Black History Month Interview with Brionna Simons

Taylor Gombar 2.22.2018

Black History Month

This February we celebrate the impactful marketing contributions ignited by our local community of color. This vibrant celebration of cultivated talent is not solely recognized during Black History Month, but continually embraced within board rooms each day. We spoke to Brionna Simons, Director of Content for AMA Colorado, on the topic of diversity. As a woman of multiple nationalities, Simons shares her stance on racial segmentation, minority targeting, and campaign messaging.

Brionna Simons

Brionna Simons recently expanded her reach to content creation for AMA. Simons identifies as a Black woman. “My mix is Black, Mexican, and White. I was born in Asia, where I lived for seven years.” Stemming from military roots, Simons has gained a thorough understanding of race across borders (Las Vegas, Oklahoma, California, Virginia, Taiwan, Japan, and Colorado). Recently, Simons has deepened her education through the University of Denver’s Masters of Marketing program. Her interests in sustainability and hospitality are supported with six years of experience in luxury hotels and athletic clubs. Simons seeks to grow in a sustainable company spearheading integrated marketing campaigns.

What responsibilities do Black Marketers play during Black History Month?

Simons believes that all members of the Black community, especially teachers and parents, have a role in educating the next generation about Black pioneers across all industries. Simons shared the importance of, Former First Lady, Michelle Obama’s portrait now hung in the National Portrait Gallery. She also directed us to her news sources, like Her Agenda, that mold a picture of today’s working professional overcoming adversity.

Share with us your thoughts on market segmentation and racial targeting in marketing.

Based on her experience in the field, Simons responded, “I am choosing to remain indifferent at this point.” She shares how racial profiling can be a form of “professional stereotyping.” Yet, segmentation helps to match customer needs with market offerings. It also creates customizable messaging that resonates, rather than developing mass communication releases.

Marketers cannot overlook the variables we are using to develop our segmented clusters (race, age, gender, lifestyle, etc.). Simons shares, “It is a little silly to see entire articles about market segmentation based on race. Every African American family is not identical. There are several varying factors.”

Marketers may wish to consider why we select a certain variable, how we use those variables, and the cost/benefit of developing such clusters.

One warning Simons offered to marketers is the tendency to drive paid media that is grounded in racial segmentation. Simons states, “Consider toothpaste — commodities do not need to be tailored based on race. It is toothpaste.” As marketers, we are only exercising short-sided segmentation for commodities that may not benefit from defined minority targets.

Share with us any adverse viewpoints you have encountered with customer personas.

Simons’ shared with us an example of the Gerber Baby Food Label taught in her graduate coursework. The Gerber story was intended to demonstrate the importance of tailored packaging to international markets. “Gerber tried to penetrate a country in Africa. My lecturer claimed that Gerber failed because ‘they’ could not read. The errors in this example were that the campaign assumed Africa was one population, when there are over 50 countries in Africa. The campaign also suggested 100 percent of Africans are illiterate,” Simons said. According to the World Bank, literacy rate for men ages 15 to 24 is 99 percent in South Africa (World Bank 2015). Simons explains, “Marketing is about metrics as much as it is about creative. Marketers have to know their percentages and statistics.”

As we listen to what-not-to-do stories in marketing we must remain objective. Let us not overlook when marketers make broad statements about one variable, such as— country of origin or literacy rates, it may influence other variables like race.

Marketers hear a lot about the marketing mix (Product, Place, Price, and Promotion). What variable is most important to racial differences?

“I value communication the most. Marketers can have an excellent product or service, but if it is not communicated properly, it will not succeed,” Simons shares. We discussed how promotion is often misaligned to demographic identifiers. There is value within communicating a customized message to an audience. “Your words carry weight,” said Simons. However, let the customer tell their story. Marketers may seek to integrate interviews into their promotions to allow others to speak for themselves. Marketers could also curate in-the-field content.

Simons concluded our interview by stating, “You do not know what you do not know.” It was suggested to understand that campaign brainstorming develops from various perspectives. And perspectives of difference originate from diversity at the board room table.

