A clean approach to marketing this ski season

The ski industry landscape has been changing rapidly for many years.

Yet many resorts continue to market themselves mainly as places to ski, and mainly to skiers. Messages center on snow and conditions. It’s a workable strategy – as long as there’s plenty of snow.

The pandemic, because of its impacts on disposable income and consumer confidence, should dislodge resorts from antiquated thinking and propel them into a future where new ideas (and possibly new prosperity) are within reach.

Here are some ways to get ready for a different 20-21 season.

Positioning: Winter Playground

Millennials have already redefined the way people enjoy skiing, insisting on a set of experiences that don’t involve lessons (too awkward) and slopeside lodging (too expensive).

What they (and Gen Z) want is a retreat, a sanctuary, an environment that feels authentic and doesn’t demand or expect participation in one particular way.

Jiminy Peak and Cranmore (disclosure: both clients of ours) have been pursuing the position of a winter playground for years now, and Cranmore’s non-ski visitors have pulled even and sometimes outpace skier visits.

Targeting: Secondary & Tertiary markets

We think ski resorts in general can do a better job of looking beyond primary market feeders (aka the NYC and Boston DMAs), where mass media dollars are spent with questionable ROI.

It makes more sense to start looking at the outliers, niche markets that may be spared the brunt of the pandemic. Possible examples: Eastern CT, Cape Cod, Southern RI, and Harrisburg (PA).

Media mix: Digital & Social

The targeting and reporting capacities of digital marketing should make it rise even higher within the marketing mix for resorts.

Plus, the immediacy of digital delivery for such a weather-sensitive industry may finally result in the eclipse of commercial radio, print ads, and TV commercials; that money can be spent better elsewhere.

Social media marketing should look beyond cheesy inspiration galleries and focus on automation and content (see below). Greg Ballard’s work on social media usage provides a good analysis for context.

Content: Intelligence, Hope & Emotion

We remain convinced that ski resorts need to step up content marketing as they step down traditional advertising. The content itself needs to capture the mind and soul of the resort – a place that understands the consumer at an intellectual and emotional level, and offers insight and opinion rather than platitudes and happy talk.

Idea: Consider committing NOW to a blog schedule for next winter. You can identify 6 evergreen topics and have 6 blogs in the can by Labor Day, guaranteeing you a 1x/month frequency from October through March.

Establish a COVID safety code now

Consumers want to go where their experience comes first. No big news there. So start drafting a COVID-19 Safety Code now for next season. Don’t wait for the NSAA to draft it. Craft it now for your resort and be ready to share it with consumers.

If you’re looking for more good news about ski resort marketing, join us for a Zoom call and a beverage.