The decision to implement a Bellingen Shire Branding Project was initially met with much derision and some confusion by many in the community. “What exactly is a brand?” “Why is a brand necessary?” “How would this be of any help to the business community that has been struggling through the Covid restrictions?”
But possibly the loudest opposition to this strategy has come in the wake of the tourism influx that has occurred as a result of the pandemic border closures. Many feel that we have been swamped. Despite the obvious economic benefits of this influx, many feel our region is choking under the weight of so many visitors.
“The aim is certainly not mass tourism marketing or to attract more tourists. Rather, the aim with this branding strategy is to capture the ‘aspirational traveller’. The eco-conscious traveller who travels lightly, who is coming here to experience the things that we value, including the natural environment, the creative community and all of the things that we love about the Bellingen Shire,” says Anna Fisher.
“We foresee it will also provide local businesses across the Shire with more opportunities, hence building the local economy,” says Anna.
Anna Fisher, of Fisher Design + Architecture has been appointed by Council to undertake the Bellingen Shire Branding Project, in collaboration with a team of local creative industry professionals including artist Brentyn Lugnan, designers Dee Texidor and Lisa Daley, and John Morse AM.
Fisher Design + Architecture is an award-winning, Bellingen-based company with an impressive track record in this Shire. Anna is responsible for much of the interpretive design and signage in our region, connecting people with culture, history and the natural environment through storytelling. Her approach serves to enrich visitor experiences, encourage awareness and foster pride in our communities.
“Storytelling is what I love. I love talking to people, finding out their stories and then distilling this into an image, a vision, something that truly reflects the story. This is exactly the approach I will be using to guide this branding strategy,” says Anna.
“A good brand can connect people with our culture, our heritage, and the natural world around us. It should build our sense of place, strengthen our sense of community, embrace inclusivity, and enhance connection to this land. An enduring, meaningful and compelling brand will help define and position the Shire, and appeal to like-minded visitors.”
A strong and innovative brand will provide the foundation for the development of sustainable, responsible tourism, and help attract creative businesses to our Shire. It will provide a strategic tool for Council, our tourism industry, business operators and community groups to expand opportunities and engage in new ways, whilst fostering meaningful connections between people and our place.
“The vision for the Bellingen Shire branding project is to capture the spirit of our place – to create a brand that respects and celebrates Gumbaynggirr culture, reflects who we are, embodies our values, captures the diversity of our people and places, and presents a unified and identifiable brand identity,” says Anna.
The ultimate ‘brand’ could include a logo, a colour palette, a style guide that can be used by everyone to ensure the feel, values and identified principles of our place are reflected in the marketing of even the smallest of events or happenings.
“Brand identity and collateral material and guidelines will be made available for community groups, businesses, event organisers and anyone who needs to access the identity elements for the purposes of marketing their own product in any way. There will be examples and templates made available to everyone, to make the marketing of events and activities easier and a bank of photos that we would encourage the community to use to ensure that there is uniformity in the messaging,” says Anna.
Anna believes her true strength lies in her ability to listen and actually hear. “I believe in genuine consultation and real engagement. More than 30% of this project is in community consultation. A successful destination brand must be developed through a process of considered, genuine and thorough community and stakeholder consultation.”
“Informing and engaging all of our community is key to establishing support. It will allow the community to identify what is important to them, and how they want to be seen, now and into the future,” says Anna.
Anna and her team will be meeting with community members, not-for-profits, business owners, youth groups, government agencies and most importantly, the Gumbaynggirr community, which she envisions will be a core element of this project, in a consultation process that has been termed ‘Defining Our Spirit of Place’.
We are asked to consider just what this region means to us:
- What aspects of Bellingen Shire are the most important to you?
- What do you love about living in Bellingen Shire?
- What values are important to convey to visitors to our Shire?
- What do you want to see for the future of the Shire?
So we are all invited to contribute to the development of a new tourism brand for the Shire and help create a landmark regional destination brand – one that defines the essence of our Shire and reflects the distinctive character of our special place.
Your thoughts, aspirations and ideas will inform the development of the brand and provide guidance to Council in order to make well-informed, acceptable and sustainable decisions. You can provide input at a series of community feedback forums, which will be held across the Shire during January and February 2021. You can also provide input via Council’s on-line engagement portal – Create at www.create.bellingen.nsw.gov.au or by simply emailing [email protected]
For further updates on consultation forums and to stay up to date with the project between now and then please stay tuned to www.create.bellingen.nsw.gov.au. Council are accepting feedback up until 26thFebruary 2021.