Denver Trailblazers

Denver’s community is rich with African American trailblazers who courageously redefine equal access/opportunities within their companies. Let us continue to acknowledge the extended community of marketing leaders shaping Denver.

‘Your Customer is All You Have’ – Coffee with Lynsay, a SME on Digital Marketing

By: Brionna Simons

Lynsay Russell is a Tennessee native with 10 years of digital marketing experience across retail, agency, and medical technology companies. She’s currently the Senior Manager of Global Marketing Operations at Medtronic in Boulder, Colorado and serves as a mentor at the Leeds School of Business. “SME” is a blog series about Subject Matter Experts in Colorado’s marketing industry.

When I requested a coffee meeting with Lynsay Russell, eight-year AMA veteran and co-director of executive relations, she scheduled me for a Friday night at Denver Central Market in RiNo. How fun! Lynsay and I spent over an hour talking all things digital marketing. Read below to learn the true meaning of marketing’s most relevant strategy plus what trends and tools you can expect in your digital marketing career.


Lynsay’s first boss after college encouraged all employees to invest one hour a week in researching industry trends, which led Lynsay to become a subject matter expert in 2008 on social media before it was social media.

“People were like ‘Well what is this term social media?’ I came to my boss and said I’d really like to look into this, I want this to be my special project. He’s like ‘Yeah, go for it.’ I dove head first. I read a book called Groundswell and I just couldn’t get enough of it.”

After a series of pitches to corporate executives about a digital marketing strategy to improve customer satisfaction, Lynsay earned her spot on Pilot Flying J’s marketing team where she served as an agent of change and built out customer-centric digital marketing practices for six years.


Lynsay regularly educates herself and others on trends in the digital marketing space. She describes digital as a constant dance between logic and impact and emphasizes the importance of understanding technology and its implications. For ongoing education, Lynsay and her team regularly attend national conferences. (She’s been to South by Southwest four times!)


“The biggest thing is just experience with digital marketing. Certifications are highly regarded, and they’re basically all free!”

Start with certifications from Google AdWords, Google Analytics, and HubSpot. Gain experience with running a blog, building emails and implementing a campaign, and managing a website and doing the SEO behind it.

One of the newer digital strategies that Lynsay implemented at her company, a global leader in medical technology, is Account Based Marketing (ABM). ABM is essentially highly-targeted advertisements for top accounts. ABM tools include Terminus and BrightFunnel. Other integrated tools Lynsay uses in her day-to-day tech stack include Oracle’s Eloqua, Adobe Experience Manager and Analytics, and Salesforce.


“One is technology and one is people. Marketing and advertising has to catch up to the human experience.”

In technology, Lynsay anticipates more interactive videos and virtual reality (VR) will surface in a bigger way for consumers. Regarding people, Lynsay believes that companies will learn to avoid having to deliver apologies about advertisements (think: Pepsi and Dove) if they begin to truly understand their customers. Lynsay passionately defends consumers for being smart and complex people and feels that a true marketer is, at her core, a people person.


“A lot of people say put your customer first. And I want to say: understand that your customer is all you have. Being customer centric isn’t enough. Authenticity is demanded. We don’t give a f*** about your brand unless you truly demonstrate that.”

In her spare time, Lynsay enjoys blogging on her website about “living whole, living free, and living powerfully.” She’s a certified yoga instructor and teaches on Saturdays at prAna Boulder. Her favorite Super Bowl ad was the Jeep Jurassic commercial and her favorite part of AMA is being able to connect with so many different people and “share the suffering.”

The IKEA Dresser May Last Longer than your Operational Efficiency

by Taylor Gombar

Enough already! Let’s understand strategy before five more colleagues endorse your LinkedIn skillset. As marketers we can agree to the vital need of strategic positioning in a business plan. Marketers cannot confuse long-term marketing strategies with operational efficiencies. Operational efficiencies merely increase productivity levels. It is easily replicated by any competitor’s larger workforce or lower price.  If you continue to strategize based on operational flow, the IKEA’s MALM dresser may last longer than your competitive edge.

