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Grand County reinvention: How to create a new reputation for a place founded in 1874

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Re-envisioning an entire geographic area is a surprisingly straightforward process. First, there are the facts: Grand County is the Colorado's 21st largest, has been around since 1874 and is home to quite a lot of water. Like many mountain areas, it share the same qualities its high-elevation peers sport -- mainly, beautiful scenery. The difference, then, comes down to grammar.

Specifically, the hairs split directly on gerunds, followed by a new advertising campaign that seeks to use them -- lots of them -- to prove the county's merits. Signature Advertising, in conjunction with the county's tourism board, recently unveiled a new campaign to attract visitors based on fresh art, modern ideas and the slogan, "Get your ING on." As slogans intended to lure commerce go, this one falls somewhere in the grey area between "Just do it" and "I'm lovin' it."

"Our whole thing is that we want people to stop on it and think," says Karen Ruby, Signature's president. "When you see, 'Get your ING on,' you're like, 'What?' It works, and it's an active strategy."

The entire campaign centers on the merits of activity, particularly the ones that can be accomplished in the 1,869.6 square miles that are Grand County. Once readers move past the initial confusion, the slogan and its accompanying art clearly emphasize the ING-ending hobbies that are common in the area -- hiking, biking, fishing, sailing, horseback riding -- in an approach that is Grammar Gone Wild for the outdoorsy crowd.

"Every mountain town in Colorado has a lot of the same aspects: pretty mountain pictures, mountain biking, lakes," Ruby says. "All of the ads are really similar. You could see one of those photos and it could be from anywhere in the mountains. We wanted to be different."

Instead, Grand County's tourism board and creative team organized to conceive four different campaigns dedicated to taking Grand County past the regional stereotype and into a new era of increased tourism. "We have all the outdoor INGs, basically, and then some more philosophical ones, like learning," Ruby says. Although the board visited the concepts of all four in Denver, the ING concept was unanimously selected to represent those goals.

The area's previous campaign, one that had been in use since 2004, had begun to outgrow its original intentions. "We always have a real Western look, and we wanted to keep it fresh, mix it up, make it modern and give it cleaner lines," Ruby says. The accepted idea took only a week to create once brainstorming began. "I think there's more of a fun personality this time, that you get up there and there are all of these activities to do. It's more lighthearted. In a sense, that means, 'Get out of your daily grind and get out and have some fun.'"

That idea, communicated behind a direct request for viewers to get their ING on, has been integrated into a redesign of the county's tourism advertisements and website. Although the ING concept is designed around the ability to manipulate it in different directions in the future, Ruby is keeping mum on any big upcoming plans.

"One of the ways we're going to adapt it is by asking instead, 'What's your ING?' and taking it to the next step," Ruby says. The extension of the original slogan shows promise accompanied by an increase in nebulousness. "I can't share any more plans than that."

The new face of Grand County is a mysterious one, it would appear.

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