Re-imagining the Heart of the Blue Ridge

Destination by Design crafted a comprehensive brand strategy for Alleghany County, helping to unify the county’s messaging and outward image, while simultaneously designing a new streetscape for the Town of Sparta, the county seat.

Whether it’s the charm of downtown Sparta, the pristine mountain farmland, or the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway or New River, Alleghany County has plenty of priceless assets to behold.  In an effort to help reverse a recent economic downturn, DbD developed a unifying outward image and a comprehensive brand strategy for the county.

Prepping for a New Kind of Future

Like so many of its peers in Appalachia, Alleghany County is a community in transition with unique tourism assets that, when properly leveraged, could provide the blueprint for an economic comeback. This rural, agriculture-dependent community in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northwest North Carolina once had a thriving economy built upon an abundance of low-skill manufacturing jobs. That bygone era has since been replaced by a new, harsher economic era where globalization and automation have reversed the fortunes of so many.

Instead of making excuses, Alleghany is doing what any forwarding-looking community would– plan for the future. As a critical component to their wider economic development plan, the County brought in DbD to help craft a comprehensive new brand strategy.

Out of the brand strategy and marketing plan came many tangible assets including a logo system, website, signage, stationary, and full page print ads – all centered around different aspects of the County’s unique identity. Each component helps develop a common language for the County while better defining Alleghany’s sense of place.

Destination Website

Print Collateral

Downtown Sparta Walking Map & Business Directory

Building Consensus

An essential aspect to any community branding process is developing buy-in and ensuring that the community owns the process. At the end of the day, developing a community brand that only represents certain segments of the population is counterproductive.

In the case of Alleghany County’s branding strategy, DbD prioritized listening to and engaging with the community throughout the brand development process. It was especially important to build consensus around this County-backed process given the taxpayer-funded resources that would go into its implementation.

DbD reached a large variety of stakeholders from all over the county to help establish a clear picture of who the Alleghany community is and what it wants to become.

County Billboard Marketing

Main Street Light Pole Banners

From the “Heart of the Parkway” to “Authentically Alleghany”

Alleghany is lucky to have a range of valuable tourism and economic assets to build upon, it simply lacked a compelling voice and promotional strategy. Through our stakeholder research, it became clear that Alleghany not only needed an external brand identity that leveraged these assets, but also a grassroots campaign that would engage the local community and help spirit up the troops.

This resulted not only in a new county logo and tagline (“The Heart of the Blue Ridge Parkway”), but also a starter campaign dubbed “Authentically Alleghany,” which encourages locals and current visitors to recognize and define what makes the County great to them. “Authentically Alleghany” is already building community pride as it complements the more outward facing county image to help spread the word far and wide about all Alleghany has to offer.

Indicative of how the internal and outward facing marketing efforts mesh together, a local artist from the community was commissioned to make a series of woodcuts, showcasing the unique tourism assets of the county.  These original art pieces are being used throughout the campaign as graphic representations of the the five major themes outlined in the brand study.

County Swag

Custom Campaign Photography

5 Community Brand Themes

Downtown Sparta Streetscape Developments

In addition to the community branding strategy, DbD is separately creating a downtown streetscape strategy for the county seat, Sparta. This dual planning process allows the branding strategy for the county to work in conjunction with the design strategies being implemented in its most recognizable town. The tangible representations of the community brand will coincide with revamped signage and other streetscape improvements being pursued as part of the Sparta streetscape strategy.