Sidney BIA to focus on strengths

There’s no official brand, no logo, no one-liner that sums up all that Sidney has to offer — yet

There’s no official brand, no logo, no one-liner that sums up all that Sidney has to offer — yet.

Sidney’s business improvement area (BIA) board held a public branding session Wednesday, May 15, offering only a glimpse at some of the concepts they are delving into as they formulate a vision to market outside the Peninsula. BIA board member and its chair of communications and marketing, Angus Matthews, says it was a session held to share the basics of the branding effort to date.

Drawing on a combination of public survey results and board brainstorming sessions, consultants Eclipse Creative and Intuition Brand Planning have put together three pillars of why Sidney can be considered remarkable: its setting; its people, and; its goods.

Goods is not just what is sold in local businesses, says Intuition’s Hugh Ruthven, a Parkland Secondary graduate. He said the term covers a broad spectrum of what Sidney has to offer — arts, events, the shops and more.

Ruthven gave a presentation on the information that has been gathered so far, telling a small crowd at the Mary Winspear Centre that Sidney’s eventual brand must exist in people’s heads — as knowledge or as an experience.

“A brand is the promise of value,” he said, quoting branding gurus. “It’s a collection of experiences.”

He said, this time quoting Peter Grant’s book, The Story of Sidney, Sidney has a history of reinventing itself again and again, on the same site. Under the BIA and a new brand, the community will need to lead the next change and be able — as ambassadors for their town — to live up to people’s expectations of their community.

“People want authentic, realistic, artisan experiences,” said Ruthven, adding many people feel disconnected to their worlds in these days of mass technology.

He encouraged people — whether they run a business or run a special event — to tell the stories of their success. Doing that, he said, will help manage customers’ and visitors’ experiences in Sidney.

“Brands are about visions,” said Matthews, “figuring out what’s real and then measuring its success later.”

The May 15 meeting also offered people another venue for input into the process but its doesn’t stop there. The public survey online at www.sidneybiz.ca is still open this week. It’s cut off at week’s end, however, as the BIA board will take all of the input and develop a final marketing plan.

“We can’t keep planning, we need to start doing,” Matthews added.

Sidney’s strengths

The consultants working on the BIA’s branding effort conducted a SWOT — an exercise that identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. In this case, they asked people in the community how those apply to Sidney.

Issues like focus, curb appeal, relevance, transportation challenges and service levels and hours were identified as weaknesses. Threats to a prosperous Sidney include a perception as stale, online competition and the cost of retail space, among others.

Yet there is hope Sidney’s opportunities and strengths can help lead a new marking effort, designed to attract new visitors and customers.

Sidney’s location close to the Salish Sea and transportation hubs, its small town vibe, safe atmosphere, variety of shops and markets and its potential in arts and culture, are seen as positives in the BIA exercise.

Building on those strengths and more, the consultants identified opportunities ahead to create a brand for Sidney that demonstrates its authenticity, its accessibility, affordability and its many great shops and events.