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My two cents on the Park City trademark fiasco and the challenge of people-vs-brand debates.

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Many of you have asked my thoughts on the Park City trademark. I haven’t said much because, to be frank, I know as much about trademark law as I do about nuclear physics.

But the story continued, the questions continued, so here I am. Writing.

As far as I can tell at the crux of this tale is a lesson all resorts can learn from. It’s a lesson about reality, it’s a lesson about bias, and it’s a lesson about the dynamics of people and brands engaging one another.

Two Debates
One of the most interesting things about debates between people is how quickly logic goes out the window.

As bias escalate along with emotions, the two parties who started on opposing sides end up debating completely different issues. But because the original context remains, each side still thinks they’re fighting the original fight. It’s part of the reason debates can suddenly hit an abrupt end when each side’s arguments stray so far from the original topic they finalize realize what has happened.

This situation, however, puts a slightly different twist on this idea. For example, look at some of these tweets and signs from protesters:

And contrast it with a snippet from Bill Rock’s response.

“There is no history of our Company, or any of these “town-branded” resorts, trying to prevent other businesses from using the names of their towns descriptively or in their trade names for unrelated goods or services. It is very common that when someone files for a trademark, other businesses raise concerns and objections. And it is very common for businesses to work together to resolve those issues…Our Company has been and will remain open to working with any business who feels our application creates any issues for them.”

Here’s where it gets interesting.

People are people. They act on instinct. They act on bias. They act on gut. They act on emotion. Brands? They’re different. They act on numbers. They act on legal advice. They act on data. They act on best practices. They act on logic.

So Vail Resorts continued to address actual issues – potential or perceived conflicts with businesses in town – while the town’s fight hopped from emotional trigger to emotional trigger, searching for points that confirmed their original stance.

It’s why the points protesters were making:

  • “You don’t own this town!”
  • “You probably think this town is about you!”
  • “Park City existed long before you!”

Were all things VR would agree with.

See what I’m getting at?

One of the most interesting dynamics of modern day communications is how brands are people occupy the same space on the same digital channels. The massive, often-overlooked challenge is that these two parties communicate in completely opposite styles. The one by logic. The other by emotion.

Nobody Won
To me, that’s why Vail Resorts pulled their application.

It wasn’t because they were right or wrong, it was because the people they were debating had left logic behind and were fighting on raw emotion. Once that happened, it became a debate that Vail could never win.

The mob will surround another resort soon enough. When they do, remember who you’re up against and, more importantly, why they’re fighting.

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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