Scottsdale Independent

Is Scottsdale destination marketplace Old Town or downtown?

This iconic downtown sign along Scottsdale Road signifies entering into what many consider the city’s Old Town area (File photo)

Is it downtown Scottsdale or Old Town Scottsdale?

That’s one of the questions municipal officials are looking to answer through a new branding awareness effort to bring more people to what some locals call “downtown Scottsdale” while others claim the area as “Old Town.”

About 100 interested residents and downtown proprietors gathered 8:30 a.m. at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, 3830 N. Marshall Way, Wednesday, Aug. 30 to hear the future vision of downtown Scottsdale.

A second presentation was slated for 1 p.m. which was expected to have about 100 participants.

Tourism and Events Director Karen Churchard, and Experience Scottsdale CEO Rachel Sacco both spoke about efforts made by the city to bring in visitors from across the world, before pivoting their conversation to local tourists.

Not even two hours passed before the divisive question of “should it be downtown or Old Town Scottsdale” had audience members disagreeing.

Phoenix-based advertising agency, HAPI’s owner Jason Hackett and Brand Strategist Danny Stoeller say the answer to the question — along with a new logo, campaign and website — are in the works.

The area of topic, both east and west of Scottsdale Road between Chaparral Road and Earll Drive, is regularly referred to as Downtown Scottsdale and Old Town Scottsdale by residents, visitors and businesses alike. Traffic signs direct motorists into Downtown Scottsdale, while street-lamp signs don Old Town Scottsdale markings.

There is no-doubt there is confusion surrounding the area, HAPI’s representatives say, and as other Valley municipalities have grown up the Scottsdale-area has been lost in the shuffle, the hired hands say.

The new logo is expected to be presented in October, with a large-scale campaign beginning in January 2018.

A welcoming sign letting motorists know which way to go upon entering downtown Scottsdale. (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

Efforts to attract visitors

In recent years the city of Scottsdale has invested $1.7 million in downtown events and promotions, Ms. Churchard says.

“We as a city started talking about how could we better promote and advertise Scottsdale regionally — because that’s not what Experience Scottsdale does,” Ms. Churchard said on Aug. 30.

“So we felt like we have a great opportunity to promote and advertise downtown Scottsdale to metropolitan Phoenix and maybe even Tucson, because Tucson is the No. 2 people who visit our destination.”

Downtown Scottsdale events include Scottsdazzle, Western Week, Canal Convergence, promotion for spring training and live entertainment.

In the works, Ms. Churchard says, are ideas such as a Main Street streetcape for pedestrian improvement, a public restroom on Main Street and a splash pad in the downtown area.

Advertising to promote the downtown Scottsdale area as a destination is about $200,000, split evenly between the tourism bed taxes and the General Fund. In addition, the city is preparing to spend $50,000 for a six-week Scottsdazzle promotion on holiday radio station, KEZ 99.9.

“We basically have invested, over the past two years and moving forward, $9 million in our downtown through general capital improvement projects, as well as the tourism fund,” Ms. Churchard explained.

Local business owners and residents gathered at Scottsdale’s Museum of the West to discuss downtown Scottsdale branding efforts. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

On the national and international platform, Ms. Sacco says her organization Experience Scottsdale is positioning Scottsdale as a destination. Experience Scottsdale receives half of the total bed tax — funds accrued by each hotel guest — to sustain their operations.

Experience Scottsdale is a 501(c)6 nonprofit, private company that has contracts with the city of Scottsdale and Town of Paradise Valley to conduct destination marketing efforts on behalf of these municipalities, ExperienceScottsdale.com states. It was originally founded in 1987 as the tourism arm of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce, and became a standalone organization in 2001.

“If you’re not engaged with us at Experience Scottsdale, you probably have no idea what we do — you maybe have never seen anything we’ve done — because by design, the reason we’re hired by the city, was to be external, the external marketing to visitors who don’t live here,” Ms. Sacco explained. “So unless you’re traveling to Chicago, New York, San Francisco or LA you’ll probably never see any of ours ads or billboards.”

Ms. Sacco says the travel and tourism industry is one of the most competitive nationwide.

“It is one of the most competitive industries on our planet — travel and tourism — particularly for the type of visitor we’re going after,” she explained. “We’re not going after quantity, we’re going after someone who can come here that really values the arts and culture, and the story that we have. And frankly, that can afford to be here.”

Of the estimated 9 million visitors to Scottsdale yearly, 40 percent is made up of group business meetings, Ms. Sacco says.

“For every dollar that’s invested in Experience Scottsdale, we are generating $67 in visitor spending back to Scottsdale, and generating $3 in local tax revenue for the benefit of all Scottsdale residents,” Ms. Sacco says. “I’m really, really proud of that — now I can tell you, I’m really confident we’re in the right places, we have the right messages.”

Efforts made by Experience Scottsdale to attract visitors include recruiting about 250 travel writers resulting in 1,000 articles, and hundreds of familiarization trips for travel agents, all paid for by the tourism firm.

Scottsdale residents and officials converse following an Aug. 30 branding meeting. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Finding an identity

The evolution of downtown Scottsdale has ranged from being nearly empty several years ago, to becoming the go-to place. In 2017, Scottsdale finds itself wanting to attract more locals to their downtown.

“We’re working with Karen and the tourism office to re-brand downtown Scottsdale with the purpose of growing awareness of local and regional residents,” Mr. Hackett explained. “In a way, downtown Scottsdale, even though we’ve got so many cool things going-on on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, it’s getting lost in the shuffle a little bit.”

Mr. Hackett pointed to local competition in the past five to 15 years between growing areas like downtown Phoenix, downtown Gilbert, Mill Avenue and areas in the West Valley.

HAPI’s main objectives is to grow areas of downtown Scottsdale, drive foot traffic to downtown Scottsdale, and generally market the area.

The advertising firm started with marketplace research to gain deeper insight into residents’ perceptions of downtown to assist in the brand and advertising development, city officials say.

Research conducted by Scottsdale-based firm Brand Outlook, included four focus groups comprised of people living in the Phoenix metro area. An online survey was also conducted with 600 people living in the Phoenix area, and 200 residents from the Tucson area.

The focus groups were comprised of 16 Scottsdale residents, and 15 residents from other Phoenix metropolitan areas. The online survey was completed by 130 Scottsdale residents; 382 Phoenix Metro residents; and 200 Tucson Metro residents.

All participants were ages 25-65, had a household income of $65,000 and above, and sometimes or frequently engage in activities that included festivals or events, shopping, art or nightlife.

The surveys ranged from word association to a variety of questions. A complete presentation of research can be found at ScottsdaleAZ.gov/downtown.

The campaign development HAPI is working on includes creating a new logo, new website, new color palette, new ads and posters.

“Anything and everything to market downtown Scottsdale will be consistent with itself,” Mr. Hackett said.

According to 27 survey respondents, the majority referred to the focus area as Old Town Scottsdale.