Q & A from the May issue of the Mammoth Real Estate Times
Q: We read in the papers about a major effort to Re-“Brand” Mammoth. There seems to a lot of meetings and discussion going on, but no real substance coming out of it all. What’s your take on all of this and how might it affect the real estate market?
A: As part of the new ownership and “new” direction of Mammoth, serious “branding” consultants and professionals have been hired to come up with a new marketing strategy or “brand” for Mammoth. This project is now being referred to as “the Ark” and all of us in Mammoth will be joining in two-by-two. The Madison Avenue experts have descended to figure out what we haven’t been able to figure out the last 40 years. Obviously, the answer isn’t obvious. But whatever the answer is, it is sure to bring happiness and prosperity to everyone who touches Mammoth. And of course, higher real estate values.
Many months ago I suggested that the Ski Area and Town work together on a unified brand. Surprisingly, they seem to be headed in that direction. It’s not that I’m so smart, it just seems that every other resort area seems to be branded that way, so why should Mammoth be so different? Or maybe I’m just tired of explaining to people the difference between Mammoth and Mammoth Lakes. (“Where is the mammoth lake?”) The attempted collaboration of branding the two entities is admirable, and it may or may not work. But at least the Mountain can say they tried. There is a very long history to all of this and some of it rivals the difference between the North and South, or many other modern day conflicts.
Frankly, the Mountain only really cares about people who buy winter lift tickets. Golfing and mountain bike parks and wellness are all wonderful things, but…get serious. Now I can hear the usual rhetoric about summer and off-season business, but in the late 70’s and the very early 80’s this community thrived (and real estate values were higher than in Vail and Aspen) and it was all based on skiing (sorry snowboarders, you hadn’t arrived yet). After the Town incorporated in the mid-80’s, we made substantial gains in rounding out the economy. But 20 years later, right-here and right-now, we are seeing the real world impacts of a down season for the Ski Area. Those of us who have settled down and made Mammoth our home or second-home all love the seasons and the year round recreation and all the events, but our bread is buttered by winter lift ticket buyers. So isn’t that what the brand should focus on? But that certainly is not for me to decide.
And shouldn’t this brand focus on something that is unique to us? We don’t have “champagne powder” and we don’t have a real western town atmosphere. And we can’t tout our wonderful, sophisticated culture or highs levels of personal service, although those are nice things to aspire to. We do have a replicated, dysfunctional faux Village. (That’ll get ‘em!) But we do have a vast, surrounding, pristine, publicly owned natural environment with an endless array of incredible features. Samuel Clemens liked it. And amidst all of this there are a few recreational opportunities. John Muir thought so. And there are some good visuals. Ansel Adams spent decades recording them. And the climate is pretty nice too. Just ask Howard.
I’ve always thought the buzz of Mammoth should exude the southern California lifestyle. Think California girls, sunny beaches, and the laidback way of life. It is unique to Mammoth. No other ski resort in the world is connected to it like Mammoth. It has international appeal. It is where most of us came from and where most of our visitors come from. The essence of “Wave Rave” catches it. The creative genius of Steve Klassen came up with that branding before most of his present customers were even born. Maybe we all need to go over to Steve’s house for a productive branding session.
I’m not sure how the new brand will affect real estate. It’s still all about fundamentals–location, demographics, interest rates, etc. Maybe the brand: “Mammoth–Overbuilt by God, and soon by man.” Or maybe take a page from Barry Sternlicht’s book and just call it “M”.
One thing I don’t understand is the whole penny loafer thing. Now I don’t have a foot fetish, but the kind of shoes a person wears tells you plenty. It seems lately that lots of penny loafer types have been hired to tell us how to market to penny loafer types. Is Mammoth turning into a penny loafer town? I can’t remember ever seeing Dave McCoy wearing penny loafers. In fact, I don’t think I knew what a penny loafer was until Intrawest really got going here. What’s next, gold chains? By the way, does 80/50 have a shoe shine boy? Once again, it seems like we are looking for something that has already found us.
Stay tuned. The new branding should be great entertainment. As for the affect on real estate, I’m not sure. We’ve experienced some of the slickest marketing and micro-branding (Same Powder, New Chill?) possible in the last ten years. The way I see it, we’ve returned to solid fundamentals here in the real estate business. Maybe our new brand should do the same.