Hermiston Struggling to Identify Its Brand

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Hermiston Branding
Hermiston City Manager Byron Smith talks about how to establish a brand for the community during Monday's city council meeting.

More than a year after the city of Hermiston unveiled its wordmark along with plans for establishing a community brand, there remains little consensus on how to use it – or even what it means.

During the 2013 Umatilla County Fair Parade, the city’s entry featured the new wordmark, “Hermiston: You Can GROW Here,” to reflect the city’s continuing population growth, coupled with its strong agriculture ties and its desire to attract new businesses.

Shortly after, the city made the wordmark available for community use. Earlier this spring, the city spent $16,000 to have the wordmark painted on the south side of the city’s water tower, only to be met with an outcry over its appearance. Only a portion of the tower was painted, leaving a checkerboard appearance with the new paint not quite matching the existing paint.

New Hermiston City Manager Byron Smith has spoken about the city’s branding efforts at multiple city council meetings since he begin the job in August. On Monday, he gave another report on his vision for fully implementing the brand and came up against some resistance by members of the council.

Smith spent a good portion of Monday’s meeting talking about what a brand means.

“Most people think of a brand as a logo,” he said. “It’s much more than that. In my opinion, Hermiston doesn’t have a brand, it has a logo.”

Even that remark sparked some discussion among council member who prefer the old watermelon logo the city has been using for years. Councilor Doug Primmer, who voted against spending $16,000 to paint the water tower in the first place, reiterated his feeling that Hermiston should stick with the watermelon for its logo.

“Where’s this going?” he asked. “Why would we not dance with the one that brought us? When we changed the water tower, people didn’t like it. They liked the watermelon.” The watermelon, by the way, is still on the tower’s north side.

Smith said the watermelon would still be used as part of Hermiston’s marketing materials.

“We’re not leaving the watermelon behind,” he said.

During Monday’s meeting, Smith attempted to explain the differences between brands and logos. Logos, he said, are a small part of an overall brand. A brand, he said, has an intangible quality that conjures up specific images and viewpoints about an organization, business or community.

The Hermiston: You Can GROW Here wordmark – which the city wants to serve as Hermiston’s logo – was born out of extensive meetings by the Hermiston Futures Taskforce, made up of more than a couple dozen community members. The taskforce and city council approved the wordmark created by Limelight Design in Hermiston.

It was made available to the public in October 2013, but few, other than the city of Hermiston and the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce, have made use of it.

“We need to figure out how to get it into all our products and services and get citizens to recognize that as part of the Hermiston brand,” Smith said. He then showed a PowerPoint presentation with the wordmark on various items, including letterhead, coffee cups and more.

Council members, however, still weren’t convinced. Council President Rod Hardin said the earth tones of the wordmark weren’t very appealing on their own.

“It looks great when you put it with a picture that has some color,” he said. “But on its own, it’s kind of blah – brown on tan. I like things with a little color.”

Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann cautioned against abandoning the wordmark before it has a chance to be fully implemented.

“This involved about 30 people from the public and about two years of time,” he said, referring to the creation of the wordmark. “Do we say, ‘Thank you, but no thanks.’ That could turn off the public process.”

In the end, the council asked Smith to provide them with more examples of the wordmark on various city properties and products before deciding to put how to proceed.

Smith agreed and said he would have some more examples of how the wordmark could be used for the council to look at.

“This is something that is important for a community and sets it apart from others,” he said. “I would really like to fully implement this from a city’s standpoint.”

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