Branding Chase County

Posted: Friday, October 18, 2013 10:41 am | The Emporia Gazette

Shawn Honea
Shawn Honea
IM Design Group

Chase County has a new brand.

Over the last several months, the Chamber of Commerce in Chase County has been partnering with various agencies to create a new marketable brand and logo for the community.

Of those partnerships, GUTS Branding of Kansas City, and IM Design, located in Emporia, have helped create the brand. The process is multifaceted, but it begins with a simple survey.

“Guts Branding met with us numerous occasions for this project,” Sandy Kramer, Co-Director of Chase County Chamber of Commerce, said. “They listened to what we as a county wanted and helped us compile our results.”

IM Design developed the county’s new logo.

“The process has been an exciting one,” Shawn Honea, IM Design group, said. “My initial discussion with Sandy about a logo redesign made me aware that what was needed first was a rebrand of Chase County. At the request of Chase County, we actually started designing logos before the branding process was done. Thankfully, we stopped and waited for the research results so that we could then create a design that is truly driven by the research and not on what “we” thought it should be.”

From the middle of April through the first week of May, two surveys were distributed via email on behalf of the Chase County Chamber of Commerce. One survey was for people living outside of Chase County and the other targeted the Chase County Chamber of Commerce membership.

The purpose of the survey was to find out why people living outside the county would seek out Chase County as a destination to visit or relocate. It also sought to discover the assets Chase County has that are unique. The information was used by the Chamber of Commerce to create a brand mission.

Kurt Bartolich, found and owner of GUTS Branding, said his firm’s part in the process of developing the brand was to help Chase County further clarify its brand as well as communicate with the Chamber Commerce to help it develop its role in the brand.

“We start with consumer insights research,” Bartolich said. “We always start there because we are believers that at the end of the day, the customer ultimately owns the brand.”

Creators said the brand will inevitably be used to increase tourism, economic development and build pride in the county. For those living outside of the community the survey sought the features of Chase County that would draw them in.

Upon the brand’s initial announcement and preliminary effort, however, many residents in the community expressed apprehension about outsiders encroaching on the area as potential prospectors or tourists.

“We are certainly sensitive to the needs of Chase County or any brand we may work with,” Bartolich said. “There are certain things that are important.”

The survey did identify and affirmed some of those sentiments in the community. As another example, people are looking for a place like Chase County with its beauty and wide-open spaces to visit and feel restored before they return to their hectic lives.

Bartolich said he hoped the contrasting sentiments would solve themselves in a steady, “organic” way.

“The survey was a road map not only to create a county wide brand but it showed us the expectations and motivators for the chamber to better serve,” Kramer said.

Three-hundred people from outside the county and 75 Chase County residents participated in the survey, and the results identified two major themes. First, people desired a destination to visit where they can escape, rejuvenate, and restore themselves. Second, the Flint Hills, with its uncluttered wide-open spaces, are a unique asset to Chase County.

Some of the most marketable features of Chase County, as indicated by the survey, include its history, the Flint Hills and events like the Strong City Rodeo.

With those themes in mind the chamber developed the new Chase County Brand Mission.

It reads, “We honor and preserve our legacy and connection to the land and each other, by restoring all who experience our unspoiled Flint Hills.”

“Thanks to the hard work of GUTS Branding and the folks in Chase County, we now have a great deal of rich information that will allow IM Design Group to focus marketing efforts that will best suit their immediate needs,” Honea said. “We are sensitive to the fact that the actual marketing budget is not unlimited so our job is to maximize their advertising dollar. This is challenging but I feel we will ultimately see the benefits of our team efforts. The people of Chase County are very passionate about their communities, their history and their future. It’s easy to get caught up in their passion and vision.”

The chamber has now developed strategies to incorporate the brand mission into the county’s future and has created an Economic Development and Public Image Council. Some of their strategies should be presented in the near future.

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