Branding Hamilton: The little things count


It’s a bright Saturday morning as you drive into Hamilton with your friend Faria. Faria will be attending McMaster in the fall; this being her first time adventuring into the city itself. As you get closer, you get excited; memories of friends, success, beautiful sights, sounds and smells flood back to you.

You quickly point toward the landscape in front of you, “Faria we’re almost here; welcome home!” There is silence in the car, which is strange because you are used to the positive, chipper persona that generally resonates from her. You look over; she has a very bland expression. As you pass by the standard blue Hamilton sign, and start jamming out to the new hit Miley Cyrus tune on the radio, you cannot contain your excitement. Yet, you still notice that Faria’s expression is blank, unchanged.

There may be many reasons for the reaction Faria was eliciting. Maybe she had an early morning and was tired, or maybe she had eaten a breakfast earlier that wasn’t sitting right. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Though many potential causes, I would like to turn the focus on a lack of welcome Faria may have felt upon entering Hamilton.

When we enter new settings, the subtleties Population 520000do matter; first impressions count. How do the people greet you? What is the emotional charge and atmosphere you find yourself in? Are you embraced or ignored?

@LauraBabcock realizes how important these subtleties are in a city like Hamilton, where negative stereotyped views continue to obscure the true image of a beautiful, creative and diverse city.

Laura’s vision is #Time4Sign; an effort to have a welcome sign erected along one of the major highways that runs by Hamilton. In a CBC article, Laura explains, “Every small town has a welcome sign. I was in North Bay, and it had a sign that communicated the town’s values. I left with a positive brand impression of North Bay. But you roll into mighty Hamilton and there’s nothing. I think that reflects poorly on our community”.

Hamilton is lacking a legitimized identity, generally expressed through a welcoming sign that puts the character of the region on display. Without a sign to welcome newcomers to Hamilton, there is no legitimate way to acquire a quick schema and impression of the novel surroundings. Instead, this ambiguity leads to people falling back on pretenses; rumors and negative stereotypes that they have heard from others.

“Hamilton Population 520,000” tells nothing about the city. Who are the inhabitants? What does it have to offer? Why is it the place to be? A sign, though not able to answer all questions, is a great start to provide newcomers or passer-by’s a positive perceptions of Hamilton. An understanding of what the city has to offer, rather then what it is lacking.

With support from Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla, and the social media polarization of twitter and facebook, Babcock’s initiative is gaining thousands of followers and supporters.

So let’s take a moment to rewind to Faria’s first trip to Hamilton. The “We Can’t Stop” hit blaring from the speakers, your excitement contagious and Faria’s bland expression; until she see’s a welcome sign. Something that elicits a smile, a value commonality, a motivating force.

SignTake for example Hartford, Kentucky; pure hilarity. But within that hilarity, smiles are produced, negative preconceived notions relinquished, and a new found curiousity acquired. Hilarity aside; what type of good could come of producing similarly positive message and positive feelings in a city like Hamilton?

For more on this story, please visit here: http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/news/story/2013/07/16/hamilton-welcome-sign.html, tweet or follow @LauraBabock your city welcome sign, #Time4Sign and join the facebook group.

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