It’s not up to council to rebrand Ponoka

Where’s the beef? That’s the slogan Ponoka residents and businesspeople should be reciting after the preview last week

Where’s the beef?

That’s the slogan Ponoka residents and businesspeople should be reciting after the preview last week of the first step in the town’s rebranding effort.

The Town of Ponoka is attempting to rebrand, to change the stereotypical perceptions of the community — from within and beyond. What we’ve seen thus far is the unveiling of a slogan and reinforcement of the horse head logo. These elements are not Ponoka’s brand.

A brand is the view people have of Ponoka that has been or will be developed and reinforced over time, built on products, services and experiences businesses and organizations offer to attract and retain customers. Or don’t offer.

Ponoka’s new slogan, “Keep it real,” is council and administration’s promise to the community that the corporate municipality will be true to itself and to its western roots; other than zoning and bylaw controls, town council should have no real influence on brand development.

It’s the chamber of commerce, the Ponoka Stampede Association and the Ponoka Agricultural Society and other key groups that should be driving Ponoka’s rebranding.

Ponoka can’t aspire to be something it’s not. Mental health services, agriculture and rodeo may not be the reason why all of us live, work or play in Ponoka but as the town synthesizes its new challenges and opportunities into its new brand, it must be rooted in that reality.

The “Keep it real” brand book is chock-full of generic descriptions and platitudes appropriate for any lethargic community that aspires to revitalization. “Ponoka is a model for economic sustainability in a rural setting.” Really? Been downtown lately?

It’s been decades since Ponoka has seen real population growth and this town council was elected to create an economic environment that is inviting to business investment and new residents. Not one candidate for council campaigned to legislate friendliness; not one promised, if elected, to make Ponoka crab grass and thistle-free.

With no real budget or professional support, council has embarked on its own to update its municipal development plan, the key to fine-tuning its other statutory plans and focusing its vision for Ponoka’s future. It may be premature for the rebranding strategy to be rolled out before these other plans are complete. There are bound to be inconsistencies and contradictions that need to be massaged so that all municipal concepts for growth, business development and market Ponoka dovetail.

Why does every consultant think the only way stagnant small towns can thrive is through some trumped up tourism contrivance? Wouldn’t a widget plant or more retail shops create more jobs and help diversify the economy and develop lasting spinoff opportunities?

Ask Wetaskiwin how much impact the Reynolds-Alberta Museum has on their economy.

It’s up to residents and businesspeople in Ponoka to work together to present a new attitude and create an atmosphere for change. Town council is not in the business to sell men’s clothing, sporting goods or open a nightclub.