What is the essence of Loudoun County? Is it the family-friendly suburbia of the east, the rolling rural landscape of the west? The high-tech jobs, the proximity to the nation's capital? The quality public education, the historic homes dotting its countryside?
The Department of Economic Development is trying to address those questions and come up with one pithy, catchy answer that would serve as Loudoun's tag line.
And it's residents who will get to weigh in with suggestions for the new slogan.
"We do have very creative people in the county," said Sandy Denham, communications and special projects manager for Economic Development. "They just might have in their back pocket just what we need."
Residents can send suggestions in on the Department of Economic Development's Project WOW Web site, http://www.loudoun.gov/business/wow, until April 17.
IT'S TRUE, Loudoun already has a tag line. "Where It's @: Loudoun" was born during the dot-com boom that fostered the establishment of high-tech companies like AOL and MCI in Ashburn.
Nearly a decade later, it's time to shake things up.
The Department of Economic Development is deep into Project WOW, a plan to re-brand the county. After commissioning a consultant to do an in-depth analysis of what makes Loudoun tick, the department is ready to come up with something snazzy for a new tag line — and it wants it done by May.
The county got a hint from North Star Branding Strategies, the Nashville-based firm that did the research on the analysis. Its finding, known as a strategic position: "Loudoun is a place of rich contrast."
That's well-known to most residents.
"Shopping centers on one side and mountains on the other side," said Cliff Keirce, vice president of the Broadlands Homeowners Association. "It's got a little bit of everything."
CREATING A successful brand is something that Chamber of Commerce president Jen Sterling knows something about. She's the founder of Hinge Inc., a Reston-based branding company.
Hinge is also one of the bidders for the second-phase contract in Project WOW. The second phase includes implementing the new tag line and creating a graphic design to go with it.
"When you develop a brand, you make a promise," Sterling, a South Riding resident, said. "It has to be something that really fits. It's got to be something that can be backed up."
For products, maintaining the same brand is important for product recognition. Among a wall of grocery-store soups, anyone can pick out Campbell's. But for economic development, Sterling said, it's important to keep it fresh.
"You're probably [changing] it at least every three to five years because it's such a competitive marketplace," she said.
AFTER THE Department of Economic Development market tests the best tag lines with local civic and county leaders and market professionals, the best will be chosen.
A branding firm like Hinge will also be chosen to combine the works with graphic images. The new image will be used on business cards, stationery, brochures, maps and more.
While the company chosen to do the first phase research was not local, Sterling hopes that the next step will keep the discussion here.
"You really have to have the heart of the community to get the community," Sterling said. "When you're branding a region, you really have to be here."