Whitby embarks on a rebranding project

What is Whitby? The town is asking residents as part of an open, engaged feedback campaign.

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The Town of Whitby in the Greater Toronto Area has started its first rebranding project since 1968 – and it is making sure everyone who lives there knows about it.

In public spaces and at events around town, community feedback boards are encouraging residents finish the sentence “My Whitby Is” on note cards. The campaign also includes posters, stickers, social media posts and web banners encouraging residents to take an online survey. There will also be a community open house next week where residents can give their feedback in person.

This is actually the first phase of the town’s rebranding project. The town will be collecting feedback from residents until the end of the month, using it to develop what will become Whitby’s new branding and implementing it at some point next year.

Marketers at private organizations might be used to doing this kind of insights gathering more quietly. But Matthew Gaskell, chief administrative officer for the Town of Whitby, says it’s is being so loud about getting feedback because the public expectations regarding the way their government serves and interacts with them has changed.

“There’s an expectation that the public is going to be engaged and consulted on things,” he says. “But beyond that expectation, that’s also how you build interest, engagement and excitement in your community and government. As an organization, the Town of Whitby is moving towards a more open approach with its community, and this is one more manifestation of that. A town this size really has a strong sense of community, and we are all shareholders in this and all have a stake in this community’s success.”

Whitby might still be considered a small town by many, but it currently has a population of over 128,000 people and is expected to break 200,000 within the next 15 years. It also been nearly 50 years since the last time Whitby refreshed its branding.

“The community has grown a lot since then in terms of population and its demographic makeup,” Gaskell says. “Every community is trying to position itself and demonstrate to the world what they are. We’re trying to address the best and brightest people to come live and work and set up businesses here

Besides simply driving awareness for Whitby being a modern, growing community, Gaskell says a big motivation behind the rebrand is to create an identity that aligns with the way its residents already see the town, so those outside of it might see it the same way.

“People here are very passionate about the community and we want to reflect that in our corporate brand,” he says. “But at the same time, this is a period of growth and we are trying to market our community to the rest of the world, so it’s an opportunity to modernize our look and align the perception of the town with the reality of who we are today.”