Western Kentucky University marketing students gave a presentation Tuesday night during the Cave City Chamber of Commerce meeting about the importance of developing a brand and what it can do for the town of Cave City.
The students’ help was enlisted by a 13-member committee representing a broad cross section of the community, who wanted to look at developing a brand to provide a focus for development and marketing.
The committee members, however, found they had very little time to devote to the project, so they decided to bring the students on board.
“These students can provide a more concentrated focus than we could [while] trying to juggle the rest of our careers,” said Sharon Tabor, executive director of the Cave City Convention Center.
The students explained to chamber members what branding is and how important it is for a town like Cave City, which depends on tourism as a form of industry, to have a brand.
“Branding is not a logo,” said Max Noonan, a WKU student. “A brand is the customer’s perception of the product.”
He used McDonalds’ restaurants as an example. While the golden arches are a logo for McDonalds, the brand for the company is the food it sells, he said.
“Brands are identified by the individual; how you want to convey yourself and how you want people to perceive you is going to be your brand,” he said, adding the brand should be welcoming, friendly and positive overall.
The Cave City Convention Center and Tourism Commission distributed surveys during the summer to residents and tourists, asking for their input.
Tourism commissioners wanted to know what direction residents wanted to see their town take in the future, and they wanted to know what visitors to the town liked and disliked, as well as what they would like to see Cave City offer.
The marketing students were given the surveys to use in developing a brand for Cave City.
Teira Backa, also a WKU student, reviewed the surveys and read some of the comments that were made. The comments were both positive and negative and described Cave City as being a town with a historic downtown area and had friendly people. The surveys also revealed that people viewed Cave City as a town with empty storefronts and offered nothing to really entice people to visit.
Melissa Ackerman, another WKU student, visited Cave City one weekend. She noticed downtown shops closed on both days and suggested merchants may want to consider staying open more on the weekends, as well as later in the day.
The students also talked to chamber members about a town similar in size to Cave City — Ocean Shores, Wash., which also relies on tourism as an industry, but at one point had become run down. The town’s officials developed a new marketing strategy, which helped turn the town around economically, increasing the revenue it received from tourism.
“We’ve all taken visits to Cave City. It broke every expectation we had,” said Matt Miles, also a WKU student. “I have no doubt that Cave City can be like Ocean Shores.”
Tabor said she thought the students did a great job with their presentation.
“I think it’s very important to Cave City’s future that we all get on the same wavelength and we’re all selling the same thing,” Tabor said. “You can package it many ways, but you still have to be providing the consumer with the same product. It is important that we deliver the product we are selling, and as a tourism commission, we’re selling the product.”
Mayor Dwayne Hatcher said he thought the students’ presentation was “super.”
“I think they have done a tremendous job and we certainly appreciate their efforts and we will certainly use their expertise as we move forward and look at lot of these things,” he said.
As for downtown shops closing early and on weekends, Hatcher said, “We are working on those types of things already.”
During the summer months, the Cave City Proud Committee hosted a Friday night concert series to bring people back to the downtown area after business hours. Several of the downtown shops stayed open during the concerts.
“Some of [the merchants] saw some positive effects from that,” he said. “We’ve got great merchants; great people downtown. Our whole approach is something we haven’t done in our area for a while, but I feel like more people are getting on board and we all have the same desire to see our town and community grow and prosper.”
The students are working on two concepts that they will present later in the year prior to their final exam week.
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