Visit Spokane, the area’s tourism agency, will roll out a new branding campaign this year to boost buzz for the region and showcase the Spokane area’s identity and unique qualities.
“Spokane. Creative by Nature,” was unveiled Thursday afternoon at Visit Spokane’s annual meeting.
There’s also a new Spokane logo using two inverted hearts to form the shape of a tree in place of the “A.”
Shades of teal and purple in the logo are a tie-in to Spokane’s reputation as the Lilac City.
“When people are asked to describe Spokane, we describe features instead of the essence of what Spokane is,” said Cheryl Kilday, president and CEO of Visit Spokane.
The new brand will help define the Spokane metro area by using a common language to describe the community, Kilday said.
The “Creative by Nature” tag line replaces the tired and sometimes mocked “Near Nature, Near Perfect” slogan of the past 13 years.
The branding effort is a result of two years of work by Visit Spokane and other business and community groups. Meeting planners and consumers gave the concept good ratings during market testing, Kilday said.
The group also came up with “The capital of the Intermountain Northwest” to describe this area, moving away from references to Inland Northwest that inherently compare Spokane to Seattle. The Intermountain Northwest is the region between the Rockies and the Cascades, with Spokane as the vibrant metro area at the center of it, Kilday said.
“We’re known for our mightiness, for doing big things,” she said. “We’re also known for our simplicity. You won’t spend two hours stuck in traffic.”
Emily Schwartz, one of about 200 people at the brand’s debut at the annual meeting, gave it a thumbs-up.
“I’m excited for it. I like the trees, the hearts and the color,” said Schwartz, operations manager for River City Brewing.
“I think it has a classic feel to it,” said chef Adam Hegsted, the owner of Eat Good Group who also was at the meeting. “It’s cool and hip, but it’s something that could be from 1970 or today.
“It sound ambitious and inventive,” Hegsted added.
“I am thrilled with it,” said Melissa Huggins, executive director of the nonprofit Spokane Arts. “It makes you think of the creativity behind Bloomsday, behind Hoopfest and the innovation that occurs at local businesses and universities.”
Local residents will see the new brand popping up in the Spokane metro area this summer. But Thursday’s unveiling was a “soft launch,” Kilday said. The new brand won’t be used in marketing efforts outside the region until next fall.
Visit Spokane’s website has more information. Community workshops will be set up to help launch the new brand. Kilday also encourages people to start using the social media hashtag #Spokanecreativebynature.
The rebranding effort began with a 2015 summit, which spawned a brand council made up of the organizations involved in promoting Spokane. They included Visit Spokane, Greater Spokane Incorporated, the regional chambers of commerce, local universities, the Spokane Sports Commission and the Spokane Public Facilities District.
Council members recognized that Spokane had an identity problem, Kilday said. National meeting planners told her Spokane isn’t known well enough for them to risk bringing big conventions here.
The council studied similar branding and marketing efforts for places like Boise, Salt Lake City, Missoula and Bend, Oregon. All of them emphasized their natural attributes of mountains and water, just like Spokane.
“We don’t want to be the same,” Kilday said. “We want to stand out and be different.”
The brand council sought to define Spokane’s attributes with words such as enterprising, creative, productive, natural and welcoming.
“If we were a person, our personality would be fit, social, spirited, bold and have verve, and pure,” Kilday said.
Visit Spokane has spent about $175,000 on the rebranding effort, with an additional $75,000 budgeted for the project. The funding comes from Visit Spokane’s membership dues, fees and taxes collected from tourists and a donation from the Downtown Spokane Partnership.
The expenditures included extensive market research with a panel of about 960 consumers: A third had been to Spokane, a third were familiar with Spokane but had never visited, and a third weren’t familiar with Spokane at all.
Both consumers and national meeting planners gave the new brand good reviews, Kilday said. Ongoing research will monitor the brand’s effectiveness, she said.
Over time, Kilday hopes to see organizations throughout the Spokane area incorporate aspects of the brand design into their existing materials, including the purple and teal colors. That will help create a consistent visual message for marketing the area, she said.
Visit Spokane plans to register the brand, which will be available for licensing for a nominal fee, Kilday said. Details are still being worked out.
The brand is a way to unite the region, but it doesn’t mean that other local municipalities will lose their identity, she said.
“When you say you’re going to Seattle, you might actually be going to Bellevue,” Kilday said. “When you say you’re going to Spokane, you might actually be visiting Liberty Lake.”
Having a stronger Spokane identity will create economic opportunities for the region, including recruiting new employers and attracting students to the region’s universities and colleges, as well as tourism and convention business, she said.
“I’m confident this will be a great expression for Spokane,” Kilday said. “The research behind this is so compelling.”
This story was updated May 15 to correct initial figures given by Visit Spokane for the cost of the branding effort. The update also clarifies where the money comes from.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.