New website extends Polk’s ‘First Peak’ brand

Published 12:53 pm Monday, June 16, 2008

Anyone who&squo;s approached Polk County from the east probably can appreciate Polk&squo;s new branding message, &dquo;The First Peak of the Blue Ridge.&dquo;

Like the larger Rockies that rise out of the Colorado plains, Tryon Peak and other Polk ridgetops welcome visitors from miles away and mark the gateway to the mountains.

&dquo;Most travelers come from the south or the east, and they see Tryon Peak and start getting excited that they&squo;ve reached the mountains. That&squo;s who we&squo;re marketing to,&dquo; says Polk County Travel and Tourism Director Melinda Young.

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Many of those visitors will get their first peek at Polk County and the &dquo;First Peak&dquo; brand on a new Polk tourism website launched recently by the Polk tourism office.

While the former website, ( served the county well for years, Young says the new site ( employs the latest technology and offers enhanced functions, content and interactivity.

&dquo;Basically, technology has moved forward and it was time for us to update,&dquo; she says. &dquo;The web is just critical now for people planning trips.&dquo;

Creating a brand

Young adds that the change gives Polk County a chance to incorporate its new brand in the website. The &dquo;First Peak of the Blue Ridge&dquo; logo with a tagline of &dquo;Historic Saluda, Tryon & Columbus, NC&dquo; is in the top left corner of the home page. The same logo is incorporated in other materials generated by the Polk tourism office to present a consistent image and message.

&dquo;When I started the job it became clear that we didn&squo;t have a cohesive look or cohesive language,&dquo; says Young, who became Polk&squo;s tourism director in early 2006.

She says the county created a branding committee and enlisted the help of tourism branding expert Chris Cavanaugh, a former vice president of marketing for The Biltmore Company who is now president and founder of Magellan Strategy Group.

&dquo;He worked for next to nothing for us, which was wonderful,&dquo; says Young, who adds that Polk County Economic Development Director Kipp McIntyre and Economic Development Commission&bsp; chairman Joe Epley were also on the committee.

Young says the committee members realized that just the name &dquo;Polk County&dquo; doesn&squo;t tell visitors &dquo;who we are or where we are in the state, whether it&squo;s on the coast, in the Piedmont or in the mountains.&dquo;

So they arrived at a brand and logo that focuses on Polk&squo;s location as the closest place for many people to the mountains. Young notes that most travelers to the county come from Greenville, Spartanburg, Columbia, Atlanta, Charleston and Charlotte.

&dquo;We&squo;re trying to get them to recognize that when they get here, they&squo;re in the mountains. They don&squo;t need to drive another two hours,&dquo; she says.

Not only is Polk County one of the closest points to the mountains from those areas, but it offers the rural scenery and charming small-town atmosphere that many are seeking. With that in mind, the branding committee also created a slogan, &dquo;Slip into something more comfortable.&dquo;

Marketing online

The home page of the new website includes a flash introduction featuring rural and equestrian scenes and says, &dquo;It&squo;s what we don&squo;t have… that makes us special.&dquo;

The site includes other large, scenic pictures, which Young says is important to highlight Polk&squo;s natural landsape. &dquo;Our scenic beauty is the No. 1 thing we have to offer. We&squo;re very blessed that way,&dquo; says Young.

Underneath the main pictures on the home page is a smaller picture with a rocking chair on a porch and a story with the headline &dquo;Sneak Away to Small Town Comfort.&dquo;

The story begins as follows: &dquo;Known as a cool summer resort area in the late 1800s for those living in the heat and humidity of the low country, the small towns of Tryon, Saluda and Columbus are a year-round treat for travelers today. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and poet Sidney Lanier were inspired to stay and write. William Gillette, famous for his stage portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, stepped off the train for a short break and decided to stay!&dquo;

New features

Young says she hopes the new website will encourage more visitors to stop and stay for at least a little while.&bsp; The site has pictures and articles for specific areas of interest, such as vineyards, horses, the Green River and shopping.&bsp; Information is provided on each of the towns and the county, and a wide variety of attractions and activities.

The new website offers a sortable and printable calendar of events, and customized searches and maps for accommodations, dining and shopping. Visitors no longer have to scan through a list, but can call up exactly the type of place they&squo;re seeking.

Among the accomodations listed are about 40 &dquo;cabins &dquo; for rent, which Young says is a growing trend as more people establish second homes here and seek to rent them out at times. Young says more visitors are seeking places that offer a home environment, and places that accommodate pets.

The new website also offers visitors packages and specials and allows them to create a trip itinerary. They can mark places and activities of interest and the site creates the itinerary, she says, allowing them to plan and pay for a trip at one place.

&dquo;We want the site to be like a travel agent for people to help them plan or at least guide them to what they can do, whether it&squo;s planning dinner, golf, a spa visit or a river trip,&dquo; she says.

Continue to grow

Young says she&squo;s currently in the process of having visitors to the old site redirected to the new one.

She emphasizes that the new website, created by Synergy Point of Tryon, will continue growing with more additional content and features. She invites businesses to share information for the site.

Even though the new website wasn&squo;t officially launched until recently,&bsp; Young says some people have been visiting it after seeing the new website address in a brochure or clicking on the link from the old website. She say feedback has been positive, and she hopes the new site will help more people plan trips here.

&dquo;The new brochure has been out since the end of last year and now with the new website it&squo;s just all coming together and we&squo;re really excited,&dquo; she says.