"South Burlington: A Different Place, Altogether," was the branding statement proposed at the June 4 "Big Reveal" presentation.

Is South Burlington a Different Place, Altogether? South Burlington Identity Project Continues

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Thursday June 11, 2015

South Burlington may not be changing its name to Champlain or SoBu, but the city is still on track toward defining a stronger, more positive sense of community, opportunity, and identity with its branding efforts.

Residents gathered at City Hall on Thursday, June 4 for the “Big Reveal,” the city branding presentation by Arnett Muldrow & Associates, Ltd. The Greenville, South Carolina planning, branding and economic development company was hired to craft an identity package for the city, City Center, and its partners. Preceding the presentation, brothers Tripp and Ben Muldrow visited South Burlington in early May where they received a tour of the city and facilitated focus group meetings to help shape initial concepts.

Additionally, the consulting team conducted an online community identity survey to gauge how South Burlingtonians view the city, how they believe others view the city, what they identify with and appreciate about the city, and where the city is lacking, or could use improvement.

Survey Results

Tripp Muldrow returned last week to share the results of the poll and to kick off the “Big Reveal.” The poll, taken by 450 respondents, revealed that South Burlington residents have a very positive image of the city but perceive that others have a less positive image of the city.

What do South Burlington residents love most about their city? Top designations go to its excellent school system, access to Burlington and I-89, and that its a great place to raise a family. However, residents felt that it lacked an arts and cultural setting.

The majority of respondents believed that a strong identity and brand for South Burlington correlates with a more economically and socially vibrant community, according to the survey.

Respondents ranked the following statements as ‘very important’: Cultivating a visitor experience, reinforcing a district community in the region, economic growth and development, promoting local businesses, promoting community events and activities, and community pride.

Finally, in response to the question, should South Burlington change its name?, over 70 percent responded ‘definitely not’ and ‘probably not.’ The South Burlington name is here to stay.

Steps toward an Identity Statement

The “Big Reveal,” showed slight revisions to the logos, advertising, and branding statements that were presented in May.

In the preliminary presentation in May, the team also introduced the concept of identifying four districts to further define the city: the Gateway District (Williston Road), Ridgeline District (internal roads), City Center District (Dorset Street), and Lakeshore District (Shelburne Road). They took elements from all four districts to create a destination logo with a mountain ridgeline, Lake Champlain, municipal and retail buildings, and an airplane above the mountain ridgeline representing the Burlington International Airport. Since May, they’ve added more trees and a more defined ridgeline in the logo; the airplane has also been shifted to the right and minimized.

In addition to the city’s existing blue and green color palette, the company introduced orange for City Center, and then incorporated all colors in the destination logo. Identity banners would be recommended for use within each district to provide a sense of place.

Furthermore, Muldrow introduced new logos for the City Center initiative and the South Burlington Business Association as well as examples of how to market the logos and branding statement.

What about #SoBu?

SoBu will not be the new name of the city, nor will it be a major factor in the branding initiative--but it’s not going away.

“#SoBu” is a well-known hashtag communicated among Twitter users in the area, explained Project Director Ilona Blanchard, who helps run the city’s social media channels. SoBu would therefore continue living in the social media world. It’s suitable for Twitter, as the platform has a 140 character limit, Blanchard added.

Community Feedback

The proposed branding statement, “We are South Burlington Vermont: A Different Place, Altogether,” was up for debate.

Resident Donna Leban said the word, “different,” could have a negative connotation. Resident Rosanne Greco agreed and offered up the equivalent of, “we’ve got it all,” as an alternative.

Resident Bernie Paquette admitted his initial reluctance to the word, “different,” but stated that when used with something positive, such as a photo of a scenic view, the statement fulfills its purpose. Some members of the public were at odds with the districts.

“I’m tired of asking ‘where do you live?’ ‘oh over by the airport,’” Council Chair Pat Nowak said.  Nowak said Burlington has similarly-established regions such as the New North End, and that having districts would, “give us more definition.”

Greco, on the other hand, expressed that she doesn’t “think there are enough [districts].’...I think you need more identifiable sense of places. The Orchards are unique. Chamberlin is unique. Mayfair Park’s unique. They can’t be lumped into Ridgeline, Gateway, Waterfront, they’re not.”

Other feedback included playing with the colors in the logo to promote seasonal events (i.e. snow on the ridgeline or orange flecks in the trees), and incorporating South Burlington’s faith community and nonprofit activity.

“We’re going to continue taking feedback,” Muldrow said. “What I appreciate about the feedback is that people zoomed in on things that we ourselves were grappling with, and that’s affirming in a way.”

When asked what was unique about South Burlington compared to other communities, Muldrow said it was his tour of the city that transformed his “visitor” perspective to the perspective of locals.

“I’ve been coming here for 12 years, so I feel like I know South Burlington, yet, there was so much I didn’t know...I was just flabbergasted by the views, the vistas, the trails and the connectivity.”

“There’s a spirit of optimism here, and there are a lot of places--because of the economy and because of slower growth--where it’s harder to be optimistic,” He added. “It’s sort of neat to be in a place that’s in a position where you can say, ‘hey, look at what we’re planning,’ rather than, ‘how are we going to recover or how are we going to regain possession of what we’ve lost?’”

To view the presentation and/or provide additional input, visit the city website, www.sburl.com. The presentation is also televised on CCTV.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent