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Branding workshop could be a Wenatchee Valley game changer

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PART I

Maybe it's time for the Wenatchee Valley to move beyond being just the Apple Capital of the World since we have so much more to offer to visitors than just that label.

We will be in a position to begin moving towards a more powerful, unified approach when a community branding team from the nationally-recognized firm of Arnett Muldrow of Greenville, S.C. shows up on March 11-13 to conduct a series of community image workshops.

The Wenatchee Downtown Association is bringing the team from Arnett Muldrow courtesy of funds provided by the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, in coordination with the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce. The WDA got access to the firm through its Main Street program. WDA Executive Director Linda Haglund stressed that this is a comprehensive and not just a Wenatchee initiative.

Arnett Muldrow specializes in helping communities discover a compelling brand to attract tourists. Their mission will be to create a comprehensive approach to branding that will serve as the framework for unique challenges facing the cities, counties, port districts, chamber and WDA. Recently, the firm completed a plan for Gig Harbor that has gotten rave reviews from community leaders there.

Our valley has struggled to overcome an isolationist mindset that has kept us from viewing this valley as a cohesive and interdependent entity. Yet in these economically challenging times, finding ways to work together is essential. The visit of Arnett Muldrow gives us a great opportunity turn the page to a new chapter.

Haglund said whatever strategy Arnett Muldrow comes up with will not be a mandatory program so if individual organizations want to stick with a go-it-alone approach, they can do so.

What serves as branding messages for the Wenatchee Valley today don't really serve that purpose. While it is nice that the valley is marketed as the Apple Capital of the World, it's hard to imagine that this inspires large numbers of people to visit our valley. And while in theory our valley has 300 days of sunshine as Sommeething to promote, that also doesn't separate us from Yakima, Othello or Moses Lake.

What is missing is a powerful, compelling message that inspires people to visit that speaks to the unique assets in this valley. Brands are promises you make to those who visit about the experience they'll have here.

Here's what to expect. On March 11-13, the team from Arnett Muldrow will host community image workshops involving leaders representing a wide spectrum of interests. There will also be a public meeting. Linda Haglund, the WDA Executive Director, said the response from local leaders on both sides of the river to participate has been overwhelming.

On Wednesday, the 13th, Arnett Muldrow will do their grand "reveal," in which they will deliver their integrated proposal complete with graphics, brand messages, a consistent color palette that could be used and supporting material.

This could be a huge step forward for thinking about our valley as one, integrated and interdependent entity rather than isolated fiefdoms.

In Wednesday's column, I'll share some of the highlights of the Gig Harbor campaign.