District Kickstarts Branding Exercise


What should be the Squamish brand ? District has enlisted the help of Rogers Brooks International to help with rebranding Squamish.

By Annie Ellison
Published: Sept. 28, 2013

Imagine a town with one of the youngest populations in B.C., a history of logging, a strong First Nations community, and a world-class outdoor recreation scene.

Now, try and come up with one unifying message to promote and grow that town: this is what the District of Squamish is paying worldwide tourism development mogul Roger Brooks International $65,000 to do.

“It (brand) can be a positive crafted force or a haphazard image created by reputation.” Economic Development Officer Dan McRae.

The district picked Roger Brooks International for the firm’s demonstrated public consultation process.

Brooks is most famous for helping turn Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch into a Graceland style tourist attraction. He also rebranded the depressed town of Jefferson, Texas into one America’s antique-shopping hubs. 

And that’s just the consulting fee. At Tuesday’s district COW meeting, councillors decided to hire R.B.I. to develop a branding strategy for Squamish.

The motion will be officially ratified at the next council meeting on October 1.

“All communities have a brand image whether it’s intentional or not. It can be a positive crafted force or a haphazard image created by reputation,” said Economic Development Officer Dan McRae.

McRae says the goal is to attract tourism and business development to ultimately increase the population of Squamish.

Over the next 14 weeks, a brand development committee will research demographics, consult with the public and outline the strategy.

Squamish is already known as ‘the outdoor recreation capital of Canada.’ The district wants to leverage that to get people to invest.

“We’re trying to enhance the title, apply a story and know who we’re selling it to,” McRae said.

The district has been talking about branding since 2004, but not in any comprehensive way.  

Councillor Ted Prior says he’s seen too many projects reach an impasse because the town doesn’t have a brand. For example, Squamish hasn’t had a town sign since it was destroyed in an accident in 2011.

Council was unable to move forward on installing a new one because the district hadn’t figured out what it’s brand messaging for the sign would be.  

“Then it went into la la land,” Prior said.

Prior is still on the fence about investing public dollars into branding the town.

“We could definitely get a nice entrance sign for $65,000,” he said.

The money for the initiative is coming from the economic development budget: $45,000 from the strategy budget, and $20,000 from the core budget.

“It’s definitely worth the money,” said Squamish chamber member Jeff Cooke.

But, he says there must be a clear and measurable return on investment.

That is, actual figures on how many businesses and how many visitors it draws.

“It’ll be hundreds of thousands of dollars when it’s all said and done,” said Cooke. 

“We need to increase our tax base to afford the infrastructure we’ve built,” said Councillor Patricia Heintzman.

She created Squamish’s current logo twelve years ago — at her desk in about 20 minutes. She says this process is long overdue.

“We have a slogan. Brand is more comprehensive about who we are and who we want to be,” she said.

Heintzman said in the past Squamish has relied on the forestry industry and the Olympics for publicity and branding, but it’s time to tell the story ourselves.

Prior said residents in town were divided when they chose the current slogan twelve years ago.

By December, staff and consultants hope to have a concrete action plan with 20 to 40 recommendations for a campaign that will include items like graphic images, marketing messages, signs, pole banners and a website home page.


  1. Dave says:

    Forget the “Brand”…Call it “Squamish” If it’s any good, they will come here…To the whole Valley! They already are, in case you haven’t noticed.
    And, the sign thing has been going on for years and it always will be irrelevant to our success and progress.
    The “Consultants”….Well, we have had many good ones over the years…The trick is to actually listen to them after you have spent the money.

  2. ivan marinov says:

    I’ve branded Squamish a long time ago for free.
    It’s the Outdoor Paradise of the Planet!
    Believe me, I’ve looked for a better place all over the world. There is none.
    Plus we’ve got Vancouver and Whistler, one in each hand.
    We should organize a contest. And a photo contest.

    Ivan Marinov
    p.s: Roger Brooks will do a fine job too. But mine is more ambitious for the buck.

  3. Elisa says:

    There’s a lot of discussions that go on around town…consensus seems to be that we are on the verge of change. The demographics are undeniable, and everyone that lives here appreciates our hidden gem that we call home. A sign coming into town would be very nice, and a community contest sounds like a great idea to get some momentum happening?!

