Aspen too glitzy? 

Aspen is not as popular as it thought, according to its own advertising agency.

The PRACO agency did some "brand discovery" research for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association recently and, according to the Aspen Times, found that many young, affluent, active city folk are unlikely to visit the Colorado resort.

"You guys don’t own the Aspen brand," Meredith Vaughn, an account planning director with PRACO told the ACRA. "Your customers define the brand."

PRACO targeted affluent, active city residents who travel frequently as likely visitors to Aspen, but found many have a negative image of Aspen. The agency started its research with the assumption that the mental barriers among people who have not visited Aspen would be the belief that it is expensive, hard to get to and exclusive.

"It’s those things, but it’s much deeper than this," Vaughn told the ACRA board. "The dissuading hurdles are much higher than we thought."

PRACO interviewed 200 "sensation seekers" in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas and Miami. They were 25-44 years old and had taken three or more vacations in the last year. Half were married, all made at least $75,000 to $125,000 per household, and none had been to Aspen in the last five years.

They were also asked for their perceptions of a number of ski and beach resorts, including Whistler, Park City, Deer Valley, Sun Valley, the Hamptons, Napa Valley and Hawaii. Aspen scored low compared to other resorts as places that people both wanted to visit and were likely to visit.

The feedback included phrases such as "too snobbish," "overpriced" and "socialite skiing and shopping." There was mention of "the Aspen attitude," concerns about not having the clothes to wear to Aspen and, in general, being intimated by the idea of an Aspen winter vacation. There was also no strong sense of Aspen’s product offerings, Vaughn said.

PRACO’s next task is to try and better position Aspen in the market.

"We want to position Aspen as the catalyst for an ‘amplified self’ vacation experience," Vaughn said, after explaining that people want to feel like they’ve accomplished something on vacation and that they want to come away with a "sense of reward."

Complete vacation packages and less media coverage of celebrities in Aspen are two of the strategies.

The PRACO campaign will try to position Aspen as a social, inclusive and exciting place where anyone can fit in and you don’t have to dress formally or act too sophisticated.

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