July 4, 2017 5:10 pm
Updated: July 4, 2017 8:18 pm

Edmonton’s branding experiment ignites chatter

WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton city council heard an update on the city's brand strategy. Emily Mertz has the details.


As Edmonton markets itself, the branding won’t be a logo or a slogan. Instead, it will be the stories that make Edmonton the kind of city it is.

“What we want to do is always make sure we’re always putting out the images and the stories and those kinds of expressions to have people think about Edmonton differently,” Economic Development’s Brad Ferguson said. “That’s 12 months a year, 52 weeks a year, in terms of how they think about the city.”

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City councillors and the mayor were presented with an update on its branding strategy Tuesday, just weeks after council voted not to revive the old City of Champions slogan (again).

READ MORE: Edmonton city council votes against reinstating ‘City of Champions’ slogan 

A report says research and consultation with thousands of people found Edmonton, as a city, is: inventive, open, courageous and cooperative.

According to that report, the foundation of the brand strategy, in one sentence, is:

“If you have the courage to take an idea to reality, to build, to make something, Edmonton is your city.”

READ MORE: Edmonton group pushes to have City of Champions slogan resurrected 

Part of the reveal Tuesday included an image of the word Edmonton with a little maple leaf mark instead of a period.

“The place brand is more the feeling that you get when you hear the word or see the word Edmonton, whatever typeface the word is in,” Mayor Don Iveson said. “Is it a positive association or is it a negative association?”

The city says the image, described as a wordmark, will be used in some campaigns but is not meant to be an overarching logo.

“You’ll see it primarily on outward-facing investment and export development materials,” Iveson said. “I think it’s a good brand.

“I think particularly if you’re in a place like China, the Canadian brand, from my experience overseas, is incredibly strong. Associating ourselves to that, both economically and in terms of value, is very strong.”

In March 2015, councillors decided to have city administration work with the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) to build a report on the plan for the city’s image, brand and reputation strategy. The project has received $1.5 million per year since 2014 as part of the $2 million the city allocated to the image, brand and reputation strategy.

READ MORE: City council rejects proposal to upgrade ‘Welcome to Edmonton’ signs

“A city brand is not an expensive new logo and a slogan,” the report reads. “However, this is what most cities purchase when they decide to rebrand themselves. A city brand is a story. A story that explains what makes a city special. It cannot be purchased or manufactured. It can only be uncovered. Cities such as Glasgow and Barcelona have chosen to focus on how people and residents are an integral part of the brand story.”

The goal of the current phase of the branding project is to make Edmonton an exciting city to watch in the northern hemisphere and position it as an entrepreneurial leader among mid-sized cities. Administration would also like to see the city rank higher on national and international standings.

The project has worked with Make Something Edmonton and the EEDC to showcase individual stories of residents that together create the city’s story.

Ferguson was instructed to work with city administration on merging economic strategy with attracting talent as the branding conversation and the economic development discussion came together.

“It’s really moved from an industrial brand to more of an entrepreneurial brand and that’s the path we have to continue on and we can’t take our foot off the gas,” he said.

“We really want 18 to 34 year olds to look at Edmonton as a place of opportunity where they can come and get ahead financially and they can make a huge impact on their community,” Ferguson added.

“Traditionally, those have been very easy things for us to market. Currently, we have a little bit of an economic decline and it’s harder to make the financial argument, so we’re looking for other value propositions.”

READ MORE: ‘City of Champions’ being removed from Edmonton welcome signs 

The rebranding effort — particularly the word mark — ignited some colourful reaction Tuesday.



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