As a Shi Center Fellow at the City of Greenville, I have been challenged lately to reconceptualize what makes a place unique and how to get people on board with that image. Today Arnett Muldrow and Associates, a consulting firm working with the City of Greenville, will unveil their branding and logos for Greenville’s “West Side.” The “West Side” is an internal term used by the City referring to three distinct declining neighborhoods undergoing a rather involved comprehensive redevelopment plan. These neighborhoods are Southernside, the West End, and West Greenville. As an attempt to get people involved and interested in participating in planning charettes (also known as data collection for consultants), Jaclin and I planned movie nights, lunch and learns, and created spotlights on the importance of community branding to enhance a preexisting sense of place. As the unveiling of the “West Side” brand occurs March 21, 2014, I thought it might be nice to share a spotlight I recently wrote regarding the role of rebranding in Traveler’s Rest, especially as Arnett Muldrow and Associates are the creators of this image. It will be interesting to see how rebranding of the “West Side” will impact future investments in the area, both positively and negatively. Enjoy!
“Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains and situated between Highways 276 and 25, Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina is an ideal place to take a break and regroup. Traveler’s Rest, or TR, historically served as a “resting stopover” for weary travelers, with some staying for months to wait out harsh winters. Due to recent attention as an emerging, eclectic, American small town, Traveler’s Rest has now become a destination to travel to rather than a place to travel through. Gradual structural and economic redevelopment along critical corridors such as Main Street served as an impetus for heightened attention and recent rebranding. Community marketing of Traveler’s Rest helps bolster community pride and establish a strong sense of place in this quaint South Carolina town.
The economic redevelopment of TR has had a notable difference in the feel, culture, and branding of the community. Growing assets such artisan shops, family owned small businesses, seasonal festivals, eateries, and outdoor recreational spaces unify TR and add to its attractiveness as a respite in bustling world. Downtown Traveler’s Rest boasts a brand all its own, full of unique places that you cannot experience elsewhere. Through working with Arnett Muldrow and Associates, economic redevelopment capitalizes on these distinct assets and has led to a plethora of many new small businesses cropping up. In tandem with economic redevelopment, rebranding serves as a communication tool unifying the growth of TR as a community by building off of TR’s intrinsic qualities, prompting people to “TRek to TR.”
Taglines such as “Get in your element” or “It starts with TR,” add value to the intrinsic properties of Traveler’s Rest, branding this small town as a place with distinctive character. Light post banners adjacent to the Swamp Rabbit Trail play off of TR’s acronym with words such as “TRavel,” “TRadition,” or “TRanquility” that build on one’s experience after visiting TR. Blue and yellow way-finding signs direct traffic and identify key places of interest, helping establish a sense of place as well as brightening Main Street downtown. Potentially overlooked, this physical branding helps establish a unified identity and further instills an already existing sense of community pride by featuring assets. Traveler’s Rest did not suddenly acquire a new identity after these efforts, but certainly unified as a brand emerged that represents what the community is about.
Branding does help establish a community’s character as it puts a word, for example, to a preexisting yet unspoken identity. This rebranding in Traveler’s Rest helps relay to visitors that it is a unique destination rather than simply a place to pass through. I personally visit TR regularly; sometimes I use the Swamp Rabbit Trail to bike to my favorite coffee shop, other times I simply go to the grocery store. Even still, the logos and rebranding of TR has definitely instilled a strong sense of pride and place within me for quaint TR. Community branding encourages others, like myself, to visit and stay to experience why Traveler’s Rest is a unique community.”