I would just like to clear up a misconception that the City of Whitehorse is currently perpetuating. A brand is not a logo; it is not an advertisement; it is not a colour or even a slogan. A brand is everything about how you are perceived or experienced by your audience. You have one even if you don't want one. 
 
"Branding" is about coming to a clear understanding about what you value, what sets you apart, and what—specifically— makes you different. Then you can begin to articulate your values and differentiation in your communications.
 
What's valuable in rebranding the city we live in is the opportunity to understand what people living here and abroad feel about Whitehorse, how the city envisions it's future and how best to represent that.
 
SOME of this information gets translated into visual components, like colours, a logo, a "tag-line." But branding has the potential to radically change how the subject functions internally too. In the case of the city, having guidelines about our city brand could allow all the different departments and businesses to work together in creating a unified vision of Whitehorse's future.
 
At this very moment, the "brand" of Whitehorse is being created by a  public vote on two logos. There's so much to write about this that would far exceed my blog quota for the day.
 
This is the survey:
http://www.city.whitehorse.yk.ca/
 
The image above is taken from this survey and you will note that it asks you to choose a logo. I repeat… a logo is NOT a brand! 
 
Unfortunately you cannot finish the survey without clicking on one of the two logos, so please make note in the comments that without an articulated set of brand values you are not selecting an identity in any meaningful sense. You are actually being asked which picture you like best based on a gut reaction. 
 
If you have any other questions about branding and what it really means, please drop us a comment/question. We would love to clarify any confusion.
 

18 comments




by paul

perhaps the city is indulging in another one of it’s exercises in imaging rather that branding. a real brand would surely include an effort to give the citizens what they want, something inherent in the democratic process. what many people feel (including those who bother to vote) is that their concerns are largely solicited, then ignored. we go through meetings and charrettes only to see decisions based on bureaucratic necessities or the satisfaction of influential factions. there are many instances of this regarding zoning issues, but an immediate example is this logo contest. we have a choice between two things now, and only ‘because the electorate is being a pain in the ass and should have got meaningfully involved earlier, and this whole thing is silly because you can’t please everyone anyway, and we know best so lets get this over with’. that is the city brand in my view. perhaps at this point more energy should be apportioned to process rather than image.

04.18.2011

by Doug Brown

This is a phenomenal post Eleanor. Good on you for bringing it out. The survey is precisely what you say it is: a popularity contest that will split the vote down generational lines. A brand is not created by popular vote! It is. Just as you are. A vote could determine whether a logo captures a brand’s personality, but no such avenue is open for Whitehorse voters. Boo.

04.18.2011

by Neil

I recently spent a weekend in Alaska waist deep in freezing water - my first attempt at fly fishing.

Fly fishing is the pursuit of patience, of learning and understanding the environment you’re in, what you’re trying to catch and how best to position oneself as appealing.

I read your post and it strikes me that the approach that’s been used is more akin to spin casting - throwing something flashy in the water and hoping it grabs attention.

Thanks for this post, I hope the city decides to revisit their method rather than simply settle for a knew lure.

04.18.2011

by Justine Davidson

Well said.

04.18.2011

by Mike Armstrong

I agree. Branding is more than a logo. The logo is part of the message. I think that this whole branding project was reduced to a popularity contest after those that chose ‘not to be involved’ in the project in the beginning signed a misleading petition and presented to council. It was ‘all’ about branding in the beginning. Many ‘misinformed’ people turned it into something about a logo.

04.18.2011

by Murray Lundberg

The City has posted a values statement as part of the survey:

The City of Whitehorse is the home, destination and investment opportunity for those who think highly of a community that values its people, its natural surroundings and a sensibility for sustainable development.

With our unique combination of geography, innovation, resources and culture, Whitehorse is unrivaled by any other Canadian city in cultivating rewarding personal, professional and entrepreneurial experiences.

We welcome and support those ready to embrace our vision, our values and our comfortably northern point of view.

Whitehorse is for:
• Someone who really loves the great outdoors, yet appreciates the amenities of living in a city.
• Someone who respects individual achievements, yet values community engagement.
• Someone who appreciates traditions, yet promotes sustainable development.

In any city, challenges arise and opinions often differ. But in this city, people work together to make it work. That’s harmony. In Whitehorse, diversity empowers cooperation. Entrepreneurialism leverages the establishment. Adventure complements stability. Camaraderie fosters great opportunities.

It’s this kind of atmosphere, time after time, that puts the City of Whitehorse, in the minds and hearts of all that experience it, above all expectations.

———————————————

What was imported from Ontario was not only not a “brand”, it didn’t even say anything about Whitehorse. It could have been created for any town down south that has a lot of horsey hobby farms.

04.18.2011

by Richard

Neil:
I was there with you freezing in Alaskan waters. You will remember that I was throwing some pretty flashy stuff around. Even a spincaster needs to know his positioning statement in order to successfully catch fish. I think the fact that I caught 32 fish demonstrates that I had a marketable positioning . How many fish did you catch, Neil?

04.18.2011

by Meandering Michael

What gets me about this whole “branding” exercise is how little discussion there is about the purpose and desired outcome of the new “brand”.  Investment attraction?  Attracting new residents? A tourist draw?  A badge of pride for locals to rally around?  Forget the logo - the proposed tag-line doesn’t do it either.

Well-executed municipal brands have a purpose, just like any corporate brand.

04.18.2011

by John

No, a logo is not a brand as you so well put it, Eleanor, but a logo helps to identify with the brand. Coca-Cola is a brand and its logo is one of the visualisations of the brand as well as the bottle shape, the red colour, the “coke machines” etc. Whitehorse does not have a distinctive image yet which you can ask a Calgarian and get an answer. Vancouver has an image that one visualizes when the name is mentioned, just like Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Dawson City and Peggy’s Cove.

