Branding is More than Just ‘Epic’

branding commitee-MAIN

Member of the brand development commitee in downtown Squamish.
Photo: Alice Guss

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: June 3, 2014

It’s unfair to judge the branding exercise by just one word, especially when nothing has been finalised, say branding committee members.

In an interview with the Reporter, branding committee members defended the branding process and urged the community to stand behind it.


Branding committee member Jeff Cooke said the committee decided, with the help of 1000 resident surveys, that multi-sport adventure sets the town apart

Squamish, he said, has world class mountain biking, rock climbing, back country skiing, wind sports and alpine hikes.

Having them here in one place is the opposite of generic, it’s unique and exciting,” he said. 

Cooke said the committee couldn’t identify a place that had all this in such close proximity. All these experiences are spectacular or epic in their own right.

“Is “epic” the right word or way to express this concept? I think the prudent path is to research it with our target audience and see what they say about it,” Cooke said.

Coun. Patricia Heintzman said she had heard many positive comments about branding and it’s difficult to judge a whole program by one word or one image.

“It’s the overall message that is important and that is defined by the whole program, not just one word,” she said.

Heintzman said what she liked about the branding was how dramatic and targeted it could be while still being personal and diverse.

She also said there was still much to do on the branding front as the branding concepts are at a draft stage.

She berated the naysayers and the media for the negative attitude.

“We’ve gotten into the habit of complaining all the time and not looking at the positives,” she remarked.

“You as the media fans this flame all too much and make it worse often than it really is.”

Another committee member, Michelle Nielsen, said the word EPIC in fact came from Roger Brooks, not the branding committee. The word epic stemmed from a laundry list of descriptive words used to describe Squamish by residents in the brand survey.

“The word EPIC is not set in stone and nor is it static,” she said.

Nielsen said she would encourage the community to be positive and think of the brand as a ‘dynamic living breathing’ thing that embodies the soul of a community.

The current Brand Development Committee has passed the reins to a Brand Leadership Team (BLT), who will guide the implementation of the action plan.


  1. Stéphane says:

    Epic is fine. Its a branding exercise. Its healthy to change the tag line every few years. Corporations do it, governments do it. Our old tag line was good, but it’s been used for decades. Lets go with Epic and Outdoor Adventure Capital. I think the committee and consultation process was good. Let’s go through the process again in the future, but for now I am fine with Epic.

  2. Brad Hodge says:

    “We’ve gotten into the habit of complaining all the time and not looking at the positives,” she remarked.

    Not true. When this project was announced, everyone, including the Reporter’s editor, were encouraging people to be positive, and they were, until they saw the first results. In the context of discussing cuts to services, spending $65,000 on a consultant who hands you the most generic tagline ever and a word teenagers are already tired of was bound to provoke a negative reaction. People have a right to complain. They are the ones footing the bill ultimately. If people are quick to the negative, that’s probably a consequence of years of the District fiddling around with things like this, spending money and not getting results.

    “You as the media fans this flame all too much and make it worse often than it really is.”

    The media reports the facts. People react to the facts. The media reacts to the reaction. That’s how it works. The media isn’t supposed to cheerlead the politicians, it’s supposed to hold them accountable. The facts are that we spent $65k and a lot of people don’t think we got good value for that money. Others wondered why we were building the brand for our community entirely around outdoor sports and tourism, when there is so much more to Squamish than that. That is fair comment. It’s strange to hear the committee being defensive and pointing the finger at the only guy who got paid for any of this. Anyway, let’s all take a breath and hope we do better on the next outing.

    • Auli Parviainen says:

      “The media report the facts.” I think you probably didn’t finish the sentence there Brad, as it should have continued with ‘as they see them’. As a regular contributor in an opinion-based journalism paper like this, I am surprised you would not acknowledge the filters and lenses which exists in all media. Media filters the so-called facts by first choosing what stories to report and then by the unique lens of each writer. And let’s be real here, if it bleeds it leads and that creates a whole another type of reality for us all.

