Zipping down the Island Highway on the way to my Grade 1 reunion (yes, I’ve learned that is a ‘thing’), I happened upon a sign that caused me to look twice.
“Small Town. Big Experience.” read the words on the approach to the City of Duncan. At just under 5,000 people, Duncan is Canada’s smallest city, proclaims its friendly mayor, Michelle Staples.
Duncan went through a branding process in 2016, explains Ian Locke, executive director of the Downtown Duncan Business Improvement Association. Although it took place before his time, he says the BIA and the city split the cost. He describes it as a well-done branding package, with logos and all the elements the BIA needs in-house when it’s doing different campaigns. He said the brand is ‘synced,’ matching the banners that were put up around town.
The main slogan is: “Small. In a big way.” But the theme is varied in keeping with the event or promotion.
“Small Town. Big Taste.” “Small Town. Big Art.” “Small Town. Big Fun.” “Small Town. Big Finds.” “Small Town. Big Style.”
The sign gave me pause because Salmon Arm’s new brand, derived from its recent branding process (through a different marketing company than Duncan’s), is “Small City, Big Ideas.”
Mayor Staples agrees Duncan’s brand has been successful. It’s been versatile, allowing the community to showcase a variety of attributes.
“We have fun with it – everyone can adapt it to what they’re working with.”
And she’s pleased Salmon Arm’s is similar and hopes it will be similarly successful.
Staples reveals that she lived in Sicamous for her first three or four years and her family came back to the Shuswap regularly to visit. Her father taught in the school district. She wonders aloud about some kind of collaboration.
“We have sister cities between countries – maybe we could have one in B.C.,” she says, adding she might talk to Salmon Arm’s mayor one day.
Lana Fitt, Salmon Arm’s economic development manager, says she has seen variations of the brand, but none exactly like Salmon Arm’s. It refers to small city living – a short commute, low crime rate – matched with larger urban centre amenities such as an abundance of talent in the arts, technology and more.
While there may not be another community with the Small City, Big Ideas brand, it’s a popular title for articles and forums online. And if the city were ever to entertain the idea of another sister city, we could also look to our kilt-clad friends to the east. According to the Internet, the logo of Perth, Scotland is Small City, Big Personality.
It just goes to show: Small City, Small World.