By ALEXANDER WILLIS
Launched in August of last year at the recommendation of staff at the Rippavilla Plantation, the Spring Hill Tourism Council met Thursday afternoon to briefly discuss the city’s new branding initiative.
Back in January, the city had approved a contract with the marketing company Chandlerthinks for “place branding, at a cost of $66,000. The contract would see the company research and develop a unique identity for the town for marketing, development and tourism purposes.
While the contract was ultimately approved, the decision was met with some opposition from city leaders.
During the tourism council meeting on Thursday, Economic Development Coordinator Kayce Williams was optimistic with the branding initiative, arguing that the creation of a defined identity for the city could bring it to new heights.
“This is about establishing our identity, figuring out how we market that identity, [both] for two things; job growth, and tourism. [Chandlerthinks] is going to talk to Rippavilla about their future, and what they want to do. It’s all going to be good.”
Alderman Matt Fitterer previously said that he wasn’t against the concept of place branding, but that he was hesitant to support the contract without clear measurables for success, citing a past contract the city had entered into, and according to Fitterer, had nothing to show for it.
The contract he was referring to was between the city and the company Retail Strategies, in which the city paid $100,000 for the company to recruit certain desired businesses to Spring Hill.
Alderman Amy Wurth also has previously taken issue with paying for place branding, arguing that in the city’s own comprehensive plan – a document outlining future growth of the city – the question of the city’s identity had already been answered, through public surveys of its residents.
The process of branding by Chandlerthinks would be broken into four distinct phases; research, strategy, positioning deliverables, and plan of action. The research phase includes multiple focus groups, interviews with city leaders, and essentially breaking down what makes Spring Hill, Spring Hill.
In regards to the earlier comments made against the branding initiative, such as that the city having had already outlined an identity, Williams said Chandlerthinks would create a far more extensive identity than the one outlined in the city’s comprehensive plan.
“One of the arguments made when we were getting the funding for place branding [was] ‘what do you need to do this for, we already have the comprehensive plan,’” Kayce said. “The comprehensive plan doesn’t tell us everything that we are looking for, the comprehensive plan is how the city is going to develop out its characteristics with regard to development over the next 20 years. It is not how we market our city, how we tell our story, who are we as an organism.”
In the coming months, Chandlerthinks will be reaching out to the community to form a cohesive marketing strategy for the city, which city leaders hope will act as guideline for all future development.