From its inception in November of 1926, the business of Route 66 has been multifaceted. The initial level is promotion of the road itself. Next would be the promotion of communities along that highway and then, the individual promotion of museums, motels, restaurants, service stations, garages, and attractions. Last, but not least is promotion of the entire package.
The first visionaries to grasp the potential and importance of presenting Route 66 as a community were people with a vested interest in the highway such as Cyrus Avery. The iconic status of this highway today is largely resultant of the establishment of the U.S. Highway 66 Association in February of 1927, and the initial advertising campaigns that presented Route 66 as “The Main Street of America.”
Fast forward about eighty-six years to the era of resurgent interest in a highway that technically no longer exists. The need for multifaceted advertisement remains unchanged. Likewise with the need to promote the various components as a package.
What has changed is the fact that in the beginning the promoters were starting with a clean slate. Today those of us involved in promoting the double six have the advantage of having a product with international brand recognition.
From that perspective the Route 66 Alliance, an organization that is building a coalition to continue the work of the original U.S. Highway 66 Association has an easier job than their predecessors, at least in theory. There is still the age old challenge of funding, coordination, and playing peace maker.
The original promotional entity had an annual convention. The Alliance, and the Route 66 community in the 21st century, have the annual International Route 66 Festival, an event that mirrors the new face of this legendary highway.
This year the international celebration of Route 66, its history, its culture, and its mystique that presents the illusion of being a massive family reunion is scheduled for Joplin. Next year, if all goes as planned, the spotlight may shift west to Kingman.
In the modern era there is another facet of Route 66 that also feeds the promotion of that storied highway, the artists, authors, and collectors who preserve the old roads history as well as fuel the fires of the imagination that now burn internationally. With the exception of the annual international festivals where they are often a centerpiece, they must be creative in regard to self promotion.
In that realm I have learned that a certain amount of gallows humor, and more flexibility than Gumby, is crucial. To date, my endeavors to promote books written, which in turn add depth and context to the Route 66 experience, has led to overcoming issues with speaking in public, learning to develop a website and blog, and lots of travel.
Now it is taking me into the realm of video production, on site television interviews, speaking engagements, and, soon, a weekly radio program that will also be available on podcast (a great opportunity to promote your business – ask for Sunny Aris). I am also learning to play tour guide, as per request.
The business of Route 66, as with the road itself, is never boring.