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Chamber of Commerce talks rebranding during breakfast event

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

A two-Steve combo on Thursday gave Rowan County Chamber of Commerce members a double dose of education on rebranding.

During a Chamber of Commerce breakfast event on Thursday, Rowan’s rebranding consultant Steve Chandler stressed the importance of factors other than images to represent a community. F&M Bank executive Steve Fisher spoke just before Chandler and said Rowan hasn’t done a good job recently of maintaing its image.

Thursday’s event came five months after county leaders hired Chandler and his Tennessee-based company Chandler Thinks to research and craft a new brand for Rowan County. Since he was hired, Chandler’s firm has used a number of research methods to gather data about internal and external opinions of Rowan.

Items in the community that contribute to the image and brand of a community include the people, attractions, buildings, events, art, businesses and infrastructure, Chandler said.

“Branding is more than fancy graphics,” he said. “We do that though right? We want to stick it on our water towers and want to say “look at our brand,” but that’s not our brand. Our brand is what that (image) represents.”

Implementing and maintaing a community’s brand can be difficult, he said. Unlike a business, a community doesn’t own its name, can’t control the experience for visitors and often doesn’t agree on what its brand should be, Chandler said.

“You have to be who you are, own who you are and be the best you can be,” Chandler said.

At times, Rowan County has done a poor job of maintaing its brand, said F&M Bank executive Steve Fisher, who on Thursday introduced Chandler to the breakfast crowd.

“Our generation, especially recently, has not been good guardians of the brand we’ve been given,” Fisher said. “We’ve got to get better. We’ve let other people tear that brand down and, more importantly, we’ve torn it down ourselves.”

Fisher said the Rowan County’s brand has to be authentic. Local residents also need to protect the brand, he said. Fisher said county residents don’t need to broadcast internal problems publicly.

“If you woke up this morning and there was a blog somewhere on your phone, an article in the newspaper or somebody at the ballpark talking bad about your company’s brand, you’re going to walk up and address it,” Fisher said. “Well this is your brand. Heck, you got up at 6 a.m. this morning to come hear about it. You’re clearly interested in this brand. Own it.”

Rowan residents won’t see Rowan County’s brand and accompanying logo for, potentially, a few more months. In its initial proposal, Chandler Thinks said the rebranding would take eight months.

Currently, the Tennessee-based firm is in the midst of research that involves in-person interviews, a community branding survey and opinions of Rowan from surrounding communities.

During Thursday’s speech, Chandler said Rowan’s rebranding involves more research than normal. He’s also received responses from more local residents than usual. His firm previously published an online, community branding survey. Normally, the survey requires 400 or so people for a response that truly represents local opinions. Chandler said 1,300 Rowan residents have already participated in the survey.

He mentioned other communities in America as examples of what local businesses might do with the brand. In Dublin, Ohio for example, a number of businesses have Irish-themed meals or specials to promote the community’s brand. Businesses in Rowan county might embrace the final brand in a similar way, by offering specials related to the imagery or slogan.

For more information on Rowan County’s rebranding visit brandingrowancountync.com. To take the community branding survey, visit: surveymonkey.com/r/RowanCountyCommunitySvy.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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