Sunday July 8, 2012

LENOX -- Although the streets of downtown Lenox are bustling with a surge of summer tourists, town-government leaders are looking ahead to the post-Labor Day slump as they review future marketing efforts.

"Lenoxology" as a town-branding slogan appears to be out the window, in part because of a lack of widespread local support. New York City marketing firm Bodden Hamilton’s 16-month contract with the town is not being renewed on a long-term basis following its expiration on June 30.

The focus now will be on extending the reach of existing events such as the Josh Billings RunAground, which is being loaned $2,500 by the town to enhance regional promotion with a goal of bringing in 500 teams with family members and friends for the Sept. 16 triathlon.

But Selectman David Roche told The Eagle that Bodden Hamilton could be used as consultants on a per-project basis. "We’re not severing our relationship with them," he said. "We’re just not proceeding with the old agreement. We’re still hoping that they’ll bring us events on a for-fee basis and we’re hoping if we need them for a particular project, that they’ll be available."

Bodden Hamilton or any other firm, such as Kevin Sprague’s Studio 2 in Lenox, can be hired by the town for a specific marketing purpose, with a fee of up to $4,999, without the requirement of a formal request for proposals to multiple bidders.

The future role of the town’s Marketing and Events Committee needs to be tweaked, according to Roche, who has been the Select Board’s liaison to the five-member group.

"I’m convinced their current mission needs to be changed," he said. Roche raised the possibility of two distinct groups -- an events committee and a marketing task force.

Select Board Chairman Ken Fowler said he wants to review all aspects of marketing and events planning -- "I wouldn’t commit to any one concept at this time," he said.

He credited Bodden Hamilton with bringing the Berkshire Cycling Classic to town in early May, an event described as a major success which is already committed to at least two more annual springtime competitions.

Roche also cited the New York firm’s "introduction" of social-media marketing to the town.

"We definitely made great progress in bringing in events that have added to the rooms and meals tax," Fowler commented. That tax produced $1.6 million in revenue for Lenox last year.

But he cautioned that those events have not benefited retailers.

"We seem to be failing on that particular piece," said Fowler. "I thought just having people walking through the streets would be good enough, but it hasn’t been working because most of the retailers have seen only a small bump, if any."

On the other hand, he noted, nearly all the town’s vacant storefronts have been filled. "We’ve proved we can bring people to town, but can we get them through the doors?" Fowler wondered.

The town still has about $65,000 in available economic-development funds, Roche said. He has proposed a plan that could grant successful existing events up-front, advance marketing funds to get the word out, to be repaid after the event.

As for "Lenoxology," Fowler pointed out that the town still owns the catchphrase, "but it doesn’t seem to me that it caught on in any kind of broad marketing way to bring people in because they’ve heard of ‘Lenoxology.’ "

He expressed doubt that the town would be willing to pump more money into supporting the concept.

"If it had caught on in a viral sense as was promised to us, we might be having a different conversation," Fow ler added.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 496-6247.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto.