Branding Payson Into A Household Name

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You've eaten "Wheaties, the breakfast of champions."

You've discovered that "Things go better with Coke."

And you have never been able to drive through a certain town without singing, "Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona ..."

The reason for that Scott Flake, director of the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation, said is that each of those "products" has managed to develop an identity that has seared itself into our collective consciousness with the effectiveness of a red-hot branding iron.

And that is precisely what Flake wants to do with the town of Payson.

"Although the Payson region has tremendous potential, one of the obstacles to realizing this potential is the lack of a defined image," said Flake, who is also the chair of the town's freshly formed Branding Committee.

While there are a number of entities that promote "The Rim Country," Flake said, there is "little consistency and commonality" to that marketing effort. "As (Town Manager) Rich Underkofler once told me, 'If Payson had a mascot, it would be a retired Swiss cowboy.'

"Our area needs a common identity, a community personality or a consistent image that represents our unique region," Flake said. "We need to establish a brand image to enhance our community identity, area tourism, economic development and our cultural heritage. This brand needs to be promoted, both internally and externally."

What Flake has in mind is the kind of corporate branding that towns and cities across the nation are now using to define themselves in a sort of marketing shorthand. New York is the "Big Apple." Phoenix is the "Valley of the Sun." Tucson is the "Old Pueblo." Sedona is "Red Rock Country."

And Payson is ... Well, that's exactly what Flake is trying to determine.

And he's soliciting your help by way of a "Brand the Payson Region" contest, for which locals are encouraged to dream up thoughts, words, phrases or slogans that they think best represent the area. There will be a grand prize offered, too a 2001 World Series commemorative baseball and a $50 Wal-Mart gift certificate. The winner of those goodies will be selected in a drawing. "But if we decide to use the idea you expressed in your contest entry," Flake said, "you'll get the satisfaction of seeing it plastered all over town and giving our community a boost."

The contest, however, is just the first of four branding-project phases. The second will involve a brainstorming workshop conducted by facilitators from APS, using various community representatives and leaders; the third will be the testing stage; and the last will be the implementation of the branding by all facets of the community so the new, centralized theme completely saturates the region.

"Let's say 'Arizona's Elk Country' is the brand we decide to promote which it is NOT," Flake emphasized.

"The town might be encouraged to place a statue of an elk in one of the community parks. Area gift stores might carry T-shirts, mugs or other souvenirs with an elk motif or our new logo, the design of which would somehow include an elk.

"Printed materials sent outside of the area by government or businesses could also include the logo which could, too, be included on street signs and banners around town. Local restaurants could offer the Arizona Elk Burger. Street names could be changed to, say, Antler Avenue and Bugler Drive. The community might even have an annual Elk Days event, with activities relating to elk."

To enter the "Brand the Payson Region" contest and drawing, send your name, phone number, address, and brand name or slogan idea to PREDC, P.O. Box 1771, Payson, AZ 85547. Entries must be received by noon, Monday Dec. 10. The winner will be determined by a random drawing overseen by a panel of judges. The judges' decision will be final. The drawing will be held around Dec. 14.

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