Nobody moves to a new community or opens a business because they like a municipal logo.
But logos, signs and marketing campaigns do plant an impression in people’s minds. When a family considers where they are going to live, having a pre-conceived notion about a town or region plays a large part on where they are going to start looking.
Southwest Middlesex has so far spent $28,505 to help paint the picture of what they want current and possible future residents to envision when they think of the area.
That money was to come up with ideas using the marketing company Mad Hatter Technologies. The cost for slapping the new logo on everything from websites to trucks and the water tower, and implementing a marketing campaign for business, tourism and attracting people to make their home here is yet to come in future budgets.
The idea, according to Mad Hatter’s Melanie Witzell who presented to council May 11, is that Southwest Middlesex’s new look is here to stay.
“I think municipal (branding) is almost unique in its longevity in that ideally you never change it, and this identity carries with you for decades,” said Witzell.
Mayor Allan Mayhew said it is very likely the new logo will pop up over phases as the municipality avoids a big bill coming all at once.
Economic development and communications officer Sheila McCahon said the first things to change will be electronic: website and social media, for example. The water tower will not get a new identity until it needs a general paint job.
The new image did not pass unanimously.
Coun. Martin Vink said he did not like the tagline “discover life, pure and simple.”
Coun. Mike Sholdice asked about budgeting at the meeting, and then took to social media to protest the process.
“A look at my closet will tell you I’m no design expert. My issues were with the process. At the committee level, I spoke out about the need for this to go to the public, something that did not happen. I was equally disappointed that the image options were not included in the report that was distributed prior to the meeting, allowing the public an opportunity to provide valuable feedback. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I simply cannot support anything that does not come with a price tag,” wrote Sholdice.
The third councillor to vote against it was Mark McGill. He said he agreed with Witzell’s point on the importance of rarely changing the logo and imaging of a municipality.
“So if we’re going to change, we have to have something that the public’s going to get behind and that’s significantly better than we have already, and I’m sorry to say it but I’m just not seeing that with this logo or with this slogan,” said McGill.
Mayor Mayhew compared the branding growing on him to acquiring a taste for food.
“This is a process that is costing the municipality $30,000. We do not want to make light of that expenditure. Do we have a lot of time? It’s a very competitive world out there. We are entering a time of unprecedented growth; this growth will have to be marketed to the Southwestern Ontario market, and it’s very advantageous to have an identity behind that marketing,” said Mayhew.
The committee who voted on this branding had been working with the Mad Hatter company since January and had 10-15 online meetings according to Mad Hatter’s Kalob Witzell.
“The group of individuals included representatives from all corners of the municipality and varied in age. They included urban people, rural people, service club members, agricultural representatives, council and economic development committee members, and business owners/operators including visual/graphic arts representatives,” is what the council report by McCahon read when describing the committee’s makeup.
“Those people, for a lack of better words, were the movers and shakers of the Southwest Middlesex community, very well-respected people. I did not always share their opinion, but I do believe in democracy and the count of the vote. And the process was fair, transparent,” said Mayhew.
Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner