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Elizabethtown is in the market for a new brand and is turning to its residents to determine how the city will be promoted to the world.
The Elizabethtown Tourism & Convention Bureau has partnered with the city, the Elizabethtown-Hardin County Heritage Council and the Elizabethtown-Hardin County Industrial Foundation to launch a branding initiative, which starts with the compilation of local ideas, said Sherry Murphy, executive director of the ETCB.
A website has been launched, www.brandetown.com, to solicit feedback directly from residents, who will be driven to a four-question survey asking them for descriptions of the city, input on what Elizabethtown is best known for and how they want outsiders to describe the city.
Murphy said public comments will be collected until March 15, compiled and reviewed for major themes.
“It’s amazing how many times a general theme can (arise),” she said.
The initiative first started last fall as a way to “showcase” city amenities and promote available options for businesses, residents, visitors and prospective new residents, according to a news release.
The brand will be “all-encompassing” and not simply employed for tourism. Instead, it will encapsulate a “common brand” to promote economic development, business and overall civic pride, according to the news release.
New West, the Louisville-based firm that developed Kentucky’s Unbridled Spirit brand, is leading the initiative on behalf of the ETCB and its partnering agencies and will provide recommendations on what type of branding elements they should pursue.
Whatever is developed will be shared between the four organizations as a unifying theme tying them together. This, Murphy said, can assist in attracting events, industry or tourism to the city. She said each organization may share the brand in the same manner or there could be modifications made to the brand to match the personalities of the individual organizations.
“It’s a good idea to step back and get an idea of who you are,” said Heath Seymour, executive director of the Heritage Council. Seymour said he believes feedback from the public may provide some perspective on what direction the city should move in. Hodgenville has Lincoln, Bardstown has bourbon and Lexington has horses, so Elizabethtown should re-evaluate its own defining characteristics, which can sometimes be lost amidst other attractions in the state, he said.
Elizabethtownhas long been referred to as “hub city” for its geographical location and roads system, Seymour said, but there may be something else out there to tap into.
“Maybe it’s time for something new or maybe it’s time to look at that again,” he said.
Murphy said the final recommendations could simply be for a logo or a slogan, or it could feature a combination of branding efforts to best distinguish the city from its peers.
They will not know the preferred strategy until more information is compiled. Rather than pigeonholing the city’s approach to a limited set of rules, Murphy said she welcomes a free-flowing range of ideas.
“At this point we don’t know, and that’s what makes it so exciting,” she said.
ETCB had first planned to re-brand itself but found avenues for a more inclusive approach allowing for partnerships with other agencies. The tourism bureau plans to fund the initiative and share the final product at no cost, she said. As for the expenses of the initiative, she said estimates vary because it is unclear how much it will cost to develop and launch the new brand.
“Once we get closer to the end, we’ll be able to share some of those estimates,” she said.
Murphy would like to see the project wrap up within a few months but she has no desire to rush or trim corners.
“When you’re doing it for so many organizations, you want to make sure it is right for all of them,” she said.
Mayor Tim Walker said the focus on attracting new businesses, industry and events has given the agencies a mutual goal to promote Elizabethtown to visitors by having a comprehensive and easily recognizable identity.
Rick Games, president of the industrial foundation said this type of branding effort has been developed in other communities and he is enthusiastic about putting the brand into practice.
Games said Elizabethtown is being found by more people online, and a unified brand can create a simple umbrella that is easy to locate.
“We still stay independent, but it will be easier or simpler to find by us (by a recognizable brand),” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.