Chamber grapples with rebranding the region

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“We want it to be more than a name. We want it to be a sense
of place,” says Bryan Stephens. Photo by Mark Rhodes

One of Bryan Stephens’ goals for this year is the creation of a new brand identity for his region.

“People always ask me, ‘Where is Hampton Roads?’” says Stephens, president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber. “Very few [area residents] say Hampton Roads when they are asked where they are from.”

The Hampton Roads name hasn’t helped drive the region’s economy, especially its hospitality industry, he says. “The brand of a region is either an enabler or an inhibitor. If it’s an inhibitor, we have to try to turn it into an enabler.”

With that purpose in mind, the chamber is putting together a rebranding committee, which will include members of its board and area community leaders. A consultant will be hired as well.

“Our goal is to get Hampton Roads recognized throughout the United States and the globe as a great region to live, work and do business,” Stephens says. “We want relocated people to be excited about the opportunity to come to Hampton Roads.”

The committee will be charged with identifying a new brand for the region, which includes more than a dozen cities and counties. “What do we want to be known as? What resonates? We want it to be more than a name. We want it to be a sense of place,” Stephens says.

The rebranding effort will include surveys, focus groups, meetings and forums. Stephens says the chamber wants to ensure that the process is transparent and inclusive.

“We want to try to get as many people involved in the process as possible,” he says. “We are a region of 1.7 million people, and we have never had a total consensus of what people want Hampton Roads to be.”

Site location consultant Didi Caldwell, president and founding principal of Global Location Strategies in Greenville, S.C., recognizes that Hampton Roads has struggled in finding all-encompassing identity.

“I’m not sure it’s recognizable when you are talking with national companies and the international community,” she says. “When you say Hampton Roads, I don’t know that people know where that is.”

A new brand identity is one way to get on people’s radar, she adds. “A rebrand of Hampton Roads would boost opportunities and help put more leads in the top of the file.”

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