      You yourself are attempting to create a quite loaded “factual” narrative by stating, for instance, that “a lot of people don’t think we got good value for that money.” What are the facts you have to back that statement up? Have you collected data by surveys or by another method? You also say that “others wondered why we are building the brand for our community around outdoor sports and tourism, where there is so much more to Squamish than that.” Firstly, the brand is not being built around tourism and outdoor recreation only, it just captures the essence of who and what we are in an effort to allow us to market ourselves effectively to a vast variety of markets. Yes, tourism is part of that but so are other industries. You may not have an understanding how significant of a factor lifestyle can be in a choice of residence or a business. We need to play to our strengths with a unified message to attract visitors for whatever purpose to spread the message of Squamish as a highly livable community. These visitors can turn into longtime residents, who build businesses here or relocate their existing ones. We can also use our unique selling proposition of wide diversity of outdoor recreation to attract highly-skilled and educated new residents, who in turn are attractive as a labour force for many industries. Tourism is one industry which can work in tandem with a large number of others and is merely a component of a diverse, resilient local economy.

      As a representative of the Squamish Chamber in the branding committee I can factually tell you that I, along with the other committee members, reviewed over 1200 responses to a survey and the facts were stunningly obvious: the residents and non-residents fairly unanimously see Squamish as an outdoor sports mecca located in a spectacular scenic oceanside location with the iconic Chief as its majestic landmark. The survey spoke of spirited, authentic, perhaps even a touch gritty community, which really does have residents who share a certain love of outdoors and independent, entrepreneurial soul if you will. This does not mean everyone is alike, it just means we got that in spades and it can be a differentiating factor from other communities. This committee is definitely not milk toast, the conversation has been robust and filled with diverse viewpoints. What you see as committee being defensive I see as a committee trying to communicate that while we all agree on the big picture, we might have differing views on how to best capture that into a 3-dimensional brand identity. This is most normal and should be expected in a community filled with passionate people with much expertise around branding and marketing. We also recognize the importance of playing as a team and getting the work done, and that means putting aside one’s primadonna attitude of having all the answers or knowing best. I am proud to say that the district team was very responsive when the committee wanted to ensure the feedback – good, bad and the ugly – we were hearing through our circles was considered prior to finalizing the brand. This is being refined as we speak.

      What I do agree with you on is the need to be accountable for the value generated. It would be great to see less emphasis on how much money is spent but rather whether value is generated in return. This requires a set of baseline markers to be established and then clear, measurable goals made. Any project the District takes on should be measured via Key Performance Indicators. Then, and only then, can we fairly address poor work performance. Right now all we seem to do is focus on whether a project is done or not, with not much regard for well it is done. So, if we have to critique something let’s insist that each project we invest in public money in has to have clearly defined, measurable goals considered of the costs and returns. I, for one, don’t want to bet my future or our next outing as you say on ‘hope’, I want to plan it to know that it’s worthwhile. And just in closing, value is not just money, it can take many forms but it can still be measured.

      • Brad Hodge says:

        Look, the Reporter is not a cutthroat NBC affiliate out to grab market share. It’s a small town, community service oriented paper. I’m not sure your ‘opinion-based journalism’ charge is correct. The Reporter does offer opinion pieces like everywhere else, but the actual articles tend to be well researched. I’ve seen Gagan at work and he’s been recognized by his peers for his achievements. He has printed many, many (many) positive articles that mainstream media wouldn’t touch. The ‘if it bleeds it leads’ mantra really is ridiculous if applied to the Reporter. This isn’t the NY Post.

        I don’t usually conduct formal surveys to relate my anecdotal experiences on an online comment forum. However I am a lot more out there in the community than you may realize and I have heard lots on this subject. If I ever do write an article I assure you there will be plenty of attribution. We all have our opinions on this subject and are entitled to them. Page long missives are not necessary — if you are confident in your work then ignore us cranks and let’s see what you can do.

        • Auli Parviainen says:

          Oops sorry, didn’t realize you had answered this Brad. Just to be clear, I was reflecting on what Gagan has himself told me about SR and his approach. I love what Gagan’s done with SR so far, and actually prefer this style of journalism as it doesn’t attempt to pretend objectivity, which is impossible. For further clarity, part of my degree was centred around political communication and media analysis so in this case i would claim having some more in-depth knowledge of the subject matter. You mistakenly take a logical leap from opinion-based journalism inferring poorly researched, not the case at all, in fact usually the opposite is true. ‘If it bleeds it leads’ refers to any media story and it is just a reality. All that it means is that stories that interest the most people will be featured more prominently, this is how you sell papers. And it’s not a problem as long as we are cognizant of that reality. Your refusal to acknowledge it is a bit concerning though.

