When it comes to local government activities such as branding or marketing, different stakeholders have different ideas and are very passionate about those ideas. It has been apparent throughout the branding process taken by the District of Lake Country. From a local newspaper to a radio show, from stakeholders and citizens, many have provided input and different opinions regarding both the product and the process. I have to say to all, though that we do not have a product yet and certainly the process is not over either.
Just to remind all how this came about, the District of Lake Country has received some money and a deadline from the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and the provincial government to create a community brand and branding strategy and the Council decided to assign the task to lead this project to the Economic Planning & Development Committee. The Committee is following a typical path that is very well established when it comes to these projects, which can be summarized as follows:
- Establish Terms of Reference for the project, including criteria for selection and a budget;
- Issue a general call for Requests for Proposal for consultants willing to take on the project, within the budget and timeframe established by the Committee and the funding organization;
- Receive the proposals and review them against the set criteria, and finally shortlist to those that more aptly would be able to deliver the job on time, on budget, but especially, with the best end product;
- Select the consultant among those shortlisted and recommend to Council that the project be awarded to him/her;
- Work with the consultant to deliver the final products.
The Committee has completed the first four tasks and is in the middle of acting on the last one, which will end with the final product being delivered and approved by Council.
The final product is twofold: 1) a logo and tagline representing the visual brand of the community; and 2) a plan to implement and make the brand successful. As this is a community branding exercise, which is funded by the regional tourism association, it is necessary that both the process and the final product be wide enough to have a strong community component but also a strong flexibility that would allow wide marketability by the tourism industry in the area. I would go a step further to say that it should also versatile enough to serve the business community in general and other activities, areas, and organizations within Lake Country.
The budget is limited to $22,000 of which half come from Tourism BC through the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, and the deadline for completion of the project is March 31st, 2011. Both of these factors are somewhat limitative to the project. It is my experience that a firm like the one we hired to do this, would probably charge in the range of $50,000 to $75,000, and that it would usually take a good 12 months to complete and deliver. Notwithstanding the limitations, which should be taken into account when it comes to process, the consultant and the District have been working hard to:
- Complete a discovery stage of the community, which, by its nature involved a limited number of stakeholders representatives. The one-day session included representatives of the students from George Elliott Secondary School, the Agricultural Advisory Committee, the Chamber of Commerce, the Tourism Committee, the Economic Planning & Development Committee, Council, and the Public Arts Advisory Committee;
- Issue a Public Survey and hold a Public Open House to get feedback on some very conceptual logo and taglines, which would help the consultants to work on producing some more definite ideas; and
- Have photo contest with the idea to create an image database for the benefit of the implementation phase of the branding strategy. A selection of the best will be awarded some prizes made available through the generosity of a number of local businesses.
We had many positive comments about the process, the public involvement, even the very draft logos and taglines. But we also had some negative and some very negative comments. I am not surprised and it is part of the process. That is why we have a process and why we have an open mind until the final outcome is laid out for all of us to see. Some comments were not constructive at all, in fact, I believe, inappropriate. Others were very constructive and valuable, even if designs and taglines were not liked. More stakeholders will be involved and more ideas tossed around. In the end, I believe that although we may not all be happy with the final product, it will further create a sense of belonging and an opportunity to clearly identify Lake Country whenever we interact with others. And the fresh cookies will not feel stale.