Branding a Plenty in Kitsap

By Rachel Pritchett
For so long, there was none.
Now, two efforts have popped up to “brand” Kitsap and advertise it to the rest of the world.
Soon after a local Economic Vitality Summit ended Tuesday, Port of Bremerton CEO Cary Bozeman announced he would chair a fundraising campaign to hire a marketing firm that would come up with a brand to attract new employers.
Then the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor & Convention Bureau announced that it, too, has been laying the foundation for branding Kitsap. The VCB’s goal is to go after tourism and convention business.
Both ad campaigns would hit the media next year.
Whether two blitzes would be confusing, cost too much, or possibly come together at some point remains to be seen.
Graf-Hoke said of Bozeman, “He didn’t call and invite me to the table.”
Some may think two is too many.
“I think there needs to be a little bit of coordination between what Cary wants to do and what the (visitors’ bureau) is doing,” Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola said.
He has been trying to brand Port Orchard as “The Little City That Can” while the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce has been working on its own city-branding effort.
Graf-Hoke and Bozeman contend their advertising campaigns would target different audiences.
Graf-Hoke said the visitors bureau would go after tourists and new convention business, while Bozeman’s effort would be aimed at getting new activity at the port’s industrial park, airport and marinas.
“So it is two totally different things,” Graf-Hoke said.
Due to the tiny visitors’ bureau budget, which Graf-Hoke expects to be no more than $200,000 this year, its ad campaign would probably be mostly on the Internet, she said.
It would feature a common theme for the Kitsap Peninsula while lifting up unique attractions of individual communities, be it Poulsbo as Little Norway, Kingston with its marina or Bainbridge Island with its shopping.
The bureau is gathering up members for a branding committee now. They are to come from port districts, cities and the tourism trade.
“The goal of the committee is to develop a strong, regional brand identity similar to the ‘wine country’ theme used by areas in Eastern Washington that has turned a farming region into an immensely popular tourist and meeting destination,” said Sam Askew, president of the visitors’ bureau.
It’s too early to know how much the Bozeman-led advertising effort would cost, but it’s expected that some of the money for the fundraising campaign would come from the port’s emerging 2010 budget. Compared to the visitor bureau’s sparse budget, the port’s current budget is around $28 million.
“We’ll make the commitment to this campaign,” Bozeman said.
The Bozeman-led fundraising effort is to include a panel of local business and government leaders and banks. Once the money materializes, a marketing firm is to be identified to brand Kitsap in a way that new employers could see their workers living here.
“We haven’t been very effective in getting that message out,” Bozeman said.
No one’s ruling out a unified Kitsap brand and message for the world.
Graf-Hoke said she’s worked with Bozeman before, “and I would welcome the opportunity to work with him again.”
But in the meantime, “we’re going to do everything we can to help our tourism-related businesses, and gratefully I don’t have to fill up warehouses,” she said.

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