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Salt Lake ad agency to ‘discover’ Utah brand, lure tourists

‘Team W’ has a big budget to make the state stand out

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Skiing at Park City is among "draws" to Utah.

Skiing at Park City is among “draws” to Utah.

Ravell Call, Deseret Morning News

W Communications will embark on a "brand discovery" process Friday, trying to find the "emotional core of Utah" as it formulates the state's brand.

The Salt Lake-based ad agency recently won a state contract to brand and promote Utah. On Wednesday, its president, Mark Hurst, said the so-called "Team W" — consisting of Hurst, W Communications' local team, Utahn Gordon Bowen, M Booth & Associates of New York City and Carat Media — will work to determine what he called "the look of Utah," "the soul of Utah" and "the sound of Utah," all comprising the "emotional core of Utah."

"A brand is very much like the Supreme Court justice's definition of pornography. He says, 'I can't tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it,' " Hurst said during a meeting of the Utah Board of Tourism Development.

The group will examine research and talk to individuals and focus groups to get ideas as it creates, focuses and refines a brand to be unveiled in November in London. Hurst said marketing communications will be linked to a central theme or "big idea."

Hurst used a diamond amid cubic zirconia to demonstrate Utah's challenge in getting the word out to potential tourists about the state's charms.

"It occurred to us that there are 50 states who all think they are diamonds, and they have reasons to come to their state, and Utah has to compete with 50 states, a lot of other foreign countries, a lot of destinations and 14,000 impressions a day in advertising we're all subjected to, and our voice has to stand out," Hurst said.

"This is a diamond. We have a passion for the state, our agency, and we believe that that passion can be communicated and we can make Utah the diamond it is for all of us to see, and for all of the world to see."

The Utah Office of Tourism is armed with $10 million in branding and promotion funding this fiscal year, far above previous legislative allocations. Hurst said that with 10 times the previous budget comes 10 times the expectation.

Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. told the Economic Development Corp. of Utah that "we need a message that tells who we are . . . that is not anachronistic."

Before the new campaign is up and running, tourism officials will spend about $390,000 to advertise the state on National Public Radio; in skiing, travel and lifestyle magazines and the Ski Utah Winter Vacation Planner; and on the Internet.

E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com