Marketing Strategy Versus Operational Strategy

We are aware of the fundamental elements of marketing: objectives, strategies, tactics, and outputs. But, can we discern the difference between inputs and outputs? Coca-Cola produces Fanta in high quantities to keep overhead costs low.

Coca-Cola’s economy of scale is only an operational efficiency. The company’s economy of scale is an operational efficiency that keeps costs low — not a marketing strategy. If that was Coca-Cola’s strategy, Coca-Cola would fizzle to Pepsi’s strategy before hitting shelves.

A marketing strategy can and should align resources for operational efficiencies to occur. So, a supply chain structure is not a long-term marketing strategy, rather an operational strategy.

The IKEA Example

IKEA exemplifies a business strategy that is not easily mimicked by competitors. IKEA leverages a marketing mix that ensures low cost, self-service product creation, and simple distribution. Customers have a self-made product, which they made a lower cost.  IKEA’s strategy success originates from a mix of product, place, price, and promotion. IKEA’s strategy is not a reliance on operational efficiency. The company considered the design of its store concept in addition to its distribution channels.

Still unsure of the difference? Let’s consider how Walmart rose to popularity with its reduced inventory carrying cost and competitive pricing. Yet, consumers saw how Walmart’s operational efficiency did not hold weight to Amazon’s strategy of Prime Membership pricing and home-delivery distribution. Operational efficiency became instantly ineffective upon market entry of a lower cost provider.

Staying Focused

We cannot overlook all elements of the marketing mix in our business strategies. Price can offer operational efficiency but it does not establish long-term market positioning. Just ensure you are creating a strategy with product, price, place, promotion elements before you are endorsed on LinkedIn.

CO AMA Blog | Politics

New Year, Same You – Brands Taking Political Stances

By Taylor Gombar

Brand reflection is upon us with the turn of the New Year and the anniversary of the presidential inauguration. Throughout 2017, companies exposed consumers to various political positions through product campaigns and media releases. New Balance sneakers praised Trump’s opposition on the Trans-Pacific Partnerships, while Cards Against Humanity purchased vacant land along Trump’s border construction. Although marketers were criticized for their political stance, recent reports indicated consumer purchase habits are tied to vocal campaigns.

According to Edelman Earned Brand Study, 65% of consumers refuse to purchase from companies that remain silent on important issues. In October 2017, Uber faced public scrutiny when turning off surge pricing during the New York immigration protest. Lyft took a competitive stance and donated to the American Civil Liberties Union, increasing consumer flips from Uber. So why don’t most brands speak up? Generally, brands forget about the 50% of belief-driven buyers. Belief-Driven buyers hold a strong passion for brand beliefs and use their purchased brands to express themselves. Backlash is inevitable from non-supporters. Yet, marketers cannot forget the 25% of belief leaders that will rally behind the brand. Although a brand could take a stance that is not favorable by opposing customer beliefs, the message may resonate with an agreeing buyer.

Forbes outlined a basic rule for companies navigating the new political space— consider political activism versus exploitation. Pepsi exemplifies a brand that exploited politics to drive sales. Backlash arose when the company trivialized the Black Lives Matter movement through product positioning tactics. The company used the movement to suggest Pepsi as the answer to national peace. Yet, Pepsi overlooked the political activism agenda. Political activism is the act of expressing brand values through contributed efforts. A company must remain empathetic and choose not stray from their vision when choosing to speak out. A brand possess humility and by leveraging that humility a brand can resonate with a larger message, not solely a product campaign.

So, marketers, do not align your political messages with a “New Year / New Me” agenda. Remember your key target and your value set. Do not defer to silence in the wake of political turmoil. Belief-driven customers look to you to express their political views; be there with them.

