Thursday, December 21, 2017

Taos Marketing 101 (Notes)

At some point about ten years ago it seemed that everyone was becoming a Marketing Expert. I began attending “Marketing” meetings in Taos in 2002. First were the Taos Chamber of Commerce meetings at the Rotunda in Taos Plaza, those moved to the banquet room at the Kachina Lodge. Then the town of Taos hired a full time “Information Officer” who I began to ask questions of. Mostly my query began as, Why don’t you include the businesses in Ranchos de Taos? This was met with a strict by the book reply, Ranchos does not contribute to Lodgers tax for marketing of the TOWN of Taos. Alright-ee then I asked; What about your use of imagery of the Ranchos Church, San Francisco de Asis Church and imagery of Taos Pueblo in your visual marketing campaigns? Gotcha, and then it began, I became a player or as some would say a thorn in someone’s side. 

I have a tendency to hold people accountable or what I call ‘Holding someone’s feet to the fire’. I don’t react well to poor excuses.

Attending meetings fairly regularly, not all of them but many, enough to know what was going on and stay in the loop. During my attendance I’d take notes, lots of notes. During these meetings I’d share my voice, knowledge, ideas and speak up with positive feedback. I learned from SMFA Faculty meetings that any time I attended a meeting and walked away feeling I had learned something that was a good productive meeting. The norm at Museum School meetings was that they were productive, unless it reverted to talking about a lack of parking for the faculty and students. The norm at Taos meetings tends to be talking about the same issues these past 15 years and not much forward movement. A single person at a meeting could black ball months of effort to move forward. As I move forward I will keep names out of this unless relevant.

At one point there had been a “Summer of Love” promotion which garnered Taos with the first of much positive nationwide press. There was also an early works exhibit of Agnes Martin paintings at the Harwood Museum. To help promote these events the marketing people printed small scale banners to be hung around Taos Plaza, the center of the town. The promotion “Land, Light and Legend” was an epic failure, during a presentation meeting with members of Taos Pueblo in attendance a logo of the Pueblo with the river, an eagle and other Pueblo related imagery was shown. The Pueblo members said one thing, “NO” then got up and walked out. In 2015 a promotion of “100 Years of Taos Art” (which included banners) celebrating the illustrious history  and anniversary year of the Taos Society of Art colony. The Taos Pueblo was asked their thoughts and gave their blessing to this promotion, it was not as ‘controversial’ as some will have you think. There will always be naysayers and blackballers in every community. We are currently at a time in the US that seems more decisive than ever before.


As someone who travels to areas with museums, I’d been noticing that one of the ways cities promote their art scene and special events is through the use of large banners hanging on lamp posts along boulevards. When I suggested that Taos do the same, it was at first met with resistance. The reason being that the town would then need to invest in a system on which to hang the banners. In return I took photographs of the then current Christmas decorations, went back to the people in charge and showed them that these hangers were already in place. Taos has had banners hanging along the main boulevard ever since, (although not consistently). Now there’s a new banner program which will select 40 artists to be reproduced on banners across Taos to promote the theme “Taos is Art”. Hallelujah, finally a promotion of living artists right here in Taos.

From my notes of 15 years are some of the following thoughts which I recorded at a great deal of meetings. Where does this information go to, what gets done and what does not get done at all? In my opinion, if you have an idea and it’s a great one, bulldog it through until it sees the light of day. It’s up to you to persevere and do something wonderful for this community. 
Don’t Give Up.

The Taos Tourism Council was an ad-hoc group of movers and shakers which tried to steer the hired firm of Griffin & Associates to do their bidding. They pushed an agenda of ‘sweepstakes’ listed in magazines which would provide email lists. Businesses could participate in being listed by giving something for the sweepstakes prize. Many of the prizes were never collected. Today it is questionable whether email lists actually are effective.

The following is from my notes of bullet points on what has been discussed at open meetings regarding Taos Marketing: 

