Gov. John Hickenlooper
Gov. John Hickenlooper (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

Gov. John Hickenlooper unveiled an effort Tuesday to broadly "rebrand" Colorado to attract more tourists, talented people and businesses.

Hickenlooper told a group of state tourism officials and organizations at the State Capitol that it is important to take a look at what Colorado is and to capture that in a "brand."

"I came up in the hospitality industry and know very powerfully that relationship between brand and business. The better we are, and the more freshly we can define what Colorado stands for and what it is, the better our tourism industry will do," said Hickenlooper.

"How important it is to have a fresh look at what Colorado is and what our brand is," said Hickenlooper.

In the coming months, said Hickenlooper, using the broadest paint brush possible, a group called "brandCO" will try to ascertain "what is Colorado. Not just ski resorts, but all the aspects of Colorado's identity."

"In the end, if we do this well enough, other states are going to be looking at us and saying 'hey, we are going to do that'," the governor said.

According to Jeff Donaldson of brandCO, the brand should encompass all sectors of Colorado such as business, education agriculture and tourism.

That should "bring to life an enduring and resilient Colorado brand that will inspire our residents, unite our state programs and attract businesses, talent and tourists from around the globe," said Donaldson.


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This image, or "brand," will be in place for decades, at least 20 to 30 years, said Donaldson.

"The brand message and look and feel that is created will support what everyone in this room is doing for decades," said Donaldson.

The Colorado brand will be robust enough to rise above bad news and events, said Donaldson.

"When something hits the press and it may not be good, Colorado gets known for that," said Donaldson. "Our goal, as a state should be to have a brand that rises above all that."

By having a brand, marketing experts are able to not only figure out what the great essence of that brand is "but then manage how that message gets out," said Donaldson.

"This is for attracting business and also tourism — it is a way to find an umbrella brand or umbrella message to encapsulate all of that. That is really the purpose," said Donaldson, account director of brandCO.

The goals of marketing the Colorado brand are to outperform the nation in net job growth; expand Colorado's share of U.S. overnight visitor market from 2.7 percent to 3.5 percent; attract out-of-state talent at a rate faster than the national average; and grow satisfaction, desirability and awareness scores that lead the nation.

During the "Tourism Day", tourism boosters came armed with new statistics showing how vacationers inject money into state tax coffers and create jobs.

Visitor spending climbed to $15.9 billion in 2011, up 9.2 percent from 2010. Vacationers contributed $879 million in state and local taxes in 2011, according to a study by Dean Runyan Associates.

That spending supported 141,000 workers who earned $4.1 billion, according to the study.

"Tourism in Colorado is directly linked to boosting our economy and creating jobs," said Rep. Millie Hamner, whose constituents live across the tourism-dependent economies in Delta, Gunnison, Pitkin, Lake and Summit counties.

The Colorado Tourism Office's newest "Come to Life" marketing campaign last summer generated $900 million in additional visitor spending, a return of $200 for every dollar invested in the campaign.

Howard Pankratz: 303-954-1939; hpankratz@denverpost.com