KINGFIELD — What does the Franklin County area have to offer family travelers, those who relocate here or adventurous outdoor people?
Those questions were explored Tuesday as members of the Network of Networks participated in a branding conference led by Jim Cox, a national branding consultant from New York, at Poland Spring bottling facility in Kingfield.
Network of Networks formed thanks to a generous donation from an individual who believes everyone working together can make life better, Cynthia Orcutt, a governing member of the organization, said.
“A group of stakeholders in our region has been working on a process called the Franklin County Network of Networks aiming to improve economic conditions in our area,” Alison Hagerstrom of Greater Franklin Development Corp. previously said in an email. “The Network of Networks has brought together various networks within our county to define goals, identify assets and create a website and map. The next step is to define and create our brand.”
Orcutt of Schoolhouse Gallery in Kingfield, Betty Gensel of Franklin County Community College and Hagerstrom have led the effort centering in three areas — cultural, educational and tourism factors, Hagerstrom said.
Work on a website has started, but the group realized a brand for the area was needed. They were testing the idea of “Maine High Peaks” with participants as they brainstormed ideas, she said.
Cox will take the ideas gathered Tuesday and choose a brand and develop a campaign, Nancy Marshall of Nancy Marshall Communications said. He will present the campaign to the group in a month or so.
Marshall attended a conference with Cox, who has worked on branding with the island of Tahiti, Colonial Williamsburg and several California cities and counties, she said. She recommended he work with the local group.
Marshall expects the branding to help everyone “sing from the same song sheet.”
Branding is not a logo but a way to influence the process of people’s impressions and ideas about who you are, Cox told the gathering.
The need to brand expands on the differences from competitors or why tourists would come here rather than elsewhere; increases the value of the region, whether real or perceived, and fosters loyalty, a relationship with the consumer that brings them back, Cox said.
“A brand is an idea,” he said. “One that forges a lasting connection between an entity and an audience.
“My job is to be a mirror so you can see yourself,” he said of what the area has to offer, saying he found it even more impressive on this trip than he did a few years ago.
The basis of the work and branding is to be consumer-centric not business-centric, he said.
“It’s all about what the consumer gets out of it,” he said. “Less about the entity and more about the consumer. When the process is about the consumer, you demonstrate that you understand and care … creating the potential for them to come back.”
He related the idea to the new Maine tourism campaign. It’s not about Maine but about the consumer, what they could get out of coming here and how that affects their lives, he said.
Mountain Village Inn Farm Bed and Breakfast owner Lisa Standish said that she has many European and Asian guests who stay one night. Many move on to another destination, from Acadia to the White Mountains.
Making the local area a destination for people to stay longer is one of the goals of the Network of Networks members who have researched, mapped and are ready to give the area a brand, Gensel explained.