Friday, January 15, 2010

Snyder of Berlin Potato Chips

Back a few months I posted about some new potato chips I found at Costco. They were wonderful, but I put off chips for awhile.

While searching for a particular flavor of toothpaste for a picky daughter I stumbled upon an old favorite. Back in western PA growing up, I recall enjoying many bowls of Snyder chips. I moved south 20 years ago, never to see Snyder of Berlin potato chips again.
(Note: Snyder's of Hanover is not the same chip)

Just like the water drought here in Georgia, my chip drought ended last night. Rummaging through the aisles of a local discount store I stumbled upon snack food heaven - a full shelf of Snyder of Berlin chips. I bought two bags. The bag is a little different than I remember, but the chips are the same.

These chips taste as good now as they did back in the day. These are made from Pennsylvania potatoes. The chips are fairly thin, not really designed to hold a scoop of French onion dip. They were designed to be eaten without dip. I'm not going to go back to the Old Milwaukee 16 ouncers, but sticking with my Hoegaarden to wash down the chips.

Another childhood food recently emerged in the Atlanta market; Tastykake snacks. Tastykake snacks are probably the only good thing to come out of Philadelphia (eastern PA). Publix started carrying Tastykakes awhile back, but they are not selling single packs. They make you buy a six or eight pack. Butterscotch Krimpets were my favorite, with chocolate cupcakes second.

Now if we can get the deli at Publix to chip ham all will be well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

$100,000 Pyramid - Let's Play (with taxpayer money)

Looks like us Dunwoody taxpayers will be paying out $50,000 to an ad agency in an effort to create a city brand. The convention bureau will chip in $50K and the Chamber adds a token $5k.

The purpose/goal of this brand will be for "The City and its partners seek to cross-functionally market Dunwoody to drive business, relocation, tourism, and general perception, with consistent branding, while recognizing the individuality of each organization."I am usually 100% in favor of spending our city funds as close to home. But this RFP will be the exception. First off, I am opposed to the city funding this project. But, if council is going to spend the money they need to hire an outside firm (a firm outside the Atlanta metro area) with experience in branding. Having locals talking warm and fuzzy over a farmhouse and Perimeter Mall gets us no where.

Although Council will be urged to create yet another committee (so even more friends, wives, husbands of nieces, etc. can have a committee spot) I hope they do not. Don't look for me to be asked to serve on this committee. However, I am interested in a spot on the all-powerful ZBA, and would like to be on a parks committee once we own the parks.

The city's RFP informs potential bidders that Dunwoody needs a new brand so that more people will come here, and this brand needs to show outsiders that we are nice folks living in a nice place. Concept sounds good. Many big cities have 'branded' and 're-branded' with much success. New York City did lots of re-branding and saw a boost in tourism. Paris has a great brand image.

Let's play 'Name That City':

Match the motto with the city:

1. What Happens Here, Stays Here
2. The Sweetest Place on Earth
3. Get 'Er Done

Match the moniker with the city:

1. The Big Apple
2. Sin City
3. The Big Easy
4. Motor City
5. Beantown
6. Mistake on the Lake
7. The Big Gun
8. Spamtown

Before I give the answers, you were probably able to guess correct answers for the big cities, but not the small ones.

Name the city's motto, moniker, tag line, or anything official (branding) about the following:

1. Alpharetta
2. Sandy Springs
3. Milton
4. Roswell
5. Marietta
6. Dawson
7. Monticello

I bet most of you came up with nothing. You probably would recognize the logo for each city, that's about it. Does that mean those cities have failed in branding? Or does it mean they decided not to transfer taxpayer dollars to an ad firm?

The cities listed above all have a reputation, or call it a perceived image. Would $100,000 or $500,000 in branding drive more folks to visit Milton? How about Dawson? Probably not. Will $100,000 in branding bring more people to Dunwoody? Probably not.

What brings people to Dunwoody? First, let's talk about hotels.

Make no mistake about it, the biggest push for the branding is to try and fill as many beds as possible in Dunwoody. The Convention and Visitors Bureau of Dunwoody (I guess they are waiting for taxpayer funds to actually launch their web site) is heavy weighted with hotel folks. Look for most branding efforts to focus on hotels. It is hotel guests that provide the CVBD with its funding, so more guests equals more funding.

I agree that filling hotels brings in local dollars. I travel a good bit, and I spend a lot of money in those destinations (food, entertainment, etc). If someone has a hotel room in Dunwoody, they will eat here, take cabs (where are those London taxis?), shop, etc. But will a branding effort of Dunwoody (using $50,000 of my/your money) actually increase occupancy?

At the end of the year (2009) I needed one more night's stay to reach Gold level at Marriott. I waited until December 31st to book a room (I'm a big planner as you can see. I did not even go in to the room. I booked the room, paid for it, then picked up the keys and had dinner at Fuddrucker's by NorthPoint Mall. My kids wanted to go in an at least mess up the beds a little, but we kept it nice and tidy). No Marriott family hotels were available in Buckhead, Dunwoody, or Atlanta (nice downtown hotels). All the hotels were full with folks going to the Chick Fil A bowl in Atlanta. Perhaps a few rooms were booked for New Year's Eve partying. With no 'brand' out there, all the hotels were booked. Why? Location and an already-established reputation. I did find a Marriott affiliate in Alpharetta with a room. All the Alpharetta Marriott hotels had vacancies that night. Why? I think we'd all agree that Alpharetta is just as nice a place as Dunwoody (some might say its better there, some say it is better here, but I am going to call the two equal) .

