The venerable Puyallup Fair is enjoying its 113th run from Sept. 6 through 22 under a new name that was five years in the making: The Washington State Fair.
In the face of declining attendance, the Fair board of directors had two choices: downsize the brand or reposition it for growth. After five years of discussion and research, it chose the latter path, with the goal of broadening the appeal of the Fair, both demographically and geographically, so that it became relevant to a larger number of people.
The event-driven branding strategy of the past had some positive results, with 56% of metro-area households saying they had attended the Fair in the past five years. But people weren’t coming as frequently as they had before.
And the King County percentage of total attendance has declined, as Pierce County accounted for 50% of total attendance in 2011, a shift related to distance and traffic, according to a study by GMA Research.
Clearly, current advertising and promotional strategies alone were not going to drive growth and would, in fact, lower profitability as it became necessary to spend more heavily on advertising and discounts to achieve about the same attendance.
The ideal is that the Fair, over the next five years, will become a celebration of life in Washington—the place for Washingtonians to gather and celebrate.
Thus, the primary reasons to attend the Fair each year will fundamentally change from exclusively self-gratification/entertainment to also wanting to share in the celebration of the richness of Washington State:
- Take pride it its history, industries, environment and people.
- Celebrate life—personal joy, exuberance and wholesome fun.
- Embrace the unexpected and new ways of seeing things.
What Change Entails
In 2013, the Fair will be repositioned through PR, social media and infrastructure changes—across as many key brand touchpoints as practical.
Rebranding will be a multi-year process. It will begin with the highest impact, lowest cost infrastructure items to minimize capital expense. These and new product offerings that correlate to being a State Fair will come gradually in the near term.
Advertising will be genuine and authentic to the brand and to Washington state. The Do the Puyallup jingle will be subtle in the advertising, to signal change. However, “Do the Puyallup” words will be referenced in all 2013 communications to support the transition process.
New Strategies: Advertising, Media and Promotion
1. Rebranding to a celebration of life in Washington required a significant change in the brand advertising creative strategy.
2. The tone of brand advertising will change from high-energy to making emotional connections, using a storytelling approach. Imagery will include rolling fields of wheat, apple orchards, animal sounds, mountains and early morning sunshine: “Washington… it’s a magnificent place.”
3. Advertising for all events (concerts, rodeo, etc.) will come under the umbrella brand—The Washington State Fair—to aid in the perception change. The goal is to have the perception of the Fair and its brand attributes change each year, moving forward and away from the Puyallup Fair brand.
4. As the rebranding relates to the advertising media:
- The initial goal is to begin projecting the new brand identity without any loss in attendance
- It’s also a goal to reduce the noise level of Fair advertising by a slight reduction in message frequency.
- More, longer-length television and radio branding will be scheduled.
- More media will run in King County this year.
- More geo- and demo-targeted online and social media opportunities will be implemented this year.
- A limited amount of outdoor will be posted in Eastern and Western Washington this year.
Washington State Fair advertising broke in mid-August. At that time, 36% of metro area adults and 41% of Fair visitors already were aware of the name change.
Unique visitors to the website already were up 31%. Things were looking good. But, in the final analysis, only time will tell if the new Fair brand will sustain and grow this local icon.
Dan Japhet is the principal of Strategic Media Alignment and was a key player in the five-year process that led to the Fair rebranding. You can reach him at email@example.com