CUBA – Nearly 100 local government officials, members of the local business and non-profit communities, and other community leaders gathered on Thursday evening at the Palmer Opera House in Cuba to celebrate Allegany County’s new brand launch. Following a year-long branding effort, Allegany County officials from the Offices of Planning, Development, and Tourism, along with branding consultant and “NY Sherpa,” Josiah Brown, were excited to share the results of a county-wide branding effort that will impact future economic development and tourism efforts within the county. The outcome was a new brand name – the “Western NY Wilds” – and articulated set of beliefs about what it really means to live, work, and play in Allegany County.
In a process that began in December 2018, the work of creating a brand for Allegany County was extensive and without an apparent easy solution. Brown began working with Allegany County Tourism to perform a Destination Assessment of Allegany County businesses and tourism assets. In December of 2018, he held a public forum attended by government officials, local businesses, and other leaders in the community connected with tourism, where he presented his findings on the assets that make Allegany County tourism remarkable and unique – the “purple cows,” as he referred to them, borrowing the phrase from Seth Godin’s marketing book of the same name.
At the beginning of 2019, Brown was hired on as a consultant to continue the work he began in Allegany County: to articulate the identity of Allegany County and translate that identity into an emotional reaction and marketable brand. Working with a team of Allegany County Planning, Development, and Tourism staff, Brown met with nearly 100 community stakeholders through interviews and public forums, ranging from staff and students at the three local colleges, local business owners from diverse industries, artists and artisans, residents and second home owners, young professionals, individuals who’ve lived in Allegany County all their lives, those who left only to return, and those who came from outside the county and deliberately chose to make their home here. From these listening sessions, an identity emerged that would be refined to become the Western NY Wilds brand.
“What we found as we conducted these listening sessions were individuals who loved the rural, undisturbed beauty and connection to the outdoors experienced here,” said Brown. “There was an overwhelming sense that the peace, quiet, and closeness to nature experienced here enhanced creativity, promised adventure, connected people to the natural world around them, and allowed them to make more meaningful connections with their family, friends, and neighbors.”
Consequently, most locals interviewed during the research process didn’t describe where they lived in terms of a regional identifier, but rather in terms of proximity to Buffalo, Rochester, or Pennsylvania. This fact, combined with overuse of the word ‘Allegany,’ was a glaring weak point in the way the county had been marketed in the past.
“We realized early on in this process that there was a high level of brand confusion around the name Allegany,” Brown continued. “There are a lot of Allegany’s out there; in addition to Allegany County, MD, and Allegheny County, PA, there is a town of Allegany, a state park, and a river, none of which are in our county and all using different spellings.”
To sidestep further brand confusion, the new brand couldn’t continue to rely on the convoluted word ‘Allegany.’ Western NY emerged as a regional identifier that was readily available for the claiming.
“We are thrilled to share the Western NY Wilds brand with the public and we confidently stand behind it. This new brand is a first for Allegany County and it is a big step forward; we’re proud to have a consumer-focused brand that is going to increase tourism and development prospects for our county in the future,” said Gretchen Hanchett, Executive Director of the Greater Allegany Chamber of Commerce and Office of Tourism.
“This investment in a new brand is an investment in our future economic health as a county, as it builds a sense of place here and provides Allegany County with a marketable identity,” commented Dr. Craig Clark, Economic Developer for Allegany County. “Having a consistent brand identity will help us be more effective at targeting the markets we are seeking to build up – like visitors, young professionals, remote workers, and businesses.”
In addition to the new brand name, the brand launch event celebrated the creation of a new Western NY Wilds logo and associated brand video, which is now making its rounds on social media. But as Assistant Director of Economic Development and Planning, Angela McKay, notes, the Western NY Wilds brand shouldn’t be reduced to just a new logo and video – it is more about articulating our core beliefs about who we are and creating an emotional reaction associated with the Western NY Wilds.
“Branding is about so much more than a new logo,” said McKay. “At its essence, branding seeks to build a sense of place, an identity, and to create an emotional reaction in the minds of our consumers. A strong brand is essential for us to stand out in a marketplace that is crowded with options for businesses and individuals. I think we’ve accomplished that with our new brand and now have a solid foundation to build our future marketing communications efforts on. We’re excited to roll out this new branding across our marketing communications channels in the weeks and months to come, and we’re hopeful about the impact it will have on our county now and in the future.”
More information on the Western NY Wilds can be found at www.wnywilds.com.