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Residents' perceptions of Olds helping to rebrand the community

Town councillors got their first look at a branding exercise conducted by an Edmonton-based firm looking at re-branding the Town of Olds. McRobbie Optamedia made the presentation before the Policies and Priorities Committee on March 21.

Town councillors got their first look at a branding exercise conducted by an Edmonton-based firm looking at re-branding the Town of Olds. McRobbie Optamedia made the presentation before the Policies and Priorities Committee on March 21.

Michael Brechtel, director of strategy with McRobbie Optamedia, told the group that a variety of planning documents from the town and the Olds Institute For Community and Regional Development were studied to get a better sense of the community. The company then did a broad analysis of the community.

The company also did small group sessions to find out more about the perceptions of residents and how they related to the community and the town. McRobbie Optamedia identified several core values including integrity, collaboration and from the town's perspective, accountability. The company set out to create two separate identities: one for the community and a second for the town.

Brechtel said the company got enough response from the survey it conducted that it proved statistically significant. A total of 237 responses were received, which he said was enough information to get an excellent overview of both the town and the community.

Brechtel said one of the things that came through during the research was that the community drives the town's identity and not the other way around.

In research the company did, only 31 per cent of respondents to the survey said they make a distinction between the Town of Olds as a corporate entity and the community. A total of 33 per cent of those surveyed make no distinction between the two and a further 36 were not sure.

Brechtel said the application of the strategy — which includes a new logo for the town — offers the opportunity to change the way citizens think about the town. He said while people have expectations of the town, service will determine the relationship between the town as a corporate entity and the community.

Many councillors wanted to know how a new logo would be presented on various types of applications. Arvin Bull wanted to know how the new logo would be presented on a flag, while Harvey Walsh said he likes the new colours — blue and green — but he said he didn't like the way they looked on screen.

Brechtel said that would be one aspect that would be refined as the process moves forward.

“It's a very challenging thing to control. We'll have to tweak for screen or other applications as we move forward,” he said.

Following the presentation, Brechtel said when company officials approached the town to get a sense of what it was about, they were surprised at how much thought the town has already put into its identity.

“I've never seen a community so aware of itself, aware of its priorities, aware of its direction, aware and engaged with that process,” he said, noting that the Olds Strategic Sustainability Plan and other documents were key to that awareness.

When the company began doing research, staff was glad to see that the town and community seemed to be supporting many of the same priorities.

“It was good to see that alignment,” he said.

Brechtel said the distinction the company made between the town and the community came directly from residents' perceptions.

“The way people see it, it's often a much more structured relationship … than it is with the community. They feel much more a part of (the community),” he said.

The re-branding strategy is part of a three-phase process. The second phase will involve a communications strategy and the third phase will be updating the town's website.

Norm McInnis, the town's chief administrative officer, said 22 companies from around North America vied for the chance to do the branding work.

Administration will now put the item into a request for decision for council to decide upon at a regular council meeting — including what the new town logo should look like. McInnis said once council makes its decision, the town would transfer the logo onto letterhead, town vehicles and other applications. He said that process could take several years until it's complete.

McInnis said he hoped that the other two parts, developing a communications plan and re-vamping the website, can begin almost immediately after council adopts the first phase of the plan.

“Quite frankly (the communications plan is) the piece of this three-phase initiative that I am really most anxious to see. I think corporate strategic communications is really one of our Achilles heels right now. We'll never get it exactly right but we can certainly do better, so I'm really looking forward to that,” he said.

McInnis said the hope is to get the request for proposal on a developing a communications plan out within about three weeks of council adopting the logo.

"I've never seen a community so aware of itself, aware of its priorities, aware of its direction."Michael Brechtel, director of strategy, McRobbie Optamedia