  4. Rick says:

    I have to agree with Dave. It is Squamish. Always has been and hopefully will be for the future. People come here in droves already. Just try to get around town lately. Traffic is almost to the point of unbearable. We live in one of the best places in the world. Enjoy it as it is. Squamish.

  5. Jim Harvey says:

    Personally, I’m disappointed we are (once again) going down this road. For many, if not most of us, our ‘brand’ is clear, accurate & powerful. Our outdoor recreation/nature is what makes this place special and marketable. But instead of investing in infrastructure that supports the brand we spend on initiatives dreamed up by bureaucrats that don’t want to do the simple, practical, low cost, mudane things that improve the visitor’s recreation experience. Oh well…. once again we’ll leave it up to the awesome volunteer community to make that happen.

  6. Jaspera says:

    Another waste of money. More consultants, more programmers, more staff. More reports to litter the shelves or be shelved. Jim Harvey is quite right – the bureaucrats don’t want to do the simple things that improve the visitor’s and the resident’s recreation experience. Much easier to, once again, pass the buck, and our illustrious Council tolerates that, at our, the taxpayer’s expense! Squamish residents and volunteers, time after time, at meeting after meeting, at very little cost, have come up with viable plans, visions, strategies, brands and branding, signs and signage, logos and slogans, BUT those all get relegated to the round bin, wasting time, energy, dollars, and, most importantly, the enthusiasm of those participants. Squamish – the Mother of the Winds – as others have said above,, already has a clear, amazing brand. The only ones who don’t seem to recognize it are the bureaucrats and most of the councillors. Pity!

  7. elementsofmylife says:

    Thanks for sharing that interesting tid bit about the history of our logo. Thanks Patty! I’m glad to see that work is underway for us to help us identify why folks should stop and stay – we’re certainly much more than just “the McDonalds on the side of the highway between Vancouver and Whistler”. People are slowly getting it and a brand that makes sense can only help.

  8. Dave says:

    So good to see the optimism in most of these comments….Let’s keep it up SQUAMISH Sea-to-Skyers! Councillor Prior, you make the observation that so many projects reach an impasse, which is true. But this has nothing to do with the lack of a “Brand”. The reason is that due to our diverse population people tend to inadvertently vote in very balanced Councils with a similarly reflecting diversity. The result is that Council members tend to not reach a consensus on many issues related to development. Sort of like “The greens” against the “Rednecks”…result ,stalemate (if you pardon this extreme analogy). This is a common dilemma in Democracy. There are people with driven interests in making a lot of quick money and there those who do not and prefer an eco-approach. We see this over and over again. I have too “hedged my bets” in this way when I have voted. One of the downsides of this is that action gets slowed regarding the fulfilment of progressive plans…sometimes. But continue to think BIG TOWN, BIG VALLEY and don’t worry about “Brands” or “Signs”.

  9. bermslider says:

    Jim Harvey for mayor! Could not have put it better.

  10. Wolfgang W says:

    Right on, Dave: ‘Brands’, or more aptly ‘slogans’, come and go. Remember the pre-Olympic slogan proclaiming that BC is the ‘Best Place on Earth’? Well, in the official dustbin according to this article in the Vancouver Sun of 2011:
    Richmond called itself once ‘Island City by Nature’ in trying to capitalize on Vancouver’s admittedly clever ‘Spectacular by Nature’.
    There is more to branding than owning a catchy slogan or logo, a fact that all the great brands we are so familiar with know all too well.

  11. peter austen says:

    Leavenworth Washington is very successful with its German theme. try Austrian as we are so alpine and we have a chocolate shop and some good pubs and a gondola!

    • elementsofmylife says:

      That whole idea of something that isn’t at all authentic to the place we’ve become makes me cringe! Just because other places have been successful with it doesn’t mean we should try it too. I mean how many little fake European towns are tourists going to travel to? I remember things looking pretty lean in the “Austrian” community of Kimberley, BC. I am certain we can do better and sometimes the best way to figure out what makes a place unique or visit-worthy is an outside perspective and lots of input from the locals!

      • peter austen says:

        Who is “elements of my life” ? Do all themes make you cringe? downtown Squamish and the harbour are not pretty. We have the remnants of many years logging and industrial waste. There is no focus as yet. Kimberley has a very small tourist base. Squampton has a vast potential in numbers of people showing up.
        What non theme is “Elements suggesting?” Leave it as it is? We are moving in the right direction it seems. Can’t wait to see what comes out. I hope it is different from what the average visitor sees here when they drop their eyes down from the glory of the peaks and feast on the ground level surroundings. I lived in Innsbruck, Berchtesgaden and Chamonix . I know they are much older than Squamish but visually they got it right. What’ s wrong with a bit of imitation. ? I don’t want another whistler though!

