My Turn: Rowan County, know your brand

Published 12:13 am Monday, April 4, 2016

By Gene Hayden

Recently a column (March 25) appeared in the Salisbury Post titled, “Rowan’s Rebranding Survey Results Presented.” The column was quite informative of the activities and results of this study. This writing, however, will explain to residents what branding is (if not known), how it could be used, and why this project is so important for the county.

In order to set the stage, ask yourself to describe in 10 words or less what the county stands for and why visitors should come here. Stymied? Well, that’s why the Chandler Thinks organization of Tennessee was asked to do a variety of research techniques. The results have provided a valuable tool to help push business and emphasize consistent efforts of branding throughout the county. As it is with most research, the Chandler group probably found three things: what they wanted to know; what they suspected but weren’t sure of; and a few surprises.

First, it’s important to understand that a brand can refer to a name, symbol, design, words, or a combination of these. In turn, it could identify its people, product, service, or the county itself. A brand becomes a reputation.

Over the years, the general public became conditioned to recognize names as Disney for family entertainment and Kleenex for tissues. In these examples, these well-known names became synonymous in referring to a specific organization and product. That’s successful branding.

Before Rowan’s brand is to be finalized, Chandler needed to understand where Rowan County may be unique or have a positive differentiation from other areas. It should be noted though … research may uncover a brand, it doesn’t create it. You’ll hopefully notice in the future, the brand for Rowan might well aim at loyalty to create repeat attendance, business, and be a visiting point of preference. A brand is all about why. It’s what outsiders think of the county.

And considering the above non-residents, many in Rowan know smaller communities outside of this county come here for its activities, shopping and other various attributes.

Key users of the brand could be the local media, businesses, high-profile county officials, and associations. The making of a brand will be a long-term discipline that needs relentless consistency to maintain the concept as it becomes a workable force.

Every contact with a visitor or customer is a chance to build on the brand. In the future, brochures, advertising, stationery and promotions might be used to reinforce the brand name. The selection of Rowan County’s identifier will probably be a colorful logo, motto or slogan (all yet to be identified) and will be shown in a consistent manner over the years so there isn’t any confusion.

It’s easy to see two billboards (north and south) on I-85 espousing the brand, as the highway creates easy access to Rowan.

These attributes, when revealed, will allow visitors and potential customers to think of a value, quality and/or an interesting emotion from the county. Such as: “Rowan County… Where priceless history, culture, and activities exist.”

Brands have perfect target customers, are designed to speak to them, and are used to close a sale. Most importantly, the residents of this county will recognize the need to deliver on the promise.

Whatever brand, logo, and slogan will be suggested, they no doubt will be registered as the county’s primary vision. Perhaps after the vote is in for Salisbury’s chance as an All-American city, it could add to the significance of the brand.

And, it needs to be said, internal differences should not detour the branding efforts.

Even little Jimmy knows about branding as he looks at his colorful picture book. When he came to a story of a Zebra, his parents asked what animal it was. Jimmy thought for a moment and replied, “That’s a horse that ate hybrid corn.” At this young age, Jimmy knew his brands.

If the future Rowan Brand could speak, it would ask the residents to know, understand, and use this valuable asset to promote the county to achieve positive growth and success.

Gene Hayden lives in Salisbury and is a retired marketing consultant and business columnist.

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