How to Build a Regional Marketing Effort

AMA LuncheonLast week I listened to a panel discussion at the monthly Reno-Tahoe American Marketing Association luncheon about how Midtown, the Riverwalk district of Reno, and Downtown each market themselves independently and collaborate to build a better experience for both Reno locals and tourists alike. The discussion was timely, as both the New York Times recently published a piece about Reno in their travel section about Midtown, and the City also recently made #9 on Livability’s annual list of “most livable cities.”

In short, to market a region effectively there must first be a shared vision, followed by community buy-in, supported by larger and more grandiose business objectives through a framework of local districts, organizations, and agencies. This fits in nicely with the “IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge” report for Reno that was published by in April of 2013, containing recommendations for the economic development of the City.

To provide a little background: in 2012, IBM selected Reno as one of 100 cities to receive a $400,000 grant to help the City further its economic development efforts. While this report was not brought up at the AMA luncheon, many of the findings in the report align with what the panelists discussed. Specifically, the Reno report found that there were multiple economic development agencies and authorities representing different parts of the region, each with its own brand with its own slogan, resulting in fragmented economic development and a diluted message. Recommendations for the City’s overall marketing efforts included:

  • Be one strong voice
  • Brand the vision, not the slogan
  • Invest in people/community

After hearing from the panelists at the luncheon, I was excited to hear that things appear to be coming together as each district is working in conjunction with those recommendations. Worth mentioning, the movement has also been a uniting force in this regard, adding fuel to the fire for creating a shared vision that brings together the various districts, agencies, and organizations that promote the Reno-Tahoe region. Here’s what we learned at the luncheon:

MidTown District: Create a Shared Vision and Bolster Community Support 

The MidTown District’s approach to marketing was built on the shared vision of local business owners who wanted to see their specific section of town re-developed into a vibrant and energetic community. During the luncheon, City of Reno councilwoman Hillary Schieve talked about her efforts to help grow the MidTown district as the owner of a small business in the area. Once the vision was conceptualized, the MidTown Merchant’s Association came together to market the area as a more cohesive whole. Members of the MidTown Merchant’s Association include everyone from business owners and real estate developers, to local residents. By bringing together the various interests of the stakeholders, the MidTown District has been able to organically grow and flourish.

Today you can visit the MidTown web site at Or you can read feature stories that have been written about MidTown in both the July/August issue of Reno Magazine (“The New MidTown“) or the September/October 2012 issue of Nevada Magazine (“Beer and Clothing in Reno“).

Riverwalk District: Focus on Grassroots & Event Marketing  

The Riverwalk District’s approach to marketing is to build awareness through grassroots and event marketing. For example, the Riverwalk District web site provides a directory of businesses, a calendar of upcoming events, and information about the popular downtown Reno “Wine Walk” that brings businesses, tourists, locals and wine enthusiasts together each month. Another event known as “Dine the District” features the opportunity to sample culinary delights from the local restaurants downtown.  Because the district also attracts thousands of visitors each year due to larger events such as Artown and the Reno River Festival, placing an emphasis on event marketing for this region makes the most sense.

Similar to the efforts of the MidTown district, the Riverwalk District also places an emphasis on building support and awareness by placing a focus on working with the businesses inside of the district. According to their web site, members of the Riverwalk Merchants’ Association benefit from collective marketing efforts that promote the district and its businesses as a whole.

The district also has an active social media presence and a monthly newsletter that goes out to the community to keep people aware about their events.

Regional Alliance for Downtown (RAD): Provide a Strong Economic Foundation for Community Growth

Similar to MidTown’s approach, RAD places a focus on facilitating communications among downtown businesses, governmental agencies, and developers with the larger goal of uniting Downtown Reno stakeholders who have a vested interest in the ongoing redevelopment of Downtown.

Dick Bartholet of the University of Nevada, Reno Small Business Development Center spoke about the mission and efforts behind the Regional Alliance for Downtown, whose purpose is to “lead in the creation of a dynamic urban core as a key to regional prosperity.” While the focus of MidTown and the Riverwalk District is to bring awareness to each area, RAD focuses more on what it takes to keep things moving in a positive direction in terms of economic development downtown. For example, RAD has committees that focus on everything from cleanliness and safety, to economic influence, and public policy.

In summary, MidTown, Downtown, and the Riverwalk District each realize that they are also part of a larger effort to market Reno as a whole. All in all, the more aligned the vision, the more impressive the results.

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