Roundabout Sisters – What is the Sisters brand?


Last updated 5/5/2023 at 5:04pm

Photo by William Kelly

Sisters Meat and Smokehouse has expanded to Redmond.

Old marketing guys like me have an enduring fascination with branding. For the untrained, a logo or slogan is not a brand. Nike is a brand. It's logo is the "swoosh." It's slogan is "Just Do It." Nike is also the name of the company. Not all business names are the brand of that business. Apple is a company and a brand. Apple's iPhone is also a brand.

Google is a brand. Its owner - Alphabet, Inc. - is not. People can be a brand. Think Beyoncé or Tiger Woods. You may well have a brand and don't even know it. You are known to stand for or represent something that is obvious to others if not yourself.

A brand is a concept or feeling. You can't pick it up and hold it in your hand. You can't even see it. Brands are intangible, albeit potentially very powerful. It's a product, service, or concept that is publicly distinguished from other products, services or concepts. The Ray's Food Place brand is at once distinguishable from Oliver Lemon's.

Cities and towns have brands. Again, not their logos or slogans. The Big Apple is not New York's brand. The Rose City is a nickname for Portland, not it's brand. Portland's brand has taken a huge hit these last five years, from street crime and homelessness. Its convention and tourism business is but a trickle of its former glory. And the city is plagued with graffiti and boarded storefronts.

San Diego's brand extends from its desirable weather. Los Angeles' brand is coupled to entertainment. Bend's brand is tied to its outdoor recreational appeal and is thought of as young and hip.

What about Sisters? Well, you tell me. If you ask 100 people, you're apt to get 100 different answers. Most will have the word "Western" somewhere in their answer.

The Sisters brand is squishy, me thinketh - not for lack of trying to invent and promote one. The Rodeo, Quilt Show and Folk Festival are strong brands, and keep Sisters on the map. Sorry, our art galleries and cute shops do not make a brand for Sisters. They are lovely and embellish the Sisters image, but they are not that distinguishable from the galleries and shops in say Ashland or Florence or Bandon.

As our discourse gets increasingly coarse and sides are forming on the issue of growth and development, one way to look at it is as a brand struggle.

Whatever the Sisters brand - and I'd welcome your definition - that brand, or name at least, is being promoted with design and marketing flair by several local entrepreneurs. Exporting Sisters beyond our borders include Three Creeks Brewing Co. Over 95 percent of their 6,000 barrels of annual brew are sold miles from Sisters, as many as 500 miles.

Over 2 million cans a year of the frothy suds make their way across state borders. With names like FivePine Chocolate Porter, Suttle Haze IPA, and Buckin' Chute Pilsner, the idea of Sisters is creatively packaged and broadcast. The words "Sisters, Oregon," are on every can.

Over at Sisters Coffee Co., now that the new German-made roaster is in gear, 500,000 pounds of coffee are packaged a year. Translated to 12-ounce bags, that's about 660,000 packages on shelves in super markets, boutique groceries, and gift stores many, many miles from Hood Avenue. Every bag is a billboard for Sisters. And an aromatic one at that.

Add in their three stores - Sisters, Bend, and Portland - and thousands more consumers are exposed to Sisters. Throw in their mugs, caps, and other merch and you have thousands of walking signboards shouting "Sisters!"

Speaking of stores, Sisters Meat and Smokehouse just opened a branch in Redmond, and apparently the lines are steady and long all day. The one thing most everybody would agree about the Sisters brand is that this is not a town high on a vegan's bucket list.

Holy Kakow over at Sun Ranch Business Park ships 350,000 bottles a year of their syrups, all with the name Sisters, Oregon on the label.

There are others of course. Several shops in town offer a taste of Sisters, shipping homemade fudge and truffles long distances. Fine garments made from Alpaca wool are outbound daily from Sisters.

So... just what is the Sisters brand? The task of defining that will largely fall to our new DMO - destination marketing organization - who will run a website and outreach campaign called Explore Sisters. The new group, funded mostly by the City's lodging tax, has replaced the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce, who had that job for many years.

The Chamber team promoted a slogan that comes close for me to being our brand: "There is never nothing to do in Sisters, unless nothing is what you want to do." That may be the essence of what Sisters is for those of us who live here and those who visit. A place where your energy can run free or where you can just sit a spell and watch the world go by.


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