Thank You! – Daniels College of Business and Executive Education at DU

Thanks to our wonderful sponsors, AMA Colorado is able to provide all of our members with the amazing events and networking opportunities that you have come to know and love. The Daniels College of Business and Executive Education unit at DU is one of these incredible sponsors that have partnered with us. The Daniels College of Business and Executive Education understands the unique needs of our members and provides professionals like you opportunities to expand and grow your knowledge with executive and professional MBA programs, graduate certificates, and focused workshops.

“Founded in 1908, the Daniels College of Business is the top-ranked business college at the University of Denver, one of the country’s premier private universities and the oldest university in the Rocky Mountain West. With our rich history of excellence and innovation, Daniels is globally recognized as a leader in providing an immersive and engaged business education. Grounded in ethics, our educational experience not only teaches students, it transforms lives. As a learning community, our students, faculty, and staff nurture service, outreach and personal integrity as we proactively tackle the tough business issues of our day.”

Executive Education specifically works to provide professionals looking to build their existing skill set, learn about a new area of business, or build their leadership skills by offering skill-enhancing workshops and transformational leadership courses. Daniels Executive Education has a just-in-time workshop to keep you current in a multitude of areas. The classes are taught by leading faculty from the Daniels College of Business and designed to boost performance through relevant coursework and hands-on learning opportunities. Build your skills with a workshop like the Digital Marketing Bootcamp, or transform how you lead with the help of the DLX course. Executive Education also offers custom solutions for your business to invest in your employees with leadership development, skill building, and team building.

These courses and workshops are coming up fast and are an excellent way to grow your executive skills and expand your career while supporting our loyal sponsor!

By Gina Masciotro

Marketing Landscape Q&A with Jason Duong of Appliance Factory Outlet

Jason is a Colorado native and studied at Colorado State University for business. He has been at Appliance Factory and Mattress Kingdom for 10 years and has been the Marketing Manager for the past seven years. Appliance Factory does all of their marketing internally through North Media, an internal marketing firm.


Comparing marketing challenges from then to now – what’s the single biggest change or challenge?

I think the biggest change is how fragmented it is today compared to a few years ago. We used to be able to reach the majority of consumers advertising in a few traditional mediums such as print or TV.

The evolution of how people today consume information gives us marketers a huge challenge. At this point, to reach consumers in a meaningful way we’ve had to spread our message across multiple channels in hopes to reach them in one form or another.

How have the consumers changed over those 30 years?

Consumers have absolutely changed; today they have an expectation that appliances are going to make their life easier. Features are geared towards ease of use and integration into a customer’s life. Ten years ago, people just wanted a stove that was dependable or a washing machine that cleaned well. Now they want a range that can be turned on from a smartphone or a washer that can do a load in 22 minutes.

What role does branding vs. advertising play into your strategy?

It’s a balancing act we struggle with constantly. Advertising can be pretty simple,– you spend money to advertise a specific sale like the 4th of July and generally we’ll see a lift in business.

Branding is an investment towards the future in hopes of when a customer is ready to buy we will be a company they consider. It takes a lot of self- control and patience to brand a company well, especially since a lift in business isn’t seen immediately. Consumers buy appliances every 7 to 10 years so being in the forefront of their mind when the time comes to replace an appliance is the key for our long term success.

What was the competitive landscape like, and how has AFO managed to outlast those competitors?

The landscape has changed quite a bit, Sears used to be a huge influence but at this point with most of the Sears closing, their share has diminished. Home Depot and Lowes have become bigger players and new companies like JC Penney are trying to throw their hat in the ring. That’s just the local brick and mortar stores; a whole host of online companies have impacted the industry as well.

I believe we’ve been able to thrive because of our unique ability to offer really great values to consumers across Colorado. We’ve leveraged our buying power and relationships with manufacturers while controlling our cost structure to ensure competitive prices.

We have been aggressively marketing our services against our competition. We may not have the same brand recognition as the big box store but we strive to be in the conversation when a consumer is ready to make a purchase. We really feel if a consumer gives us a chance, our experienced sales staff will give them a compelling reason to make a purchase.


