“A brand is not just a logo, a website, or your business card, it’s an experience," -Unknown. After careful research and evaluation, Team Metamorphosis was able to understand just how to make Whitesville’s brand all about the experience. Research laid a critical foundation for the brand’s identity and helped develop a message that represented what the town has stood for all along; Whitesville “feels like home.”Research was the heart of our campaign. It helped with the creation of our ideas and aided us in turning them into a reality. Following a steady research process led to many learning experiences that my team and I could pass on to the Whitesville residents who will carry on our ideas.
Takeaway One: Perception makes for opportunity.
By discovering what Whitesville’s residents felt and percieved about their town, we were able to get a better understanding of not only their current hardships, but also what they wish for Whitesville in the future. Through a series of interviews, a focus group, and a questionnaire, residents and influencers around surrounding towns told us just what we needed to know. Key findings showed us a great room for opportunities.
One of the first things we discovered was that some Whitesville's biggest influencers did not actually live in Whitesville. A lot of people worked in Whitesville, but lived outside of it. This showed that Whitesville and its surrounding communities heavily rely on each other and share resources.
Another important aspect we interpreted through research was the town’s pride for their small community. It was easy to see the hospitable charm when residents welcomed us into their town. We found this to be something that makes Whitesville unique among bigger cities in West Virginia.
Takeaway Two: It’s all about utilizing assets.
Research taught us that Whitesville has a lot more to offer beyond what meets the eye.
Due to the fact that Whitesville and the towns along Route 3 were interdependent, we determined that establishing a regional partnership with towns along the route could benefit everyone. We contacted local CVBs, mayors, town councils, and other influential businesses within the surrounding the region. We extended them an invitation to establish a partnership, sent promotional materials that displayed Whitesville’s new brand and information about the town, as well as an invitation to our Family Adventure Night event. In addition, we also provided them with a picnic basket gift that displayed the Whitesville logo. After sending out this information, a connection between Whitesville and leading businesses around the region will hopefully be established.
Throughout our research, we noticed the town's lack of cell service and how it affected communication efforts. Even though this can be interpreted as a negative thing, we discovered a way to turn this into something positive. We utilized this concept with the tagline, ‘when was the last time you...’ to draw attention to the natural beauty that Whitesville has to offer. It not only gives a chance to display Whitesville’s family-friendly atmosphere, but it also plays off of the nostalgia of the town’s heritage.
Takeaway Three: Good things come to those who research.
Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from the process was taking the time to lay out the ground work made it all worthwhile. Because we were able to work so closely with the town leaders, we were able to get a bigger picture of just what the town needed. Whitesville has so much to offer, and it was our job to help them find a way to exploit that.
Research gave us a path to follow to take the necessary steps to move through our campaign process. It eventually led us to realize that by integrating each of our team’s approaches, we could best meet the needs for the people of Whitesville. We combined educational tourism, outdoor beautification, and an overarching regional approach to create Whitesville’s current branding technique.
My name is Megan Hardway. I'm majoring in strategic communications with an emphasis in public relations in the Reed College of Media at West Virginia University. As part of WVU's strategic communications capstone course, we are working together to rebrand the town of Whitesville, W.Va. I am the Research Director for Team Metamorphosis. Within my team, I am responsible for creating a visualization for the data collected within our branding project. To find out more about our project to #BrandWhitesville, you can follow me on Twitter: @mjhardway304