Marketing Reno’s First Non-Gaming, Non-Smoking, Pet-Friendly Hotel

How do you create demand and excitement for a project that’s never been done before?

CommRow is Reno’s first urban adventure destination, and the very first project of its kind in the U.S. The property is a hybrid non-gaming, non-smoking, pet friendly hotel concept in the heart of Downtown Reno among a variety of casinos that contains several bars, restaurants, and of course the world’s tallest outdoor climbing wall (though this part has not been heavily emphasized due to the developer’s stance that the wall should be known for its technicality rather than its height.) From conceptualization to opening, the marketing team faced an extremely short timeline to define and develop its strategy, which included the promotion of 15 separate brands, producing the respective marketing collateral, and overseeing the property’s grand opening event on October 1, 2011.

Last week Larry DeVincenzi of SmartBrand, LLC—the man behind the branding effort—spoke to the Reno Tahoe American Marketing Association to talk more about the process. A short teaser video about the project is available here:

The project all began when DRW Trading Group provided the funding to purchase the former Fitzgerald’s Casino, and developer Fernando Leal of L3 Development became involved (following the successful conversion of the former Golden Phoenix into the Montage Condominiums.) The original plan had been to convert the ailing property into a Lucky Strike hotel, but once the economy took a tumble, plans for the property were re-aligned to better fit the realities of a new economy. Today CommRow is a juxtaposition of all things initially envisioned for the property amended to fit the current state of affairs.

From the perspective of marketing, conceptual plans for the project became available in December of 2010. Then from January to February, focus groups, product design, and permits became the emphasis while the branding strategy was developed. On May 15th, the City of Reno finalized approval of the permit.  Comprehensive construction took place between June and September, just in time for the grand opening on October 1st. Below is a video overview of the grand opening:

In researching a target market for this concept, it was decided to focus on the LOHAS segment (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability), college students (the University of Nevada, Reno located approximately one mile away), locals, and loyal visitors seeking new attractions. Resulting from the research came the development of the CommRow logo (“Meet. Eat. Play. Stay.”) as well as the web site, which serves as a hub for all interactions related to the brand and emphasizes upcoming events, purchasing memberships, and utilizing the location as an option for meetings and events.

Meanwhile, the “Reno’s Looking Up” advertising campaign was flushed out, which included photo shoots, signage, TV spots, radio spots, and the designing of special offers. Social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter were built up to accommodate the dissemination of the messaging. (For an overview of the marketing collateral please click here to access a copy of the Reno Tahoe AMA luncheon presentation.) To hear more from Larry in his own words, below is a video interview the Reno Tahoe AMA put together:

Recently, CommRow shut down its first floor for three weeks to make adjustments to better serve customers. According to CommRow’s PR person, Natasha Bourlin, “It’s going to be renovated, we have heard the public’s thoughts and ideas and we are going to put many of them in action.” With that being said, if there’s one thing that stands out thus far in terms of the marketing strategy, it’s that the concept has been truly flexible. From its inception the developer was flexible in not only creating a product that fit in with the needs of its environment, but has continued to be open to adaptation as necessary. Listening to your customers and giving them what they want is an integral part of any successful marketing strategy in an era where business growth is not only built on a solid foundation of relationships, but on real-time, two-way communication.

Now it’s your turn: what do you think CommRow has done well? Is there anything you would have positioned differently? What would you emphasize in the future?

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