The first “survey” was just a series of questions eliciting what Whitehosers picture the town as. I am sure there were as many responses as there were people who bothered to answer. The word got out that this firm was hired to “change the logo”. Many of us are partial to the traditions of sternwheeler life, even those of us who have never seen a sternwheeler in action. If anything, that is the image many people have of Whitehorse. It certainly was before I got here from NFB films about the Yukon, the Yukon River and Whitehorse.

We have a real live sternwheeler in Whitehorse to remind us of the fact that Whitehorse was the southern terminus of a longstanding sternwheeler transportation route.

Then came the unveiling of the new logo and lo and behold as someone pointed out (sorry, I deleted the ArtsNet post because I didn’t want to get involved in this discussion so I can’t give you due credit at this time) it is a copy of Woodbine Entertainment’s logo for Woodbine and Mohawk racetracks.

http://www.woodbineentertainment.com/Woodbine/Pages/Default.aspx

http://www.woodbineentertainment.com/Mohawk/Pages/Default.aspx

You can’t copy someone else’s registered trademark and expect to get away with it, especially since the National Post picked up the story.

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/People+like+Whitehorse+logo/4605393/story.html

Had the computer geeks

http://e-solutionsinc.com/

who were hired to do the job, done it right, they would have researched what the horse means to Whitehorse and they would have come up with nothing more than someone saying “Those rapids sure look like white horses” and the someone’s companion saying “Get sober. Go back to your imaginary ‘white horse’ bar for another drink, maybe you’ll start seeing elephants”. Stranger things have happened when naming places !

A proper logo designer should offer alternatives, then survey the affected people. It is easy to do it in a small town. Others do it in 25 million population cities in the modern world.

The joke of the current survey is that we are being asked to pick between two logos. One doesn’t have anything to do with Whitehorse ( a lot to do with Woodbine ! ) and the other is the old one which needs modernizing. Look at the Yukon Power Squadron burgee. You can’t mistake that for any other place than the Yukon.

Molson’s has changed it’s clipper ship logo several times in my lifetime of beer drinking and not drinking, but always true to its original concept. Molson has become a brand. When many of us ask for a “Molson” we want the bottle with the clipper ship. If we want another beer from the brewery we ask for “Canadian”.

Cities, in my experience, don’t become “brands”. Cities have identifiable images and perhaps a logo that is identified with the city over the years and has a true historic value, just like there will be riots in the streets if the Yukon Government wants to drop the goldpanner from license plates.

04.19.2011

by Rob Ingram

Very good points all. What I would like to know is why a local firm isn’t doing the branding. Not only do we have the talent here (Aasmans you may pat yourselves on the back) but a local firm would have understood the product/place/concept they were trying to brand.
I noted in my response to the survey that our nationally renown arts and culture community was not even mentioned.
No, no. I think this whole exercise needs to be redone. The tag line was lame, the logo inappropriate, and the research pathetic.

04.19.2011

by Eleanor

Thanks for the feedback everyone. It’s great to see people engaging in this process.

There’s a lot I don’t know about the job and what the process was, but two things come to mind that should be communicated to the residents of the city that I have not yet seen:

1. An integral part of RE-branding is evaluating the present brand and explaining why it does or does not align with our current values. I’d like to hear from the branding agency on this. What were their findings?

2. It’s true that the survey outlines some values, (posted above by Murray Lundberg). What’s missing is how those values are reflected in the choice of visuals. How are the horse and waves connected to that list?

Aligning every aspect of the brand with its values and articulating how that’s been done is key to getting “buy-in” from the client, the stakeholder, or the public—making this public’s resistance not so surprising. There are so many questions left unanswered.

What else would you ask?

04.19.2011

by Marianne

It was strange to me that almost as much weight was attached to branding, by both the city and citizens, as to the Official Community Plan last year, which is literally reshaping our city. The city, and many people, seem to have approached branding as more about aspirations than reflection.

It doesn’t seem very long ago that the city decided on “The Wilderness City” in response to a lot of input. Then spent the next few years dismantling the wilderness (in the Official Community Plan!).

What was so compelling about Vanessa’s initial presentation to city council was that it was one of those “the emperor has no clothes on” moments. She gave a better case for the existing logo than anyone has for the proposed one. It’s a problem for me that no one from the city thought it mattered what the existing logo is about. Design is about looking at what works, as well as what could be.

It seems that only one local firm put in a bid. I guess the question is why local firms weren’t interested.

04.19.2011

by Eleanor

I don’t think it’s a question of local firms being interested or not—it’s an exciting project. There’s a wide gamut of reasons why an agency might choose not to bid on an RFP.

04.20.2011

by Geof Harries

Speaking as someone who responds to RFPs, our reasons not to respond are pretty simple.

If the RFP terms are too vague (even after clarification has been sought and obtained), the time range too short (or sometimes, too lengthy), the work too uninteresting and/or the budget too small for how much you know it will really cost, we won’t participate in the process.

Writing a RFP response can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, and if it’s too risky based on the above attirbutes, that’s time better spent serving existing clients or going after new business on your own.

04.20.2011

by Rob Ingram

Ok. Let me clarify that. I think a local firm would have done a better job. I hear you Geof. Some jobs are just too flakey to spend time on. This seems to be our year for writing such proposals however :(.

04.20.2011

by Adelle

Interestingly enough this is becoming more prominent in today’s society, particularly in the business world. Here is another article I found on this topic!

http://katoka.com.au/2011/09/a-logo-is-not-a-brand/

10.30.2011

by Eleanor

Thanks Adelle, it’s nice to see brands being understood more clearly. There can be a lot of confusion out there—good thing we love talking about what it really means!

12.05.2011

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