New 'brand identity' reflects Sisters' heritage

SISTERS — Old West themes have been part of Sisters' image for a long time, but marketing officials have drawn from the town's history to create a brand they say will be used to attract entrepreneurs and tourists.

"This is an opportunity to see Sisters in a new economic light and to show people with an entrepreneurial spirit (that) this is a town of pioneers," said Lisa Clausen, owner of the Sisters Movie House and a board member on the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce.

"It would be great to see creative companies come to this town, such as an animation company, that could do business anywhere in the world, but choose to do it here," Clausen said.

The recently unveiled brand draws inspiration from the town's heritage, but reflects Sisters' changing landscape and culture, said Bill Chiaravalle, president and creative director for Sisters-based Brand Navigation, which created the Sisters Country branding campaign with direction from the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce.

Similar efforts have been made in the corporate world by companies such as Nike Corp. and The Walt Disney Co., and destination cities such as Las Vegas and New York City, Chiaravalle said.

"It's about appealing to a higher lifestyle, versus just selling product," Chiaravalle said.

The Sisters Country campaign includes the tag line, or slogan, "Pioneering Spirit." It also features a metal logo that resembles a branding iron in the form of the letter "S," for Sisters, in the center of the letter "O," for the state of Oregon.

"The Old West themes were part of the inspiration for the new brand," Chiaravalle said. "We wanted to look to the future and embrace our heritage at the same time."

It's an edgier look for the small Western town population 1,745 — sort of like Robert Redford meets Western chic, Chiaravalle said.

"It's about differentiating yourself, who you are and why you're different," Chiaravalle said. "There's quite a bit of diversity here in people's economic positions, backgrounds and world views. But people come here to better their lives."

The Chamber of Commerce paid for the $10,000 branding campaign, which will be used to attract companies and entrepreneurs who could come to the city and start a business or telecommute to larger population centers, said Tate Metcalf, president of the chamber's board of directors and owner of the Sisters Athletic Club.

Ultimately, the branding campaign will create itineraries for visitors who might not be aware of all the different things to do, Metcalf said.

Visitors will be able to download itineraries from a Web site within the next six to nine months, or find printed materials with itineraries of different things to do in Sisters that will be centered around the campaign, including hikes in the Deschutes basin, fly fishing in the Metolius River and learning more about the city's history, Metcalf said.

"There are so many things to do in Sisters that are undiscovered for the majority of people who visit here," Metcalf said.

The logo and tag line will be used to promote the city in magazine advertisements and posted on banners around the city for local events such as Cowboy Christmas and the completion of Cycle Oregon, Metcalf said.

The new brand fits in well with the city's do-it-yourself attitude, said Jean Wells Keenan, owner of The Stitchin' Post, which has been downtown for 32 years.

"If you think about people who live around Sisters, there's a lot of entrepreneurial people who live in the community," Wells Keenan said.

Branding is becoming an essential process for cities in Central Oregon's $498-million-a-year tourism economy, said Alana Audette, president and CEO of the Central Oregon Visitors Association.

"It's very common to brand a destination," Audette said. "A comprehensive brand analysis is very much a part of any strategic tourism plan development."

The new brand will help the visitors association position Sisters in its marketing efforts, Audette said.

"What they are doing will help us understand how they choose to be perceived," she said. "It's important for a community to develop its own identity and brand."

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