          I am troubled by your statement “page long missives aren’t necessary — if you are confident in your work then ignore us cranks and let’s see what you can do.” Firstly, I was involved in the process as the representative of the Chamber and what emerges in branding is not ‘what I can do’, I will have no role in that. I chose to participate, I did not make a decision to do branding. I also think it very important to support a team and put aside your personal opinions at times, there is time and a place for everything. As for page long missives, do I take it that you prefer not hearing from people who actually participated in the process? Prefer your own opinion and don’t want to bother with accurate or clarifying information? While you are at it why don’t you tell me exactly how many words I can use or perhaps you would prefer I don’t comment on a public forum at all? For fear of troubling you with too much reading I’ll stop here.

  3. Matt says:

    I think the branding concept is solid. What a fantastic place to live!

  4. larry mclennan says:

    One committee has now passed the ball to another committee. I hope that, at an early stage, the total costs of this exercise will be budgeted and made available to the public , before continuing . If the costs have already been determined what amount are they? Presumably , the alluded to “action plan” must have been , or will be, costed before proceeding. No mention has been made of costs or costing. I find that less than inspiring.

  5. Geri Avis says:

    The online survey of 1200 people, was in which one of the questions asked was what Squamish’s greatest assets are and specified that people need not mentionits location or that it is a port with railway access because that is already known? Because I took that survey and commented that it was a question that would skew the results. In other words, if you think some of Squamish best assets, in addition to the outdoor recreational opportunities, is the opportunity for business and industry to succeed, we don’t want to know that. That survey was meant to come up with the results it did.

  6. larry mclennan says:

    Again Auli- what are the budgeted costs for this exercise and what aare the factors to be measured with regard to valuation of return on investment. Apparently, according to your narrative , a number of the factors are subjective. Subjective valuation is, in my history of project valuation ,difficult to attach a verifiable value to and thus, to project proponents, are go-to factors when trying to justify the valuation of any particular project-ie subject to an inordinate amount of optimistic projection.

  7. larry mclennan says:

    With regard to revealing projected costs- the silence is deafening.

    • Auli Parviainen says:

      Sorry Larry, I don’t get notifications from this forum so did not realize there was a question. AS I just stated above, I was not part of the decision-making to enter into the actual branding exercise, I was merely representing the Chamber in the committee. The committee was volunteer-based so no costs incurred there (but significant resource investment in time from all of us). Off the top of my head I think DoS budgeted $65K towards this process and I believe that is the cost for Roger Brooks International.

      As you, I asked for the total estimated project costs to be calculated and measurable objectives to be set at the time the District decided to start branding. In general, I am in favour of branding as I think it can be very effective but in saying that I have huge expectations in terms of defining the value proposition before getting started. In this case I am just another resident and chose, once the decision was made, to participate rather than sit on the sidelines.

      I stated it clearly that I expect each municipal project to have clearly defined and measurable goals. I further said that not all goals are financial (money) but that they can still be measured. For instance, the District could decide to undertake a project to increase citizen engagement. The effectiveness of any program would not be measured only financially but by the numbers of people interacting or engaging with the District. First you decide on the baseline (current number), decide how much you want to increase that number (goal), then plan and execute a program to reach those objectives and then evaluate whether you accomplished the goal or not. Clearly you keep measuring during the process to ensure you are on the right track and change tact if you are not. Of course the why do it must be first and foremost question. I can think of a number of different measurable targets which could be part of the branding exercise but those unfortunately aren’t my decisions to make, I wish they were. Then I could have answered your question before we spent the money.

  8. larry mclennan says:

    Surely there are costing results from other municipalities who have done this in the past with business plans similar to Squamish? Is there a business plan? Has anyone made inquiries in this regard? Who’s handling the gavel in this group?