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Does the Ski Industry & Resort Marketing Need EpicMix? (pt 1)

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I’m going to (try to) tackle a big, tough question today. It’s little wonder why EpicMix has won awards, received a ton of press coverage, and is growing at a phenominal rate. But with any “game-changer” we have to ask:

Is EpicMix something resorts should be desperate to duplicate at their mountains to “keep up” and “compete” or is this nothing more than a nifty novelty?

For now, i am going to save bringing the photo capabilities into the discussion for another day. Here’s how I’ll break it down by the questions I asked myself to really wrap my head around things:

  1. Marketing Benefits: What is EpicMix…really and what does it do for a resort?
  2. Experience Benefits: What does add to the skier’s experience?
  3. Costs to Implement: How hard would it be for another resort to duplicate it?
  4. Conclusions: Should other resorts be working to setup something similar at their resorts?

As I mentioned, those first two points – marketing and experience – also get to the question of what is EpicMix, REALLY?

EpicMix Is a Marketing Tool
EpicMix is a marketing tool. I’m not talking about the ability to add a “now with EpicMix” sticker to Vail Resort print ads, either. EpicMix takes something that is otherwise unquantifiable (a ski run) and gives you concrete proofs of the experience through stats (vert, lift rides, days, etc.) and pins that represent achievements. These bits of quantified story can then be easily shared with skiers and non-skiers alike and can even act as proof of your experiences. In essence, EpicMix breaks down your skiing experience into small pieces and uses integrated social sharing to spread these around the web.

Food for thought: With all this sharing happening through social networks, I think it asks a larger question about social media goals. Do the goals of the resorts social efforts parallel the effects of this type of social sharing?

So, to answer the first question in one sentence, I would say this: EpicMix is a factory that creates and shares unique, individual, branded skiing content on social networks.

EpicMix Is a Game
I’ve never seen it labeled as such, but when your system has points, levels, achievements, and a leaderboard, no matter how you slice-‘n-dice it, it’s a game. But games can be incredibly powerful marketing tools. Many of the most popular sites/apps use game mechanics: Klout (accomplishments, +K, etc.) , Foursquare (badges, mayors, followers, etc.), even eBay (PowerUser levels, etc.) to name a few. Humans are naturally competitive, we like to move up the ranks, and that is partly why EpicMix works.

One brilliant aspect of this game is the fact that stats are broken down into not just one or two, but seven categories: vertical feet, points, checkin-ins, total photos, total pins, total lifts, and days on the mountain (eight if you count “most visited resort”). Why would this matter? Listen carefully when two people get into an argument or debate, if one person gets beaten in one area, they quickly move to another topic that they may “win” at. Think of soccer, teams often play to a tie, but fans quickly resort to other stats (shots on goal, possession, etc.) to prove their team really “deserved” to win. With more stats, EpicMix gives its users multiple chances to compare, compete, and achieve. In other words, there are lots of fuel lines feeding the .

This also caters to the various ways people enjoy skiing. Some love to spend a couple runs on the mountain each morning (days), others bomb lines for vertical feet, and some prefer exploring and trying new things (pins) and mountains (checkins). I really don’t think people care that much about how many points/pins/vert they have, they care about how much they have compared to others – especially their friends.

So, to answer the second question in one sentence: “EpicMix is a game where skiers compete against others or just themselves by riding lifts, taking pictures, and spending days on the mountain.”

Isn’t Skiing Alone Enough for Our Guests?
I’ve asked myself that question over and over again. Why is the sport that allows us so much freedom not enough? Why aren’t people satisfied with skiing at Trollhaugen, why do they need the 5,000+ acres and ritzy lodges of Vail?

The conclusion I come to is that skiing is enough, but these things, these “add ons”, simply make the experience better. Such is the case with EpicMix. We live in a world of numbers, stats, and data. We time ourselves going to work and what MPG we get at each fill up. Multi-billion dollar sports industries are built around who has more points after X number of minutes for a season X games long. EpicMix is carrying this habit over to skiing and letting us apply stats and facts to our ski day in a unique, fun way.

EpicMix reminds me of what high-speed quads did a couple decades ago. Skiing was awesome before then, but fast lifts simply added something skiers didn’t realize they were missing. Try riding an old, riblet double chair and see how your patience holds up. Will the same thing happen with skiing without daily stats and leaderboards?

Tomorrow, Part 2…
That, from my eyes, is what EpicMix is: a content generating/sharing machine cleverly disguised as a game that is played by skiing that enhances the experience. Tomorrow I’ll examine how hard it would be to duplicate at your resort and, more importantly, if you should even worry about trying to.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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