Most of the people who shared their ideas at the place branding meeting hosted by the city last Wednesday said they have not been satisfied with the process.
Last month the city developed a survey after there was strong opposition to the proposed tagline “Welcome to the Republic of Life,” and promised it would hold public meetings.
To date 180 people have completed the survey, said city manager of economic development Alan Madrigga.
“The input on the surveys we have received so far definitely show that there are some folks that have very different ideas of one community,” Madrigga said.
He also confirmed the city will continue to pursue a place brand, suggesting generic advertising that is the same as what everyone else has, is not going to get the city noticed.
Fifty people attended the meeting and after Madrigga’s presentation, approximately 12 requested to speak.
Resident Marg Bublitz said 180 completed surveys indicated the process is not working.
“I spent 20 years in advertising in this city and I have to tell you, we’re here because we care,” she said of the people at the meeting.
“If 180 people did the survey, but what about the rest? They are not here.”
Bublitz told Madrigga he needs to get out and talk to people rather than host a meeting because 180 people isn’t “cutting it.”
Former mayor Jim Fraser said he supported going back to a western theme and asked if council would consider going to a referendum on branding.
“I’ve asked a number of professionals if they thought branding would attract people and never got a yes,” Fraser added.
Donna Ford said she and her husband do not support any money being spent on branding.
“Why did we have to hire someone from Vancouver Island to come and brand our city? Why isn’t that being done in-house?” Ford asked. “We’ve got our brand and can do the marketing with the brand we’ve got.”
Peter Epp said if the gist of place branding is to attract and keep people in Williams Lake then the city needs to “stop wasting taxpayers’ money” and keep the taxes down so people can afford to live in Williams Lake.
Resident Doug Wilson suggested if the plan is to woo 30-something year-old people to Williams Lake, then there need to be employment opportunities available for them.
Cariboo GM owner Brian Garland suggested nobody can brand Williams Lake better than the people who live here.
“We’ve got it,” he said. “Nobody could write the script better than we can. All we have to do is keep doing it right and not mess it up.”
Geoff Moore asked if the city’s decision to pursue a place brand was proactive or reactive due to a pitch it received from a company and Madrigga answered it was the city’s idea to pursue branding.
Moore said his own children are in the 30-something demographic and they did not like the “Republic of Life” tagline.
He said reaching consensus on a brand is a challenge.
“The reality of where we’re going is some mix of the historical character that we are and who we will evolve into in the future,” Moore said, adding the Western heritage isn’t going away.
“If we just be ourselves and take care of ourselves it comes naturally and effortlessly and we don’t have to spend much more money than the personal relationships it takes to develop, which is some travel and some marketing.”
The “Republic of Life” tagline did receive mileage, despite the overwhelmingly negative reaction, he added.
Willie Dye agreed and said, “republic” got people talking about Williams Lake all over the province.
“I didn’t mind “The Republic of Life,” he added.
A brand is an umbrella and while maybe the “the Republic of Life” wasn’t the right umbrella, the city needs an umbrella that encompasses what Williams Lake is, Dye suggested.
“I think we’ve had a lot of great brands in the past, but I don’t think we ever had a consistent approach. I think it’s been hit and miss over the years.”
The city’s place brand survey is available on the city’s website and in paper form from city hall. The deadline is June 14.