Edmonton's plan to brand itself as Edmonton and leave room for interpretation could be flawed, suggests a marketing expert.
After learning that city councillors had endorsed the word 'Edmonton' followed by a little red maple leaf as the city's new "one-word brand" on Tuesday, NAIT marketing instructor Ray Bilodeau warned that people might not fill in the blank the way the city expects.
"Do we really want to be known as the construction city or the photo radar city?" Bilodeau said.
"Google 'Edmonton photo radar city' or 'photo radar capital' and you'll see the images come up where people have filled in that blank. I don't think a brand wants to leave it to chance."
The responses on social media have been sassy.
I wasn't going to invest in Edmonton and then they did a new font as their brand and now I will invest in Edmonton. Thank you for your time— @IDidTheIggy
"At a minimum, the City of Edmonton might want to look at modernizing the font that they chose to use," Bilodeau said.
But in the grander scheme of things, he said he thinks the city could be missing an opportunity to brand itself beyond its name, to a target market that includes the investment community.
"I've always been a big fan of having a brand like 'an inspiring capital,' " he said, adding it recognizes Edmonton as the capital of Alberta, but also what it has to offer.
The Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) worked with city officials to come up with four themes it believes describe Edmonton: open, innovative, courageous and collaborative.
Some of the reaction indicates the new one-word brand captures that.
The EEDC has emphasized the new brand is not a slogan or tagline, but a wordmark. Where and how it will be used has been a point of confusion.
The EEDC noted the city's signage will not be changing from what it is now.
Being bad at branding is so on brand for Edmonton— @nmtho
After 4 years of debate #yegcc has settled on a brand and will go with "Edmonton". Other cities are expected to re-brand as "Not Edmonton"— @GroseAndrew
Branding a community is inauthentic. It tries to tell a narrow story. "Edmonton" is right because it doesn't brand. Is a name we share. https://t.co/l3WbJqRDOC— @tkoriordan
The City of Vancouver also recently commissioned a new wordmark, simply City of Vancouver. It was mocked tirelessly on social media. The mayor announced that it was being put on hold for further community consultation.