Mid-Season snow conditions by Thanksgiving meant one thing for me and a group of friends this past weekend: turkey in Eagle County. Taking a break between runs at the Dusty Boot (try the mac n’ cheese wedges) a couple of us were discussing all of the special events that ski resorts have planned throughout the season when someone said, “They’ll do anything to get people up here.”
Another friend argued that events like Snow Daze, The World’s Best Chocolate Cookie Competition and Ullr Fest aren’t just a reason to get people to the mountain, but more about providing an experience for the people who were already there. And while I think both opinions are correct, it’s a great argument about customer experience and how brands are truly developed.
Customer experience is really what drives any brand – the look and feel of your product and packaging, the experience customers have with employees, promotions and special events – all of these things. You can’t change it by merely updating your logo or changing your tagline. Your brand is what your customers think about you and your product or service. And while companies can create special events or other ideas to enhance the customer experience, many experiences are going to happen whether you calculated them or not.
The European alpine surroundings and “feel” in Vail (to use one example) are definitely part of its brand, but so are the amount of snow in China Bowl and the often-backed-up lift lines at Chairs 3 & 4. Some of it is controllable, some of it isn’t. That is exactly what I was impressed with over the weekend. The things I experienced that ski resorts can control – amenities, the friendliness and helpfulness of the ski lift staff, hot chocolate at the top of the gondola, the cleanliness of the village, even the crazy special events were top-notch.
My point is that customer experiences and brands can’t be fabricated. They are a result of how a company is run and its commitment to the overall brand experience, not what the company wants its customers to believe. If you want to modify or change your brand, you’ve got to know what your customers currently think about your company, and then make the fundamental changes within your organization to give customers the authentic brand experience you want them to have.
Which ski resort has the best brand? I have three or four favorites, and which one I chose all depends on what type of experience I’m looking for that particular day. It’s great to live in Colorado, isn’t it?