What’s in a name? Based on recent reactions to the nickname “SoBu” in letters to the editor and an article in The Other Paper, quite a bit. And at the city council’s meeting on Monday, Director of Community Engagement and Innovation Coralee Holm addressed it.

“Some of the pieces of the branding that we’re using, the name of the magazine, the shortened name that we’re using for SoBu Nite Out, is not in any way a replacement of the name of the city but just a fun hip way [to say South Burlington],” Holm said. “That’s a component of what we’re using it is in no way a reflection of trying to change the name or not follow the branding package.”

Holm added that the city receives lots of positive feedback on the moniker both at SoBu Nite Out and via other venues. 

Councilor Tim Barritt said he had seen “some chatter” about the name. He reaffirmed the city had not changed its name. 

“I urge anybody in the city to call the city whatever name they please,” Barritt said. “It’s nothing really worth arguing about.”

But any publicity is good publicity, or so the saying goes. Barritt pointed out that people talking about branding was part of a successful branding effort. 

“I love it that folks are talking about it,” Holm added. 

Councilor Thomas Chittenden asked Holm to clarify that SoBu was not a big part of Arnett Muldrow & Associates presentation but rather just a hashtag that later grew beyond that usage. Holm confirmed that was true. 

“SoBu is just a fun playful way for folks to be like, ‘Oh SoBu,’” she said. “I see that it’s caught on because the media’s using it, folks are using the hashtag, people are talking about it in that way.”

But Chittenden said there was some resistance to the nickname and that they could acknowledge it. Again, Holm agreed, adding she tries to vary how she refers to the city: South Burlington, SBVT, SoBu. 

During the 2015 Arnett Muldrow & Associates branding effort, consultants offered #sobu as a promotional tool to be used on social media, especially sites like Twitter which limit the number of characters per post. At that time the company did not recommend its use off of social media. 

“It is important to note that using #sobu is NOT a suggestion that the abbreviated term for the community come to be used in common parlance,” Arnett Muldrow & Associates wrote in its implementation strategy.

But the city used it on social media, received positive feedback and decided to apply it to other platforms, according to City Manager Kevin Dorn.

“It’s just part of what I think our identity is and this may be something that we use for a while,” Holm said. “It may be something different as we move down the road.”

Currently, the city is rolling out the next phase of its branding effort. This includes hanging banners around different areas of town depicting identifying images and names devised during the consultants’ 2015 effort.

Arnett Muldrow & Associates suggested referring to different parts of the city using four districts: City Center, the Lakeshore District (near Shelburne Road), the Ridgeline District (near the Southeast Quadrant) and the Gateway District (along Williston Road). Holm hopes to get the “flavor” of smaller communities in those districts to further capture their essences by hearing from residents.

“We’d like to do some storytelling about each of those districts and the smaller communities, the developments, that make up those districts,” Holm said, adding in an email that the information will be included in the fall issue of SoBu Life. 

“I’d love to hear from residents about what makes their neighborhood great – block party, traditions, connections, assets, etcetera,” she wrote.

To weigh in on city districts, contact Holm directly via email at rcholm@sburl.com

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