Branding gets mixed reviews

Ponoka’s new brand pre-launch was held last week and the vision of the product received mixed reviews.

Ponoka’s new brand pre-launch was held last week and the vision of the product received mixed reviews.

“The pre-launch is so everybody can see how it (the brand) was built,” said economic developer Sarah Olson.

The Town of Ponoka worked with marketing company MKM to design the new ‘Keep it real’ brand with hope Ponoka will be rejuvenated.

Coun. Loanna Gulka believes that people have a stereotypical expectation of Ponoka because of the Stampede and the history of the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury, but their perception is outdated.

This branding project was created to advertise Ponoka and make it a destination to three distinct channels; home buyers and young families, entrepreneurs, and tourists.

“We needed a change. A lot of us were voted in for change,” said Gulka. “We need to get some businesses into the community.”

Gulka believes more businesses will show families that Ponoka has attractive amenities.

MKM researched and studied the town, and interviewed stakeholders and business owners.

Eventually it was able to evaluate Ponoka on what they feel are the community’s strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. From that, the direction and goals of the brand were created.

Goal of the brand and its strategies, to be implemented over an undetermined number of years, include banners for Main Street, other banners showcasing the people of the town, a welcome to Ponoka video to be done by Global, sequential billboards on Highway 2, and ideas such as open-air markets and pop up retail stores.

Olson believes the banners should be up by September because town council wants them in the video, which is scheduled to be shot in early to mid-September.

The town was approached by an American company for the opportunity of the video but council decided on an Albertan company for better exposure and a better financial agreement, according to Gulka.

The money for the banners came from this year’s and last year’s economic development budget. Olson says many aspects of the branding project haven’t been budgeted for yet and that everything is still in the beginning stages.

“You cannot tie the hands of a future council,” said Coun. John Jacobs.

No more than 20 people attended the launch and most of their comments leaned toward the idea that the brand was a good idea but the strategies didn’t touch on all their concerns regarding rejuvenating the town.

Social media was recognized as a lacking aspect. Gulka said that the Town of Ponoka owned their name on Facebook and the accompanying Twitter hashtag but council was leery of that direction.

“Once something’s out it’s almost impossible to take back,” said Gulka.

Implementing social media would also mean it would have to be staffed, which would take resources, as will everything associated with the branding project.

Olson says that it all comes down to resources, and buy-in from the community.

Coun. Rick Bonnett added Ponoka needs to get rid of the word “can’t” and keep a positive attitude. “That’s a job for every citizen of Ponoka.”