Q&A with Colorado Marketing Leaders: Eric Strassburger of OpenSnow

Eric StrassbergerEric Strassburger is the Director of Partnerships with Boulder-based OpenSnow, a team of weather forecasters who write “Daily Snow” updates that will point you toward the best snow conditions around the country. 

How did the company get started? And why?
This was a classic “scratch your own itch” beginning for a business. Joel Gratz was forecasting powder for himself and his friends because they all wanted to ski powder and Joel was a trained meteorologist. That turned into a weekly email newsletter, which turned into a blog, which eventually turned into a fully-featured service for skiers and snowboarders across the world.

Who was filling this niche before OpenSnow?
The best place for skiers to get snow forecasts before OpenSnow was from local National Weather Service offices and a few local blogs. The NWS forecasts are created by knowledgeable people, but are more generic and not written especially for skiers. And the small, local blogs are good, but often hard to find.

Who are your biggest competitors? And how do you differentiate yourself?
Lots of websites and apps provide some reports and many provide snow forecasts as well. Our differentiation is that we have local forecasters who know skiing, who know weather, and who put the forecasts into terms that skiers want. For example, instead of saying “chance of snow next Thursday”, we might say “the best powder day in the next 10 days will be next Thursday and the most snow will likely fall for these specific mountains.”

How have you marketed the business, and grown your customer base to 1.5 million skiers and riders?
We have not done any paid marketing. All growth has been word-of-mouth, as skiers tell other skiers about us on the chairlift and when planning powder days. We will likely begin to pay for some limited advertising soon.

What are the biggest challenges you face in marketing the business?
Seasonality. We are most relevant for only 4-6 months of the year, so we have to make those months count!

How is the weather – this year – impacting both ski season? And your own business?
It’s too soon to know. Most of the bookings for Thanksgiving and Christmas are made during the prior season or over the summer, so these times are somewhat insulated from slow starts (warm weather with little snow). However, if the lack of snow and warm air continues into mid-December, I would expect bookings to decrease and interest in snow to wane, which could affect the entire industry and our business. That said, late November and December should be colder and snowier based on many long-range forecasts, so fingers crossed that the flakes begin to fly soon!

How do you stay in touch with your skiers and boarders in- and off-season?
We launched a weather app for hikers called OpenSummit. Right now it provides forecasts for the Colorado 14ers, and we are hoping to expand this to hundreds or thousands of other trails.

What’s your best/favorite accomplishment over the last 3-5 years?
To have created a sustainable, profitable business that educates people about science and helps all of us enjoy a few more powder days than we used to!

What’s your vision for the next 3-5 years?
To create a year-round business made up of snow forecasts in the winter and hiking and biking forecasts in the summer.

What advice would you give to yourself or someone else as they are starting a business?
Love what you’re working on because it’s going to take more time and more effort than you imagine.

Q&A with Colorado Marketing Leaders: Justin Bresler, VISIT DENVER (Part 2)

VISIT DENVER Team Makes Multi-Channel Marketing
a Winning Strategy for Tourism

Justin Bresler, Visit DenverThis is Part 2 of a 2-part interview with Justin Bresler, VP, Marketing & Business Development for VISIT DENVER, the Convention & Visitors Bureau for the city. Click here to read Part 1

Imagine marketing a company that doesn’t sell anything, but has a global audience. Or selling a brand that doesn’t produce anything, but demands discretionary income to consume. And imagine doing it so successfully that you’ve demonstrated a decade of consistent growth without cutting resources, and through a recession when all your industry peers were cutting back.

These challenges may seem insurmountable to some, but for VISIT DENVER, the city’s Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, it’s a labor of love for the residents and tourists that make Denver what it is today. Justin Bresler, VP of Marketing and Business Development, answers some questions about what it takes to market the Mile High City locally and beyond.

