By Chris Hendrickson, Contributing Writer
That could be Monroe’s newest marketing theme, suggested Monroe Chamber of Commerce Director Annique Bennett at City Council Tuesday.
Not meant to be a tagline, “Ride Here” is an idea that has been designed to work in concert with Monroe’s “The Adventure Starts Here” theme, she said. The idea, which has been incorporated into a graphic, simply promotes the concept that in Monroe, you can “Ride Here.”
Bennett talked a little about community branding.
“What’s really important here in Monroe is what people think of us,” said Bennett. “A brand is what people think of you, not what you say you are. It’s a perception.”
Bennett explained that this idea of a brand being a perception comes from Roger Brooks, an internationally-known community branding and marketing expert once hired by the city of Monroe to do a branding study.
Bennett later provided additional insight on what exactly they are hoping to achieve with “Ride Here.”
“While ‘The Adventure Starts Here’ speaks generally, it doesn’t take the conversation far enough,” said Bennett. “We want to set specific expectations about what’s available and happening now in Monroe.”
The concept “Ride Here” is meant to hone in on the wide variety of activities that are available for folks to do in Monroe. From the many adrenaline-pumping automobile racing events at Evergreen Speedway; including NASCAR, drag, drift, demo, dirt bikes and go carts, to the rides at the Evergreen State Fair, many folks can relate to the “Ride Here” concept.
Additionally, equestrian shows and rodeo activities, plus other less extreme activities like biking, fishing and boating are also easily relatable to the “Ride Here” concept.
“When we hear people describe their favorite ride-associated experiences both as participants or spectators, we know we are on the right track,” said Bennett. “This concept speaks about real experiences people are having here.”
Bennett stated that the goal of the new design is to not only stimulate conversation about Monroe and spread a more specific message than what is conveyed through “The Adventure Starts Here,” but to also reach out to people who may be unsure of how they feel about Monroe.
Bennett shared her ideas with council.
“We want to also reach folks who are thinking about us, maybe in a lukewarm kind of a way, or maybe even in a negative way,” said Bennett. “We want to give them things to think about that are positive.”
“Most importantly, we really want to reach those folks who aren’t thinking about us at all,” she continued.
The graphic was designed to be both simple and nostalgic, as a way of incorporating a sense of Monroe’s historic and industrial elements to the outdoor recreation-based theme.
“This is sort of a sub-brand,” said Bennett. “A sub-story that nests underneath the challenge sports of the adventure starts here.”
The chamber rolled out their new website, Choose Monroe, in 2013 and have been using it as a tool to not only highlight Monroe’s well-known attractions like the races and the fair, but also to draw attention to new events like the King of Wake Pro Wakeboard Tour event at Lake Tye.
Plans for the website in 2014 include transitioning over to more ride-related graphic elements, and to also incorporate new experiences, itineraries and stories.
Councilmembers responded favorably to the new graphic.
“I love the ride logo,” said Councilmember Patsy Cudaback. “It’s vibrant but it still looks kind of old school a little bit.”
Bennett later shared that a key aspect of establishing Monroe’s community brand is to continue developing Monroe’s municipal story while at the same time focusing on enhancing tourism.
“The local community and visitors are two distinct and separate audiences. While both audiences are connected to Monroe, the things that matter to each audience are very different,” said Bennett. “If the local community gets an excessive diet of visitor-related messaging it can make the community feel ignored. It’s important to find a balance and address each side of the same story honestly, simply and well.”