January 15th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 2
Who's in Charge
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
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Feature Writer
What do you do when you’ve purchased something ridiculously expensive – a foreign convertible, the 12-seater hot tub, a sophisticated in-home cinema – and then discover that it doesn’t meet your needs. That it’s fussy to own and expensive to maintain. And you feel like an idiot every time you see it, because it’s a reminder of something you’ve done wrong.

That’s the situation facing Council. What do we do with our “brand,” our “Naturally Rewarding,” $250,000+ Lamborghini. We can’t get a refund, even though it was ridiculously expensive. We have no idea if it meets our needs because we don't know if the right questions were asked before it was purchased. And if we keep using it, is it throwing good money after bad?

Some of those I’ve talked with believe we should scrap the “brand” – the signage, the stationery, the convoluted identity and start from the beginning.

Others believe that since we’ve already paid for the Lamborghini of logos, we might as well get some use out of it. At least take it for a few spins around the block.

Then there are those who couldn’t care a less what Council does because they don’t believe a “brand” makes any difference to whether people visit, stay or invest in our community. It’s style over substance, fluff instead of relevance, quiche not meat and potatoes.

I’m not sure which option is right. Before I can decide, I need to know exactly how “Naturally Rewarding” makes our community a better place to visit, live and invest in. Does anyone in our community know the answer to that question?

Because before we decide whether to scrap, adapt or ignore the “brand” we have to be very clear about what we hope to achieve by using it. Is it to increase tourism? If so, how can we measure whether “Naturally Rewarding” achieves that objective. Does the “brand” represent what is unique about this area? Does it compel people to come here and spend money? Does it serve as a beam of light for local residents and businesses who work in the tourism industry?

Or is the “brand’s” purpose to inspire residents? Does it capture what makes us proud to live here? And if it does, what is the benefit to our community, in tangible terms, of having a brand? Does “Naturally Rewarding” make us want to be better citizens? Does it inspire us to volunteer? If we see the “Naturally Rewarding” flags flapping in the winter breeze, does it fill our heart with community spirit and encourage us to bend down and pick up some litter?

Is the “brand’s” objective to make new businesses locate to the Crowsnest Pass and encourage existing owners to stay? How will it do that? Can business owners hitch their business plans to the “brand”? Do they feel a synergy that comes from everyone working towards a common goal – does the “brand” represent that goal? How can we connect our “brand” to those of the communities around us?

Someone wise once said that every good answer starts with the right question. If somewhere in the catacombs of the Town Office there is evidence that the experts and expensive external consultants pondered these questions and “Naturally Rewarding” is the one, true answer then share that information with the public and stick with what we’ve got.

But if the answers aren’t there, if we haven’t asked the right questions, if we’ve put an expensive car on the road without even knowing why we bought it and whether we can afford the maintenance, then I think we need to do some soul-searching. We need to figure out who we are as a community, what we want to achieve, and how we plan to get there. And how does a “brand” make that an easier, more focused, more profitable journey.

Branding is more than a catchy name, a colourful logo and tattered flags flapping in the breeze. It should be a powerful synthesis of what makes us distinct. It must be the answer to the important questions.

And it doesn’t have to be expensive. It just has to be right.
January 15th ~ Vol. 84 No. 2
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