Lake Norman & Mooresville

Businesses still buzz about 'Great Lake'

Weeks after a lake branding campaign drew the ire of some residents, business leaders are emphasizing the campaign is still evolving.

"The whole purpose of rolling this out in test mode was to see what sort of feedback we'd get," said Karen Shore, president of the Mooresville-South Iredell Chamber of Commerce. "I'm pleased that we are getting response."

Her chamber, in partnership with the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, unveiled the branding campaign - "Lake Norman The Great Lake" - to the Lake Norman Transportation Commission in March.

The commission requested the chambers create a new brand in January 2010 after a national consulting firm suggested it would boost the local economy.

Since then, the five-word marketing logo has caused a stir with some residents who see it as a thinly veiled rip-off of the five-lake cluster separating the United States from Canada.

But Bill Russell, the president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, said names are relative. The South Carolina native used "USC" as an example. Depending on what side of the Mississippi River you live on, that could stand for the University of South Carolina or the University of Southern California, he said.

"We're not consciously or unconsciously trying to compare ourselves to another area of the country," he said. "We as a chamber believe that the Lake Norman region is a great place to live, work and visit. Everything about what we're experiencing is a great experience."

So why not use another word that's synonymous with "great,", such as "amazing" or "spectacular"?

"I think we use the word 'great' a lot in our vernacular," said Vickie Stevens, who works for an internet distribution center from Mooresville. "We probably use that more than any other word."

Denver resident Jessica Lamb said while the brand initially gave her pause, she decided to support it, noting it has great potential to unify the four lake counties.

"Everyone's been trying to market their own part of the lake," she said. "We have an opportunity to collectively market the entire lake area."

Lamb, who owns a financial planning business in Denver and is president of the Denver Area Business Association, said the campaign will likely benefit smaller businesses indirectly.

"This is going to increase awareness of our beautiful lake area and drive traffic here," she said.

And while some critics have suggested the campaign will only help those businesses on the lake, Russell said there's a bigger picture.

"Lake Norman isn't confined by this body of water. It's the whole region," he said. "We're touting the communities, the businesses, the resources and the lifestyle in the area."

Russell also noted the campaign hasn't cost taxpayers anything and is strictly a project between the two chambers.

Added Shore: "If the municipalities are opposed to it and don't want to use it, we're not going to force it on anybody. "

The Lake Norman chamber budgeted $2,000 for the campaign thus far, which included hiring a lawyer to ensure that their domain names had been properly secured, said Russell, adding that the chambers did not need that much money.

"The costs to date have been insignificant," he said.

Longtime Lake Norman resident Ned Flemming worked on the branding for free, said Russell. Flemming is president of Cornelius-based Boomtown Advertising.

Russell said some residents have suggested a simple qualifier might quell the majority of the complaints from residents, such as "Carolina's Great Lake."

But he added he would be hesitant to make a change.

"Each of those probably dilutes what we were trying to say," he said. "We're trying to say we're the best. I'll sit here all day long and defend that we are the best at what we do."