As we reported in last week’s issue, the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies initiative is in the process of a developing a brand for the combined region of Bennington and Windham counties.
“Branding” is a word that means different things to different people. But put it in a marketing context, and most people will say it’s what gives something a distinctive identity that consumers can relate to.
Say Coca-Cola, Ford, Nike, or Disneyworld, and most people will have a distinct idea in their mind about what you’re talking about: Soft drinks, cars, shoes, and theme parks. That’s brand identity. It’s something that southern Vermont hasn’t had much success with over the years, a problem that planners hope to overcome.
A recent study conducted by an outside branding and marketing firm spells out some pretty clear assets, and some clear obstacles to overcome to achieve the goals of this effort. What we like first and foremost is the stated objective of developing a brand for the region: “Bringing people here.”
While that may seem simplistic, in reality that stated objective creates a complicated path to walk along. That’s why we also like that they chose to break up the objectives into two area to focus on: bringing additional tourist dollars into the region, and bringing new business and capital into the area.
The report says that the way growth is achieved may come from different mechanisms, and that programs achieving growth will need to be created. That is where the long-term focus comes into play. Results won’t happen overnight, and those in both the public and private sectors who are banking on results from this initiative will have to have the stomach to ride this out.
The report also outlines negatives to overcome. Two that jump out are ones we’ve seen time and time again whenever broad-based marketing initiatives get underway: getting businesses and marketers on board with a unified message, and getting businesses and communities to put aside regional differences for the greater good. Those are two tough ones, and it will take much effort to overcome entrenched thinking by many.
For those who don’t understand branding, overcoming those two obstacles mentioned above will prove to be challenging. The major thing SeVEDS will have to accomplish is buy-in. It’s one thing to develop a logo or catchprase, it’s another thing to get businesses in the region to use them on a regular basis in their individual marketing or recruitment campaigns.
It that buy-in can be achieved, then there will be a chance for success, and we will all benefit in the long run.