American team wins Calgary rebranding bid

An international company with no offices in Canada has won a bid to rebrand Calgary, and replace the city's current slogan "Heart of the New West," which features a stylized cowboy hat logo.
Signs welcome visitors to Calgary with the "Heart of the New West" slogan. ((Courtesy of Kevin Evans))

An international company with no offices in Canada has won a bid to rebrand Calgary, and replace the city's current slogan "Heart of the New West," which features a stylized cowboy hat logo.

Gensler, whose rebranding team is based in California, will develop a new brand for the city as part of the third phase of a process that began last year, confirmed Lance Carlson, chairman of the project steering committee, on Friday.

Calgary Economic Development posted the request for proposals and informed local companies of the opportunity.

A subcommittee interviewed three companies — one local, one national, and one international —  in May. They considered budget, experience with big branding projects, as well as overall talent of the teams, said Carlson, who is also the president of Alberta College of Art and Design.

The members wanted a firm that did not have "big assumptions" about Calgary and would relate well to the community regardless of where they were based, he added.

"The [subcommittee's] choice was absolutely unanimous to award the project to Ginsler," said Carlson.

"If we started with the premise we have to hire a local firm, then it raises the question, will we get the product and quality we want for this kind of job?"

World-class agencies available in Calgary

Ald. Joe Connelly, a former vice-president of Tourism Calgary, said he's disappointed with the decision.

"You have to look at some of the agencies in town here. I've worked with many of them and they are world class," he told CBC News on Friday.

"There's a misconception in order to get world-class work you need to go outside the city, outside the country and that's a big insult."

Connelly, who opposes a new brand in the first place, pointed out slogans and logos take years to take hold.

"The Big Apple was around for 10 years before it caught on [in New York City]," he said.

Ald. Ric McIver questioned the need to spend almost $300,000 on the project.

"The bigger issue is this is a very unfortunate and negative time to spend money this way. The money spent on rebranding should be spent on bringing jobs and economic development to our city," he said.

"I don't buy that we need a new brand."

New brand expected in 2010

But Carlson said a new brand is vital after research showed almost no corporation or group, except for Tourism Calgary and Calgary Economic Development, was using the current brand that was introduced in 2003.

"Many people felt it only spoke to one facet of Calgary's experience, which is kind of the western motif I guess," he said.

The new brand needs to encompass more than that, he said. "It's the values; it's what the city wants to be. It's a … personality versus how a person combs their hair."

City council voted to rebrand the city last November when it approved a 10-year economic development plan.

The first two phases, which cost $105,000, assessed the current brand and examined what would be needed in a new one. This third phase, which cost $190,000, will result in a new logo and slogan, expected to be done around January 2010.

With files from Andree Lau