What do you consider your primary role on the team at VISIT DENVER, and how has it changed in the last 8 years you’ve been there?
As a brand steward for the city and all it has to offer. But also to manage the functionality of the various levers we can pull. There are more channels available to us than ever before. We’ve had to figure out how to incorporate how to use these channels as they come online. There are unique challenges and opportunities with each. It allows us marketers new opportunities to show success and to reach new people.

Speaking of reaching new people, who are the audiences you are trying to reach? And, how do you find them?
Our international efforts and domestic efforts are two different sales efforts. Internationally, there are a lot of intermediaries like travel agents and tour operators, who are still vital because of their clients’ unfamiliarity with a foreign country. We work to add Denver and Colorado vacations to their product catalog.

Domestically, we market nationally, but focus on key target markets for media spend. We have a media philosophy to go deep in fewer markets than broader in more markets. New York City sends a lot of people everywhere. But you can blow $5 million in a month there. We are in markets that have a history of sending visitors to Denver with great flight access, or a great drive. Chicago, Dallas, Houston and San Diego are markets where we attract a lot of visitors. We have secondary markets as well.

And as for who we are trying to reach – as long as you are of a certain age with discretionary income, we are going to try to find you. Our tactics include are offline, TV, digital and video. Study after study shows the impact of video, which can be expensive to produce. Luckily, technology has given us lots of other places to place that. And, we still have a place for certain print placements.

Nowadays, you have to be everywhere. And digital advertising is great because it’s trackable, but it’s more of a cold medium. It’s hard to inspire someone using a banner ad.

We layer on top of our paid media a lot of other things – outbound PR. Social media effort reaches not just existing but new audiences. That’s been huge for us. We are getting more and more into sponsored content, taking advantage of online publications and their reach. There are a couple of mainstays in our marketing strategy – search is always on, social is always on. But from a marketing standpoint, we are campaign-driven throughout the year. Every time we have a new campaign, we have a fresh media strategy and campaign strategy and vendors that we use.

How do you track the interactions and ‘success’ you have reaching your audiences?
We are moving to measure engagement. A lot of our engagement comes from the website or the social media channels. But it can be equalized across channels. We look at the level of engagement visitors have, determine where they came from, and decide if it’s worth it to keep that channel going. It happens internally with our agency partners. They report to us, we put it thru our data machine internally and we feed back to them and say these are vendors that we feel are performing well.

You mention strategizing with your vendors. How do you decide when to partner with a vendor and when to build an in-house team to handle your marketing?
We really wait until a channel is fairly well developed before we bring on staff. We had social media contracted for a couple of years before we brought on a staff member. Not because we thought social was going away, but because didn’t really know the criteria required or the skill set to staff it. We are a little bit conservative in that way. Because we are a tax-funded organization, we have to be conscious about the investment we make in new platforms and spending in new areas.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to market either themselves or their company?
I would say more than anything today, stay on brand. Your brand is your friend. But be flexible with your tactics because they change so frequently now. Today you need to be well rounded and you need to tell stories. People are going to engage with your stories more than your advertising and it’s always going to be that way. Unless you’re selling toilet paper and just waiting for the next coupon. If those stories are true to your brand, you will be able to differentiate yourself.

Colorado Marketing Leaders: VISIT COLORADO

Q&A with Colorado Marketing Leaders: Justin Bresler, VISIT DENVER (Part 1)

VISIT DENVER Team Makes Multi-Channel Marketing
a Winning Strategy for Tourism

Justin Bresler, Visit DenverThis is part 1 of a 2-part interview with Justin Bresler, VP, Marketing & Business Development for VISIT DENVER, the Convention & Visitors Bureau for the city.  Click here to read part 2.

Imagine marketing a company that doesn’t sell anything, but has a global audience. Or selling a brand that doesn’t produce anything, but demands discretionary income to consume. And imagine doing it so successfully that you’ve demonstrated a decade of consistent growth without cutting resources, and through a recession when all your industry peers were cutting back.

