Camp is over. Now you face the beginning of that annual series of decision points, and one is determining the marketing message you will deliver for the 2003 season. Perhaps this is the very best time of year to discuss two critical aspects of your marketing message: content and tonality.
On the issue of content, you have the opportunity to balance needed information (often called “rates and dates”) with promotional messages about the value of the camp experience that you offer. Some camp directors choose to treat content super-seriously — never straying from a straightforward exposition of every last detail about the workings of the camp and the requirements of campers and parents. As a result, some camp marketing materials resemble little more than a parent’s manual. They bypass the opportunity to eagerly highlight what makes an individual camp special and valuable.
Why does this happen? Too often those responsible for guiding the camp marketing message feel that to stray from the factual straight-and-narrow may erode perceptions of the camp’s overall trustworthiness. Those who feel this way may imagine a parent reading a more fanciful message and responding with something like this: “Gee, that camp just said something funny in its brochure. Maybe they don’t take their near-sacred role of responsibility very seriously.” We can readily see that this is an association that is unlikely to occur among the vast majority who will see or hear the message. Therefore, it is unnecessary to reign in the marketing message just because it might raise the eyebrows of “someone out there.”
Setting the Tone
Including humor and joyfulness in the content of the message moves us into a discussion of tonality — the two are interrelated. In short, you are a camp. You are expected to provide an end product of . . . fun. If your marketing materials constitute the first look prospects get of your camp, and if that first glimpse does not impart a sense of the fun you create, how do you dig yourself out from that point?
Even if your specialty makes it important that your emphasis is on the instructional component — for example, a tennis or computer camp — the learning is still imparted in a manner that is appropriate for a summer activity. Never fail to portray fun, enjoyment, and relaxation as part of your operation’s total ambience.
Here are some examples of photos depicting the fun-filled experience of camp that are fine for your Web site or your brochure:
Marketing the truth
How precious, right? However, the camp director would not allow the clip to be included. The rationale: “We would not want anyone to possibly think that our grounds are penetrable off-season and that some child might get hurt while unattended on our camp equipment.”
How sad, right? This was a fanciful wish expressed by a small child — not based in fact and certainly unlikely to occur. It was almost certain not to happen in reality. Any reasonable parent would understand that this is not some veiled invitation from the camp for children to sneak back during off-season. Yet, the video was produced without this magical moment.
In editing your message, consider your statements carefully; however, do not express your message in such a standardized fashion that your finished marketing tool loses its impact.
When is “puffery” acceptable?
Of course, this does not suggest the wisdom of creating a message such as “Camp X is the best place you could possibly send your child.”
However, here is a better application: Camp Wayne for Girls, located in Pennsylvania, maintains an exhaustive recruiting process to find outstanding counselors. Camp owner Noel Corpuel frequently presents seminars at