As the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce (MACC) continues with its brand identity and naming changes, chamber executive director Krystal Westfahl and board president Jim Hartwig have begun bringing the conversation back to the towns for their input.
At a previous Arbor Vitae Town Board meeting, a concern raised by the Arbor Vitae town chairman Frank Bauers regarding the removal of Arbor Vitae’s name from the logo spurred the MACC board to reconsider a brand design.
On Tuesday, the Woodruff Town Board heard an update on the chamber’s intent to rebrand and redesign its logo.
Westfahl presented the board with a handout which included several variations of the new chamber logos, some of which say “Let’s Minocqua” while including Arbor Vitae and Woodruff. The packet also included marketing information from a study done by Platypus, an outside marketing firm.
“First and foremost, we stopped and talked to all the town chairmen, got their initial feel for what was happening here, and some initial constructive criticism that we can take back and then do a second version,” Westfahl said.
Following feedback from the room tax commission at its meeting Aug. 15, Westfahl brought more logo designs back to the town boards.
“You guys are the second town board that we are seeing in this whole process,” Westfahl said. “And then we’re gonna essentially kind of take it back to our board, do some more revisions, it’s kind of a long, drawn out process to do this branding exercise.”
Westfahl said the purpose of the document was to “reaffirm” the Minocqua area’s tourism brand.
Over the course of the next few minutes, Westfahl went through the packet with the board to provide background for the logos being considered as well as the chamber’s marketing research process.
According to Westfahl, “Minocqua” is the key word most often Googled for people looking into the area.
“Not based on anything that we’re doing, not necessarily based on anything that the communities are doing, it just happens to be what they’re looking for. And that’s how they find us,” Westfahl said.
Westfahl also mentioned towns like Lac du Flambeau and St. Germain also get grouped into searches for the Minocqua area.
“People don’t really know borders. They don’t understand kind of what this area is,” Westfahl said.
What the chamber wanted to do was “talk the language” of the visitor and what they understand without losing “what we have here” with the three communities in the chamber.
‘How do they get to us?’
Following Westfahl’s presentation, the board provided their input and questions.
“What are the people other than the room tax commission saying about ‘Let’s Minocqua’?” town chairman Mike Timmons asked. “What’s that gonna do for one of our non-room tax people. Have we talked to any of those things?”
Timmons referenced a spreadsheet he had researched which broke down the entities involved with the chamber from the Town of Woodruff. Of the businesses on that list, nine were in the medical field, five were churches, five were government entities, seven “aren’t even in the Town of Woodruff” and 19 were businessess, two of which were “strictly from the room tax.”
He mentioned that, when you search for places to rent in the Town of Woodruff, you get redirected to travel websites and booking companies rather than the chamber’s website.
Westfahl said Timmons was asking “two separate questions,” and that travel companies would “always trump” the chamber’s website when it came to finding lodging.
“When I typed in the word ‘Woodruff,’ it directed me not to the Minocqua Chamber of Commerce whatsoever,” Timmons said. “That’s what I’m saying. If somebody specifically wants to come to our town, how’s it get to us?”
Westfahl said there were a “number of ways” visitors could get to Woodruff and that, right now, Woodruff had two members which were lodging partners.
“So, there’s a variety of ways from a marketing technique you can talk about how people get to Woodruff in particular,” Westfahl said. “I’d be more than happy to have a full marketing presentation for you on how we are redirecting people to this community, and/or the members that are here.”
As for Timmons’ question regarding whether the chamber had discussed the brand identity changes with chamber members, Westfahl said they hadn’t asked them “specifically about this brand” because they were talking to the boards first.
What they had asked about, according to Westfahl, was the data through distributing a survey asking members what they thought the Minocqua area was.
“We incorporated that feedback into this presentation,” Westfahl said. “Now, I’m not going to give them this whole thing (the packet) and say ‘Weigh in’ until we get to a better spot.”
“I understand very much that they don’t know the town borders and everything else,” Timmons said. “But like I said, these people that we represent is what I care about.”
Timmons said the board had to make sure the people of Woodruff were happy.
“I don’t know if anybody on here has been contacted, that they know it’s gonna change again,” Timmons said, referring to his list. “I was surprised that some of that aren’t on there and some of them that are.”
“Their information that is in our database is information that they actually give us,” Westfahl explained.
‘They should be on there’
Westfahl asked if there was anything specific the chamber needed to do in the interim, whether it be contacting local businesses.
“We’re looking at the best branded logo that you can put out that would?” town supervisor Corky Sheppard asked. “That would incorporate the three towns?”
Timmons said even businesses outside the towns could be part of the chamber, and visitors didn’t know the boundaries between the towns.
“Room tax people get the room tax money, and that’s what we’re involved with,” Timmons said.
According to Timmons, the chamber didn’t collect room tax from businesses which joined the chamber from outside the communities.
