City hones its brand

The city of Whitehorse wants to brand itself. It is giving $50,000 of the territory's money to an Ontario firm to do so. But the firm's creative director says the only way to do this properly is to talk to residents.

The city of Whitehorse wants to brand itself.

It is giving $50,000 of the territory’s money to an Ontario firm to do so.

But the firm’s creative director says the only way to do this properly is to talk to residents.

Laughing, Saj Jamal, from eSolutionsGroup, says he wasn’t even sure he’d ever want to go to a place like Whitehorse when the city first contacted him about crafting a brand.

Discovering what attracts people to the city and, more importantly, what makes them stay is the approach he is taking, he says.

“You’re obviously trying to instil pride among residents,” says Jamal. “But the other half is telling the story to other people and that made it exciting for me because it’s from the outside in.”

At first, he really didn’t even know that the place existed, Jamal says.

But that’s not a bad thing.

“It gives a clear, objective view of it as opposed to someone who may already know the place and then look at it that way,” he says.

After visiting for two days before Christmas, Jamal launched an online survey.

The 23 questions have already been filled out 160 times and have only been available for a week.

Next, workshops will be held to really discuss what is important in the town, says Jamal.

Eventually an actual tagline will be crafted.

“Where you want to live,” is a recent one Jamal crafted for Owen Sound, Ontario.

“It’s not just a set of simple words,” he says, adding that it took 10 months of talking to the 24,000 residents of Owen Sound to come up with that one.

This is not just promotion for the city as a corporation, says Jamal.

It can actually help guide government by pointing out the priorities and principles the people who live there have, he says.

“The thing about a brand is that it better be honest because if you’re going to make a promise out there to people, and a place can’t deliver on it, then you’re in trouble.”

After the tagline, a logo will be designed.

Throughout the process, Whitehorse residents will be involved.

“If you’re not doing that constant back-and-forth, whatever you come up with will fail because people will say it’s not about us,” says Jamal.

This is branding people’s home, he says.

The problem is that, currently, there are too many brands that get half-used throughout the city, says Mayor Bev Buckway.

“We feel that it’s time to bring that all together,” she says. “It’s time to have a another look and see if it reflects the current situation in our capital city.”

But with the city’s current land crunch, is it really time to be enticing more people to move up here?

“Land is definitely a challenge,” says Buckway. “The city’s working as fast as we can to get more lots on the market. It doesn’t go as fast as anyone would like, there’s no doubt about it. But also, at the same token, this work on the branding has been a work in play for sometime. So it’s not just something new, it’s something that has worked its way up the ladder for sometime to finally be included in the budget.”

The online survey will be available until the end of this month.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

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