The city has allotted $15,000 to $20,000 from its general fund for a company to conduct research to determine what makes Hardeeville stand out and implement a branding project.
Three companies — Arnett Muldrow and Associates, E. Boineau and Company, and The Brandon Agency — will make presentations to council and the public at an Oct. 9 workshop.
The companies will have the opportunity to share with council how they would go about branding Hardeeville. Creating a brand was one of the priorities council set during its retreat last year.
“The retreat focused on improvements for the city of Hardeeville that were recognized by the City Council,” city manager Bob Nanni said. “One of the improvements was to create a concept that Hardeeville would be noted for and that would help organize both financial and employee efforts towards a common theme. It was council’s wishes that we make the process efficient. To do that, you need to focus on a specific goal.”
Downtown development manager Chris Damgen said the request for a branding company was sent out in June and the city received five responses. The staff narrowed it down to the final three.
All three companies are South Carolina-based and have worked within the Lowcountry. The city searched for companies that had experience working with communities similar to Hardeeville.
Arnett Muldrow and Associates of Greenville helped with Main Street Beaufort organization. E. Boineau and Company of Charleston did branding work for the city of Walterboro. The Brandon Agency of Myrtle Beach has worked with the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“The company chosen will focus on community participation, research the city, then present those results to the council,” Damgen said. “Based on those results, the council and staff will give feedback and we are planning to have a new brand for Hardeeville by early next year.”
The town of Bluffton is currently working on a branding project to establish its identity in the Lowcountry.
Researchers from the University of South Carolina and University of South Carolina Beaufort collected opinions from residents, business owners and tourists by hosting charettes — collaborative public sessions.
“The charettes were invaluable in terms of phase one’s success in the Bluffton branding project. This is something that the Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber is doing in partnership with the town of Bluffton,” said Charlie Clark, vice president of communications at the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. “It’s critical to have the input of key stakeholders and community members when determining something (as) important as a community brand.”
Hardeeville last had a branding project in 2004. Since then, the city’s population has grown from about 1,200 to more than 3,000.
Damgen said the 2004 branding was done by city staff and didn’t involve the community.
“Some people in the community felt left out because the branding was done in-house almost 10 years ago,” Damgen said. “I don’t believe there’s any attachment to the (city) seal and the branding company will have to create a brand that everyone in Hardeeville can relate to.”
The current city seal, an oak tree with the word mark, “New horizons, traditional values,” was meant to celebrate a solid foundation for the future, Damgen said.
“There’s a concern that the current brand has not reflected Hardeeville as intended. The current seal doesn’t celebrate the city’s history, so we’re looking for a change in the look or brand that will help Hardeeville attract businesses and people,” Damgen said.
Nanni said he hopes for a brand most people will like and appreciate, and one that is doable in a short period of time.
“We hope for a strong starting point and a brand that can be sustained over time,” Nanni said.