The branding process started with a visit to Invercargill to meet with locals and key stakeholders, and to become more familiar with the city. This was facilitated by Chris Wilkinson and Lorraine Nicholson from Retail First Group together with branding consultant and designer Tim Christie, Sam Howarth from Storbie Limited and Kari Graber from the Invercargill City Council.
After consultations with a range of people including school students, entrepreneurs, retailers and business leaders, some themes started to emerge. For starters there was an obvious appetite for a new identity to help boost the CBD and attractiveness of the city as a whole, and to give the community a stronger sense of identity. Invercargill has tried various things and nothing has lasted. Because of this there is some wariness to the idea of "branding" and so there have been calls for this to be the "last" brand for Invercargill. Therefore it must be successful and enduring.
A few people talked about the "humble demeanour of Southerners" and how that might be "holding us back". There was a clear sentiment that something strong and aspirational was required to help progress things and provide a catalyst for change.
Another insight that came out of consultation is that "Invercargill is a place where anything is possible". Why this belief? Well for one, there are many examples of locals who have followed their passions, got stuck in and achieved great success. Additionally, the lifestyle opportunities, affordability, infrastructure and facilities, Zero Fees and other initiatives, all add up to make Invercargill a place where you can make something of yourself.
The process included research into other city brands from around the world to get a clearer picture of successful city branding. This, along with consultation insights and other branding principles, fed into a strategy that included some lofty goals, and also highlighted some of the challenging dynamics faced with designing for a city. For example; the varying stakeholder requirements; the need for a strong, simple and single-minded brand that is authentic and grounded as well as aspirational and uplifting. And, the need to engage locals and attract people from out of town. There was also an imperative to deliver a strong conceptual and campaignable idea so that the new brand would provide enormous value and work hard for the city.
The overarching objective of this branding, as indeed with most city branding, is to unite locals and entice non-locals. That is, to inspire the people of Invercargill with an enhanced sense of identity, purpose and pride, at the same time as inspiring folk from out of town, including internationals, to visit, explore, work, live, shop and invest here. This dual purpose ideal has been a central consideration throughout the branding process.
The "attraction" qualities of the brand to non-locals are clearly very important but the function of uniting locals is arguably the most critical thing to get right. If this brand can inspire the people of Invercargill to get behind their new identity, to wear it with pride, incorporate it into their packaging and talk about it with passion, in the same way that sports fans get behind their local team, wear the team colours and wave the flags, then we are well on the way. Authenticity has been an important consideration in tapping into the essence of Invercargill; that authenticity will encourage locals to identify and embrace the new brand and for the brand itself to become a tangible extension of the underlying shared sense of identity.
A big effort has gone into delivering a brand that will provide a real asset for the city. Invercargill is a place with huge potential and there is a timely opportunity to help invigorate a community seeking a stronger identity and keen for a bit of a lift. While branding is only a piece of the revitalisation equation, it can be a catalyst for some real positive change and perhaps the start of a renaissance for our southenmost city.
The website and marketplace is coming soon and there are other CBD initiatives in the pipeline which should now move forward with more gusto. Practically, it means, for something like a welcome sign into the city, Invercargill now has a concept thanks to the new brand. In the future there will be fewer statements like "what are we going to do here?" and more like "when can we start?"