By Stephen Dafoe
Advertising guru Fred Barnard once designed an ad with the phrase “One Look is Worth a Thousand Words,” and it is from this advertisement that many believe the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words” originates. Like most ad and marketing people, Barnard knew that a single image can often convey a complex idea or set of emotions.
The truth of that concept was as valid Thursday night, when about two dozen people gathered in council chambers to discuss Morinville and its future, as it was when Barnard put the concept into practice in the 1920s. And while little has changed in the fundamentals of branding and marketing over the past 90 years, Morinville certainly has.
It is that change and how to deal with it from a branding and marketing standpoint that motivated an open invitation to the public to participate in a workshop run by Red Deer-based Focus Design Group, the consulting firm hired by the Town of Morinville to help it get the information and data it needs to reinvigorate Morinville’s brand.
I had gone to the event as an observer, but was encouraged, as a resident of Morinville, to take a participatory role in the two-hour exercise. I’m glad that I did.
Regardless of who we are, we all have views and opinions on people, places and things. Towns and cities, as places, are no less likely to invoke strong emotions than a love or detest of any other brand.
But what we seldom do is think about why we think the way we do. Thursday night’s session left participants no choice but to think about what they think and feel, and to communicate those thoughts to the other participants.
Divided into groups of four people, we started with a deck of cards with different attributes, which we were asked to discuss and select from as fitting or not fitting our view of Morinville. The cards contained words and sets of words, including safe, environmentally responsible, culturally diverse, commercial centre, employment and many others. Although there was a great deal of consensus throughout the room – many thinking Morinville was a good place to raise a family – there were also some vast differences of opinion on other attributes, including cultural diversity and Morinville’s sense of community.
From my own standpoint, I offered that while Morinville had pockets where there was a sense of community and while Morinville took great strides to create a sense of community, there was no unified sense of community between new and old residents. For many new residents to town it seems as though Morinville is just a place where they go to sleep.
Although all participants were able to articulately express how they felt about Morinville, as well as identify those attributes the town has in abundance and those it lacked in other areas, perhaps the most telling exercise was the one using Barnard’s belief that a single image can convey a complex idea or emotion.
Participants were asked to select from about two dozen photographs the ones that best represented their vision of Morinville and to explain why. It was this part of the evening’s program that perhaps got to the core of how participants really feel about their community more than any other because it forced participants to use emotion rather than logic and intellect to make their choice.
For some it was a photo of a family sitting on their front lawn; for others it was a group of kids at a minor hockey game. But regardless of the pictorial image of Morinville that resonated with each participant, the singular picture that was formed was an image of a group of people who are passionate about the town they live in and want to see the best for it.
Whether it’s Morinville, St. Albert, Edmonton or some other community, there is far too often a great deal of reluctance to take a role in the process of decision making, preferring the path of least resistance – complaining about the decision that has been made once the decision has been actually made.
In a perfect world, Thursday night’s session would have been standing room only, but the reality is that perfect worlds only exist in pictures, the ones that are worth a thousand words.
We all have a vision of what Morinville is and a vision of what it should and should not become. We also all have the opportunity to provide our input from the privacy of our own home and office.
The Town of Morinville has created an online survey, similar in nature to the workshop held Thursday night. It only takes about five minutes to complete and gives you an opportunity to participate in a process designed to benefit Morinville and all its residents.
The online survey can be accessed by clicking here.