So we rang in the New Year on the tubing runs at Wisconsin’s charming, if optimistically-named Nordic Mountain. We spent two frozen hours on six frozen chutes guaranteed to get us down the slope at least twenty times faster than we could climb back up: the StoneRidge Tubing Park.
Not the Nordic Mountain Tubing Park, the StoneRidge Tubing Park…as in the StoneRidge Meat and Country Market in nearby Wautoma. Somehow, and for some reason, the clever ski hill people eked some funding out of their nearby grocery friends. I tried to imagine what naming rights like these might cost. Perhaps the StoneRidge people supplied the 125 red inner tubes emblazoned with their logo. Maybe they paid for signage and ski tag designs. Or maybe it was a straight cash deal… Whatever it was, I couldn’t help wondering if at the end of the season, they considered it worthwhile, whatever the cost actually was.
In the abstract, this is the classic John Wanamaker conundrum, where you know half of your advertising dollars are wasted, but you just don’t know which half. Maybe it was a huge waste of money spending money to name an odd little corner of this small town Wisconsin ski hill. Maybe the utter lack of strategic messaging and results-based intent made this another marketing snipe hunt…
Or maybe whoever runs the StoneRidge Meat and Country Market considered it enough that their good name is associated with pure family fun. A tradition of that kind of friendly, small town sentiment stretches a long way back in this country, at least back to 1971 and Chambers Hill, Pennsylvania where for the first Summer of my little league baseball career, my scrawny chest proudly sported our team uniform embroidered with felt letters spelling out “Koch’s Market Cubs.” Mr. Koch’s hilltop grocery store was at the other end of town, down by Sharon Gasparovic’s house. I rarely got down there, but whenever I did, I would stop in and buy a soda. If I were back there today, I probably still would. Because he was my guy, that was my store, those were my Cubs.
All of which makes me think we should beware of anyone who purports to analytically prove exactly what builds a brand. Brands live in peoples’ minds, where their experiences, their dreams, their prejudices and fears and desires all create a polyglot jumble of feelings and knowledge resulting in brand identification. Or not.
That’s where the immeasurable, the intangible, and even a proprietor’s illogical idiosyncratic whim, can tip the scales for or against.
I think I’ll look into a StoneRidge cheese and brat gift box.