Sheppard asked if there would be one design for all of the chamber’s logos and signs.
“Ideally we’d have one logo that’d be everywhere, but there’s certain situations that that logo might not work with,” Hartwig said.
“But you definitely need the three town’s names out,” Sheppard said. “You need your room tax towns on your, like you have it. Arbor Vitae, Woodruff. Any version you want, but they should be on there.”
Town supervisor Judy Allen asked if the chamber was set on “let’s.”
“That was what the board moved forward with, but there are some discussion options still available,” Westfahl said. “And the reasoning behind that is it is a little more progressive.”
Westfahl said the branding exercise should be done every five to seven years, and the chamber had been using the same logo space since the ’90s.
Sheppard asked if the chamber would return to the boards as they continued to narrow down the branding options for them to vote on.
“No. We really don’t want the town’s to vote against one another,” Westfahl said.
Hartwig said as they narrowed it down further, they were trying to figure out if it would be best to come back to all the towns or go to the membership at the annual dinner for their input.
“It’s really representing them as much as the towns, I think,” Hartwig said. “Or is that just more feedback at that point, we’re not 100% certain.”
“I think we, as an organization, have to lead this conversation and it’s not to say that anybody’s wrong, but we have to take all of the opinions and create the best we can and move forward,” Westfahl said.
“I agree with the rebranding, like every five to six years, because I’m in the business where brands get changed every four years, and as long as the three names of the three towns are on it, I’m good,” Sheppard said.
Westfahl said Arbor Vitae had said the same thing.
Hartwig said it was important to note that though the logo was changing, the business was still the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce and they weren’t changing anything which would involve paperwork to be done by the towns.
“We all obviously want to have our own individuality, but we completely understand that everyone’s name recognition is Minocqua,” town supervisor Ray Christenson said.
“As it stands, we want to make sure that Woodruff and Arbor Vitae have their name recognition because it’s important for every community,” Westfahl said.
‘All you are is an advertisement agency’
Christenson said when he was checking out the MACC website, he thought he had accidentally clicked on the Minocqua town’s website.
“It only says ‘Minocqua’ across the top,” Christenson said.
Westfahl said if you only looked in the upper left-hand corner, that was correct, but once you scrolled down it referenced the other towns.
“We don’t want to have the towns to the north of you sound petty, but we’re here. We’re part of it. We want to be on the top with the Town of Minocqua,” Sheppard said.
“You’re an advertisement agency is all you are anymore,” Timmons said. “You don’t give out information, you don’t promote anything, you’re strictly an advertisement, correct?”
Westfahl said they were actually still doing economic development work within the community.
“The problem that we see is that the majority of our budget comes through the room tax,” Westfahl said. “So, just about half of our budget, if not more, of our budget comes through room tax or marketing assessment.”
In 2015, Westfahl said the Department of Revenue changed the regulations for how the towns could use room tax, and that was when things changed for the chamber.
The other half of the chamber’s budget came through revenue from advertising sales and events and was still “chamber of commerce work,” Westfahl said.
“I’m still a representative with the Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Executives, I’m still involved fully in the chamber world, but also in the Wisconsin Association of Convention & Visitors Bureau (WACVB) world, so the convention and visitors bureau side,” Westfahl said. “Because our organization is as large as it is, we are able to function with both of those.”
“I believe that’s what has to get out to the local people because you are nothing but an advertisement agency,” Timmons said.
“According to?” Westfahl asked.
“Most people. Period. Read all the stuff that’s been publicized, and that’s all that’s being focused on, correct?” Timmons asked.
“Because of this?” Westfahl asked, referring to the rebranding. “Or because of other things?”
“Anything,” Timmons said. “Tell me. What do you hear about the chamber? You don’t have to convince me, you have to make sure the people in the community know that it is more.”
Westfahl asked Timmons what he thought the chamber of commerce did for the Woodruff community.
“That’s what I’m asking. That’s what I’m asking you,” Timmons said.
“When you talk about economic impact in the communities you serve, what we do is we bring people to town,” Westfahl said. “We’re bringing people to town, not only just to have a good time and to stay at a lodging facility, eat some food and maybe do an attraction, we’re also imploring them to say, ‘Hey, maybe someday I wanna move there.’”
Westfahl said second-home ownership in the Minocqua area was nothing to “snark about” and was growing.
“We probably field more phone calls locally about who our trusted representatives in the local municipalities than we do for a regular tourist on a day-to-day basis,” Westfahl said, and that was what the chamber did “above and beyond” marketing the area.
“What are my people paying the chamber of commerce for? That’s my question. These 45 people. Is it going to affect them? These are the people that we have to take care of. That’s why we’re here,” Timmons said.
“That’s why we’re here, too. That’s our job as well,” Westfahl said.
Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]