By Tina Comeau
When it comes to branding, sometimes it is all about a gut feeling.
This was one of the messages from a session that explored the issue of branding for Yarmouth – a process that is in the beginning stages, but dates back to a 20-year downtown revitalization report prepared for the town and released four years ago.
Yarmouth town council says there hasn’t been enough movement on that revitalization plan and so it has identified areas to proceed with, branding being one of them.
In a July 31 session entitled, “What drives your pride?’ some local citizens, business people, councillors and the mayor turned out to share their thoughts on what Yarmouth means to them, and what they think it should mean to others.
“A lot of people think that brand is a logo. Some people think that brand is a color. Some people think that brand is a tag line,” said John deWolf of Form:Media, a company that specializes in branding and is working with the town in this process. “And yes, while these make up components of brand, it’s a lot more complex to simply say this is our logo and this is our tag line.”
His counterpart Iain MacLeod described branding as a relationship a person has to a person, place or thing.
“There’s a relationship in our day-to-day lives between every product or service or person we meet, that’s what brand is,” MacLeod said. “It’s a relationship. It’s a feeling you have – it doesn’t have to be rational, it can be emotional – that sums up your attitudes and feelings towards something.”
A brand, it was stated, can be about what motivates residents or what attracts visitors. And a brand can speak to both of these things at the same time.
Those who attended the session were asked to share their thoughts about Yarmouth. Exercises included describing Yarmouth using three nouns and/or three verbs and adjectives. Some of the words thrown out included seafood, relaxing, inviting, scenic, cultural, gateway, safe and sea.
People were also asked to complete sentences that touched on what Yarmouth means to a visitor, a resident and a business.
While the responses varied during the exercises, when it came to the question ‘What does Yarmouth do better than any other community?’ most everyone in the room was on the same page. Yarmouth, they said, can’t be beat when it comes to hosting – whether it be hosting events, hosting conferences or hosting visitors.
We don’t just do it. We do it right.
Asked the question, ‘What do you wish Yarmouth to be known for in the future?’ one group of participants said they’d like to see this area be known as a destination, as opposed to just a gateway, especially with the ferry service now in place.
The research phase of this branding exercise is still ongoing and people are invited the weigh in through an online survey.
The survey can be found online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JXLYYTS
Meanwhile, branding isn’t the only issue that was identified in the downtown revitalization plan prepared by Ekistics in 2010. And so there are other areas within the plan that are seeing movement now, in addition to the branding process underway.
On July 30, Ekistics held a façade session for downtown businesses.
“We had probably 20 building owners. There were 16 that put up their hands and said they want to participate in the program,” said Rob LeBlanc of Ekistics. “There’s enough funding this year for 20 façade programs so we’ve got staff . . . that are meeting with those building owners.”
A façade project can range from a complete makeover to subtle improvements to changes with signage. The town is putting in up to $5,000 in matching dollars for each business that wants to undertake a façade project. For now the focus is on the downtown Main Street-facing central core, but in future years it will likely expand beyond this boundary. The intent of starting out with a focused area is so the work is more condensed and therefore presents more of an impact.
As well, a streetscape project is in the works. LeBlanc said it will begin with one block of the downtown and eventually expand from there. The streetscape project involves new sidewalks, bump outs and a greening of Main Street with trees and gardens. The first block to be developed will be the section of Main Street running between John and Cliff streets.
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