Saturday, January 08, 2011

Calgary may axe slogan revision

By Richard Cuthbertson, Calgary Herald

A controversial project to rebrand Calgary and replace its Heart of the New West slogan is being re-evaluated and could even be axed.

A Calgary Economic Development official said Friday evening that with a new mayor and council, along with some changes in staff at various local agencies involved in the project, this is the moment to take a close look at where the effort -- which cost roughly $200,000 -- is going.

"Then, really, we hope to in short order be able to make a recommendation as to what do we do: Do we proceed, do we stay where we are, do we start all over?" Mary Moran, who was recently hired by Calgary Economic Development as its director of marketing and communications, said in an interview.

In the summer of 2009, American consulting giant Gensler was awarded the contract to help rebrand the city, part of an effort stewarded by Calgary Economic Development.

The project has faced sharp criticism from certain quarters, with some saying a local company should have been awarded the contract and others saying they don't believe there is anything wrong with Calgary's slogan as it is.

This includes the chairman of Tourism Calgary, George Brookman, who said Friday he thinks the project is a waste of taxpayers' money, adding he hopes the effort "will die a slow death."

"This is somebody's idea of how to make themselves look busy, as far as I'm concerned," he said in an interview.

Brookman argues there's nothing wrong with the Heart of the New West slogan and cowboy hat logo, adding the problem has been too little effort and money were put into marketing the existing brand.

"If they'd invest all the money they're wasting on trying to come up with a new brand in promoting the Heart of the New West, it would do the job for us."

The project also hit controversy last spring when the chairman of the committee heading the rebranding took a job with the American company hired to lead the exercise.

Lance Carlson was president of the Alberta College of Art & Design until he resigned in the spring and took a position at Gensler's Los Angeles office as director of design strategy.

Gensler said it wasn't able to comment Friday and Carlson was unavailable.

An update on the project was released last year, which found the words bold, encouraging, accepting and active best suit the personality of Calgary.

The bottom of the update ended with "Calgary -- The Most Dynamic City in Canada."

Some criticized the document at the time, saying it seemed to cast aside the city's western heritage.

Brookman said he was "extremely impressed" with the write-up Gensler did on the image of Calgary.

The problem, he said, is it didn't seem to follow through with the brand.

The one he saw this summer looked like a "thousand red pickup sticks" in the shape of a "C."

"The brand they proposed was absolutely nothing," Brookman said.

"Very distressing to me. I just think it's a waste of money and I'm very upset about it."

The rebranding effort was launched after council adopted a 10-year economic development strategy in 2008. Community consultation found Heart of the New West wasn't particularly effective, and critics said its western theme reflected only one aspect of the Calgary experience.

Moran said they've received mixed reviews from the public over the slogan Heart of the New West. Some like it, and others don't.

The work already done is very valuable, she said.

But she also understands there's a frustration at the pace of the process, and said it comes down to some changes inside various local promotional groups that have been working on the project.

"To date, there's been a lot of good work that has been done," Moran said.

"The research is quite informative and so I think that going back on the research and just seeing if that fits with the new regime at the city is really important at this stage."

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

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