A lush-colored image of conifer and hardwood trees, people enjoying a walk while enjoying fresh air and fall colors adorns the title banner of the home page of the Grande Prairie, Alberta website. Embedded in the image is the city’s logo, an emblem that displays two Trumpeter Swans. They appear alert, centered between other symbols depicting nature and culture.
This fall, city planners have asked for input from residents as they wrestle with selection of a new city logo and how best to brand their city for future posterity. Proponents of change want to move from using the description “City of Swans”, citing Grande Prairie’s other abundant attributes. The description stems from the 1940’s, a time when Trumpeters were considered extremely rare. Resident farmer Joe Tomshak saved a clutch of abandoned cygnets. They bonded so tightly to the farmer that he could be recognized by the elegant white birds circling his vehicle as he went shopping. The Trumpeters’ offspring gave rise to multiple generations of swans that have brought joy to the community and visitors for decades.
A productive economic climate lures the rapidly growing city to portray itself as more than the story of a farmer and his tie to beauty, wildlife and riches difficult to quantify. Now a city of over 50,000 people, Grande Prairie is widely recognized as a vibrant place to invest. A 134-page community profile on its website sports a dynamic cover with the phrase Classic Values, Future Vision. In the report, Grande Prairie compares itself to Dubai, a city diversifying and strengthening its economy beyond the oil industry. City officials recently awarded a Seattle-based firm a $36,000 contract to design a new image and logo. In a commendable effort to involve citizen input, residents have been asked to fill out a poll, answering questions on what they find important and indicative of quality of life in their land. It’s a tremendous effort to grasp the essence of what Grande Prairie offer and who they are as a community. The mayor’s office explains in the poll’s introduction “In a simplified form, determining what our brand is might be compared to questioning how Grande Prairie might be described if it were a person.”
Right now the city’s website has extensive information section about Trumpeter Swans. One can find viewing sites around the city and details of its annual Swan Festival, the 11th annual just hosted in April, 2009. Two pages describe the area around Grande Prairie and its recognition as a globally-significant Important Bird Area, designated and announced at the Swan Festival in the year 2000. High value habitat for waterfowl comes from the area’s mosaic of agricultural land, deciduous and mixed woods and surrounding wetlands – the same vibrant mix portrayed on the city’s website banner. The IBA is named for Grande Prairie’s symbol, the Trumpeter Swan.
In selecting a brand, Grande Prairie hopes to distinguish its diversity, economic promise, family values and rising cultural strength. In asking its residents to consider their identity, instructions for completing the poll caution that branding is a wide-reaching process and that “logos and slogans are not brands; they only represent the brand and what it promises.”
Perhaps when the introspection is complete, Trumpeters that currently adorn their logo will point the way – standing as they are between a mix of nature and culture. Grande Prairie has a perfect opportunity to build on its entrepreneurial spirit, economic promise and cultural riches – while retaining and protecting globally significant wildlife habitat.
Including the values of wildlife and wetlands surrounding Grande Prairie in this branding effort will be particularly important if Trumpeters are to persist as the city grows. As the mayor’s office states on the website “future development should support the selected vision.” As an organization dedicated to assuring the vitality and welfare of wild Trumpeter Swans, we suggest that the City of Swans can embrace its history as it expands on its vision. In this way it can become “A City as Elegant as its Swans….” We welcome your comments!
Photo courtesy of Jozien Keijzer of Mendenhall, Yukon. Query Trumpeter Swan on her Flickr account to see more of her photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jozien/
Thank you Jozien.