These challenges may seem insurmountable to some, but for VISIT DENVER, the city’s Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, it’s a labor of love for the residents and tourists that make Denver what it is today. Justin Bresler, VP of Marketing and Business Development, answers some questions about what it takes to market the Mile High City locally and beyond.

How is marketing a city different than marketing a business? We don’t own anything. You can’t buy anything from the Bureau. You can’t ‘buy’ Denver. We don’t own hotels, we don’t operate restaurants, or operate tours. But there is a sales funnel in travel, just as there is in lots of businesses.

You (as a traveler) may be dreaming of a destination but don’t go for five years. There could be 10 other places ahead of it. But it’s not like you have five cars in mind and you are going to buy one every year for the next five years. I think that’s what is different about travel. And once we do our job, we must track the results by proxy. We measure through website traffic, engagement, hotel visits and some of those other tangibles we don’t ‘own.’

What’s unique about Denver as a brand? Compared to other businesses, and/or compared to its tourism competitors?
Travel is an interesting sector because you must have discretionary income to do it. And that may ebb and flow over the course of years. Travel – and international travel – has become a lot easier and some respects a lot more affordable. So, our marketplace is global. And, because travel is a discretionary purchase, we are competing with other destinations, but we also are competing with things like ‘am I going to redo my basement this year?’

While travel is a ‘considered’ purchase it’s certainly something people can see as necessary in their lives. When they do that, they have to connect with a destination. Lots of destinations market themselves with some kind of “lots to see and do” messaging. But every destination has lots to see and do. We try to do things differently in Denver.

Denver has a unique market because we aren’t just an urban destination. We have the rest of the state to help pull people in. We know that people who want to come here want that combination of city and mountains. Years ago, we were just a gateway to push people to the mountains. That’s changed over the years. Now, you have to ask someone the question, “How do we get someone from Chicago to want to spend time in Denver and not just in the mountains?” We ask ourselves that all the time.
It starts with the outdoors, layered with some great urban experiences. The Denver brand position is an outdoor city full of urban adventure.

With that outdoor city/urban adventure messaging, you can line up the “brand pillars” neatly underneath that. The things that we use in the city are outdoor activities – call it light adventure. We might be the gateway for extreme mountain biking, but the experiences you’ll have in the city are open to everyone. It might be the B-cycle program, Yoga on the Rocks or drinking craft beer on an outdoor patio. That’s become a big draw in the city – the outdoor dining scene. Some people mountain bike or ski, but everybody eats. Five to ten years ago, it was Downtown and Larimer Square that held the urban dining options. Now, Highlands is a hot spot, so is River North and South Broadway. You can go to any part of the city and get a great meal.

Denver is one of the fastest-growing markets in the country – what challenges does that come with?
The things that make Denver a great place to live also make it a great place to visit. We want to make sure that locals don’t feel visitors are a burden on the city. Tourism is clean money. It’s one of the few places that a city can invest and bring back a big return. We can say to residents, ‘if it wasn’t for tourism, each family would spend $600-$700 more each year in taxes to enjoy the same services they enjoy today.’ Visitors have a much lower impact on the city because they come in and go home. The tourists are the 20 percenters that make a good year great for the restaurants and the performing arts complexes and other attractions in our city.

What do you consider the greatest accomplishments of the VISIT DENVER team? And why?
We’ve grown tourism for 10 straight years. Some of those years were tough economic years. If you look at 2008-2009, the statics we were seeing showed not that fewer people were traveling, but they were taking fewer trips and traveling shorter distances. So, we decided we would work on marketing to the 600-mile radius around Denver. That’s a function of being flexible and good planning. As soon as the worsening economic situation was pretty clear, we did a whole retreat as a leadership staff and asked ourselves, ‘how are we going to respond?’ We were able to maintain our budgets while our peers were cutting. It was just smart financial management and smart media buying. We actually grew during that time. So, the thing that I’m most proud of is the $6 billion economic impact that tourism brings to the city. It’s a function of good leadership, having the budget to do the things we need to do and having the patience to not chase something that is so short-term.

Read part 2 of the interview with Justin.