Process to redefine Covington's image continues
By KRIS HILL
Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor
March 21, 2013 · Updated 2:09 PM
Mention Covington, particularly to residents of neighboring cities, and two things spring to mind: traffic and shopping.
Knowing the city has more to offer, the city’s Economic Development Council partnered with the Covington Chamber of Commerce to develop a brand which would help make the city more recognizable to those from outside the region.
As the process — which began in the fall — has progressed city and chamber officials have recognized what the city’s image is now and want to refine it to communicate what Covington has to offer beyond traffic and shopping.
During the first phase of the process there were workshops that gathered the input of Covington department heads, CEDC, chamber members and others. The second phase is nearing completion and Karla Slate, along with Derek Gillette, who is consulting on the project pro bono, brought the chamber membership up to speed at its monthly luncheon March 14 at Real Life Church.
“We’re trying to make it a win-win situation here,” Gillette said. “We’re here to get your valuable input and feedback.”
Slate, community relations coordinator for Covington, said during the luncheon the idea is to build on the momentum of the Destination Covington event in October 2011 that helped city officials get the message out to companies and developers about what the city has to offer.
Since then, Slate said, they’ve worked with several different focus groups and have gathered data from a number of sources.
In those groups they discussed who the target audiences are for a branding campaign, who the city is competing with for the attention of developers, and what do those groups want as well as what makes Covington unique, what sets it apart from other cities in the region and the country.
“We can talk about short term fixes: a new logo, website,” Gillette said. “But we want to talk about long term results. We have to find that perfect balance between logical and emotional response.”
In order to do that, during the second phase of the branding process, Gillette said it was important to learn about Covington’s history to understand its identity, both how it is perceived and what is true. Decades ago it was a railroad stop.
“When we talk about identity, it was a place to pass through but, not to stay for any period of time,” Gillette said. “What we’re trying to do is change the idea that we’re a pass through or a short cut. With the addition of a large amount of retail, that idea was cemented.”
Another element of Covington’s identity is a connection with nature, but, that’s on the other end of the spectrum from the concept of the city as a short cut, a place to shop or the city people drive through to get to Maple Valley. In order to develop an identity for the city those two elements need to be unified somehow.
“That’s really what the branding strategy is about,” Gillette said. “A branding strategy is not necessarily changing the plan of the city. A branding strategy just finds a way to communicate that (identity) in a better way. It invites people to the party and to participate.”
During the second phase of research and data gathering, Gillette said, they defined three main audiences for the branding message: those who live in Covington, those who do business in the city and those who are visiting Covington.
To that end, a working tagline, “Growing Towards Greatness,” has been developed for the city. And a name for the town center area of downtown, which is meant to be a pedestrian friendly place for residents to gather, live and shop, could be called The Stop at Covington.
“The most important stage we’re at now is to make sure everyone feels accurately represented,” Gillette said. “Have we captured the heart of Covington and its future.”
The goal is to complete the branding strategy process by the end of the third quarter.
As the city, the chamber and CEDC work toward the third phase, the effort now is to define the brand. Input from chamber members was solicited to help accomplish that.
“That’s what we’re coming to the community for: what is that one, single most important thing you want us to convey … to the world about Covington,” Slate said.
Once the feedback from the business community has been gathered and analyzed, city staff will get together with CEDC to respond to that information and strategic changes made as a result, then take that to the Covington City Council.
“From that, we’ll create a strategic brand project … then look at how to bring that to life,” Slate said. “One city which recently did this in house … is the city of Sumner. They went back to their roots of being the rhubarb capital of the world. I think what they’ve done is pretty spectacular.”
Jeff Wagner, who is mayor pro tem of Covington and CEDC co-chair, reiterated the purpose of the branding campaign.
“What Karla, Derek and Jeff are doing is getting community buy-in so (residents) can own it,” Wagner said. “If you give them something they can buy into, they can own it.”
Once that brand has been defined it could change the image from a place to pass through to a destination.
Contact Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor Kris Hill at email@example.com or (425) 432-1209, ext. 5054.