current residents is just as important as its message in other cities, he says.

“We have to raise the level of positive talk about this region,” O’Brien says.

As the campaign rolls out from the region into the rest of the nation this autumn, Shepard says it will target markets that combine:

* An unpleasant quality of life that might leave residents hungering for the lifestyles that are available in northern Nevada.

* A significant population of young professionals specifically, those in their late 20s who are beginning to establish families because they’re viewed as one of the economic engines for the region’s future.

* A pool of companies in the industries that EDAWN and NNDA have established as targets. Those targets include industries such as renewable energy and advanced manufacturing,

Because of the cost of advertising varies widely from one city to another, Shepard says the costs of the outside-of-market campaign are difficult to estimate until the target markets are identified.