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Fort Smith's new brand aims to attract people to town

Herb Mathisen
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 5, 2011

The Town of Fort Smith is hoping future tourists visiting the community will have an unexpected and unforgettable experience.

NNSL photo/graphic

Residents of Fort Smith were given a taste of what to expect from the town's upcoming marketing and rebranding strategy with the unveiling of the town's new logo and slogan on Nov. 23. Mayor Janie Hobart said the official launch of the full campaign will occur sometime in March. - photo courtesy of the Town of Fort Smith

The town's new logo and slogan - "Unexpected. Unforgettable." - were unveiled at a draft report workshop on Nov. 23. While the new insignia is set to become the visual stamp that will appear on future promotional items and tourism advertisements, Fort Smith Mayor Janie Hobart cautioned that the rolling out of the logo and slogan doesn't mean the town's marketing plan is complete.

"The logo and the tagline are only a small part of it," Hobart said. "This is a long-term plan. It's not a tomorrow plan."

The workshop was held to give community members a chance to view a portion of the town's final rebranding report and allow public input before the plan goes before council for approval.

Hobart said the business community was well-represented at the workshop, noting more than a dozen people attended the meeting.

"We had hoped for more but, you know, it's a starting point," she said. "The people that were there were very excited about it."

The town expects to receive a final report from K2 Communications, the consulting company it hired to draft the plan, on Dec. 5. Hobart said that report would go to town council for approval on Dec. 13.

Hobart said in the upcoming months, the town will work with community members, business people and government to roll out the rest of its marketing strategy.

"The idea behind this, and the reason we did it, is to attract more visitors to Fort Smith," she said. "What our campaign needs to focus on are the raw attractors that we have to our community, whether it be the river and the rapids, the Wood Buffalo National Park or the facilities that we have in the community," she said.

The new green-and-blue logo depicts some of the town's major selling points: bison, a whooping crane, the rapids and the aurora borealis.

Hobart said the town is targeting five separate categories of visitors: the traditional tourist, friends and families of residents, business travellers, sports and recreational visitors, and potential future residents.

She said current work will focus on looking at which groups are bringing people into Fort Smith right now and how they can benefit and receive support from the town through the new plan.

For instance, the town will seek ways to improve the co-ordination of information among different agencies to promote or attract events.

"A lot of bigger organizations require that, when you put a bid in to host a Westerns or territorial (sporting event), you have to provide them with how many beds or eating facilities you have," she said.

Hobart said the rebranding exercise was long overdue.

"We have had reports done before, but the second part of it - how do you make it work - has never happened," she said. "What we are doing is we are taking these recommendations to create campaigns and move them forward so that they actually happen."

The town paid $41,659 to K2 Communications to put the plan together.

Hobart said the logo will likely be visible in the community this spring.

"You have to give people the opportunity to have merchandise logoed. If one of the retail stores wanted to bring in ball caps with the logos on it, you have to be able to give them the opportunity to order this stuff," she said. "We anticipate the grand launch will be in March."

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