Dunwoody is closer to Atlanta and has a couple of MARTA stops. All the branding in the world cannot change location. People will stay in Dunwoody for events in downtown Atlanta, but not Alpharetta. Folks I know that come to Atlanta for business try to stay as close to their destination. The destination is either the World Congress Center, a specific client or business, or some other smaller convention center. When the closest hotels are booked they expand their search.... to the north. Why not to the south? Reputation, I assume.

Folks use all sorts of search tools to select a hotel in a certain city. My favorite is Trip Advisor.

Aside from football games and other downtown Atlanta events what fills the beds in Dunwoody hotels? The local businesses, that's who. On page 6 of the RFP it says Dunwoody has "a significant collection of Fortune 500 companies". If you have a sales meeting at one of these companies where would you stay? You'd stay in Dunwoody. Visiting clients at Perimeter Summit ? Then you will likely stay at a Dunwoody hotel. Same goes for visitors to many of the businesses located here. As the local and national economy struggles, so do Dunwoody-based businesses. As these businesses struggle, so will the hotel vacancy rates at these hotels. Branding will not change that.

But is branding necessary to keep/attract these same businesses? Some will argue it is necessary. I'm not one of those. People have been selecting Dunwoody (the PCID mainly) for years before Dunwoody became an official city. I think 'Dunwoody' has a better ring to it with folks compared to 'DeKalb County', yet the PCID of DeKalb County did quite well before Dunwoody. It comes back to location.

The CVB can spend all they want to promote local hotels, that's the job they have. They collect money (from hotel guests) for this purpose. I see no need for the city to kick in 50 grand for their efforts.

Conventions & Events
Trade Shows and Conventions can be a hotelier's best friend. A well-attended trade show will fill up every hotel room close to a convention center. Problem is that Dunwoody does not have a convention center. I'm sure the folks at the CVB communicate with Housing specialists for trade shows held downtown.

Events such as the Dunwoody Beer Festival fill up a few rooms. The gig Arts Festival Lady is putting on may as well. Who knows - The FarmHouser's Lemonade Days may even help out the local hotels. Planning a few more events could help hotels. Branding? I do not think so.

Would a New Brand Bring New Businesses to Dunwoody?
New businesses (restaurants, spas, dry cleaners, food marts) open when there is a need (demand) for these products and services. A person looks at demographics, income, etc when selecting a location. They do not seek out the city with a great tag line.

What about corporations looking to move here? Are they lured in by a great moniker or logo? Or do they look at tax incentives, tax rates (thankfully council did not approve a big tax increase last month), work force, and housing? They also look at schools. No comment on DeKalb schools at this time.

Would a fancy new brand lure people to Dunwoody to live? Where would they live? Not much room around here for new single-family homes (the city brags in its RFP of our "affluent residential base"). And based on the rumblings at Comp Land Use Plan hearings many people do not want new apartments built. So why develop a new brand, trying in to lure new residents?

Should the city and its partners do nothing? No. I agree that some marketing may be needed to lure events to the city. But I think that is the role of the private sector. Want to sell homes in Dunwoody? Market to your prospective clients how great it is. Want people to shop at your mall? Tell folks about the wide variety of shops, ample parking (I still boycott Perimeter Mall due to its valet parking taking up all the prime spots up front. I shop at Costco and NorthPoint almost exclusively, except for the Internet), and the great Perimeter Mall Dunwoody Police Department. Want to sell hotel rooms? Work with local businesses to make sure you are getting all their visitors, offer shuttles from the airport and MARTA, and network with the big convention folks in Atlanta.

I'd like to see city council pour $50,000 worth of sidewalks before giving one dime to an ad agency. Feel the same way? Email your council member today.

I'm sure you folks in the advertising sector could email me a bunch of studies showing how a new brand will increase tax revenue and hotel occupancy rates. I've read community branding reports already - most were written by ad execs and those in the advertising community.

Attracting new residents in Dunwoody? As mentioned before, single-family homes dominate the area and not much land available to convert . Plus, the local schools are over-crowded.

Side Note: How about the City spend part of this $50,000 not to an ad agency but to an urban planning company and have them draw up their idea for redistricting the schools. Get an agreement with DeKalb Schools to agree to the independent redistricting plan.

Another issue I have moving forward with this branding effort is that we do not even have a Comprehensive Land Use Plan in place. A few major areas of Dunwoody may be redefined the next couple of years. Add in the sluggish economy, and I think, that if council is 100% convinced that we need to spend $100,000 ($50,000 out of city funds) on branding, then let's wait until the economy improves and Dunwoody has established its future land uses.

1. What Happens Here, Stays Here = Las Vegas
2. The Sweetest Place on Earth = Hershey, PA
3. Get 'Er Done = Havre, MT

1. The Big Apple = NYC
2. Sin City = Las Vegas
3. The Big Easy = New Orleans
4. Motor City = Detroit
5. Beantown = Boston
6. Mistake on the Lake = Cleveland
7. The Big Gun = Canon, GA
8. Spamtown = Austin, MN

My answer to city branding will cost $145.68 to start. I suggest Warren, the mayor, and council members buy a copy of a branding book for cities from Amazon. My $ total calls for new copies, not used.

Dunwoody is located between downtown Atlanta and the Alpharetta (GA 400) business district. We are 'Simply at the Top of the Middle' (the top refers to the North direction, being the 'top' of I-285 and also 'top' as being the best. Middle refers to our location compared to the PCID, between downtown and GA 400 business district to our north.

Save the $50,000 using my tag line. All I want in return is a sidewalk on Spalding, a Roundabout intersection for Spalading/Cham Dun Rd, and a radar gun for Al.