Is marketing giving any focus to art galleries?
Let’s get more galleries involved, (with marketing).
Bring relevancy back to the Taos Art market.
A lack of awareness to the art market. 
Art marketing seminar.
How do you educate people to collect art?
Artists don’t know how to talk about art.
Market art.
Cynicism, there’s a low grade opinion of the quality of art here.
Embarrassingly amateurish, i.e.; Ladies who paint flowers.
We are sliding backwards, what has happened to any sense of contemporary art in Taos?
A higher quality of art in Taos, what does that mean?
They used to come here to discover something new.
The Sprit of art is still here.
Art has always been important and very very special here.
Many Galleries and artists have websites but don’t keep them up to date.
Museums could present artist symposiums.
Taos has an outreach to the rest of country. 
It’s not just about the galleries, it’s about the artists.
Collectors are interested in art with a resume.
Create an intelligent conversation about art.
people should be out painting to create an art atmosphere.
The most popular special edition they’ve put out has been the Taos Gallery Guide.
We don’t focus on marketing art because it doesn’t add to the tax base when all the art is being shipped out of state.
Send events, press releases and a blurb about your business to the marketing people. The more info we can get to the marketing peeps the more they can help. They asked for 75 words or less, that is not a whole lot of info.
Utilize the Taos Calendar. Which one of the many?
This will help with putting a packet together for travel writers visiting Taos. 
Bring in more media/travel writers. Who?
Be supportive of what local businesses are doing in a collaborative fashion.
The Arts & Cultural District will feature 7 Historic areas (including Ranchos de Taos, yay, well actually this never happened).
The image of Ranchos de Taos is nothing but a ghetto. A roller coaster ride, bad publicity if any at all.
Ranchos has fallen off the map and is completely left out of Gallery promotions. Get us back on map, how? We have so much to offer in Ranchos. What can we do to get the town to recognize Ranchos?
Police shootings are keeping tourists away.
Focus on positive aspects.
Encourage diversity and a variety of products.
Attract women over 50.
How do you track and know if your marketing is working?
Pool of consumers is smaller. (I doubt it)
Disposable income is gone.
Everybody’s business is hurting.
How do we bring value into Taos?
No one is spending like they used to.
It’s hard for a small business to survive here.
Curb appeal. Beautification of Store fronts. 
Too many empty store fronts.
Affordable Housing, Affordable rentals.
Promote one day concert events.
Taos App
Video Marketing.
The Main Street Program will revitalize Taos Plaza and downtown.
Arts & Culture needs more Marketing (this was a statement from the new mayor of Taos Dan Barrone)
Museum planning of exhibits can be three years out.
Taos Sacred Places Theme. Remarkable Women of Taos.
What can we offer during Spring Break other than skiing?
How do we attract skiers to come down off the mountain?
Sizzling Sexy Saturday Block Parties.
Promote wireless internet for visitors.
The state was marketing the Food industry in New Mexico, we should be leveraging the state marketing. Farm to table.
Culinary adventure.
Is Lodgers Tax up due to an increase in Rates or are there actually more visitors?
We don’t market in Santa Fe because it is considered a day trip for visitors.
On boiling down the marketing effort, what are the actual results, what are people doing and does it work?
Maybe your business is not the product people are looking for thus your efforts are not working.
Make sure that once people are here in Taos, that they find your business.
LGBTQ weddings are being heavily marketed.
Eco-Tourism. What is happening with this?
Taos Plaza Kiosk, non functional, not being utilized.
Help with solutions
There will always be parking problems.
Single most important issue: Business retention.
We need to be networking more, especially through Social Media.
We need parking areas well marked, there’s no point to people just driving around to see the sites, we want them walking around.
The average daily spending for visitors in Santa Fe is $406.66, what is it in Taos?
Update your website.
Post your business hours on your door front.
The Taos Fantasy is Taos Style.
Focus on your strengths.
Slogan, a simple message.
Give people a reason to prefer you.
Name Awareness.
Remind people who you are and why they should shop with you.
Marketing is a slippery slope to attempt to track.
Trying to keep Taos close to top of mind awareness.
Create itineraries from a local perspective. Interesting local stories.
My Taos, Beauty and nature. A simpler creative place. Authentic.
Slow down in Taos. Transformation re-connecting.
Create a true Tag line. Do we have a ‘Brand’ a Tag line? Taos is the Brand. Stop changing it. Solidify a LASTING Idea for a Tag Line. A Tag line that speaks to everything. 
Embody the State Tag Line, New Mexico True.
How do we know if marketing is working?
Use a combination of print advertising and social media.
Try marketing to Los Alamos, an extremely wealthy community less than an hour drive from Taos. They didn’t purchase art, they came for the history.
A small town connection in Taos is something you don’t get in other places.
Taos needs a logo.
Town would love to have people out painting, especially in the Plaza.
Taos Plaza is Underwhelming, Underutilized, and not Inviting.
What are the issues?
A parking study.
A parking plan.
Come up with more themes.
Think outside the box.
Kiosk is looking for volunteers.
Keep your website up to date.
Know your town. How often do you shop around Taos?
Cash Cows: Texas and Colorado visitors. are they coming to Taos any longer or are they done with us?
Taos is Older, Higher, Newer.  
Taos Voluntourism.
Differentiate from other mountain towns. Promote authentic experiences.
Millennials: No Spending Money 20-35 year olds. They are on the verge of becoming major players. making decisions based on Social Media interaction. Use QR Code on your storefront.
Gen Y ?
Gen X-ers: Opportunity, educated interested in adventure travel and music 35-50 year olds.
Baby Boomers: Are spending less and dying 50 and up.
Visitors need at least 3 days in Taos. How do we promote this?
Spring Arts Festival is now the Taos Lilac Festival. Replicate Fall Arts in the Spring.
More events.
Be constructive.
How do we get word out?
The Town website is a mess, impossible to navigate.
Hospitality Training, businesses are failing epically in this. Online training for customer service.
Customer service consistently comes up as an issue in Taos
Photography of Taos Imagery needs to include people interacting. Offbeat intimacy, emotional, compelling photography of Taos.
At one particular meeting of panelists I wrote: I have no hope of learning anything at this ‘performance’. 
What can we do to Put IDEAS into action.
Marketing is NOT for people who are here already.
Write the story Ourselves.

As you can read here, there have been plenty of 'ideas' through the years, many have been repeated, not many implemented. Much of this seems to be throw out ideas and see what sticks. At Two Graces Plaza Gallery we do the best we can with all of this. We try to keep the shop looking fresh. We try to give great customer service, although this can be trying in itself at times. We try to keep on top of current trends. We offer a variety of services from tours to lodging, and we even allow classes to be held in the gallery when we feel it is appropriate and helpful to someone and their group. Each day can bring a new challenge for a business owner in Taos. We appreciate your ongoing support to all of the small businesses in Taos, even ours, which at times a little too often, as frustrating as it can be seems to have fallen off the map.

PS: I believe that Georgia O'Keeffe is an enormous draw to Taos, Santa Fe & Abiquiu, that if we ever pulled our heads out of the sand we should be utilizing this brand more than we do currently, my opinion.

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