British Columbia

'Welcome to Bowen Island — don't forget to leave'

A controversial new brand campaign has been approved by the municipality after nearly two years of research and consultation.

Controversial new brand campaign upsetting some residents of the community

Chris Staples of Rethink Canada says the agency is still working on developing some aspects of the brand. (Rethink Canada/Bowen Island Municipality)

"Tell your friends it's awful here."

That's one of a number of slogans included in Bowen Island's new brand campaign, approved by the municipality last week.

Some residents on the island are calling the branding mean-spirited. (Rethink Canada/Bowen Island Municipality)

Chris Staples of Rethink, the Vancouver-based company behind the campaign, says his agency got on board pro bono after nearly two years of research and consultation by the island's Municipal Economic Development Committee.

"Bowen is this amazing secret," said Staples, who lives on the island.

The four mascots in the campaign represent a different aspect of life on the island. (Rethink Canada/Bowen Island Municipality)

"The campaign is almost like residents speaking to outsiders here, saying we'd love to share it, but know that it's special."

But the advertisments aren't sitting well with some residents, who aren't sure it's the best way to represent the island. Some are calling it 'mean-spirited' on Facebook and online forums.

"My main thought is I don't think this represents Bowen Island," said Tina Overbury, who has lived on the island for seven years. 

"We're spirited, passionate, opinionated ... we're a very welcoming community."

Staples said he and his agency were fully aware that the branding would not sit well with everyone.

A sample of what the new Bowen Island website may look like on a tablet. (Rethink Canada/Bowen Island Municipality)

"We knew that it would be controversial," he said. "Everything on Bowen is controversial, you never get 100 percent agreement on anything."

Staples added that the slogans aren't going to be rolled out on large billboards, but in more subtle forms such as on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and posters.

'Extensive research'

A sample rendering of a poster with one of the campaign's slogans. (Rethink Canada/Bowen Island Municipality)

The project is the result of nearly two years of work by a volunteer-run committee, and was based on what the municipality calls "extensive research" with residents and visitors.

"The last thing anyone wanted was a traditional marketing campaign," said committee chair Gordon Ganong, in a statement.

"It was clear from our research that visitors and residents all think Bowen is a very special place, mixing community with nature in a unique way."

Staples said the agency will continue developing different aspects of the brand in the upcoming months.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition