Tri-Cities no more? Regional leaders ponder new name for region


What’s in a name? 

For our region, it could be $48,000. 

An agenda item on tonight’s Johnson City Commission meeting could hold sway over the whole region. The commission will be voting to add to an existing contract with Nashville-based marketing company North Star Destination Strategies.

Johnson City already had an existing contract with North Star that was executed November 2017 for branding work, but tonight the commission will vote on an addendum that will pin an extra $48,000 to the contract for the development of a new brand for the region. 

Johnson Cty Mayor Jenny Brock said the idea is to find a new brand for the cluster of communities that make up our region, as she said the Tri-Cities isn’t fully representative of the entire region. 

Brock cited examples like the Lowland, North Carolina or Gold Coast, California – the marketing, she said, is for people outside the region to understand where it is and what it has to offer. 

“The important thing about doing something like this is to identify what people outside our area think about it as we encourage growth,” Brock said. 

She said leaders in Bristol, Kingsport, Washington County and Sullivan County have been in the loop so far in an effort to brand the region anew. 

While the term “Appalachian Highlands” has been thrown around as a possible name for the region, Brock said the term is too vague – the Appalachian Mountains stretch for 2,000 miles.

“It doesn’t really point to where we are,” she said. 

The plan comes with a $48,000 price tag, which Brock said she hopes will be split between eight and 10 other stakeholders. Other institutions like East Tennessee State University and Ballad Health have been involved with the process, she said.

She expects to see a new name in about three months, she added.

“It’s one of those projects, as we look at it collectively, it’ll really bring us all together,” she said.

The city commission meets tonight at 6 p.m.

Proposed timeline
Week 1Situation briefing and knowledge transfer
Research and planning audit
Communication and media audit
Week 2-3In-market visit (tour, stakeholder interviews)
Weeks 3-4Regional expert interviews
Consumer perception study
Insights, Strategy and Brand Name
Week 5Situation brief and insight development
Week 6DNA Definition
Weeks 6-7Regional identity testing
Week 7Regional name development
Week 8“Research, Strategy and Naming” presentation
Proposed timeline: 8 weeks

Source: Proposed addendum to City of Johnson City’s contract with North Star Destination Strategies.

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