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Having flirted with trying to expand its reputation as an entertainment center, Branson is returning to what put the Ozark Mountain community on the map-country music.Accompanying that re-emphasis is the hiring of a new ad agency and the intention to launch a branding campaign linking the Missouri attraction specifically to country music. The Branson Lakes Cham ber of Commerce Convention & Visitors Bureau in November moved its account to Paul Keye & Partners, Los Angeles, succeeding Bozell, Minneapolis.Bozell had been hired three years ago, when Branson's local marketing organization deci ded to try to lure larger numbers of younger people by broadening the area's appeal. But the strategy didn't generate the kinds of business increases that Branson expected.UNFULFILLED EXPECTATIONSNow Branson is trying to live up to its own unfulfilled expectations. Although the area's tourist business has increased, its actual growth rate has been around half the 10% Branson had projected.More that 5.6 million tourists visited Branson in 1993, the last year for which it took a head count. Branson now tracks growth by yearly increases in receipts from the tourism tax it collects at tourism-related venues.Also tied to that tax is Branson's ad budget, expected to be about $4 million in 1 997.For an entity accustomed to handling its marketing in-house, Branson now seems open to outside help to spark future growth. In addition to Keye, locally owned Destination Marketing Inc. was enlisted to develop Branson's marketi ng plan.COUNTRY `PERSONALITY'DMI President Marti Fischer said the next phase of a three-year marketing plan is the branding of Branson with a country music "personality.""We want [Keye] to build us a personality instead of devel oping a message," said Ms. Fischer. "We might outsource some other projects," like direct mail.Collateral pieces, such as the Branson Entertainer, a promotional newspaper developed by Bozell, are under review and probably won't return.
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