        • Wolfgang W says:

          Since it appears we are now moving from ‘ brand’ to ‘theme’ in this thread, what would be wrong with our true theme – ‘West coast’, even if it is not all salmon and canneries as elsewhere, but about a more in-your-face West coast heritage such as logging and other resource extraction?
          Think it won’t work? Just two clues: Britannia Mine and all the film productions shot in Squamish, because the producers or location directors obviously find some West Coast charm here we miss. We should improve on the theme that is naturally ours already, of course. ‘Leave it as it is?’ as you rhetorically asks, is not an option, but no fakery please!

  12. ivan marinov says:

    The thing about a brand is that it has to be true. I look Lillooet with fresh respect now that it’s “Guaranteed Rugged”. As if deliberate. BC is the BEST place on Earth.
    And Squamish is the best place in BC. Agreed? Ergo…
    Council is going ahead, as they did with the cherry trees in the park. They are also burying the hydro lines downtown, bless them. Now we can make Squamish photogenic. Nothing ruins a picture like a power line.
    We don’t want to make a quick buck; we just want to make up for the loss of industry by reinventing Squamish with a clean(er) industry: tourism.
    We can handle world fame as it’s coming.

    • Wolfgang W says:

      It has to be true, but never presumptuous as with all the ‘capitals’, the ‘best’, the ‘greatest’ and other chest pounding superlatives shouted by so many as if they were fairground vendors. You can hold such an opinion as an individual, of course, but you must recognize that it is highly subjective. Neither Lillooet’s slogan, nor Vancouver’s or Chilliwack’s (‘The Great Outside’) go that far. Their slogans encompass a range of expectations to be judged by visitors themselves. By the way, does Whistler have or need a slogan? Why does almost every town believe it needs one? Were attributes such as ‘La ville de Lumiere’ or the ‘Great Apple’ conceived by an ad agency or did Paris and New York earn them through what they have become in the eyes of public perception?
      As I wrote previously, there is much more to branding and brand recognition than coming up with a slogan or a logo. Raising unattainable expectations through use of excessive claims as a slogan also runs the risk of producing the familiar let-down following the purchase of that ‘wonder’ product from that fairground huckster, or worse: Ridicule . Napoleon – wiser once on St. Helena – is quoted as saying ‘From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a small step.’ Let’s hope our new brand developers keep this in mind.

  13. Wolfgang W says:

    Sorry…I went to an exaggerated claim myself with the ‘Great Apple’ in my previous post. It should of course be the ‘Big Apple’. Whether that also makes it ‘great’ is best left to the judgment of those who know it. :)

  14. ivan marinov says:

    It’s easy to complain; positive thinking takes practice. Our council, once elected, works for the whole community. They will not spend money without a good reason. Branding is inevitable. We might as well have experts do it.
    When people come here, they are not interested in our buildings as much as our mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, wildlife, our Howe Sound and the outdoor recreations and sports that go with them. Some communities offer two or three sports, we offer two or three dozen! We can challenge anyone to come up with a better geographical location and attributes, anywhere in the world.

    Berry Middleman, Squamish born and raised, told me twenty years ago that this was the best place on Earth. So I traveled around the globe and learned that he was right.
    Surely we are not the only ones who think that this is true. (You can’t be objective about your hometown if you love it.)


  15. Don Patrick says:

    It is the people that settle here that will make the town, not the visitors. It is one thing to talk about something and another to spend money at the same time. No matter this wonderful little west coast village is one of the few with a one way entrance, and that is not a bad thing….but it is very seldom mentioned.

  16. ivan marinov says:

    You are right, Don, it’s the people, but the visitors also. We are having an influx of top notch athletes coming every summer, to climb and kite board among other things.
    Yumiko Mori of the Japanese Rock Climbers Association wrote, and I quote: “…definitely awesome…that is the best in every respect.” And she is coming back.
    Once we found this “little gem”, we cannot keep it to ourselves. Squamish will grow because people like me and others will see to it. Highway 99 is a river of money. It behooves us to divert some and build a world class summer destination. The word is out already.