Thirteen years ago I met one of the great marketers of our time – Kevin Roberts, Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi – who set out on a journey to have the national flag of New Zealand changed to a solid black background and a bright silver fern … a symbol of national pride recognized around the world and an identity embossed in the hearts and minds of all Kiwi people.
A big, bold, audacious plan.
This year, the New Zealand people will put it to a vote in a national referendum. It will likely fail. But it doesn’t matter, because the country has forever changed and the silver fern has already won.
What is our silver fern? What is our message to the world?
It starts with a red maple leaf that can be proudly displayed on our hearts or on our backpacks no matter where we travel. But moving from national pride to provincial pride to civic pride, we have been absent of identity … of symbols, of legends, of traditions that unite us and that communicate our uniqueness to the world.
This creates a challenge for our city. But it is a challenge that we must overcome. And it is a challenge that will take some time.
Last year, the Make Something Edmonton task force did an incredible job engaging everyday citizens in defining the attributes of our brand … getting to the heart of what differentiates our city, and discovering the spirit of our community. It is an incredible story … a true source of civic pride and identity.
What comes next? We need to tell it, to share it, to market it, to embody it … first, in the way we talk about our city. Then, in the way we tell our story in places beyond our borders. At EEDC, we have been given the responsibility to do just that … and the next 12 months will be filled with intention to evolve our external brand from an industrial powerhouse to one that personifies our artistically entrepreneurial culture and our passion for community-building and nation-building.
To be successful, we need to undo the traditional expectations associated with our marketing … our skyline, our river valley, our bridges and our institutions … and replace them with emotional connections with what is most important … our people.
Earlier this year, I took a risk and wrote a book … a picture book … encourage … that captures the essence of our responsibility and our culture. This isn’t our silver fern, but I hope it gives you some insight into our attributes and our pride that we need to convey to the many.
Stay tuned …