After a proposed town logo and branding initiative left Morrisville officials less than enthused last month, the Town Council decided Tuesday to take a step back and think more about what they really want.
There was no formal vote, but they all agreed to wait several weeks and consider the proposed new town positioning statement before talking more about what they’re looking for in a logo, seal and overall brand.
Mayor Mark Stohlman said he was surprised when Mottis, an outside design firm, came back last month with a new logo, town seal and positioning statement. He said he thought the council only had asked the company to make the town’s half-dozen unmatched welcome signs more consistent.
Two Mottis employees said at Tuesday’s meeting that the more they looked into Morrisville’s brand, the more they were convinced it needed an overhaul.
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“The current brand and logo conveyed that this is a friendly, small town,” said Shari Becker, a director at the company. “But maybe it’s not necessarily a great place to do business.”
That rubbed some officials the wrong way. They said the town is known for its office parks, its proximity to Research Triangle Park and other business-related factors. The current town motto is “The Heart of the Triangle.”
But Becker said that while residents might know that, outsiders don’t. And it’s hard to get that sense through the town’s current logo of a pinecone, she said.
“Obviously businesses are here,” she said. “That’s undeniable. But that’s not coming through with the current brand. It’s missing that level of sophistication.”
Council member Steve Rao said a business approach is what he wants from this rebranding process – a distinguishable sense of place that clearly establishes Morrisville as a town where companies or entreprenuers want to be.
“You’ve got to have something unique,” he said. “That’s what’s going to help us with economic development.”
That’s what Mottis intended to provide when the company unveiled three new logos in August, including the one that both their staff and Morrisville’s staff members liked the best.
Sophistication also was an issue then, however, as Stohlman and other council members objected to the design. Stohlman said the logo looked too much like the McDonald’s arches, while council member TJ Cawley said the pastel color palette seemed weak.
Other council members said at Tuesday’s meeting they don’t think changing the logo is going to make a huge difference.
Vicki Scroggins-Johnson said she doesn’t mind the current pinecone logo, saying it has untapped potential. Liz Johnson said if there isn’t a clear town image, as the Mottis team said, then changing the logo won’t do much to change that sentiment.
“If there is a perception that doesn’t equate with reality, then we do have a problem,” she said. “But that’s a whole other plan of action. I’m not sure a logo and brand solve that.”
Becker said Johnson’s assessment is somewhat accurate. More must be done, she said, including efforts already being planned – public events, a revamped newsletter and a redesigned website.
She compared the Morrisville branding process to a restaurant changing ownership. Even if the new managers and chefs are much better, she said, people won’t necessarily give the place a shot if they don’t realize something has changed – and the easiest way to signal change is through a new logo or brand.
Becker said Morrisville is often viewed as indistinguishable from Cary. But there’s an opportuntity, she said, to change that. Cary’s logo and brand, she said, are “a little bland. So this is an opportunity for Morrisville to stand out.”
She said the process gives the small group of elected officials the chance to change how the town is perceived. In community surveys and focus groups, Becker said, people identify Morrisville as safe, friendly, fun and good for families.
That’s fine, she said, but far from unique.
Town Council members, on the other hand, previously told Mottis they thought Morrisville was tech-savvy, smart, affluent and sophisticated.
“These are qualities that other towns aren’t really claiming,” Becker said. “We want people to think differently about Morrisville, especially people in the surrounding towns.”
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran