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Experts want to create strong branding image for Nelson

A pair of local marketing experts believe that Nelson needs to create a strong branding image. - Nelson Star file photo
A pair of local marketing experts believe that Nelson needs to create a strong branding image.
— image credit: Nelson Star file photo

A couple of local marketing experts want the City of Nelson to hire them to develop a branded image for the municipality.

Chris Drysdale, owner of the Cloudside Inn, and film producer Gregory Mackenzie made the pitch at a council meeting Monday evening.

The pair have formed a “community identity” working group along with city manager Kevin Cormack, cultural development officer Joy Barrett, Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson, and Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism executive director Dianna Ducs.

They’re asking for $33,000 to find a strong image Nelson can use for marketing. About a third of the funds would be used to hire community branding consultant Roger Brooks, who’s helped more than 100 cities around the world find their identity. He turned Vulcan, Alberta into the Star Trek Capital of Canada and Enumclaw, Washington into the Equestrian Capital of the Northwest.

The rest of the funding would be spent on community engagement and to pay Drysdale and Mackenzie to manage the project.

Mackenzie believes Nelson is falling behind neighbouring communities that are already developing brands for themselves.

“Even if we seem to think we’re well known and recognized as unique place to live and work, cities around us are actively engaging in branding,” Mackenzie told council, citing Nakusp, Kimberley, Castlegar, Rossland and Elkford as branded communities.

With a strong image, he said Nelson could, “attract more talent and the dollars that come with that — whether it’s businesses or tourists or families moving here.”

Drysdale said Nelson currently has many competing images and should pick one to focus on — be it the heritage architecture, the outdoor opportunities, the arts and culture scene, or the variety of restaurants.

“We have so much to offer that we don’t tell people about,” Drysdale said.

If the project goes ahead, the working group would spend six months working through a 10 stage process, developed by Brook, which involves asking Nelson residents and visitors about the image they would like the town to have and then filtering through the options until they have one that they believe is the most realizable and authentic for the community.

The group would then deliver a set of actions for the city to take to incorporate the identity into future projects, like the Hall Street corridor redevelopment.

“There are things the city is going to do anyways, and we’re staying ‘let’s tie them together, let’s have consistency,’” Drysdale said.

Councillor Paula Kiss liked the idea.

“Large sums of money are being spent without this cohesive vision,” she said, referring to the new informational signage and lamppost banners downtown. “This could be a worthwhile investment in advance of all the other expenditures. We should know we’re not just putting bad money after bad money because we don’t have a plan for how things should look.”

Mayor John Dooley wasn’t so sure.

“How is this any different from the last project, when we spent $60,000 for a logo that looked like a flying bra?” Dooley asked, referring to a rarely used icon that can be seen on the Wikipedia page for Nelson.

He added that he likes that Nelson doesn’t have “cookie cutter” buildings and thinks there shouldn’t be one design throughout the whole city.

Though the mayor opposed the idea, he was outnumbered by the rest of council, which  recommended that staff look at the proposal and bring it back for future consideration.

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