At Tuesday's regional council meeting, council will debate improving city branding. HRM amalgamated back in 1996. While, what has been changed should not be reversed there have been clear examples of improper integration of municipal policies, services and regional identity. I applaud to see this on council’s radar, having a cohesive and comprehensive branding strategy is important to increased success as a city.
Presently as a municipality, I honestly do not see a strong, clearly defined brand. There are campaigns from the provincial Department of Tourism, Greater Halifax Partnership, Downtown Halifax Business Commission, etc. While campaigns promoting the region and province as a whole, in our region as citizens I feel that we struggle with a regional identity. The tendency to embrace a local community identity over a regional identity is strong. There are several factors that I feel that contribute to this:
·Tendency of some municipal government officials to continually put local interest over regional
· Reluctance of community citizens to equally acknowledge connection to a regional identity
· Lack of strong regional branding in the form of signage, slogans, messaging etc.
Even though from a legislative point of view we are one city, each corner still identifies with their community, i.e. Dartmouth, Bedford, Eastern Shore, Sackville, and Timberlea.etc. While, I do not believe we should lose the connection to community identity a stronger regional brand would unite as a city. This is as important for citizens as it is for marketing our city to the rest of the world. When I travel in other parts of Canada, people’s comments are that it is a nice city, friendly people. However, most times the recognition of Halifax ends there. If I branch out to the United States, even to our neighbours in Maine there are some that are unsure of even where Halifax is. Some in Western Canada believe stereotypical notions about Halifax. Comparatively, other cities in our region have stronger branding:
· Charlottetown, PEI – Birth Place of Confederation,
· Moncton, NB – Our Tide is Rising/Une nouvelle vague nous soulève
· Fredericton, NB – Smart. Sustainable
The realities of globalization and competitiveness for economic growth and tourism dollars require Halifax to have a stronger brand. Cities such as Charlottetown, Ottawa, Toronto, St.John’s have messaging to provide unity for citizens, clearly present benefits to city investment and ones that encouraging tourism from varying demographics.
I believe that our municipal government in conjunction with citizens of HRM have a great opportunity to develop a strong brand that can recognize our history, look to our future and communicate a strong identity to the world. Our renewed brand will continue and expand economic investment via jobs, immigration and tourism dollars.