Yes, it’s called “Funner,” a new city in North San Diego County that was officially renamed last week by the Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians. And if that isn’t quirky enough, David Hasselhoff of Bay Watch and Knight Rider fame was inaugurated as the city’s first Mayor.
The story of the founding of Funner, California goes back to 2012. At the time Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort, was looking to distinguish itself from more than two dozen Indian casinos in Southern California that were competing for the same group of aging consumers.
The resort made dramatic changes to its product, adding a pool complex with a swim-up bar, a lazy river and social day club called “Dive.” But the ultimate re-positioning was to change the name of the 40 acres that make up the Harrah’s facility. An aptly name San Diego-based advertising agency called i.d.e.a. proposed the concept of renaming the area to “Funner” to reflect the resort’s mission to help raise the level of visitor “fun” to an even higher level.
The Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians Tribal Council Leaders embraced the idea and voted unanimously to adopt the new name. An official proclamation was adopted on August 1, 2016 and the last ten months have been all about getting the powers that be – organizations like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Waze, Yahoo, Yelp, MapQuest, Bing and White & Yellow Pages – to recognize and adopt the new name.
Funner, California is now literally on the map as well as highway signage.
Finally on May 18, a bit of Hollywood promotion took center stage when actor David Hasselhoff was officially inaugurated as Mayor of Funner. Quick to play his part, Hasselhoff announced, “When I was tapped to run for mayor, I knew I was the guy for the job because, honestly, who’s funner than The Hoff?” A broadcast advertising campaign launched last week to communicate “Funner” to potential visitors throughout Southern California.
Now you might dismiss all of this as a public relations stunt gone wild. But the resort and its staff have fully embraced the new brand. Guests exhibiting “funner” behavior are rewarded with “Funcitations” by a local “Fun Enforcement” team. Bartenders are creating their own “funner” (and sometimes flammable) drinks that aren’t even on the menu. The resort plants “golden tickets” throughout the restaurants that promise prizes with every dining opportunity. They’re also offering Funner branded merchandise on property to fully embrace the brand and state of mind.
According to i.d.e.a. founder and chief relationships officer Jon Bailey, “Funner is killing it. Every other casino in the country is looking at what’s happening here.”
In the normally cautious world of place marketing, we can only admire the Rincon Tribe, Harrah’s and i.d.e.a. for taking a bolder (and yes, funner) path.