South Waikato District Council is working full steam ahead on developing a new brand for the district helping to revive the South Waikato.
A special task force has just completed a three-month consulting period with the community and now started the creative process of the rebranding. A final brand concept plan is meant to be finished by the end of October.
The rebranding follows after recent council research has shown that the South Waikato district has an indistinct identity and is often seen as an add-on to or part of Waikato. Research from 2019 shows that business owners in New Zealand's big cities even believe the South Waikato has a notorious reputation.
South Waikato District Council marketing officer Anton Sudano is leading the brand project and says: "Many people outside the district could not place South Waikato on a map and many have negative perceptions of our towns."
The council says the rebranding is not about creating a logo and a tagline, but about creating a bold and unique concept for the whole district and an individual identity for the four main South Waikato District towns Tokoroa, Putāruru, Tīrau and Arapuni.
South Waikato District mayor Jenny Shattock says: "Our mission with this brand project is to create a unifying idea that will help the district and its towns to thrive.
"We intend that our brand will reflect the values and ambitions of South Waikato residents, build pride in the district among locals so they can advocate for it, and be welcoming for new investors, residents and visitors."
Sudano says: "The rebranding project is quite a big creative process... [but] everyone is positive about it. The feedback mostly goes in the same direction - residents are proud of the district's multicultural community and would like to make [the South Waikato] more attractive for retail businesses."
In the council's branding feedback portal, one resident suggested to reinforce Tirau as a bustling little place to stop and to promote coffee, shop, quality water and artisan kai in Putaruru.
"Leveraging off the colourful, multicultural vibe that Tokoroa has and presenting it as a bright and vibrant place to stop, that showcases the rich culture in our district. Encourage local entrepreneurs to leverage off the abundance of natural beauty in the district and create quality visitor products, accommodation and tours."
Another resident wrote: "Make Putaruru more picturesque. Make it more walkable so that it's a place people would want to stop. Make Putaruru more like Tirau and more people will stop. It's so run down looking."
Sudano says brand expert Sven Baker is currently helping council with the brand design process.
"We don't want to give too much of the brand concept away, because we are still working on it and nothing is final yet. It is exciting though and a really cool project."
The final concept will be considered by a representatives board made up of eight people including representatives from all main South Waikato District towns.
Mayor Jenny Shattock admits the rebranding is not an easy task as there have been a number of attempts by the council to create a district branding in the past 15 years that have not succeeded because they were not well funded or resourced.
The current brand project has a budget of $138,000 and an additional $350,000 allocated for town signage replacement.