To build on its history of successes and to remain a top leisure trip choice in a competitive environment, the Asheville CVB partnered with SMARInsights to evaluate its position in the marketplace.
Brand management is an important task made more complex with the increased speed of communication and the advent of social media, wherein sometimes unmanageable events become reputation-shaping news as they are happening. In order to manage its brand in this environment, a destination must be aware of the best position to occupy in consumers’ minds, if it is to maintain and adequately communicate that position.
The challenge was two-fold: A) understanding the position Asheville currently occupied in consumer perception, and B) identifying its ideal position. From this point of understanding, a road map could be drawn to get the CVB from point A to point B, from which point it could manage its brand by communicating the right message to the right consumers at the right time.
But identifying the best position for a tourism destination is equal parts art and science. Some drivers of visitor perception can be measured – factors such as past travel behavior and levels of familiarity with various places. Measuring attitudes is more challenging, and each destination must be considered in the context of its particular competitive environment. Furthermore, there are different kinds of trips – weekend getaways, family vacations, adventure trips, etc. – and different kinds of people choose destinations based on the kind of trip experience they want.
So the artistic element of brand and market analysis involves understanding a heavily nuanced set of decisions, some of which are based on objective facts but many of which are emotional, even sentimental. In our twenty-plus years of research experience in this industry, SMARInsights has developed a number of strategies to get inside the minds of travelers and to advise destinations on how to adopt and communicate an image that fits well and that supports increased visitation.Using these strategies, SMARInsights was able to assess Asheville's overall image from the perspective of current and potential visitors; identify key attitudes/perceptions about Asheville as a destination, including perceptions of its key strengths and weaknesses; and define the prevailing market position of the area in the context of consumer perceptions vis-à-vis those of key competitors, which are driven by imagery and selection criteria.
The research also investigated the competitive landscape and identified ways in which Asheville could differentiate and position itself as the preferred destination; identifyied key motivators – both rational (product) and emotional – to visitation of the area and its key competitors and how the CVB can prompt additional consideration and visitation. Further, SMARInsights recommended a sustainable brand and image strategy with accompanying measures for success.