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Take root in Rushford Peterson Valley

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Jun 21st, 2013
Posted in Peterson Features

There it is in three little words; Rushford Peterson Valley. More than two years of research, collaboration, and effort and an embraceable brand sets roots in three communities.

The Rushford Peterson Area Branding Council, made up of volunteers from the cities of Rushford, Rushford Village, and Peterson, revealed the brand to more than 30 people at a presentation last Monday at Montini Hall in Rushford. Through a one hour PowerPoint and question-and-answer portion, the group deftly laid out the what the brand can do, the strategy behind it, and how it can grow the tri-city community both in tourism and in its economic foundation. Already stocked, as economic amenities go for small towns, the communities are looking to broaden the number of people who live, work, play, and return there.

“We’ve been on quite a journey,” noted Council Chairman Doug Botcher. “We’ve spent a lot of time, but we look at it as time spent as an investment in our area. Early on we established a goal to develop a community brand that would attract visitors and new residents.”

The Branding Council is confident that the Rushford Peterson Valley brand can stand on its own. “Roger Brooks, founder of Destination Development International, recommends that a brand can positively pass a gauntlet of 13 all-important definitive community questions,” added Peggi Redalen, council member and City of Rushford Village representative. The newly unveiled brand easily surpasses the recommendation.

“Sometimes the thing that makes your destination unique is as clear as the nose on your face or the river that flows past daily,” continued Redalen. “We are all inseparably linked by that very river, by an encompassing valley, by the formidable bluffs that surround us, by the natural elements that thrive here, and by a trail that connects us. It is a distinctive natural habitat. Our communities are an extension of that natural landscape on which they are sited. There is magic in the Rushford Peterson Valley area that keeps people living here, that beckons to visitors, and keeps people coming back.”

The concept of branding, which was described as “total sum of mental associations that are triggered by a name,” is relatively unheard of for small communities. As the council has pointed out, no commercial branding expert has ever created an established brand with a community population smaller than 3,500 people. Breaking new ground in branding, the council feels it can be successfully done.

“Livable communities are keenly aware of their specific attributes that create a sense of place and give them character. It is important to bring the brand to life with activities and events that support and highlight each community and that each community will therefore naturally embrace,” said Redalen. “Great brands create a memory. They make you want to go there. They are a promise that you will deliver on the perception that people have of you. Those perceptions are built on product and communicated by marketing.”

With the brand revealed, how, when, and where the communities will use them remains to be seen. ““We have an opportunity to enhance the Rushford Peterson Valley by the choices we make about our current circumstances. Our options about how to make the most of the Rushford Peterson Valley is in every decision we make as a community,” noted Council Member Terri Benson. “The Rushford Peterson Valley is about living, observing, participating in the sustainability, development and growth of our communities.”

“The vision of where to utilize the logo tagline is to incorporate them into a marketing campaign that is consistent for a variety of projects. They could be for entrepreneurship ventures, community social groups, volunteer or improvement, educational advancements, and tourism marketing. Our brand connects the communities for growth, but also invites new saplings to grow here,” Benson added.

“The visual aids are vital pieces to our area brand. They remind us of our goal and direction. The brand is driven by a feeling – our essence as communities. It is why we choose to be a part of this area. The determination to use the brand is not about consciously thinking about ‘How am I going to use this,’ ‘Where am I going to put it,’ but rather living the brand by the choices we make as a community, in our life and in our businesses every day.”

Council member and local business entrepreneur Kevin Klungtvedt agreed. “This brand will integrate well with all businesses and industries.” Laying out the brand strategy - “The awe-inspiring valley provides the opportunity to embrace modern ideas, value tradition and live in celebration with nature” - Klungtvedt noted that it points to more than the obvious. “Awe-inspiring, this could be interpreted as the realization of the intrinsic beauty of the area, but also, it’s an ideal for people to live up to. Be awe-inspiring in our projects and businesses, as well as in our conduct, both personally and professionally.”

“We are an area that likes to try new things, to work in the modern world, to develop new and novel ideas and to adopt modern methods. But, just because we have modern thinking, doesn’t mean we reject the old ways. We should not throw away things that are still of value,” continued Klungtvedt. “

“Establishing a cohesive identity for the area, which the community residents promote and participate in proudly, while creating a reason for visitors to come to the area, ultimately leads to new business and new residents,” echoed Redalen. “It’s a process that will increase vitality in our communities and create economic growth and development.”

The Branding Council is also certain the brand can be extended for both current and future generations. “The brand will serve as an umbrella for the area. The catalyst that starts the fire, but it is not the fire itself,” noted Redalen. “A brand is earned. If the community has done a particularly good job of identifying and understanding its brand, it won’t just serve as a marketing tool; rather it will actually be used as guide in decision making.”

“Some of you might be asking, ‘Do we really have enough to start,’ and others of you might be saying, ‘When can we get started?’ We have enough to start and we have enough to link our brand to existing attributes,” enthused Council Member and Peterson Representative Gail Boyum. Investments would be needed to further the success of the brand. The vast list provided by the Branding Council included cost-free, grant-funded and fundraised options, business and entrepreneurial opportunities, and fantastical ideas. “Some things we all know exist, but do we use them? We were going to give you a list of all the ideas that have been gathered, but we decided it was better to have you dream up your own things and help us continue this list.”

The next step in the branding process is for the communities to identify people willing to “tirelessly champion the cause,” to further the brand’s growth. “We’ve identified the brand as a path to success,” said Botcher, “But to be effective, the brand needs to be adopted and utilized by your business or organization. We need to promote the activities we have and to develop new activities and experiences.”

“A brand cannot succeed without champions. These are the people that will lead the brand to success for our communities,” noted Redalen. “A failure of branding is politics. The biggest failure of branding is money, but if we have the people who are willing to work together to champion the cause, money will not be an issue. When everyone is communicating a unified message, the effort becomes both fun and powerful. The brand becomes the adhesive that pulls our communities together.”

“It’s a system of inclusion,” added Klungtvedt. “Everyone is welcome. It is inclusive of all three communities. This is a common thread that all three communities can use to attract people to the area while maintaining their individual character.”

A Rushford Peterson Valley Board will be formed to continue the marketing and implementation of the brand. “It’s time to move beyond volunteer efforts,” said Botcher. “We need to determine the stakeholders and find a designated marketing resource. We need to develop a board and we need to seek funding.”

Those present were overwhelmingly supportive of the brand. Tricia Parrish, director of Historic Bluff Country (HBC), which has a regional visitor’s center in Rushford, spoke to the potential outreach of existing HBC events. “I think this would be perfect to get people on board.”

“I find it very attractive, very simple and easy to embrace,” said Tom Driscoll, Rushford Economic Development Authority chairman. “For how to apply it to a broad range of activities, not just growing tourism, but economic development, community revitalization, and attracting new residents, it’s going to take some thought. It’s embraceable.”

“There needs to be community ownership and support,” stressed Botcher. “We are Rushford Peterson Valley.”

Those interested in serving on the Rushford Peterson Valley Board can contact the Rushford Area Chamber of Commerce or Chamber President Doug Botcher.

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