The Economic Development Committee’s Branding Initiative


In mid-2014 the Conservancy was asked to participate in the Economic Development Committee (EDC) Branding Initiative for Bowen Island. Consequently, Owen Plowman became a member of the EDC Branding Working Group and has been participating in its activities.

We have taken some of the material that the Sub-Committee has developed, and put together the information below (in the form of questions and answers) to provide more information on the Branding Initiative.

Why is the Conservancy involved with this initiative?

The Conservancy is involved with this initiative because it is inextricably linked to the natural environment of the island. As well as island residents, hundreds of visitors come here every year to experience the peace and quiet of our lands and parks, and to find joy in the wildlife and beauty of Bowen. Our brand must reflect this, and the Conservancy’s mission to preserve and protect these key attributes.

What is a “brand”?

First, it’s important to note what a brand is not! It is not a logo, a tag line, or a catchy phrase, although these elements may be components of a brand’s messaging.

For Bowen Island, a “brand” is what people think of when they hear or read the words “Bowen Island”. It’s the meaning, or identity, of the island: everything that people think that they know about it. In other words, it represents the physical experience (for example, a small, quiet island close to Vancouver) and the emotional experience (for example, an ideal place for a weekend to get away from city life and get closer to nature). Some of these attributes are illustrated in the words of recent visitors:

  • “Waking up in the morning and hearing only the birds-—no traffic, no construction noises, no music. Just the rustle of the wind in the trees and the birds chattering. So peaceful”.
  • “Going to the beach and relaxing without a crowd of people around.”
  • “Meeting the people and enjoying the community that is so welcoming.”
  • “It feels like such a safe little community, and it’s just minutes away from the big city.”
  • “It’s like a little oasis … like a little puzzle piece that drifted away from the mainland 100 years ago. It feels a bit like stepping back in time to a simpler way of life, but with many little luxuries waiting to surprise you. Can something be both sophisticated and simple?”
  • “The tranquility of our island travel really set in for us when we reached the memorial gardens.”
  • “Magical and mystical. Nature is soooo big and present on Bowen. One feels that the ‘force’ is definitely with them.”
  • “Calm, connected with nature, content.”

Why do we need a brand for the Island?

Bowen Island already has a brand. As a community, our brand is why we do what we do. Our OCP, bylaws, resolutions, events, etc. are what we do to live the brand in our daily lives. But it’s likely that we actually have many brands, and we don’t really know how many. Depending on what people hear about the island, what they do when they come here, their experience on the journey, and their interactions with people who live and work here, there may be scores of different perceptions about Bowen Island out there.

If we can clearly articulate and manage what we want as the unique “Bowen Island Brand” then we will be better able to be the emotional stewards of the Bowen experience. By taking more ownership of our unique brand, we will:

  • Be able to speak to all stakeholders (visitors, residents, businesses, investors, and government at all levels) in a meaningful, compelling way
  • Have a guiding compass for the future direction of the island
  • Unite the community in common purpose and pride
  • Enable an economically and socially viable future

What would happen if we do nothing about a brand?

If we do nothing, then we will continue to miss opportunities to build a thriving local community. Life will go on, but efforts to attract investment, people, and capital to our island—which are all very important for the creation and nurturing of a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable community—will be fragmented and sub-optimal.

Don’t products have brands? How can we brand an entire island?

Brands are associated with more than just products such as detergents, cars, and food. Almost any entity may have a brand associated with it. A few examples: Apple Computer; VanCity Credit Union; Fairmont Hotels; Air Canada; Switzerland.

We can devise a unique Bowen Island Brand by following a well-defined process, that’s broken into multiple stages:

  1. First, we need to look at what sets Bowen Island apart from other places. What do we have to offer visitors, residents, and businesses? We need to work out what branding alternatives exist, based on the answers. Then we need to work out what our ultimate, unique, brand is going to be.
  2. Second, we have to develop the visual components of the brand. That is, the creative visual expression of the brand that will delight, inspire, and move people. A carefully crafted visual presence is essential to differentiate effectively and advance our brand strategy.
  3. Third, we will develop the plans that will build our brand. We will answer the questions:
    • How will we spread the brand message?
    • What product development projects/programs should be undertaken to build and enhance the brand?
    • How will we know we have been successful?
  4. Finally, we will implement the brand, with the Municipality, private businesses, and community organizations.

How much is all this going to cost?

We do not have a final answer to this question yet. As the initiative moves forward, costs and sources of funding, together with a better understanding of experience and skills available locally, will enable a formal budget to be prepared.