BY LEANN DILBECK –
The Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas’ (ARCO) has received the recommendations to establish a “brand” for the region to further the goal of ARCO of regional economic development. The group announced their new branding initiative called “One More Day” in August of 2014 with the hope of extending tourists’ stay while in the region. “The purpose of the branding initiative is to develop a brand – a common theme and graphic that can be used to market the many things to see and do in the ARCO region (Montgomery, Polk, and Scott Counties),” states Gar Eisele, ARCO Chair. “We want to encourage visitors to stay one more day in the region.”
A meeting was held by ARCO members and invited guests of the community at RMCC’s Ouachita Center in April as ARCO solicited the guidance of Martin Thoma of Thoma Thoma, a strategic marketing firm based in Little Rock that specializes in community driven branding.
In the report, Martin explains the significance of branding, “Economic development brands are not simply logos, slogans or taglines; they are not solely words and pictures. They are narrowly defined strategic blueprints for differentiation and attraction that produce clear implications and imperatives for product development, public and private investment and marketing communications.”
Working with ARCO members, Martin identified and prioritized specific target audiences in which to build the brand to appeal to as 1.) tourists 2.) relocators 3.) entrepreneurs.
Next was to identify a commonality between the members of ARCO that comprise Polk, Scott and Montgomery counties, which was determined to be the Ouachita Mountains. With no other marketing organization claiming the mountain label, the group developed the tagline: Heart of the Ouachitas. The report noted, “The Heart of the Ouachitas” has many evocative and appealing connotations that work well: that of intensity, concentration, geographic centrality, love, emotional connections and goodness.”
With effective brand positioning, ARCO’s goal is to extend the season to produce the positive economic impact. Extending the stay and extending an invitation to relocate will produce both short and long term growth. To accomplish this, ARCO will seek to position ARCO as the outdoor adventure land of western Arkansas by:
1.) Highlighting the pristine and unspoiled nature of the area.
2.) Claiming the region’s wildest whitewater river, Cossatot River, as the most exciting paddling between Nantahala and the Colorado.
3.) Sporting one of the cleanest freshwater lakes in the U.S., Lake Ouachita.
4.) Being home to one of the productive smallmouth bass streams this side of Minnesota, the Caddo River.
5.) Featuring some of the best bear hunting in the southern U.S., as well as deer, turkey and quail.
6.) Having the longest, most scenic hiking trail between the Applachian and the Pacific Crest trails, the Ouachita Trail.
7.) Offering two of North America’s top-rated EPIC mountain biking trails designated by the International Mountain Biking Association, the Womble Trail and LOViT Trail.
8.) Being rich in culture and history.
All amenities identified as being magnets to flatlanders, Texans, Louisianans, Oklahomans, bikers, hikers, motorcyclists, campers, boaters, offroaders, and fishermen.
The biggest challenge to accomplish their goals is funding. Website, digital marketing, signage, guides, etc., and the manpower to lead it will require additional funding beyond what ARCO currently has secured through partnerships and memberships. To learn more about ARCO, go towww.ARCOStrong.org.