You could feel it in the air; you could see it in the room.

As the Cochrane Tourism Association (CTA) revealed the central message of their branding as "Cochrane: It's a Feeling" many were nodding in agreement at the Mar. 6 open house.

Unveiled were large cubes featuring words--genuine, unexpected, welcoming, inspiring and naturally beautiful--in large print. A description of how each tied in with that Cochrane feeling was on the side and read by some members of the branding group.

CTA says “The feeling” speaks to the indescribable, multi-sensory experience that people repeatedly feel when they set eyes on our cozy town, nestled in a valley, surrounded by one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the world.

The brand was developed through public consultation. Throughout 2018, the CTA conducted a public survey, which received over 500 responses, and gathered a group of volunteers to participate in a brand development working group.

“From the start of this process, we kept hearing people not able to find the words to describe what they love about Cochrane. They would simply say ‘there’s a feeling,’” says CTA executive director Jo-Anne Oucharek. “It’s the one thing that arose as the most consistent comment in all of our research.”

Jag Thind, of the award-winning Mehtab East Indian Cuisine, was among those who have been captured by that Cochrane feeling and believes it sums up why people should come to visit and stay longer.

He says people who come here quickly understand the warmth of the community. And when you live here it's like having a large extended family.

"We have a daughter who is now two months old and you're not going to believe how many people who came to the restaurant to bring her small gifts and blessings. I don't think we can find that anywhere else. That's the feeling. That's why I love that word."

He believes Cochrane Tourism is on the right track and found the open house had a positive buzz.

"They know what the vision is. It's going to take time, of course, but they know what they're doing it, that's the main thing."

Central to the marketing thrust will be telling the stories of Cochrane through publications, videos, media and a much-enhanced website. 

CTA president John Thomson says if current synergies are any indication, the whole industry is about content and storytelling and getting out the details on the various aspects of the community.

"There are so many facets to Cochrane. We're not labeled a mountain town, we're not labeled a Prairie town, there are many different facets that encompass Cochrane and there are so many different things to promote."

The open house brought together a number of partners. There are ongoing relationships with Alberta Tourism, Economic Development and the visitor centre, but the open house also showcased new ones, like the recently formed Bike Cochrane and the Cochrane Culinary and Producers Collective. 

An ambassador training program is being launched by the Visitor Information Centre to help residents learn more about Cochrane and what there is to do here. It will also be offering a new service to help plan itineraries for visiting friends and family.

A two-day Explore Cochrane event is being held on June 8-9 to give Cochranites a chance to play in their own backyard, another partnership involving Cochrane Economic Development and the Cochrane Chamber of Commerce.

Thomson believes there's a growing realization that tourism is an important economic driver and it was reflected by the interest in the open house.

"I think it's partially because of the steps that we've made in tourism but it's also because of an awareness factor of how important it is to Cochrane and how many businesses are affected by tourism."

The brand has already been launched on the CTA website and will be included in all of their marketing endeavours.

This was a different room than a year ago when the blueprint was laid out for 2018-2023 Cochrane Tourism Strategy. The pieces are clearly starting to fall into place from the carefully constructed five-year strategy.

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