Hodag not defining part of Forward Rhinelander promotional effort
BY KEVIN BONESKE
An effort three years in the making to differentiate Rhinelander with a “brand identity” for workforce and visitor retention and attraction now includes a guide for doing so.
Dave Heck of Forward Rhinelander noted at the organization’s meeting held Wednesday at ArtStart that interviews were conducted with nearly 40 people over that three-year period “and nearly every person said, ‘The Rhinelander brand is lacking.’”
To complement the branding efforts that have previously been done in the Rhinelander area, Heck noted Alison Schiek of Schiek Consulting put together a draft of a “brand guide” for Forward Rhinelander.
“I think that as a community, we need to look at how we are strategically communicating as we go forward,” Schiek said. “When you ask people who have lived and worked in the Rhinelander community, including myself, what it’s like to live here, and what the people are like, and what the work environment is like, and what the natural resources are like, you get really passionate about it….
“There’s a lot of heart and a lot of passion, and I really want us as a community to take that heart and passion and put it toward our communications, so that people can see that passion come through as we communicate. We want to evoke emotion when we communicate with people.”
Schiek said the audiences the branding effort is going after include job seekers, outdoor enthusiasts, families relocating and people looking toward retirement.
Rhinelander differentiates itself from other northern Wisconsin communities, Schiek said, by being “the commercial, the industrial, the recreational hub for all of the northern region.”
“As we look at what’s different about us, compared to say, you know – Minocqua, which might be kind of upscale and expensive – you look at Eagle River, which is really campy – the different communities, Rhinelander really is that hub, that central commercial hub, for all of the additional regions,” she said.
Schiek noted the “brand strategy” that would “distinctly position the Rhinelander brand in the mind of our target audience” includes what, how, to whom, where, why and when.
“You can take this and look at your own organizations and say, ‘How can I maybe sharpen what I’m communicating in order to be able to better tell our story,’” she said.
Schiek said the five “core values” included in the guide to define Rhinelander’s strongest attributes include outdoor life, innovative, adventurous, genuine and resource rich.
The “brand message” decided upon for Rhinelander, Schiek said, is “Live. Seek. Explore.”
A sample video she presented included that brand message with the subtitle: “Discover why Rhinelander is the capital of Wisconsin’s north.”
“The Courthouse dome, being so prominent, recognizable in our community, we’re just kind of including that in some of our communications to differentiate,” she said.
Words and phrases in the guide to differentiate what Rhinelander offers, Schiek noted, can be included in marketing materials to show “that balance between nature and innovation.”
HOW CAN HODAG HELP, NOT HINDER?
Schiek said a lot of time was spent on looking at how the Hodag fit into Forward Rhinelander’s vision for branding the community.
“It’s an important part of our heritage, and for years Rhinelander’s invested in the identity of the Hodag and the awareness of the Hodag in the state is high,” she said. “But what you see when you start to look at this it there’s a little bit of a split” with both positive and negative awareness.
Schiek compared to the Hodag and Rhinelander to Bucky Badger and the University of Wisconsin, noting that the Hodag and the Badger are mascots that don’t define and describe their respective brands.
“So as we look at positioning Rhinelander going forward, my recommendation would be to take a look at how we’re using the Hodag, and how can the Hodag complement what we’re communicating, rather than be all that we’re communicating,” she said.
Schiek also recommended using photography over illustration when possible for communicating about Rhinelander.
“We’re advocating for an experience, and the experience can best be connected with through realistic imagery that allows you to see how you might feel in that particular situation,” she said. “So, you’ll see the imagery that I’ve selected is photography.”
Schiek encouraged those attending the meeting, which included a cross-section of individuals in various vocations in the community, to use as much clarity as possible with specifics when branding Rhinelander.
Heck asked those in attendance with any thoughts and suggestions they might have about the brand guide presented Wednesday to email Forward Rhinelander at: email@example.com
“We want to put this together, finish it and expand on everything we talked about,” he said.