Saturday July 28, 2012

LENOX -- "Lenoxology," the town’s hotly debated marketing slogan, could be for sale to the highest local bidder following two contentious Town Hall meetings.

The future of the branding concept which has triggered strong pro and con reactions, was hanging in the balance as the Select Board withdrew marketing from the mission of its appointed Marketing and Events Committee. The board urged the five-member group to focus on attracting new off-season events and expanding existing attractions.

Selectmen Channing Gibson and David Roche, who had met with Chamber of Commerce leaders, outlined the revised marching orders for the now-renamed Events Committee.

Although Gibson’s bullet-point presentation did not mention "Lenoxology," Select Board Chairman Kenneth Fowler suggested that the slogan isn’t necessarily down for the count.

But Eiran Gazit, owner of the Gateways Inn and a member of the Marketing and Events Committee, forcefully challenged the Select Board to clarify any future role for "Lenoxology."

"We own it, it’s ours, we can use it any way we want," Fowler responded. "Any business that wants to use ‘Lenoxology’ as a phrase, as a concept on its website, is free to do so."

But Gazit, speaking from the audience at Town Hall, hotly pursued the issue, demanding a clear decision from the Selectmen on whether the town would require town-supported event organizers to utilize the slogan.

He argued that some business owners have backed off from the concept because of what he termed a lack of clarity from town leaders. "It’s not fair for us that you’re not making a decision," he declared.

Selectman John McNinch responded by suggesting that "we’re not going forward with the ‘Lenoxology’ campaign. Whether I agree with that or not, it’s what the board has done."

At that point, the clearly frustrated Gazit asked the board to "sell it to me -- I would give you a buck, seriously."

"Eiran, the bottom line is that we own it, we’re not getting rid of it, we’re going to use it or not use it as we feel free, so that pretty much ends our discussion, and we can move on," McNinch said.

On Thursday, following a meeting of the Events Committee, Gazit resigned.

But Committee member Robert Romeo, a local Realtor, offered to purchase the "Lenoxology" brand for $4,000 on behalf of town businesses after Gibson suggested that "’Lenoxology’ doesn’t have to disappear, but how do we move forward in the best possible way. Can we muster support for continuing to develop the idea?"

Asked if "Lenoxology" is for sale to the highest bidder, Town Manager Gregory Federspiel quipped: "As businessmen, you know, everything is for sale." He urged any businesses interested "to come forward with a proposal."

After the session adjourned, Federspiel told The Eagle that "events are a type of marketing, the committee’s focus has changed, from the Board of Selectmen’s perspective, for now. They want the committee to focus on marketing events, not marketing the town generically. Let the board talk to marketing professionals to see what we might want to do as the next steps for marketing the town more generically."

The town manager described "Lenoxology" as "a marketing campaign. It ran its course, whether or not it has a phase two is still undetermined. But it had its run."

Asked about the potential sale of the slogan, Federspiel responded: "I think the board would entertain a proposal. If there’s a group of business owners who think they can take back the campaign and bring it to another phase, they’d listen to that."

At least $70,000 remains in town coffers for tourism events development and marketing, the town manager said. He also reported that the town did not win a competitive National Endowment for the Arts grant that would have injected up to $150,000 into local and regional tourism efforts.