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Branding
What Whistler’s gutsy video series means for their brand and the rest of the industry.

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GREGG
BLANCHARD
   

I was extremely excited for, but also very intrigued by, the new video series Whistler began teasing a couple months ago.

Here’s the trailer.

See what I mean?

Here’s a ski resort talking openly about their impact on climate change, the threats of technology, backcountry dangers, and the contraction of the ski industry’s most important metrics.

If you haven’t seen the full series, here it is.

Each starts with an attention grabbing quote like:

“Fourteen of the fifteen hottest years on record have occurred wince 2000.”

Or:

“75 percent of children in the UK spend less time outdoors than prison inmates.”

Or:

“The number of ski areas in the U.S. has dropped almost 20 percent in the last two decades.”

They teased something that would turn the industry’s head, and they delivered.

What This Means
So why would they do this and what does it mean for our industry?

Let me share a few thoughts on both.

Why?
These topics are not secrets. For some (climate change), awareness is high. For others (ski area closings), it’s limited to industry circles. In each case, however, awareness is growing. And with growth comes the risk of a tipping point where, in less time that it would take you to prepare for the wave, it’s upon you.

As a company, you never want your back against the wall like that. So I think the biggest reason they did this is because these conversations felt inevitable.

What’s smart about this approach is that it flips the script and lets them control the conversation. They get to put both the issue and reply in their preferred context and timing.

Why? (cont.)
But that only answer why some resort might do this, it doesn’t answer why Whistler did this.

And the reason, as far as I can tell, is that Whistler is already doing something in each of these areas (or at least they are trying/want to).

It’s one thing to say “look at all these problems in our sport” and it’s another to say, “look at all these problems in our sport that we’re working hard to solve.” The first is stupid, the second, well executed (like Whistler has done), is smart branding.

What?
So what does this mean for the industry?

The full-length videos from this series have a combined ~35,000 views. When you add in all the teasers you get to just shy of 200,000 views. Quite a few, but a drop in the bucket with viewed with society’s aggregate content consumption. In other words, it hasn’t reached that far yet and, given it’s purpose as a marketing series rather than a PSA, it probably won’t get much bigger than that barring a major news outlet running with it.

But even still, thousands upon thousands of skiers have seen one resort pull back the curtain and say, “Yeah, our sport is in trouble but Whistler is doing something about it.”

While the “what happens next” may not come this year or next year or even the year after that, what this does is start to create a small seed of expectation for ski resorts to not only be transparent (as folks love to say) about these issues, but also actively address them.

Brilliant
Personally, I think it’s brilliant. It’s risky, but the quality of the message and their response to these issues is perfect.

Which makes this a pretty powerful 1-2 punch of both branding but also social/corporate responsibility.

I’m very interested to see if any other resorts follow suit. Some resorts are already doing as much, if not more, in some of these areas than Whistler. with this door open and expectations now planted, next season’s content could get very interesting.


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