Selling Sarnia-Lambton abroad

From    The Observer

What is Sarnia-Lambton? A new branding project is looking to find the answer and broadcast it to the world.

The Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership (SLEP) is leading a community-wide branding initiative seeking to create a unified marketing strategy to attract business, tourism and permanent residents.

The $65,000 project will create a new logo and tagline for Sarnia-Lambton.

The largely research-based initiative will also provide valuable information about the perception of Sarnia-Lambton both within and outside the community, said SLEP general manager George Mallay.

“The key thing is the richness of the information we get, and how we use that information to be more effective in our marketing,” Mallay said.

Nashville-based North Star Destination Strategies and Toronto-based Yfactor were contracted after a bidding process, Mallay said.

North Star has developed brands for more than 150 communities, and will handle most of the research duties. Yfactor will focus more on the creative side, Mallay said.

“We think we have the best of both worlds,” Mallay said.

A long list of community stakeholders have partnered in the project, including Lambton College, Tourism Sarnia-Lambton and the Sarnia-Lambton Real Estate Board.

SLEP will provide $20,000 of county funding, with the partners picking up the rest of the tab.

The time was right to identify a changing Sarnia-Lambton community, said Mayor Mike Bradley.

While petrochemicals remain a foundation of the area, the community has largely moved away from the Chemical Valley image toward alternative fuels, Bradley said.

Sarnia is the home to the Bioindustrial Innovation Centre of Canada and an $80 million BioAmber plant currently under construction, he noted.

“It’s well known in (the bio-industrial) community that this is the place to locate and this is where the expertise is,” he said.

“If we had a brand in the past, it was primarily Chemical Valley,” said Mallay, adding that the chemical industry is still a critical part of the economy “but we also need something that involves the county and the city.”

While some local organizations use community-oriented slogans, this will be the first tagline for Sarnia-Lambton as a whole, Mallay said.

“We need to develop more of an understanding of what our promise is across the whole county,” he said.

The community is looking to attract students, employees entrepreneurs and retirees, Bradley said.

Sarnia has seen its declining population trend reversed in recent census numbers, while Lambton County’s population numbers have dropped. Lambton College has an all-time high enrolment, but Sarnia was recently listed dead last in entrepreneurship among 103 Canadian cities in a recent study.

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