By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, Editor, myWestman.ca
After close to six months of work, last week, the Neepawa Tourism committee launched the community’s new brand. I’m excited to see this greater focus on tourism and I’m not alone, judging from the strong turnout at the unveiling.
Neepawa is part of a larger trend, as many communities, like Clear Lake, have recently completed a branding process and others, like Minnedosa, are looking into it.
The new slogan for Neepawa’s tourism activities is “Where stories take a beautiful turn” and the logo features the town’s name, with a stylized “N.” A bit like a Rorschach Test, depending on how you look at it, the artwork above the letter gives a nod to the town’s agricultural, literary and floral attractions. It’s unlikely to ever attain the international fame of slogans like “The big apple,” “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” or “Motor City,” but on the other hand, it doesn’t discourage tourists, like: “The coldest spot in Iowa” (Washta, IA) or “Cow Chip Capital of the World” (Beaver, OK).
More than anything, what I like about the slogan is that it’s adaptable. “The lily capital of the world” was a great slogan when we hosted the Lily Festival and both public and private gardens heavily featured the flower. While we are still home to many lilies, the flowers aren’t the community-wide source of pride they once were and the unofficial slogan no longer really works.
I was worried that the new branding would be too specific, but it applies equally well to a lily festival, as a drag race, a brewery tour, a sporting tournament, a fair or a trip to the museum or the Margaret Laurence Home. It’s not industry specific either and should serve the community well going forward, regardless of what our major industry, agricultural product or attraction may be.
The new branding may not say who we are as the town’s residents, but it doesn’t have to, it’s not meant for us. We know what our community has to offer, we need to present ourselves in a way that attracts others to find that out as well.
While the new branding will help bind the community’s tourism efforts in one direction going forward, an improvement over the more haphazard approach previously undertaken, one of the main benefits of the process was to help the community identify just what they have and what they need. This type of assessment can be undertaken by any community and while I’m sure it helps to have an experienced guide, it doesn’t have to be an overwrought or expensive process.
Whether a community is looking to attract highway traffic, destination tourism, new businesses or new residents, this type of inventory is necessary. Each community has their own set of assets and while it’s nice to dream of having something else, the starting point has to be what you’ve already got. These assets can be tangible, like a major employer, beach, museum, school or hospital, or intangible, like a devoted volunteer base or sense of community. These are what should be built upon and celebrated in the pursuit of growth, whatever form it may take.
It’s been too long since Neepawa had a coherent plan to invite out-of-towners to come to visit and I’m glad to see that there is a push for that to change. The groundwork is in place and it’s now up to the community to push the initiative forward. I hope that other communities get loud about what they have as well. This area has so much to offer, but those beyond our borders — whether neighbourhood, municipal or regional — often just don’t know what’s out there in our own backyards.